This is my humble contribution to the blogging in formation series.
Inspired by the video that I will link to at the end of this post, I wanted to summarize this incredible story of aerial courage and daring.
After the United States entered the European theatre, it would have been a strange sight indeed to see an American pilot flying a Spitfire, but it did happen. These squadrons weren’t just any old Spitfire outfits, they were flying highly modified Mark XIs that were used for a very specific purpose.
The daring young men who flew these machines would sit in them eight hours at a time and fly up at 30,000’. Their mission was to fly perfectly straight lines while being shot at by German flak and later ME-262 jet fighters.
The Mark XI would be completely unarmed and unarmored, exchanging these “conveniences” for fuel and photo reconnaissance equipment. The small fragile airplanes with their high powered Merlin engines would plunge deep into enemy territory on a daily basis, going all the way to Berlin at times. They painted their machines a distinctive light blue to avoid detection from the ground. And they always flew alone…
Early, before America’s entry to the war, England would use these reconnaissance squadrons to ferret out locations of deadly weapons such as the V-2 buzz bombs that terrorized England. Under Operation Crossbow, bombing mission were successful in crippling the German arsenals which helped turn the tide of the war. Much of the credit goes to the British Spitfire Reconnaissance squadrons for locating those targets.
They flew deep into the heart of German with only their wits and the speed of the Spitfire as their defense. I am always intrigued when I learn about how unsung heroes, such as this are uncovered. We always read about Chuck Yeager, Bob Hoover and Bud Anderson mixing it up with the Jerry’s over the skies of Europe, but without other less-known squadrons carrying out their mission, the war may have turned out very differently.
The video is extremely well produced and you will not regret spending the next 15 minutes watching it – I promise! Consider it a personal history lesson.