The Lone Ace

A P-47 Thunderbolt during World War II

The 81st Fighter Squadron flew hundreds of fighter escort, close air support and interdiction missions, supporting the D-Day invasion and operating from numerous forward landing bases in while covering the Allied advance. The squadron also produced the 50th Fighter Group’s only fighter ace of World War II, Maj. Robert D. Johnston. He was credited with six confirmed kills:

On July 31, 1944, Johnston shot down an Fw 190 over Villedien les Poeles for his first victory.

November 25, 1944, Major Johnston was leading his flight on an escort mission, covering French 1st TACAF B26s sent to bomb an enemy tank and troop concentrations near Landau. As the Marauders closed on the target at 1550, around 60 German fighters were spotted approaching them.

Johnston and his pilots needed no second glance to calculate the odds, 7 to 1 at least. Undaunted, the major tore into the Bf 109s with all guns blazing, and minutes later he emerged, quite amazingly, having downed three of the enemy. This left him just one victory short of becoming an ace. More importantly, Johnston’s actions had prevented any damage being aflicted on the B-26s, which hit their targets and helped repel a German counter attack building northeast of Sarrebourg, in France.

April 9, 1945, Johnston joined the ranks of the select band of Ninth Air Force aces, when he downed two German Fw 190s encountered in the Crailsheim area. This action took his final score to six, and made him the sole ace of the 50th Fighter Group.

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