The Most Heroic Airmen of World War II
The Most Heroic Airmen of World War II

The Most Heroic Airmen of World War II

Khalid Elhassan - August 10, 2022

The Most Heroic Airmen of World War II
That Fw 190 that Bruce Carr returned to base in. Large Scale Planes

2. A Harrowing Escape

Bruce Carr found the Fw 190’s starter lever, spent half an hour building up his courage, then pulled it. Nothing happened. German starters worked the other way around. He eventually pushed it forward, and the fighter’s BMW motor roared to life. Carr would not risk his escape by wasting any time taxing to and lining up on the runway. Pouring on full throttle, the American ace raced across a corner of the airfield, between two airplane hangars, then over the heads of sleepy and befuddled Germans.

When he reached Allied territory, ground troops opened fire on Carr’s Fw 190. To avoid friendly fire, he flew just above treetop level at 350 mph. After flying about 200 miles, he reached his airfield. Unable to deploy the landing gear or communicate via radio, Carr made a belly landing before his escape was ruined by his own airfield’s defenses blasting him out of the sky. Military police surrounded the crashed Fw 190, and refused to accept Carr’s word that he was American. It was finally sorted out when the group commander arrived, and identified his missing pilot. Carr is the only Allied pilot to fly off in a P-51, and return in an Fw 190.

The Most Heroic Airmen of World War II
Bruce Carr’s P-51 at the end of WWII. PME

1. After His Escape, Bruce Carr Joined the “Ace in a Day” Club

Bruce Carr was promoted to first lieutenant, and given a well-deserved leave. However, his wartime exploits were not over. On April 2nd, 1945, First Lieutenant Carr led three other American fighters on a reconnaissance mission, when they spotted sixty German fighters above them. Despite the 15:1 odds against his flight, the fighter ace immediately led an attack. Within minutes, Carr and his companions had downed fifteen Germans. Carr personally downed two Fw 190s, three Bf 109s, and damaged a sixth plane. His downing of five airplanes on that occasion made Carr the European Theater of Operations’ last “Ace in a Day”.

It also earned him a Distinguished Service Cross, the country’s second highest award for valor. By war’s end, Carr had flown 172 combat missions, scored fifteen confirmed air-to-air victories, several more unconfirmed victories, and numerous ground victories. He flew another 57 combat missions in the Korean War, and 286 more in Vietnam, earning a Legion of Merit and Three Distinguished Flying Crosses. He retired from the Air Force as a colonel in 1973, died of prostate cancer in 1998, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

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Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

Air Force Magazine, February 1st, 1995 – Valor: Thanks, Luftwaffe

Aviation Geek Club – The Story of Bruce Carr, the P-51D Pilot Who Left on a Mission Flying a Mustang and Returned to Base Flying a Luftwaffe FW190

Aviation History Magazine, May, 2001 – WWII Ace Pappy Boyington Recalls War, Prison and Flying

Baron, Scott – Valor of Many Stripes: Remarkable Americans in World War II (2019)

Birch, David – Rolls Royce and the Mustang (1987)

Boyington, Gregory – Baa Baa Black Sheep (1958)

Darling, Kev – Combat Legend: P-51 Mustang (2005)

Detroit Free Press, May 18th, 2018 – Tuskegee Airman Honored 73 Years After Being Lynched in Austria

Encyclopedia Britannica – Tuskegee Airmen

Fortitudine, Bulletin of the Marine Corps Historical Program, Volume 35, Number 1, 2010 – Boyington and Combat Leadership

Gamble, Bruce – The Black Sheep: The Definitive Account of Marine Fighting Squadron 214 in World War II (1998)

Gamble, Bruce – Black Sheep One: The Life of Greggory ‘Pappy’ Boyington (2000)

History Collection – Underappreciated Heroes From History

History Net – Facts & Information About the Tuskegee Airmen

Moye, J. Todd – Freedom Flyers: The Tuskegee Airmen of World War II (2010)

Museum of Flight – Digital Collections: Louis E. Curdes Oral Interview

Pace, Steve – Mustang: Thoroughbred Stallion of the Air (2012)

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum – Black Wings: African American Pioneer Aviators

Together We Served – Carr, Bruce W. (DSC), Colonel

Tuskegee Airmen Inc. – Tuskegee Airmen History

US Air Force Historical Division Research Studies Institute, Historical Study No. 136 – Development of the Long Range Escort Fighter

War History Online – The American WWII Ace Who Shot Down 7 German, 1 Italian, 1 Japanese, and 1 American Plane

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