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Colonel Bruce W. Carr
By Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette
Bruce Carr entered the aviation cadet program for the Army Air Force on September 2, 1942. He graduated from Spence Field, Georgia as a flight officer on August 30, 1943. Bruce spent the next two months at Bartow, Florida gaining qualifications in the A-36 and the new P-51A, Mustang.
Carr was sent to England and assigned to the 380th Fighter Squadron, 363rd Fighter Group, based at Keevil. His Squadron was one of the first equipped with the Mustang.
On March 8, 1944, Car became the first pilot in his Squadron to claim an aerial victory, which was a Bf109G south of Berlin. Instead of cheers for the first kill, he was labeled as overaggressive and was transferred out to the 354th Fighter Groups 353 Squadron.
Carr was to become one of the top aces of the 354th. He was credited with the probable of a Bf109 on June 14, 1944, and shared a kill over a FW190 on June 17th.
On September 12th, while on a fighter sweep, he spotted enemy aircraft on an airfield south of Linburg, Germany. Carr took his flight down out of the sun and found seven Junkers JU 88’s parked in a group. Bruce lined up on one of the enemy bombers.
A fighter pilot coming in low firing on ground targets had the opportunity to watch his bullets strike the ground before the target and the pilot could walk the bullets to the target. Your gun fire would only be on the target for a moment because the attacking pilot would have to pull up. This was a great way to hit ground targets but it could also be ineffective. That is why the Army Air Corp did not let a pilot claim a ground kill like an official aerial victory. Especially since all air forces world wide used “dummy” targets when available. However when your gun camera footage showed aircraft being serviced, or preparing to take off while warming up their engines, that gave the pilot some evidence of his claim. There was an unofficial set of conditions among the pilots who would recognize the ground claims of another pilot especially if they had attempted the same type attack themselves.
The ground attack was the most dangerous for fighter pilots. The golden rule for all pilots was to make one pass only. For the flight to go in and get out as fast as possible. Multiple passes would result in casualties since the ground anti-aircraft guns would quickly adapt and line up on the incoming fighters. Carr did not waste ammunition as he lined up on a JU88. His eyes had already scanned the airfield and he was mentally lining up his next target even before he fired on his first.
Carr lined up on the enemy aircraft along the airfield and squeezed the trigger with his feet balanced on the rudder peddles countering the sudden shock from firing six fifty caliber machine guns simultaneously. The Mustang shook like he was riding a real steed. Carr with perfect precision and strength held his Mustang making it a perfect firing platform and he was tearing Jerry Ass! His bullets hit only a few yards in front on the bomber. Instantly Carr held his guns on the target for several seconds causing a fire to erupt even before Carr flew over the stricken bomber.
Quickly shifting his eyes his hands and his feet, Carr brought “Angels Playmate” into perfect alignment onto the next bomber. Car could coolly move his fighter where ever his eyes followed. The P-51 Mustang and Bruce Carr were equally matched with precision aeronautical engineering equally blended with Carr’s strength. Mentally and physically. One could say that Carr held complete command of his aircraft. The Mustang shook violently with guns exploding sending their missiles into the next German bomber. Luftwaffe ground crew leaped and ran as the JU-88 was ripped apart igniting aviation fuel erupting into a black mushroom cloud. Some ground crew did not escape as Carr tore through the black fireball into blue skies.
Bruce and the other pilots pulled up to about ten thousand feet to continue their patrol. The Mustang pilots were not long into their flight when they spotted thirty plus FW190’s 2,000 feet below them. Bruce led his flight down to bounce the Germans. The Folk Wulf Carr targeted pulled up into a climbing left turn. Firing a thirty-degree deflection shot from 150 to 200 yards, Bruce could see his bullets and tracers strikes the Germans left wing and engine area. An explosion rocked the stricken plane as its pilot bailed out.
Carr quickly looked around and found another FW190 on the deck trying to get away. Bruce dove of the enemy firing a short burst using a fifty-degree deflection shot at 250 yards. White flashes appeared on the German aircraft. Closing to 150 yards, Bruce fired again hitting the enemy on his engine and around the cockpit. The Messerschmitt snapped rolled to the left onto it's back and with its pilot dead or badly injured flew nose down into a hill.
Carr climbed up to 6,000 feet where he saw another FW190 diving toward another Mustang. Carr kicked hard rudder, turned and fired a short burst at an eighty-degree deflection shot from 200 yards. White flashes from his bullets sparkled around the cockpit of the German, which too rolled over on its back and went down. Even Carr was amazed that he hit the enemy at such an angle. The last German pilot did not escape his fighters earthly plunge.
