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(Overall size 13½” x 13½”)
One of the first Americans to join the war, Jim Goodson flew first with the RAF, then commanded an American Eagle Squadron, before transferring over to the USAAF when America joined the war. By this time Goodson was already an experienced fighter pilot.
Taking this invaluable proficiency with him, Jim Goodson joined the 4th Fighter Group, his experience helping them develop into one of the most successful American Fighter units in the ETO. Swapping their Spitfires for P-47 Thunderbolts, then P-51 Mustangs the 4th’s fighter pilots were able to escort their heavy bombers all the way to Berlin. One of a tiny number of Americans to fly combat almost throughout WWII.
After training in Canada, I achieved this ambition, flying Hurricanes with 43 Squadron (Tangmere) and Spitfires with 416 Squadron (Kenley). When the entire 133 American Eagle Squadron was lost on a mission escorting Fortresses over Brest—as an American flying with the RAF—I was asked to help reform that Squadron, a move which led to my eventually becoming Commanding Officer.
This was my first and only Squadron command. It was my home for over a year and a half, during which time I was constantly in combat (about 1000 hours of combat operations, including some 300 missions).
The Squadron at one time included the three leading aces of the US Air Force, as well as twelve other aces. Its score at the end of the War was 360 enemy aircraft destroyed.
And, if the Squadron was my home, the people in it were my family. When I met Luftwaffe pilots after the War, I asked how they kept on fighting so fanatically right up to the end, although they knew the War was lost. The answer was always the same: “We were fighting for the Squadron“. That’s how I felt about my Squadron.
Like the pilots who served in it, who proudly wore both the RAF and USAF wings, the Squadron kept its RAF Squadron badge in honour of its RAF heritage and allegiance.
In September 1942, the US Army 8th Air Force needed fighter pilots with combat experience and it was agreed that 133 Squadron, together with the other two Eagle Squadrons of the RAF, should transfer to the 8th U.S. Air Force to become 4th Fighter Group. It was of this Group that Maj. General ‘Monk’ Hunter, chief of Fighter Command 8th US Air Force, said to the RAF: “You will never know what it meant to us to receive a group of fully-trained, operational pilots. It has formed the nucleus around which we have built our fighting machine. The 4th Fighter Group has been the stem whence Fighter Command doctrine has sprung“.
The main goal of the 8th Fighter Command was to provide escort protection to the growing fleet of bombers attacking Germany’s production centres by day; but the Spitfire, designed for defence, had only enough range to protect the bombers on the first and last brief stages, and the 8th Air Force learned, after such disasters as Schweinfurt, that their losses became unacceptable without Fighter cover all the way to the target and back.
The 4th first exchanged their Spitfires for P-47 Thunderbolts, which, with droppable external fuel tanks enabled them to cover the bombers over Western and Northern Germany. Then, taking only 24 hours out of action, they switched to the new Rolls-Royce engined P-51 Mustang, with which, always at the far end of the relay of fighters, they could cover the whole of Germany. This led Goering to say that when he saw the 4th’s Mustangs escorting the bombers over Berlin, he knew the War was lost.
The Fourth ended the War as the most successful of all Allied Groups or Wings, with over 1000 enemy aircraft destroyed, of which 360 were accounted for by the old 133 Squadron.
Although I spent the last 10 months of the war as a POW, I was officially credited with 32 enemy aircraft destroyed.
After being shot down, I was Adjutant of the Centre Compound of Stalag-Luft III, escaping towards the end of the War to lead the American Army back to the Camp.
Aircraft flown in combat
During World War II, I flew the Hurricane, Spitfire, P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51 Mustang. Whilst the Hurricane was a better gun platform, the Spitfire was the best defensive fighter of the war due to its excellent rate of turn and manoeuvrability. The P-47 could out-dive the 109 and the 190, but was inferior to German fighters under 25,000ft. The P-51 Mustang with the Merlin engine was in my opinion the most complete fighter aircraft of the war. It had speed, dive, manoeuvrability and climb, but above all it had the range to enable it to escort bombers to the limit of their range.
JAMES GOODSON SIGNATURE ENSEMBLE(Jim Goodson: USAF: 4th Fighter Group:P-51 Mustang)@vbader.com