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Author Topic: Unbelievable: Captain Bruce Carr Mustang Ace  (Read 4438 times)


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Unbelievable: Captain Bruce Carr Mustang Ace
« on: October 06, 2011, 10:39:05 AM »
My history passion has always been WW2 aviation particularly US Forces. Here's another example of some truly incredible heroism that occurred during the conflict.

Captain (Colonel USAF Ret) Bruce Carr

This is a true story of 20 year old Bruce Carr, a fighter pilot shot down behind enemy lines in World War Two.
20 year old Bruce Carr, a fighter pilot

The dead chicken was starting to smell. After carrying it for several days, 20-year-old Bruce Carr still hadn't decided how to cook it without the Germans catching him. But as hungry as he was, he couldn't bring himself to eat it. In his mind, no meat was better than raw chicken meat, so he threw it away.

Resigning himself to what appeared to be his unavoidable fate, he turned in the direction of the nearest German airfield. Even POW's get to eat sometimes. And aren't they constantly dodging from tree to tree, ditch to culvert? He was exhausted!

He was tired of trying to find cover where there was none. Carr hadn't realized that Czechoslovakian forests had no underbrush until, at the edge of the farm field, he struggled out of his parachute and dragged it into the woods.

During the times he had been screaming along at treetop level in his P-51 Angels Playmate' the forests and fields had been nothing more than a green blur behind the Messerchmitts, Focke-Wulfs, trains and trucks he had in his sights. He never expected to find himself a pedestrian far behind enemy lines.

The instant antiaircraft shrapnel ripped into the engine, he knew he was in trouble. Serious trouble. Clouds of coolant steam hissing through jagged holes in the cowling told Carr he was about to ride the silk elevator down to a long walk back to his squadron. A very long walk.

This had not been part of the mission plan. Several years before, when 18-year-old Bruce Carr enlisted in the Army, in no way could he have imagined himself taking a walking tour of rural Czechoslovakia with Germans everywhere around him. When he enlisted, all he could think about was flying fighters.

By the time he had joined the military, Carr already knew how to fly. He had been flying as a private pilot since 1939, soloing in a $25 Piper Cub his father had bought from a disgusted pilot who had left it lodged securely in the top of a tree. His instructor had been an Auburn, New York, native by the name of 'Johnny' Bruns.

"In 1942, after I enlisted," as Bruce Carr remembers it, "we went to meet our instructors. I was the last cadet left in the assignment room and was nervous. Then the door opened and out stepped the man who was to be my military flight instructor. It was Johnny Bruns!
"We took a Stearman to an outlying field, doing aerobatics all the way; then he got out and soloed me. That was my first flight in the military.
"The guy I had in advanced training in the AT-6 had just graduated himself and didn't know a damned bit more than I did." Carr can't help but smile, as he remembers: "which meant neither one of us knew anything. Zilch!

"After three or four hours in the AT-6, they took me and a few others aside, told us we were going to fly P-40s and we left for Tipton, Georgia. We got to Tipton, and a lieutenant just back from North Africa kneeled on the P-40s wing, showed me where all the levers were, made sure I knew how everything worked, then said, 'If you can get it started .. . go flying,' just like that!

"I was 19 years old and thought I knew everything. I didn't know enough to be scared. They didn't tell us what to do. They just said: 'Go fly!' so I buzzed every cow in that part of the state. Nineteen years old and 1,100 horsepower, what did they expect? Then we went overseas."
By today's standards, Carr and that first contingent of pilots shipped to England were painfully short of experience. They had so little flight time that today; they would barely have their civilian pilot's license. Flight training eventually became more formal, but in those early days, it had a hint of fatalistic Darwinism: if they learned fast enough to survive, they were ready to move on to the next step.

Including his 40 hours in the P-40 terrorizing Georgia, Carr had less than 160 hours flight time when he arrived in England.
His group in England was to be the pioneering group that would take the Mustang into combat, and he clearly remembers his introduction to the airplane.

"I thought I was an old P-40 pilot and the P-51B would be no big deal. But I was wrong. I was truly impressed with the airplane. I mean REALLY impressed! It flew like an airplane. I just flew the P-40, but in the P-51 I was part of the airplane. And it was part of me! There was a world of difference."

When he first arrived in England, the instructions were, 'This is a P-51. Go fly it. Soon, we'll have to form a unit, so go fly.' A lot of English cows were buzzed.