Three victories in one encounter. Quick reflexes and keen marksmanship brought down those experienced Luftwaffe pilots. All three victories were of such accuracy that these aerial victories would have gotten away from most fighter pilots. Bruce Carr was an expert marksman with sharp eye sight and excellent depth of field. The ability to track a target commanding you speed and direction and be able to track the enemy’s speed and direction, make proper corrections and fire. These talents were nothing more that exceptional. And deadly.
Bruce was promoted to second lieutenant and became an ace on October 29th gaining two more victories near Bockingen when a swarm of Bf109’s bounced his flight. Bruce and his fellow pilots fought the Germans for almost thirty-five minutes shooting down 24 enemy aircraft while losing only four of their group.
During one of his next fighter sweeps, Carr would encounter the war real and first hand. Carr and his group were flying over Czechoslovakia on November 2, 1944. They had spotted a Luftwaffe base and were making sweeps in the area when they were targeted by anti-aircraft fire. Carr was a good pilot but when you are hit, you are hit. Angel’s Playmate was rocked by aerial concussions that sent scraps of metal through Carr’s Mustang. Coolant poured from holes in the coolant and radiator system sending Carr into emergency mode. He knew that if the Mustang is hit is the radiator or its system the engine would freeze up soon afterward. He began unbuckling himself, checked all instruments and his airspeed before he opened his tear-drop canopy. As he left the fighter he made good use of his time to look around at the terrain under him. His timing was impeccable sending Angels Playmate flying level for the moment and then it exploded.
Once on the ground Carr headed in the direction on the Luftwaffe airbase. He knew that the Luftwaffe treated the American pilots with much higher regards than ordinary P.O.W.’ s. Carr reached the fence surrounding the airfield and he hid in the woods outside the gate. He planned to spend the night in the woods and walk into the front gate in the morning and surrender.
During the evening Carr watched a ground crew work on A FW-190-6. The fighter was located near the edge of the runway close to the woods. He listened to the crew talking but could hear little, just their voices in the night air. The work went on and the crew finished. They put all panels back on the fighter and clamped them tight. The fighter was fueled and the Germans left the fighter poised ready for the next days combat.
Only twenty years old, Carr knew that thinking the fighter was ready for take off could only be a dream, a long shot. What if it was not ready? He snuck close and finally got the nerve probably encouraged by the hunger in his stomach, to approach the fighter and climb into the cockpit. Here Carr spent the night. With little sleep he watched as the first rays of the sun brought sight to his eyes exposing the controls before him. He studied them as best he could. Carr could not read the German on the controls. There were enough similarities between the American and German cockpit for Carr to work with.
He spent a half hour before he gained the courage to give it a try. He found the starter and tried to pull it for starting. It was the other way and once he pushed the lever forward the German BMW roared to life. With almost no one on the airfield Carr made his move. He did not want to spend any time with lining up on the airfield. Carr poured on full throttle and took off straight which had him racing across a corner of the field and then in between two aircraft hangers and off over the heads of sleepy eyed Germans. He had caught everyone off guard and raced away towards his own airfield which was at Orconte, France.
The trip back to his base was two hundred miles. Carr stayed low enough to keep his eyes open for the airfield and too high for hot shot American fighter pilots. Carr could only think of one thing to do when he reached his airfield and that was to come in and land right away before anyone could fire on him. Don't ask for clearance or permission. Just line up the runway and land as quickly as possible. He knew the anti-aircraft gunners at the base would be all too eager to fire on an income FW-190.
As planned Carr spotted the airfield and came around low to try to line up with the airstrip. Unable to get the FW-190’s landing gear to go back down and with no time to figure it out, Carr most literally barreled in fast and belly-landed before a shocked group of Americans. As the men on the ground rushed to take the German pilot prisoner they were astonished when Bruce Carr crawled out of the cockpit.
Lt. Carr went home for a thirty day leave to come back and continued his scoring with a long-nose FW 190 on his first mission back.
On April 1st 1945, Carr was leading a fighter sweep and attacked sixty Bf109’s and FW 190’s. Bruce led his flight into the unsuspecting Germans and on their first passes shot down seven. Carr claimed three FW190’s and two Bf109’s during the encounter making him the last pilot in Europe to become an “Ace in a day”.
