|Twins enter service |
Cuthbert A. “Bill” Pattillo and his twin brother, Charles, were born just seven minutes apart on June 3rd , 1924, in Atlanta, Georgia, Cuthbert being the oldest of the two. Just like many other identical twins, their lives would often run parallel: both enlisted in the Army Air Force, both flew with the 352nd FG, both left the service and entered the Georgia School of Technology, both re-entered service in 1948 and were assigned to the same base in Georgia before moving to the same base in Germany. Both were part of the display team “The Skyblazers”, both helped to form and were part of the original USAF Thunderbirds demonstration team, both would assume command of a Fighter Wing in Vietnam and both became Generals at the end of their military carreers.
Also, like many identical twins, both played identity tricks on people when they were kids. His brother Buck stated that they used to switch girlfriends.
They graduated from Atlanta Technical High School in 1942 and enlisted in the US Army Air Corps in November of 1942. Thanks to the alphabet, both brothers went through the same process during and after their training. When the list was parcelled out for training, both brothers were shipped off to primary training in PT-17s, followed by basic training in BT-13 monoplanes and finally advanced training in the AT-6. Bill said that they never saw any class rankings during flight training, so they didn't know who was doing better: him or his brother. “I thought I was the best there was” , Buck says.
They completed the aviation cadet program and received their pilot wings as Second Lieutenants at Marianna, Florida, on March 12th , 1944. After completing P-40 Warhawk training, they would be assigned to a Fighter Group. Bill remembers fearing that the Army Air Forces would finally separate them, following the loss of several Sullivan brothers on one ship.
They were separated… in a certain way. Both brothers were assigned to the 352nd Fighter Group, then known as the “Blue Nosed Bastards of Bodney”, however Bill was assigned to the 487th FS while Buck was assigned to the 486th FS. They would make the trip to Europe in late November of 1944.
At that time, the 352nd had already converted to the P-51 Mustang and Bill named his P-51K 44-11556 HO-Y “Sweet & Lovely”.
His first and only aerial victory would come on April 10th , 1945, near Ulzen, Germany. The unlucky enemy was an Me-262 jet fighter. Bill explains: “We had all these jets come busting through the B-17s. The fast cannon-firing Me-262s dropped three B-17 Flying Fortresses on one pass. I caught sight of about five of the German jets and called one out as a tally-ho target. Something did not appear right with the jet. It should have been able to outrun the Mustang.
When I got up close enough, he started turning, which gave me a chance to cut him off in the turn and get the kill.”
After the kill, Bill continued circling the airfield and managed to damage another Me-262 before it fled the scene.
On April 16th , 1945, both brothers were part of an epic strafing mission at Gonecker airfield near Straubing, Germany. Upon attacking an airfield, the attacking force would usually split up into two groups: one group would take care of the flak units and once this task was completed, the second group would come in and establish a pattern to tear up the airfield. In most cases, the first group would then join them in the attack.
Bills' first P-51 44-11556 "Sweet & Lovely" (© 352nd FG Association Archive)
On this particular mission Bill was part of the group which had to take care of the anti-aircraft batteries. He effectively aided in silencing the flak batteries which enabled his brother to commence his strafing run.
Lt. Col. Willie O. Jackson signalled the attack and described in his encounter report: “We decided to hit the airfield with one section drawing flak, another busting flak and the third as top cover. I took my flight across first from south-west to north-east, not firing, and 15-20 guns opened up. After four or five passes most of those were neutralised by the flak-busters, and a gunnery pattern was set up.”
During the next half hour the Bluenosers hammered the airfield, leaving it a burning wreck. The pilots claimed a total of 40 aircraft destroyed and 27 damaged following the attack:
Lt Col. Jackson accounted for 4 destroyed and 3 damaged
Capt. Ed Heller destroyed 7
Bill Pattillo destroyed 6 and damaged 2
Buck Pattillo destroyed 5 and damaged one
Capt. Ray Littge of the 487 th destroyed 3 and damaged 5
Rare in-flight image of Bill in his P-51K 44-11556 "Sweet & Lovely" (© 352nd FG Association Archive)
However, 2 pilots were lost during the attack: Lt. Walden Padded died after his Mustang was downed by flak and Bill was shot down and taken prisoner by German troops.
On the entire April 16th , 8th AF fighter pilots destroyed no less than 752 enemy aircraft on various missions for the loss of 34 of their own.
Prisoner of War
Bill takes us through his mission of that particular day:
“We were flying a bomber escort mission to Regensberg. After the bombers had completed their bomb run, half of our section of the 352 nd FG broke off from the bombers to look for “targets of opportunity” on the return to home base.
Captain Ray Littge was leading White Flight which included Lieutenants Wittiklend, Creamer and myself. The second flight, Red Flight, consisted of Lieutenants Waldron, Sykes, Padden and Cole. As we proceeded to let down from escort altitude, we came upon an airfield which had about 50 single engine and twin-engine aircraft dispersed around the perimeter and in grass revetments surrounding the field.