"On my first long-range mission, we just kept climbing, and I'd never had an airplane above about 10,000 feet before. Then we were at 30,000 feet with "Angels Playmate" and I couldn't believe it! I'd gone to church as a kid, and I knew that's where the angels were and that's when I named my airplane Angels Playmate.'

"Then a bunch of Germans roared down through us, and my leader immediately dropped tanks and turned hard for home. But I'm not that smart. I'm 19 years old and this SOB shoots at me. And I'm not going to let him get away with it

"We went round and round. And I'm really mad because he shot at me. Childish emotions, in retrospect. He couldn't shake me, but I couldn't get on his tail to get any hits either.

"Before long, we're right down in the trees. I'm shooting, but I'm not hitting. I am, however, scaring the hell out of him. But I'm at least as excited as he is. Then I tell myself to calm down.

"We're roaring around within a few feet of the ground, and he pulls up to go over some trees, so I just pull the trigger and keep it down. The gun barrels burned out and one bullet, a tracer, came tumbling out and made a great huge arc. It came down and hit him on the left wing about where the aileron is He pulled up, off came the canopy, and he jumped out, but too low for the chute to open and the airplane crashed. I didn't shoot him down, I scared him to death with one bullet hole in his left wing. My first victory wasn't a kill; it was more of a suicide."
The rest of his 14 victories were much more conclusive. Being a red-hot fighter pilot, however, was absolutely no use to him as he lay shivering in the Czechoslovakian forest. He knew he would die if he didn't get some food and shelter soon.

"I knew where the German field was because I'd flown over it, so I headed in that direction to surrender. I intended to walk in the main gate, but it was late afternoon and, for some reason, I had second thoughts and decided to wait in the woods until morning.

"While I was lying there, I saw a crew working on an FW 190 right at the edge of the woods. When they were done, I assumed, just like you assume in America, that the thing was all finished. The cowling's on. The engine has been run. The fuel truck has been there. It's ready to go. Maybe a dumb assumption for a young fellow, but I assumed so. So, I got in the airplane and spent the night all hunkered down in the cockpit.
"Before dawn, it got light and I started studying the cockpit. I can't read German, so I couldn't decipher dials and I couldn't find the normal switches like there were in American airplanes. I kept looking, and on the right side was a smooth panel. Under this was a compartment with something I would classify as circuit breakers. They didn't look like ours, but they weren't regular switches either.

"I began to think that the Germans were probably no different from the Americans in that they would turn off all the switches when finished with the airplane. I had no earthly idea what those circuit breakers or switches did, but I reversed every one of them. If they were off, that would turn them on. When I did that, the gauges showed there was electricity on the airplane.

"I'd seen this metal T-handle on the right side of the cockpit that had a word on it that looked enough like 'starter' for me to think that's what it was. But when I pulled it, nothing happened. Nothing.

"But if pulling doesn't work . . . you push. And when I did, an inertia starter started winding up. I let it go for a while, then pulled on the handle and the engine started!"

The sun had yet to make it over the far trees and the air base was just waking up, getting ready to go to war. The FW 190 was one of many dispersed through-out the woods, and at that time of the morning, the sound of the engine must have been heard by many Germans not far away on the main base

But even if they heard it, there was no reason for alarm. The last thing they expected was one of their fighters taxiing out with a weary Mustang pilot at the controls. Carr, however, wanted to take no chances.

"The taxiway came out of the woods and turned right towards where I knew the airfield was because I'd watched them land and take off while I was in the trees.

"On the left side of the taxiway, there was a shallow ditch and a space where there had been two hangars. The slabs were there, but the hangars were gone, and the area around them had been cleaned of all debris.

"I didn't want to go to the airfield, so I plowed down through the ditch and then the airplane started up the other side.
"When the airplane started up . . . I shoved the throttle forward and took off right between where the two hangars had been."
At that point, Bruce Carr had no time to look around to see what effect the sight of a Focke-Wulf erupting from the trees had on the Germans. Undoubtedly, they were confused, but not unduly concerned. After all, it was probably just one of their maverick pilots doing something against the rules They didn't know it was one of OUR maverick pilots doing something against the rules.

Carr had problems more immediate than a bunch of confused Germans. He had just pulled off the perfect plane-jacking; but he knew nothing about the airplane, couldn't read the placards and had 200 miles of enemy territory to cross. At home, there would be hundreds of his friends and fellow warriors, all of whom were, at that moment, preparing their guns to shoot at airplanes marked with swastikas and crosses-airplanes identical to the one Bruce Carr was at that moment flying. But Carr wasn't thinking that far ahead.