Bruce next claimed a Bf109, taking off from the Kirchenlarbach aerodrome, and then on April 15th, a Heinkel 111 as it was landing at the Mensdorf airfield. His final victories were a Junkers JU88 and a Focke Wulf 190 during a strafing mission on April 25th.
This “overaggressive” pilot finished the war with fifteen confirmed enemy aircraft destroyed in aerial combat, three more unconfirmed, and seven and one half on the ground.
Following the war, Carr helped form the “Acrojets” which were the beginnings of the Thunderbird Air Force jet aerobatics team. Carr finished the war with 15 aerial victories after flying 172 missions, which included three bailouts because of ground fire. He stayed in the service, eventually flying 51 missions in Korea in F-86s and 286 missions in Vietnam, flying F-100s. That's an amazing 509 combat missions. What makes a fitting ending to this story is that there is no
ending. Carr retired in 1973 as a Colonel.
Carr was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, and Distinguished Flying Cross with six Oak Leaf Clusters and the Air Medal with thirty Oak Leaf Clusters.
This is a true story of 20-year old Bruce Carr, a Fighter Pilot shot down
behind enemy lines in WWII.
The dead chicken was starting to smell. After carrying it for several days,
20-year-old Bruce Carr, still hadn't decided how to cook it without the
Germans catching him. But as hungry as he was, he couldn't bring himself to
eat it. In his mind no meat was better than raw chicken meat, so he threw
Resigning himself to what appeared to be his unavoidable fate, he turned in
the direction of the nearest German airfield. Even POW's get to eat
sometimes. And aren't they constantly dodging from tree to tree . .. .ditch
to culvert? He was exhausted!
He was tired of trying to find cover where there was none. Carr hadn't
realized that Czechoslovakian forests had no underbrush until, at the edge
of the farm field, he struggled out of his parachute and dragged it into the
During the times he had been screaming along at treetop level in his P-51,
'Angels Playmate,' the forests and fields had been nothing more than a green
blur behind the Messerschmitt, Focke-Wulfs, trains and trucks, he had in his
sights. He never expected to find himself a pedestrian far behind enemy
The instant antiaircraft shrapnel ripped into the engine, he knew he was in
trouble. Serious trouble. Clouds of coolant steam hissing through jagged
holes in the cowling told Carr, he was about to ride the 'silk elevator'
down to a long walk back to his squadron. A very long walk.
This had not been part of the mission plan. Several years before, when
18-year-old Bruce Carr enlisted in the Army, in no way could he have
imagined himself taking a walking tour of rural Czechoslovakia, with Germans
everywhere around him. When he enlisted, all he could think about was
By the time he had joined the military, Carr already knew how to fly. He
had been flying as a private pilot since 1939, soloing in a $25, Piper Cub
his father had bought from a disgusted pilot who had left it lodged securely
in the top of a tree. His instructor had been an Auburn, New York, native
by the name of 'Johnny' Bruns.
"In 1942, after I enlisted as Bruce Carr, remembers it," "we went to meet
our instructors. I was the last cadet left in the assignment room and was
nervous. Then the door opened and out stepped the man who was to be my
military flight instructor. It was Johnny Bruns!"
"We took a Stearman to an outlying field, doing aerobatics all the way; then
he got out and soloed me. That was my first flight in the military.
"The guy I had in advanced training in the AT-6, had just graduated himself
and didn't know a damned bit more than I did." Carr, can't help but smile as
he remembers: "which meant neither one of us knew anything. Zilch!"
"After three or four hours in the AT-6, they took me and a few others aside,
told us we were going to fly P-40s and we left for Tipton, Georgia. We got
to Tipton, and a Lieutenant just back from North Africa, kneeled on the
P-40s wing, showed me where all the levers were, made sure I knew how
everything worked, then said; 'If you can get it started .. . go flying,'
just like that!"
"I was 19-years old and thought I knew everything. I didn't know enough to
be scared. They didn't tell us what to do. They just said: 'Go fly!' so I
buzzed every cow in that part of the state. Nineteen years old and 1,100
horsepower, what did they expect? Then we went overseas."
By today's standards Carr, and that first contingent of pilots shipped to
England, were painfully short of experience. They had so little flight time
that today; they would barely have their civilian pilot's license. Flight
training eventually became more formal but in those early days it had a hint
of fatalistic Darwinism.
If they learned fast enough to survive, they were ready to move on to the
next step. Including his 40-hours in the P-40, terrorizing Georgia, Carr
had less than 160-hours flight time when he arrived in England.
