to be outnumbered.

The formation quickly broke off in groups

of twos and fours. A part of the German

fighters tried to get to the bombers, while

others tried to divert the fight off to the

side. A third section of German fighters

entered cloud formations and Cramer,

with Righetti right behind, along with a

second pair, went after them. The moment they got below the layer of clouds,

Cramer went after the first enemy plane

that he saw. The attacked Bf 109 went into

a right-hand turn, and Cramer fired, with

several rounds hitting home. In an effort

to evade the fire, the German fighter dove

towards the ground, directly into Righetti’s Mustang’s line of fire. “Since I had outrun Captain Cramer on his pull up, and

had turned sharply left, I became positioned in between my leader and the 109” 1).

It was for him a moment of truth, where

he would put all of his experience to good

use for the first time under such conditions. He placed his target in his sights and

fired at a range of about 180 m (600 ft). “I

fired one short burst and observed seve-

se position and closed to firing range,

I opened fire. Shortly thereafter I was

amazed to see another P-51 converging

on me from my left and he too opened fire

on the Me-109. My bullets were missing

his plane only by a few yards, and I immediately quit firing.”1)

It was clear to Cramer that it was Righetti, who, in the heat of battle, neglected his

wingman obligations. “If I had not gained

a little altitude as he attempted to get into

firing position, I might not have seen him

and a midair collision could have resulted,”1) continued the angered Cramer.

After the obligatory meeting with the Intelligence Officers, Cramer took Righetti

to one side. He didn’t want to chew out the

Lieutenant Colonel in front of lieutenants,

but there was also no way he could just

let this go. “Righetti was as excited as

any new lieutenant would have been after his baptism under fire. I did not want

to dampen his excitement with what I had

to say to him, so I waited until we were

alone.” Cramer’s discretion indicated his

considerable maturity. “Then I gave him a

“Tell the family I’m okay. Broke my nose on landing. It’s been a hell

of a lot of fun working with you, gang. Be seeing you a little later.”

(Col. Elwyn Righetti)

ral strikes back of the cockpit. The enemy aircraft attempted very little evasive

action but headed for a flak nest straight

ahead. Just before reaching the flak, I fired a three second burst and observed

numerous strikes in the vicinity of the


The Messerschmitt went into a sharp

bank and dropped even further and clipped a hedgerow with its wing, which

caused him to go inverted and disintegrate on impact with the ground a fraction of

a second later. The quartet of Mustangs

overflew the point of impact and headed

for home.

Cramer recorded the incident in a report

thusly: “When I got into a good stern cha-

chewing out like he probably had not had

in his regroup.”1) recounted Cramer years


Cramer gave a decent scolding to the

higher-ranking officer, telling him that

had he been a new lieutenant, he would

have grounded him on the spot for at least

two weeks as a reprimand, and bring

about disciplinary action against Righetti because he had violated the rules of

discipline and neglected his responsibilities as wingman. Righetti deserves full

credit for accepting the harsh criticism

from the significantly lower ranking officer: “Righetti immediately acknowledged

that he had goofed up in the excitement of

the moment. On the remaining missions

during which Righetti flew under my supervision,” Cramer said, “his performance

was excellent and there was never another breach of air discipline”1) recalled

Cramer, who ended his career in 1973 as

Deputy Commander of the 17th Air Force

in Germany with the rank of Brigadier General. That kill from November 2nd, 1944

was ultimately credited to them both,

each with a half.


By the middle of November, there had been

a change in plan. Righetti was informed

that it was expected that he would assume command of the 338th Fighter Squadron, and the entire 55th Fighter Group

after that, if all went according to design.

The information was somewhat sensitive,

because the post of 338th FS Command

should’ve fallen on Cramer … On learning

of this idea, Righetti immediately went


I have read a good number of books

mapping out the fates of Second World War

pilots. The book by Jay A. Stout, who himself until relatively recently was a combat

pilot in the Marine Corps, in many ways

is unique. The author took the baton from

Tony Meldahl, a historian who devoted a lot

of energy to mapping out the life of Elwyn

Righetti and the circumstances surrounding his disappearance. The very ill Meldahl

turned to the renowned author of aviation

themed books, Jay A. Stout, about the pro-


INFO Eduard

spect of bringing his efforts to completion and to ensure the release of the book.

Jay accepted this challenge, and despite

hurdles that he encountered, succeeded

in completing the book and enlisting the

services of a publisher. It is one of the most

intense set of circumstances brought by

the war and the work is among the best in

the genre. I strongly recommend the book

to all interested in aviation, and it can be

bought, including in electronic form, here.

February 2023