First, he had to get there, and that meant learning how to fly the airplane. "There were two buttons behind the throttle and three buttons behind those two. I wasn't sure what to push, so I pushed one button and nothing happened I pushed the other and the gear started up. As soon as I felt it coming up and I cleared the fence at the edge of the German field, I took it down a little lower and headed for home.
"All I wanted to do was clear the ground by about six inches, and there was only one throttle position for me . . . full forward!
"As I headed for home, I pushed one of the other three buttons, and the flaps came part way down. I pushed the button next to it, and they came up again. So I knew how to get the flaps down. But that was all I knew.

"I can't make heads or tails out of any of the instruments. None. I can't even figure how to change the prop pitch. But I don't sweat that, because props are full forward when you shut down anyway and it was running fine."
This time, it was German cows that were buzzed, although, as he streaked across fields and through the trees only a few feet off the ground, that was not the intent. At something over 350 miles an hour below tree-top level, he was trying to be a difficult target as he crossed the lines. But he wasn't difficult enough.

"There was no doubt when I crossed the lines because every SOB and his brother who had a .50-caliber machine gun shot at me. It was all over the place, and I had no idea which way to go. I didn't do much dodging because I was just as likely to fly into bullets as around them."
When he hopped over the last row of trees and found himself crossing his own airfield, he pulled up hard to set up for landing. His mind was on flying the airplane. "I pitched up, pulled the throttle back and punched the buttons I knew would put the gear and flaps down. I felt the flaps come down but the gear wasn't doing anything. I came around and pitched up again, still punching the button. Nothing was happening and I was really frustrated." He had been so intent on figuring out his airplane problems, he forgot he was putting on a very tempting show for the ground crew.
"As I started up the last time, I saw our air defense guys ripping the tarps off the quad .50s that ringed our field. I hadn't noticed the machine guns before. But I was sure noticing them right then.
"I roared around in as tight a pattern as I could fly and chopped the throttle. I slid to a halt on the runway and it was a nice belly job, if I say so myself."

His antics over the runway had drawn quite a crowd, and the airplane had barely stopped sliding before there were MPs up on the wings trying to drag him out of the airplane by his arms. They didn't realize he was still strapped in
"I started throwing some good Anglo-Saxon swear words at them, and they let loose while I tried to get the seat belt undone, but my hands wouldn't work and I couldn't do it. Then they started pulling on me again because they still weren't convinced I was an American.
"I was yelling and hollering. Then, suddenly, they let go, and a face drops down into the cockpit in front of mine. It was my Group Commander: George R. Bickel.

"Bickel said, 'Carr, where in the hell have you been, and what have you been doing now?"
Bruce Carr was home and entered the record books as the only pilot known to leave on a mission flying a Mustang and return flying a Focke-Wulf. For several days after the ordeal, he had trouble eating and sleeping, but when things again fell into place, he took some of the other pilots out to show them the airplane and how it worked. One of them pointed out a small handle under the glare shield that he hadn't noticed before. When he pulled it, the landing gear unlocked and fell out. The handle was a separate, mechanical uplock. At least, he had figured out the important things.

Carr finished the war with 14 aerial victories on 172 missions, including three bailouts because of ground fire. He stayed in the service, eventually flying 51 missions in Korea in F-86s and 286 in Vietnam, flying F-100s.
That's an amazing 509 combat missions and doesn't include many others during Viet Nam in other aircraft types.
There is a profile into which almost every one of the breed fits, and it is the charter within that profile that makes the pilot a fighter pilot . . not the other way around. And make no mistake about it; Colonel Bruce Carr was definitely a fighter pilot.
Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death! Patrick Henry

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    Re: Unbelievable: Captain Bruce Carr Mustang Ace
    « Reply #1 on: October 06, 2011, 11:45:25 AM »
    KansasUN-Retired LEO.

    Non Timebo Mala . . . . . . . I will fear no evil. . .

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    Re: Unbelievable: Captain Bruce Carr Mustang Ace
    « Reply #2 on: October 06, 2011, 12:14:12 PM »
    Pretty cool story.

    Arizona  Arm yourself because no one else here will save you.  The odds will betray you, and I will replace you...


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    Re: Unbelievable: Captain Bruce Carr Mustang Ace
    « Reply #3 on: October 06, 2011, 09:49:58 PM »
    It is a great story, but, unfortunately, it is fiction. Bruce Carr is real, and he did "steal" a plane, but the flight took place after the war.


