25 May 1944

Fighter operation by all Gruppen with main effort over bridge head area of penetration.

Komm. Gen. Mittelitalien intentions for 25 May 1944

Enemy aircraft were in evidence today, attempting to attack our forces and protect the remnants of the 'H.G.' Division. CORSICA based aircraft had a successful day destroying 14 and damaging 5."

Operations Record Book, No. 322 Wing RAF

Allied forces coming up from the south were finally able to join up with the developing breakout from Anzio-Nettuno and there was intense air combat over Central Italy. Komm. Gen. Mittelitalien opposed this with 38 ground attack sorties, 80 by fighters and eight reconnaissance, at a reported cost of two pilots dead and seven missing.

At 07.00, the 57th FG claimed five Fw 190s destroyed from a formation of eight met north of Tarquinia. The Group also reported three P-47s lost with one pilot picked up by Air Sea Rescue.

Forty-five minutes later, Spitfires of 242 Squadron attacked eight Fw 190s over Viterbo main aerodrome: F/Lt Skinner claiming two destroyed; P/O Young, one destroyed and one damaged; F/Sgt. Doherty, one destroyed. On top of that, S/Ldr. Boddington damaged three Fw 190s in their blast pens at Canino. The timing of this action matches, give or take a few minutes, three claims of Spitfires shot down in rapid succession by pilots of I./SG 4:

Ofw. Johannsen

3./SG 4

2 km. W. Montalto di Castro


Ofw. Bachmann

3./SG 4

10 km. N.E. Tarquinia


Maj. Werner Dörnbrack

Stab I./SG 4

12 km. E. Montalto


In fact, the day’s casualties from 322 Wing (to which 242 Squadron belonged) were two aircraft hit by Flak with one pilot injured and taken to hospital.

A fourth claim by SG 4 is timed 25 minutes after the last of the above but since it was in the same general area and at similarly low altitude, may well relate to the same action for apparently there was no further combat between Fw 190s and Spitfires until around three hours later, when another claim of a Spitfire was made:

Uffz. Langherz

4./SG 4

Montalto di Castro Airfield


Ten Bf 109s of III./JG 53 flew a freie Jagd over Velletri from 08.15–09.20 hours while (perhaps surprisingly) a defensive patrol north of the same town brought no sightings. Meanwhile at 09.00 hours, 79th FG claimed 4-0-1 Bf 109s from a formation of 20 they met south of Orte. Pilots of I./JG 77 and I./JG 4 claimed four P-47s destroyed between 09.08 and 09.25. The 79th FG did report three of its Thunderbolts missing during the day, two of which were believed to have come down on friendly territory.

Jochen Prien’s account of how three pilots of I./JG 77 came to be killed and two wounded is that they were countering a raid by B-24s with a P-38 escort on targets between Viterbo and Grosseto. However MASAF’s daily summary mentions no operation anywhere near this area. Lacking details of the times of these losses, it seems at least possible that instead they, plus a Bf 109 wrecked in an emergency landing, were caused by the 79th FG.

A sighting of five Fw 190s by Spitfires north of Lake Bracciano brought no contact but shortly afterward:

Today was a red letter day for [251] Wing. At 10.35 8 Spits of 451 took off to sweep the VITERBO area. Quite near this spot they sighted 4 FW190s about 5,000 ft below. They dived to attack and in the ensuing dogfight 3 FW190’s were destroyed and the fourth damaged. Victors were F/O BRAY, F/O HOUSE, F/O THOMAS and S/Ldr. KIRKHAM got the damaged.

The III./JG 53 flew a freie Jagd in the Grosseto area from 11.35–12.35 and a scramble at 12.59 hours. The 1./JG 77 claimed a Spitfire shot down over Grosseto at 12.23 but on present evidence this is difficult to fit into the Allied version of events.

Between 15.45 and 16.40 hours, 14 of the III./JG 53’s Bf 109s provided high level escort for 16 Fw 190s attacking a target in the Velletri area. The fighters formed up 500 metres higher than the Focke-Wulfs, protecting them on the left from behind. At 16.04, over Lake Bracciano, the fighter-bombers were attacked by 14 Spitfires and a minute later four to six more went for the escort. After climbing and reforming, the Germans flew on to the target area, after which the fighters returned without their charges, a Bf 109 crashing near Viterbo at 16.14 hours owing to engine damage.

Despite a time discrepancy of 40 minutes, this may have been the engagement reported between six Spitfires of 324 Wing and “40 plus Fw's/Me's” which adopted a defensive circle. The Spitfires claimed one Fw 190 destroyed without loss to themselves. Nevertheless, one victory was credited to Ofw. Schimscheimer of 3./SG 4: a Spitfire at 4,000 m. over Lake Bracciano at 16.02 hours.

continued on next page …


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