Bruce Carr

Bruce Carr, Mustang Ace

“Angels’ Playmate”

Artwork and Research is by Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette

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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 was assigned to the 380th Fighter Squadron, 363rd Fighter Group which was based at Keevil. His squadron was one of the first to be equipped with the new fighter which gave Bruce an advantage over the other men in the squadron because he was already rated to fly the Mustang and had many hours in the cockpit.

On March 8, 1944, Car became the first pilot in his Squadron to claim an aerial victory. His antagonist was a Messerschmitt Bf109G south of Berlin. Bruce was the first to spot the German and gave chase before getting permission to break formation. Instead of cheers for the Squadron’s first kill and the first for Bruce, he was labeled as overaggressive and undisciplined and was transferred to the 354th Fighter Groups 353 Squadron. His commanding officer was a butt-head because he never knew how valuable Bruce would be. He would in fact become one of the top aces of the 354th.

He next aerial combat resulted with being credited for a probable shoot down of a Bf109 on June 14, 1944. A “probable” was the damaging of an enemy aircraft to a point that its ability to return safely to base was not “probable” and assumed would crash on the way back to its base. However you can not claim a shoot down unless you have gun-camera footage which would prove your claim. The film in Bruce’s gun-camera did show the extensive damage to the German fighter by his machine guns but no one saw the German go down. The German was seen slipping away at least for a while before his engine froze up from lack of coolant.

On June 17th Bruce finally was able to fire again at a German fighter when he shared a kill with another pilot by shooting down a Focke Wolfe FW-190. Aerial combat was spotty as one fighter group could be entangled with the enemy while other squadrons would be flying along unmolested. Not every mission resulted in death-defying mortal combat. The greatest tension a fighter pilot like Bruce Carr suffered from was the in-activity between combat. Some people seek combat when it is presented to them. Bruce was one of these men, eager to get into the fight.

On September 12th, while on a fighter sweep, Bruce spotted enemy aircraft on an airfield south of Linburg, Germany. Carr took his flight down out of the sun and lined up on seven, Junkers JU-88 twin-engine medium bombers that were parked in a group. Bruce being the first in the attack lined up on one of the enemy bombers.

A fighter pilot coming in low and firing on ground targets had the opportunity to watch his bullets strike the ground in front of the aircraft first and then he could walk the bullets to the target. Your gun fire would only be on the exact target for a moment because you, the attacking pilot would have to pull up other wise you would fly into the ground. This was a great way to hit ground targets but it could also be ineffective. That is why the Army Air Force did not let a pilot claim a ground kill as an official aerial victory. One trick all air forces world wide used was “dummy” targets or mock-ups. However when your gun camera footage showed aircraft being serviced or preparing to take off or if it caught on fire 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.

Ground attacks were the most dangerous for all fighter pilots. The golden rule for all pilots was to make one pass only. The flight of attacking fighters would go in and get out as fast as possible. Multiple passes would result in casualties since the enemies anti-aircraft guns would quickly adapt and line up on the incoming fighters. The first pass on an enemy airfield would be in most cases a surprise attack. However the surprise would soon be short lived once the ground crews manning the anti-aircraft guns got lined up on the attacking aircraft. Carr did not waste ammunition as he lined up 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.

Bruce squeezed the trigger with his feet balanced on the rudder peddles countering the sudden shock of firing six fifty caliber machine guns simultaneously. The Mustang shook like he was riding a real bronco. He held his Mustang perfectly on target. His bullets hit only a few yards in front on the bomber and he held his guns on the target for several seconds causing a fire to erupt before he flew over the stricken bomber.

Quickly shifting his eyes, his hands and his feet, he brought “Angels Playmate” into perfect alignment onto the next bomber. Bruce 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 his strength. Mentally and physically he preformed. One could say that he 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 from the bomber and ran as the JU-88 was ripped apart igniting aviation fuel. An erupting inferno mushroomed into a black cloud as his Mustang flew through the explosion. Some ground crew did not escape as he tore through the black fireball back up into blue skies.

Bruce and the other pilots pulled up to about ten thousand feet with everyone accounted for. The perfect airfield attack. They reviewed the status of their aircraft, remaining ammunition, fuel and together they continued 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 Bruce targeted pulled up into a climbing left turn. Firing a thirty-degree deflection shot from 150 to 200 yards he could see his bullets and tracers strikes the Germans left wing and engine area. An explosion rocked the enemy fighter as its pilot bailed out.

Bruce 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 German snapped rolled to the left onto his back and with its pilot still inside the fighter flew nose down into a hill. Some pilots are natural fliers and some are natural marksmen. Bruce was both pilot and marksman just like a few of the other aces I have interviewed like P-47 Ace, Robert Johnson. Bruce was an expert pilot and marksmen.

Following the war, Carr helped form the “Acrojets” which were the beginnings of the Thunderbird Air Force jet aerobatics team. Carr also flew combat missions over Korea and then again in Viet Nam. 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.