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    Re: Unbelievable: Captain Bruce Carr Mustang Ace
    « Reply #4 on: October 07, 2011, 08:07:10 AM »
    It is a great story, but, unfortunately, it is fiction. Bruce Carr is real, and he did "steal" a plane, but the flight took place after the war.

    and your souce for that was....................?

    It is not fiction, it is a very well known, very well documented story. It was published in Air Force Magazine

    Bruce Carr was shot down in November 1944 and made his escape six months before the war ended.
    Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death! Patrick Henry


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    Re: Unbelievable: Captain Bruce Carr Mustang Ace
    « Reply #5 on: October 07, 2011, 10:54:48 AM »
    did some digging on this story.    This is the best I have found so far.    

    Sorry for the delay, but I had some digging to do.

    First, as most of the arguments of the "it is BS" faction are centered around the AIRFOIL article (Airfoil No.2, Spring 1984, pages 30-31), I had to find and read it first, which I did.

    It is not without surprise that I discovered that Steve Blake and S.W. Sheflin, the co-authors of that piece, never communicated with the main character involved in it; Carr himself! As a former prosecution lawyer, I would never come to a conclusion without listening or reading all testimonies. Likewise, a journalist should always refrain from publishing something controversial unless he can say that the main characters involved have been reached to comment before publication. Their reasons for not doing so are:

    "We want to make it very clear however, that we are not suggesting that Bruce Carr has ever had anything to do with fostering any of the more creative versions of this story. Mr. Carr is a very private person who would never stoop to making up such a nonsense."

    Bruce W. Carr, a retired Colonel, was still well alive and kicking in 1984 and was not living as an hermit under a rock. A few months before his death in 1998, he was still flying a real two-seats P-51D christened "Angels' Playmate" in his honor. He would go to pilots' reunions, and talk to anyone who wanted to talk to him. Short of being able to talk to Carr (I'm a former lawyer, not a former psychic...), I went for the next best thing; I emailed Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette, a well-known artist specialized in aviation paintings who had received command of a painting From Lee Lauderback (a.k.a Mister Mustang) with a profile of the P-51D "Angels' Playmate", FT I, #44-63497. Here is an excerpt of his answer to my query:

    "Bruce told the story that I wrote but there were some holes in his story since I only got to talk to him once.
    The next form of interview was through Lee and his friends. Carr had been hospitalized.
    Lee and his friends where visiting Carr ever day.
    They got some questions answered for me plus they got Carr to approve the story for the print.
    I was to publish his print in two days, but before the print was released, Carr passed away."

    So, literally on his dying bed, Carr was still standing behind his story. But what story was he standing by? Here is what Blake and Sheflin pretended to "debunk";

    "The story has been told in several versions, but most contend that late in April, Carr was shot down somewhere in Austria. After hiding from enemy troops who were searching for him, he started walking toward neutral Switzerland and safety. He would hide during the day and travel cautiously during the night. In one telling of the story, the starving Carr is described as killing and eating a chicken raw., fearing the fire and smell of cooking would draw attention. One night he heard aircraft sounds, and snuck up on a Luftwaffe base loaded with aircraft. After much deliberation, the desperate Carr hit upon the idea of stealing a plane and flying it to freedom. After carefully timing the passings of the one guard (this is wartime, you know!), he snuck onto the field and into the closest plane. After quickly looking over the foreign instrument panel, Carr figured out how to start the plane and did so. After hauling this strange fighter into the air, he determined the correct heading home (in the dark, in a strange plane yet). Arriving over his Group's base at Ansbach, Carr then couldn't get the landing gear down and was forced to belly land the craft."

    I understand that the "several versions" they're referring to were paper versions. Internet was still in its infancy in 1984. But it is rather strange to see that the "debunked version" never made it to the web! I have perused through a dozen or so versions on Internet, none is placing the events in April or May 1945, none is placing the 354th FG base at Ansbach, and none is saying that the snatched Fw 190 was at Linz. Don't take my word for it, do your own search.

    The story approved by Carr and written by Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette, that you can find HERE , places the events around November 2, 1944. The 354th base was, at the time, at Orconte (A-66) in France, as duly noted. The Luftwaffe airbase was in Czechoslovakia. Other sources are situating that base near Pilsen.

