44-13783, Lt. Irving Snedeker, 364th FS, 357th FG, Leiston, United Kingdom, April, 1945
The 357th Fighter Group was the first of the 8th Army Air Force to be equipped with the
P-51 Mustang, with which they began to undertake training at Raydon in Great Britain.
Combat operations were initiated in February, flying out of Leiston. Lt. George Morris first
flew this Mustang named ‚Bobby Marilyn‘, and it was later flown by Lt. Irving Snedeker,
who was hit by flak in the spinner on April 17, 1945 during a raid on the air field at Prague-Ruzyne and was forced to put down on the field’s perimeter. After a short time in captivity, he was taken by car and delivered to American units together with Germans fleeing the
coming Soviet forces. The aircraft flown by Lt. Snedeker carried the inscription ‚ROVIN‘
RHODA‘ on the left side of the nose and ‚4BOLTS‘ on the right. Former group members
speak of British colours (Dark Green and Medium Sea Grey), but preserved vintage colour
photos show US colours Olive Drab and Neutral Grey. The noses of 357th FG aircraft carried
a yellow and red checkerboard pattern and the spinner was painted in the same colours.
By the time when, on April 17th, 1945, Lt. Snedeker took off on a mission to support bombers
headed for targets in eastern Germany and the Protectorate, ‚Rovin‘ Rhoda‘ was already a
true veteran. On that day, the 8th USAAF attacked, besides the main target of the marshalling yard at Dresden, transportation and industrial sites in Kladno, Usti nad Labem, Roudnice, Sokolov and Beroun. In the vicinity of the targets, the escorting Mustangs met with
significant enemy fighter opposition, dominated by Me 262s, during which the American
pilots downed thirteen aircraft and destroyed a further 286 on the ground (with another
118 listed as damaged) for the loss of seventeen of their own. One of these was Snedeker’s
‚Rovin‘ Rhoda‘. At 1655h, during a run at Luftwaffe aircraft on the ramp at Prague-Ruzyne airport, Snedeker’s aircraft was hit in the spinner and lost its propeller. There was little option
but to land wheels up immediately in front of him. He spent a few days in captivity among
the Me 262 pilots, and according to his memoirs, Snedeker was treated quite well, with the
German pilots poking fun at him for landing his Mustang without the use of a propeller.
The aircraft was painted in green, which was common to day-fighting D-5 version Mustangs of the VIII Fighter Command at the beginning of summer, 1944. At the time of its
loss, the invasion stripes were pretty much all removed, and even the quick identification
ETO markings were missing. The yellow rudder, associated with the 364th FS, supplemented the yellow and red checkerboard pattern which was used on aircraft of the 357th FG.
INFO Eduard - August 2019