American heavy bombers struck their seventh blow of the war at the German port of Emden over the weekend, and, at a cost of 17 bombers and three fighters, blazed the way to their third biggest victory over Luftwaffe interceptors.
Third Raid of Month
One hundred and thirty- eight German planes were claimed as destroyed by the fleet of Fortresses and Liberators and their P47 and P38 escorts. The bombers' gunners claimed 117 enemy aircraft, with 20 probables and 12 damaged; fighter camera-guns showed 21 kills.
Bomb hits were registered on the big submarine construction yards, port facilities and other targets in the city area along the eastern edge of the Ems Estuary, which is Germany's most western port. Emden, although comparatively small in pre-war days, has grown in importance since the extermination of Hamburg and the heavy pounding of Bremen and Wilhelmshaven.
In long duels with formations of virtually every type of Nazi fighter plane, the U.S. airmen rang up their highest score over a single target, and a mark exceeded only by the two-target battles of Schweinfurt-Regensburg, on Aug. 17, and Vegesack-Bremen, on October 8.
The U.S. attack on Emden came after two straight nights of Mosquito penetrations of western Germany. It was the third raid this month for Eighth Bomber Command, which opened December with missions to northwestern Germany on the first and attacked military installations in France last Sunday.
Rocket Attacks Persistent
A force of some 20 or 30 German bombers -- mostly Dornier 217s -- was over England Friday night. Four were destroyed, three by one Canadian Mosquito pilot, after bombs had caused casualties and damage.
The Forts and Liberators which went to Emden Saturday found spotty and intense flak over the target area, which includes the vast Nordseewerke submarine yards, where reconnaissance photos had shown eight subs were being built and two more were in process of fitting out. Port facilities, too, have been over-taxed with the influx of raw materials from Scandinavia, and the Dortmund-Ems canal system, beginning there, has shown intense activity.
Rocket-firing Me110s and 210s pressed persistent attacks against the bomber armada and the Lightnings and Thunderbolts providing cover. Two Eighth Fighter Command pilots scored triple victories. Capt. Robert A. Lamb, of Ridgewood, N.J., who thus became an ace, and Lt. Paul A. Conger, of Piedmont, Cal. Three other fighter pilots scored doubles.
Capt. Lamb, who got one "kill" without firing a shot and raised his total to five, told of the fighting:
"We were flying high when we rendezvoused with the bombers. I saw a group of Me110's flying formation at the right of the bombers, and dove on three of them at the right rear. I singled out an Me110 on the left and started firing at 400 yards, closing to 50 yards. I saw strikes on the plane and pieces fly off. Suddenly the two men bailed out and I broke off, almost running into a Ju88 which came up from behind. I went under him and pulled up in front. He fired rockets, but they missed. Then I zoomed up in back of the bombers and saw six Me110s. I came in from behind these as they made a left turn, so I closed on the third plane to the left and started firing. There were strikes on the fuselage and heavy strikes on the right wing, which collapsed. One of the men, probably the pilot, bailed out. I headed for the next plane and registered a 'kill' without even firing at it, because both the pilot and gunner bailed out immediately."
Pilots destroying two enemy planes were: 1/Lt. Robill W. Roberts, New Boston, Tex.; 1/Lt. Joe H. Powers, Tulsa, Okla., and Lt. Donovan F. Smith, Miles, Mich.
While snow was reported in the Straits of Dover during the time the bombers were out, combat crews said they flew above the weather, beyond a thick overcast which hid the North Sea, and came into good visibility as they moved into the target zone.
Over the weekend, too, the British Air Ministry announced that last month's percentage of losses, despite four major attacks on Berlin, was as low as any month in 1943 since February. In August the percentage -- the exact figure was not revealed -- was equally low. While no official percentage ever has been released for British air losses, it has been assumed that they ranged in the neighborhood of five per cent, or a little less -- roughly similar to the USAAF's daytime loss record.