Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Grand Theft Focke Wulf?

On the afternoon of the 9th February 1944 a flight of US Spitfires from 4th Fighter Squadron were performing a sweep off the coast of southern France, south east of Cannes. Carrying bombs their targets were enemy ships. The first hint of trouble came when a pack of FW-190A's dived on the formation, and a swirling dogfight erupted. At 2,500 meters Flying Officer James H Montgomery was shot down. The dogfight continued, and gradually lost altitude. In just four minutes the fight was down to 1,500m. One pilot, Flying Officer Bob Hoover, was turning in his Spitfire, he thought he'd hit one of the FW190's a few moments earlier, when the slipper tank below his aircraft was hit, and caught fire. The slipper tank was a tank that was fitted bellow the cockpit and was a streamlined bulge that extended the Spitfire's range. FO Hoover immediately bailed out and was soon captured by the Germans.
US Spitfires in the UK. For fairly obvious reasons the 4th Fighter Squadron would likely have been flying out of somewhere in the Med.
FO Hoover was sent to Stalagluft I, near Barth in Western Pomerania. There he spent sixteen months. Eventually as the war was winding down, he decided to take advantage of the confusion of the collapse of Germany and escape. A mock fight was staged by the prisoners, and FO Hoover and a couple of Canadians slipped over the wire while the German guards were preoccupied. They arrived at a farmhouse where a kindly German lady gave them a meal, and a pistol with three rounds in it, and they set off for safety. After a short while the group stole some bikes.
Bob Hoover, after the war.
After a while travelling through Germany they arrived at an airfield. On it were a number of damaged FW190's. Sneaking onto the field they found a flyable FW190, fully fuelled. They also managed to locate a sole mechanic, who spoke French, and thus the Canadians were able to talk to him. Using the pistol, they encouraged him to help the start up the selected FW190, and FO Hoover flew away in the captured FW190. He would later crash in a field in the Netherlands.

Or at least that is the story told by most other websites. The Canadians are often unmentioned, and FO Hoover is shot down after suffering engine trouble, and crash lands. These websites often include epitaphs of "World’s greatest pilot!" or similar.

Now, who can spot the flaws?

By my count sixteen months on from 9th February 1944 is 9th of June 1945, which we can use as the approximate date that FO Hoover escaped. Or to put it another way, some 33 days after VE day. What makes it all the more bizarre is that the Soviet Army liberated Stalagluft I on the 30th of April, so 41 days before hand. Then let's talk about traipsing across Soviet occupied Germany to an airfield, and finding a lone German mechanic at an airfield, and no Soviet guards? This to me tells me either I'm missing an important piece of information, or someone's gotten something wrong, such as dates.
Soviet troops with a liberated US POW. For more photographs, and a much more detailed story on Stalagluft I please see this site.
I should be clear, Bob Hoover is a great pilot, and has a list as long as your arm of feats, and outstanding manoeuvres such as showing off the aerobatic capabilities of a light civilian aircraft, by completing a barrel roll with no engines, followed by several other acrobatic twists and turns followed by a landing. Although to spice things up, he'd land only on one wheel for the first part of the touchdown, all unpowered. He also flew several combat missions in Korea, and was Chuck Yeager's back up for the Bell X-1, and was nearly the pilot for the Mach 1 flight, as Yeager had injured himself, although Yeager being himself he'd flown the flight with the injury.
Bob Hoover performing the touch down part of his routine.
But that escape story has a few too many holes for me to be comfortable with.


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