    When it comes to the absence of reports, be reminded that absence of evidence is no evidence. If Carr was back within 48 hours, chances are a MACR form was never filled. As for the fate of the aircraft itself, not all were accounted for, far from it. For example, Blake and Sheflin article stated that;

    "In addition, the 9th A.F. loss records, nor any other reference source, list Bruce Carr as being shot down during this period of the war, nor do they list any serial numbers of planes he is known to have flown." (underscore is mine)

    Well, Carr did bailed out due to engine failure from a P-51B (serial #43-6930) while with the 380th FS, 363rd FG, 9th AF, and I think it is fair to assume that this a/c was lost (reported as a "5") (HERE)  (#1) ; Carr had two assigned P-51D in rapid succession in 1945, #44-13693 and #44-63497, but I never found any reports concerning the fate of the first one. So much for paper trails.

    So, are the events described in the AIRFOIL article bogus? Certainly not! But how does Carr "shopping excursion" near VE-Day is evidence that he did not steal another Fw 190 in late October - early November of the preceding year?

    As for Col. Felix Kozaczka (Ret.) witnessing the last episode, I don't doubt it. But when he transferred in August 1944 from the 382nd FS, 363rd FG, he was assigned to the 356th FS. He never was Carr's wingmen, as Sheflin stated in a 2004 vehement post. As for being a "wingmate", the expression used in the more tamed Airfoil piece, I will let the readers decide.

    "Red 31" was not the only Fw 190 to be brought on a 354th FG base (see HERE). (#2.) Curiously enough, "red 31" and "red 5" appeared to have been coming from the same outfit... based at Pilsen in November 1944.

    Now, how much does the November '44 story makes sense? On October 29 1944, Carr obtained two victories plus one probable in an P-51D marked FT PI (or Greek "pi" sign?), serial unknown. See HERE. (#3)  Normally, planes of the 353rd FS were identified by the prefix buzz ID "FT" followed by one Roman letter for the individual a/c . So why "PI"? This is not a typo as at least another pilot, Edward Earl Hunt, scored a "damaged" with the same P-51D on October 21 1944 (HERE). Unfortunately, he would die on November 8 1944, but not while flying FT PI. He was flying FT U "Ready Eddy" (presumably his assigned a/c) (see HERE) (#4) . As for MACR, there is one... under the name Hunt, Richard (?) E. Again, so much for paper trails.

    Carr was to score his next kill in FT L, Lt. Col. Glenn T. Eagleston P-51D "Feeble Eagle" (44-63607), on March 9 1945, while waiting for "his" own P-51D.

    What happened during this 132 days lull? Actually a lot; Carr was send for a 30 days R&R stateside on mid November, as reported in his story, and as confirmed by Steve Blake himself (The Pioneer Mustang Group:the 354th Fighter Group in World War II, by Steve Blake, Schiffer, page 269). As he was leaving, the entire group was abandoning reluctantly their beloved Mustangs for P-47 "Jugs". Since Carr claims that his March 9 1945 victory was on his first return mission, it is fair to assume that he never flew a P-47. at least in anger, of the entire war.

    FT PI was probably a "go to" or "mule" aircraft for pilots in need of a mount while their assigned bird was unavailable. After October 29 1944, this plane left no traces whatsoever. Not to be mistaken with Cary W. Salter "Charlotte's Chariot II" FT "pi", serial #44-63747, (see HERE) that he received after the 354th had returned to P-51s in February 1945. The serial would suggest that this plane came out of the assembly line around the same time as Carr's last P-51. Someone that seems very knowledgeable on the matter gives March 1945 for its arrival at the 354th FG (HERE).

    That the paperwork of the 354th would not mentioned the loss of the first FT PI is far from being unconceivable; the group was fighting a war while changing its whole airplane inventory twice in three months! A "mule" lost as it was to be transferred to a second-line unit may well have fell between the cracks. Another fact playing against a form 14 accident report is that they were reserved usually for non-combat related events.

    To conclude, among the stories reporting the events as true, we must consider Col. John L. Frisbee USAF (ret.), former editor of Air Force magazine, who wrote in February 1995, this article HERE. (#5.) for the "Valor" series published in this same magazine. As a military, editor, journalist and historian of the American Air Forces, his credentials are without reproach. Apart from the date, which he places in October '44, and other details, his article follows Carr's recollection to Sir Boyette.

    It will take more than a half-done piece of journalism and the absence of a paper trail to convince me that the words of a dying war hero are worth nothing.





    KansasUN-Retired LEO.

    Non Timebo Mala . . . . . . . I will fear no evil. . .

    It is what it is. . . . . .It's All Good.

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