359th Fighter Group by Jack H. Smith.
Page 78 + 79
The following day was another great day for the 359th, as two pilots of the 368th FS - Lt. David Archibald and Lt. Paul Olson - each became "aces in a day," a feat accomplished only once in Eight Air Force history. The group provided penetration, targeting and withdrawal support for B-17s attacking the marshalling yards at Cologne, and of the 53 Mustangs that took off from East Wrestham, only one returned. The rendezvous with the bombers took place over Hannut in Belgium, but the weather was so bad that more than 500 of the 985 bombers scheduled to take part in the mission had to return home. The "forts," escorted by the 359th, searched for favorable targets but turned back after 20 minutes without dropping their loads. The 359th was ordered to remain with the remaining bombers.
At 1300 hours and at an altitude of 32,000 feet, Lt. Olson became disabled by frozen ailerons and, accompanied by Lt. Archibald, went down to 10,000 feet to allow his controls to thaw. At 1340 hours a radio message was received that more than 60 German fighters had been spotted between Kassel and Cologne, but the 359th was ordered to remain with its formations.
Archibald and Olson headed toward Cologne to investigate the report and soon spotted a B-17 that had apparently crash-landed. Archibald radioed Olson that he would drop his fuel tanks on the bomber, and he instructed him to strafe the "fort" and set it on fire. As they approached the B-17, they saw someone disembark and called off the attack.
As Archibald went to take another look, camouflaged 20-mm anti-aircraft guns opened fire, and he was hit in the left thigh by a shell fragment - the pain muffled because his legs were still cold from the time he had spent at 32,000 feet.
Five minutes later, he and Olson spotted the enemy fighters, approached them from behind, took advantage of the element of surprise and attacked. As they attacked the Fw 190 formation from a 30-degree angle, Archibald quickly shot down two and Olson one. Strangely, the formation did not break up, so they swung out for another pass. This time they shot past the last plane, and Archibald shot down the leader of the next plane, while Olson shot down the leader's wingman.
Now the Fw 190s separated in the confusion, and during his third pass Archibald destroyed another bandit, while Olson recorded some good hits on his intended victim and took out the pilot. The empty Fw 190 collided with another, and both exploded.
Maneuvering for a fourth attack, Olson saw flak fly up behind them but continued the attack.
Two Fw 190s attempted to intercept the Mustangs from the left and right, but collided head-on, becoming casualties nine and ten. Archibald fired more shells into the fuselage of another Fw 190, but the anti-aircraft guns had their range and both P-51s were hit. Olson's fighter exploded, and he was thrown into the open, covered by burning fuel and oil. He was able to fight the flames in time to pull the ripcord, and his parachute opened.
At Wahn, Olson was captured by the crew of an anti-aircraft battery and taken by ambulance to a front-line hospital at Hoffnungsthal near Rösrath.
Archibald, meanwhile, had passed out from blood loss from the earlier shrapnel wound, and his Mustang, damaged in combat, crashed and exploded. On impact, Archibald was thrown 100 feet from the wreckage and, amazingly, was found unconscious seven hours later - and he was taken to the same hospital where Olson was!
For two weeks he lay in the hospital at Hoffnungthal, enjoying only brief moments of consciousness. Archibald remembered someone mentioning Christmas and then Happy New Year. When he regained consciousness, he was shocked to find that he was a POW.
He passed out again, and not surprisingly, he was in pain from a vertebra broken in five places, eight broken ribs, a broken left shoulder blade, a broken right wrist and two bones in his right hand, and a fractured skull.
The next time he woke up, an air raid was in progress, and a hot piece of shrapnel smashed through an open window and hit his bad leg.
Archibald was moved to a room where Olson was in the next bed, and within a few days both were packed into railroad cars with 220 other Allied airmen and taken to Stalag 11B at Fallingbostel.
The camp was liberated on April 16, and Archibald limped to freedom on two sticks, where he required medical treatment for years to come.
1st Lt. David Barnes Archibald