Tuesday, August 28, 2007

G for Gina

I like reading WW2 stories. Life, death, the extremes of human character are tested. Recently I came across this story: One of the more interesting stories in the Mediterranean warzone was of the phantom P-38, an allied fighter plane, which was shooting down bombers on its own side.

Beginning on June 4, 1943, a crippled bomber was coming back from a mission against the island of Pantelleria. The crew was considering bailing out of their bomber when they spotted a P-38 coming closer. They relaxed knowing it was coming to their aid. The crew even dumped its guns and ammunition to save weight. Before the crew realized what happened, the P-38 erupted in gunfire and destroyed the B-17. The only survivor was the pilot, Lt. Harold Fisher. Fisher was rescued but the fighter pilots scorned his report which suggested that one of their own had mistakenly shot them down.

It was true though. A P-38 was shooting down Allied planes but it was piloted by an enemy pilot!! An Italian pilot, Lt. Guido Rossi came up with the idea of using a captured P-38 against American bombers. Rossi's strategy was to wait until the bombers made their attacks. Rossi would then take off and scout around for stragglers. Using this technique he managed to shoot down several bombers. Until Lt. Fisher, no other crews survived to tell of the phantom P-38 shooting them down. Nobody had an idea that a friendly aircraft was the cause.

After Fisher told his story, however, bombers crews were alerted to look for a lone P-38, which was posing as a friendly. Fisher came up with the idea of using a decoy B-17 to attract Rossi. Fisher's idea was approved and he took off in the experimental YB-40 gunship. This was a modified B-17, which had more armor and guns. He flew several missions lagging behind the rest of the formations, but never encountered Rossi.

Intelligence was being gathered and the Allies finally learned the identity of the pilot. They also learned that his wife was living in Allied occupied Constantine. An artist actually used a picture of Rossi's wife to paint a nose art picture on Fisher's bomber, and included her name,

Gina. On August 31, a B-17 raid struck Pisa. Fisher was flying among the bombers, and was actually damaged by enemy fighters. He recovered at a low altitude and had to feather two engines. Before long, a lone P-38 was approaching and the crew was on high alert. Rossi, using very good English, contacted Fisher, just as he did on previous occasions. Rossi immediately noticed the nose art on the aircraft and spoke with Fisher. Fisher was still uncertain the pilot was Rossi and decided to bait this pilot by talking about Gina and her home in Constantine. When Fisher was describing intimate details of their "relationship", Rossi assumed the worse - that he had been cuckolded - and lost his cool. He peeled off and began his attack.

Fisher ordered all guns to open up and Rossi's plane was badly damaged. Rossi tried to ram the bomber, but his plane began breaking up. He ditched in the water and was later picked up and taken prisoner. Fisher was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross medal for his efforts. Fisher would survive the war, but was killed in a transport accident during the Berlin Airlift. Incidentally, Rossi was one of the mourners at his funeral.

I don't have a photo of G for Gina but here's something similar.

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