Capt. Littge was directed to take both flights to knock out the flack positions firing at us as we circled the field. The Group leader had previously made a high speed run across the airfield at minimum altitude to test for ground fire. I don't remember who was Group lead that day, either Col. Jim Mayden of Lt. Col. Bill Halton.
We made about three passes each on the gun positions, either knocking them out or at least temporarily silencing them. After the flak busting, both flights then joined the other aircraft in strafing the parked aircraft. Despite the flak and all the small arms fire, it was a field day! I remember the P-51s going in all directions and exploding and setting on fire may different types of aircraft parked around the field. The following is from my encounter report, submitted after I returned to the Group after being shot down by ground fire on this mission:
I was flying White Four and made two passes at flak positions after which we then hit the deck to strafe the enemy aircraft on the airfield at Ganacker.
On my first two passes made on the northeast corner of the field, I got good hits on two dispersed Me-109s but couldn't get them to burn. I then made six more passes on the east side of the field getting six aircraft, three FW-190s, 2 Me-109s and 1 Ju-88, hitting one aircraft on each successive pass.
I saw each of these planes either explode or burn fiercely.
On my ninth pass on the southeast corner of the field, I attacked another FW-190 and got hits but it would not burn either. On this pass I was hit in the engine and oil/coolant lines by enemy ground fire and was forced to crash land my burning plane in enemy territory. I was taken prisoner by the Germans.
I had started my last pass when the Group leader called for rejoin. Since I had already committed myself, I continued the pass at treetop level. As I pulled off the target in a left turn I noticed my engine was running rough so I checked all the gauges and was startled to see that the coolant gauge was pegged in the red and I knew I was in deep trouble. I stayed low and attempted to join the other aircraft which were now at about 3000 feet in a wide left turn. Then I noticed the blue paint on the nose of the airplane starting to bubble and smoke. My engine really started running rough then and I was losing power. When it started smoking badly, I saw flames coming from around the exhaust stacks and I knew I wouldn't be making it back to Bodney.
I had gone about 10 miles northwest of the airfield we strafed and I tried to gain some altitude so I could bail out. I called on the R/T that I was hit and would bail out, but, as confirmed later, no one heard the call. I jettisoned the canopy, unstrapped, and stoop up to jump, but realized I was too low for a successful parachute jump. All this time I was over dense woods, and since I could not gain altitude, I knew I would have to crash land into the trees. My engine had now stopped completely. I guess the good Lord was with me at this instant because just as I was reaching stall speed on top of the trees, a very small plowed field appeared.
I lowered the nose and belly landed. With my wheels up, the aircraft didn't cartwheel and I braced myself the best I could with my left arm against the windscreen area as I flew the plane into the ground. I remember the aircraft was slowly turning in a circle and kicking up dirt all over the place. How quiet and peaceful it all seemed when the plane finally stopped and I jumped out of the burning plane on the run! As I looked up and saw the rest of the Group reforming it was about the loneliest feeling I ever had.
I had gone about 100 yards from the aircraft when German soldiers came out of the woods from all directions with their guns aimed at me, I put up my arms and surrendered. They searched me, took my .45 pistol and hustled me off into the woods to a small command post.”
At that point he was held in a small room on an airfield, which turned out to be Straubing. Bill recalls that he was never mistreated in any way. He stayed there for about five days and regularly watched 9th AF Mustang strafe and bomb the airfield, ofter fearing someone would hit the building where he was incarcerated.
One morning, a guard came out to get him, and Bill learned that he would be taken to Moosberg, a POW camp near Munich. He would not get that far however, since for some reason he was dropped off at a “tent city” POW camp along the Isar River at Landshut. The camp was established as a mixed Allied-enlisted camp and there were about 1500 people there.
He and the other POWs were finally liberated by tanks of Patton's 3rd Army on May 5th .
“I went out to meet the lead tank to inquire as to how and where to get through the battle lines without becoming a casualty from the Germans as well as the Americans. I didn't intend to hang around that place and get all involved with the bureaucracy and red tape which I knew would follow when the appropriate American units arrived. I proceeded through the lines by hitchhiking with American GIs to Nuremberg where I hitched a ride on a C-47 which was transporting wounded Army personnel to England. After arriving near London, I borrowed several English pounds from the pilot of the C-47, caught a train, and made my way back to Bodney.”
Once he got back, he received his brand new P-51D 44-14790 HO-O Mustang which he again named "Sweet & Lovely".
Bill's new P-51D 44-14790 HO-O "Sweet & Lovely" (© 352nd FG Association Archive)
In all, Bill would complete 30 missions whilst flying with the 487th . He scored 1 aerial kill and damaged 1 more. He also scored 6 strafing kills and damaged 3 others on the ground.
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