His group in England, was to be the pioneering group that would take the
Mustang into combat and he clearly remembers his introduction to the
"I thought I was an old P-40, pilot and the P-51B, would be no big deal.
But I was wrong. I was truly impressed with the airplane. I mean REALLY
impressed! It flew like an airplane. I just flew the P-40, but in the
P-51, I was part of the airplane. And it was part of me! There was a world
When he first arrived in England, the instructions were: 'This is a P-51.
Go fly it. Soon, we'll have to form a unit, so go fly.' A lot of English
cows were buzzed.
"On my first long-range mission, we just kept climbing, and I'd never had an
airplane above about 10,000-feet before. Then we were at 30,000-feet with
'Angels Playmate' and I couldn't believe it! I'd gone to church as a kid,
and I knew that's where the angels were and that's when I named my airplane
"Then a bunch of Germans roared down through us, and my leader immediately
dropped tanks and turned hard for home. But I'm not that smart. I'm
19-years old and this SOB shoots at me. And I'm not going to let him get
away with it."
"We went round and round. And I'm really mad because he shot at me.
Childish emotions, in retrospect. He couldn't shake me, but I couldn't get
on his tail to get any hits either."
"Before long, we're right down in the trees. I'm shooting, but I'm not
hitting. I am, however, scaring the hell out of him. But I'm at least as
excited as he is. Then I tell myself to calm down."
"We're roaring around within a few feet of the ground, and he pulls up to go
over some trees, so I just pull the trigger and keep it down. The gun
barrels burned out and one bullet, a tracer, came tumbling out and made a
great huge arc. It came down and hit him on the left wing about where the
aileron is. He pulled up, off came the canopy, and he jumped out, but too
low for the chute to open and the airplane crashed. I didn't shoot him
down, I scared him to death with one bullet hole in his left wing. My first
victory wasn't a kill; it was more of a suicide."
The rest of his 14-victories were much more conclusive. Being a red-hot
fighter pilot, however, was absolutely no use to him as he lay shivering in
the Czechoslovakian forest.. He knew he would die if he didn't get some
food and shelter soon.
"I knew where the German field was because I'd flown over it, so I headed in
that direction to surrender. I intended to walk in the main gate, but it
was late afternoon and, for some reason, I had second thoughts and decided
to wait in the woods until morning.
"While I was lying there, I saw a crew working on an FW 190, right at the
edge of the woods. When they were done, I assumed, just like you assume in
America, that the thing was all finished. The cowling's on. The engine has
been run. The fuel truck has been there. It's ready to go. Maybe a dumb
assumption for a young fellow, but I assumed so. So, I got in the airplane
and spent the night all hunkered down in the cockpit.
"Before dawn, it got light and I started studying the cockpit. I can't read
German, so I couldn't decipher dials and I couldn't find the normal switches
like there were in American airplanes. I kept looking, and on the right
side was a smooth panel. Under this was a compartment with something I
would classify as circuit breakers. They didn't look like ours, but they
weren't regular switches either.
"I began to think that the Germans were probably no different from the
Americans in that they would turn off all the switches when finished with
the airplane. I had no earthly idea what those circuit breakers or switches
did, but I reversed every one of them. If they were off, that would turn
them on. When I did that, the gauges showed there was electricity on the
"I'd seen this metal T-handle on the right side of the cockpit that had a
word on it that looked enough like 'starter' for me to think that's what it
was. But when I pulled it, nothing happened. Nothing."
"But if pulling doesn't work . . . you push. And when I did, an inertia
starter started winding up. I let it go for a while, then pulled on the
handle and the engine started!"
The sun had yet to make it over the far trees and the air base was just
waking up, getting ready to go to war.. The FW 190, was one of many
dispersed through-out the woods, and at that time of the morning, the sound
of the engine must have been heard by many Germans not far away on the main
But even if they heard it, there was no reason for alarm. The last thing
they expected was one of their fighters taxiing out with a weary Mustang
pilot at the controls. Carr, however, wanted to take no chances.
"The taxiway came out of the woods and turned right towards where I knew the
airfield was because I'd watched them land and take off while I was in the
"On the left side of the taxiway, there was a shallow ditch and a space
where there had been two hangars. The slabs were there, but the hangars were
gone, and the area around them had been cleaned of all debris."
"I didn't want to go to the airfield, so I plowed down through the ditch and
then the airplane started up the other side."
"When the airplane started up . . .. I shoved the throttle forward and took
off right between where the two hangars had been."
