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409 Squadron RCAF: The Nighthawks

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THE FIRST COMBAT AFTER D-DAY

The invasion of the Continent changed the role of the Nighthawks. Prior to D-Day our night patrols had been defensive. Now we were on the offensive and sorties were flown nightly over the Beachhead. Crews ranged deep into hostile territory attacking and breaking up enemy formations of bombers and ground straffing aircraft and "kills" became a common occurence.

FO Red Pearce, one of the most colourful characters on a colourful Squadron had the distinction of attacking the first enemy aircraft engaged by the Squadron after D-Day.

Around one o'clock on the night of 5/6th June, 1944, Red and his navigator, F O Don Moores (RAF) were scrambled from West Malling to investigate a bogey flying at 23,000 feet over the English Channel. Don picked up a contact and held it throughout gentle evasive action, bringing Red within 3,000 feet where he obtained a visual.

The target must have seen them at the same time for it did a violent peel off. Don held the contact and Red was able to reduce the distance to 2,000 feet where he recognized the target as a Ju. 188.

The enemy bomber opened fire shortly after but Red held his fire until within 400 yards. At this range he fired a short burst but didn't observe any strikes.

The enemy aircraft immediately peeled off but Red turned inside it and when within 250 yards opened fire again. This time numerous strikes were observed in the cockpit and on the fuselage immediately back of the cockpit. The latter immediately went into so steep a dive that Red was unable to follow it although he was almost in a vertical dive himself.

As the enemy aircraft disappeared into 10/10ths cloud some 2,000 feet below, Red straightened out. Although the enemy aircraft was almost certainly destroyed, as Red had not seen it crash he received credit for a 'Probable' only.

A good show, Red and Don.

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