At that point Bruce Carr, had no time to look around to see what effect the
sight of a Focke-Wulf erupting from the trees had on the Germans.
Undoubtedly, they were confused, but not unduly concerned. After all, it
was probably just one of "their Maverick Pilots," doing something against
the rules. They didn't know it was one of "OUR Maverick Pilots," doing
something against the rules.
Carr, had problems more immediate than a bunch of confused Germans. He had
just pulled off the perfect plane-jacking; but he knew nothing about the
airplane, couldn't read the placards and had 200-miles of enemy territory to
cross. At home, there would be hundreds of his friends and fellow warriors,
all of whom were, at that moment, preparing their guns to shoot at airplanes
marked with swastikas and crosses-airplanes identical to the one Bruce Carr
was at that moment flying. But Carr, wasn't thinking that far ahead..
First, he had to get there, and that meant learning how to fly the airplane.
"There were two buttons behind the throttle and three buttons behind those
two. I wasn't sure what to push, so I pushed one button and nothing
happened I pushed the other and the gear started up. As soon as I felt it
coming up and I cleared the fence at the edge of the German field, I took it
down a little lower and headed for home."
"All I wanted to do was clear the ground by about six inches, and there was
only one throttle position for me . . . full forward!"
"As I headed for home, I pushed one of the other three buttons, and the
flaps came part way down. I pushed the button next to it, and they came up
again. So I knew how to get the flaps down. But that was all I knew."
"I can't make heads or tails out of any of the instruments. None. I can't
even figure how to change the prop pitch. But I don't sweat that, because
props are full forward when you shut down anyway and it was running fine."
This time, it was German cows that were buzzed, although, as he streaked
across fields and through the trees only a few feet off the ground, that was
not the intent. At something over 350-miles an hour below tree-top level,
he was trying to be a difficult target as he crossed the lines. But he
wasn't difficult enough.
"There was no doubt when I crossed the lines because every SOB and his
brother who had a .50-caliber machine gun shot at me. It was all over the
place, and I had no idea which way to go. I didn't do much dodging because
I was just as likely to fly into bullets as around them."
When he hopped over the last row of trees and found himself crossing his own
airfield, he pulled up hard to set up for landing. His mind was on flying
the airplane. "I pitched up, pulled the throttle back and punched the
buttons I knew would put the gear and flaps down. I felt the flaps come
down but the gear wasn't doing anything. I came around and pitched up
again, still punching the button. Nothing was happening and I was really
frustrated." He had been so intent on figuring out his airplane problems,
he forgot he was putting on a very tempting show for the ground crew.
"As I started up the last time, I saw our air defense guys ripping the tarps
off the quad .50s that ringed our field. I hadn't noticed the machine guns
before. But I was sure noticing them right then."
"I roared around in as tight a pattern as I could fly and chopped the
throttle. I slid to a halt on the runway and it was a nice belly job, if I
say so myself."
His antics over the runway had drawn quite a crowd, and the airplane had
barely stopped sliding before there were MPs up on the wings trying to drag
him out of the airplane by his arms.. They didn't realize he was still
I started throwing some good Anglo-Saxon swear words at them, and they let
loose while I tried to get the seat belt undone, but my hands wouldn't work
and I couldn't do it. Then they started pulling on me again because they
still weren't convinced I was an American.
"I was yelling and hollering. Then, suddenly, they let go, and a face drops
down into the cockpit in front of mine. It was my Group Commander: George
"Bickel said, 'Carr, where in the hell have you been, and what have you been
Bruce Carr, was home and entered the record books as the only pilot known to
leave on a mission flying a Mustang and return flying a Focke-Wulf. For
several days after the ordeal, he had trouble eating and sleeping, but when
things again fell into place, he took some of the other pilots out to show
them the airplane and how it worked. One of them pointed out a small handle
under the glare shield that he hadn't noticed before. When he pulled it,
the landing gear unlocked and fell out. The handle was a separate,
mechanical uplock. At least, he had figured out the important things.
Carr finished the war with 14-aerial victories on 172-missions, including
three bailouts because of ground fire. He stayed in the service, eventually
flying 51-missions in Korea in F-86s and 286, in Vietnam, flying F-100s.
That's an amazing 509-combat missions and doesn't include many others during
Viet Nam, in other aircraft types.
There is a profile into which almost every one of the breed fits, and it is
the charter within that profile that makes the pilot a fighter pilot . . not
the other way around. And make no mistake about it; Colonel Bruce Carr, was
definitely a fighter pilot.