Dakota Datebook

Fastest Ace in a Day

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

 

Even though North Dakota has one of the smallest populations in the United States, it has produced at least nine aces – fighter pilots with five or more confirmed combat kills. Most are incredible stories of daring and skill over weeks or months of dangerous combat. But that was not the case for North Dakota native Captain Laurence “Scrappy” Blumer. He shot down five German fighters in only fifteen minutes; earning him the title “Fastest Ace in a Day.”

It was summer 1944. In the aftermath of the Normandy invasion, the Allied forces finally succeeded in minimizing the effectiveness of the vaunted German Luftwaffe, ending five years of German aviation dominance. But in August, the still deadly Luftwaffe struck back in a desperate gamble to regain air superiority. Worried the German counterstrike could derail efforts to liberate Europe, Allied commanders sent out squadrons of the 367th Fighter Group to bomb three German airfields in northern France. What ensued was one of the greatest fighter-versus-fighter air battles in U.S. history.

Leading the 393rd Squadron, Captain Blumer soon heard a call for help from another squadron under attack. Racing to the German-controlled Clastres airfield in his P-38 Lightning named “Scrapiron,” the North Dakotan flew into the midst of at least 50 enemy aircraft. Blumer quickly picked off two FW-190s – amongst the deadliest in the Nazi arsenal – then climbed to regain altitude before diving on a third target. Knowing he needed to make every shot count, Blumer waited until a near-collision to fire – his P-38’s canon shredding the German fighter. Still flying amongst dozens of Germany’s best pilots, Blumer maintained his assault, and within minutes, he had downed two more planes. With five confirmed kills in a span just fifteen minutes, Blumer became the “Fastest Ace in a Day.”

Thanks in part to Blumer and the 367th Fighter Group, the German-held airfield was captured and turned over to the United States Army Air Force, which used it to further cripple the Nazi war machine.

Before completing his combat tour in early 1945, Blumer achieved one more aerial victory, but it was his exploits on August 25 that were long remembered. Before his death on this date in 1997, Captain Laurence Blumer’s heroic actions over the Clastres airfield were recognized with the Distinguished Service Cross.

Dakota Datebook written by Christina Sunwall

Sources:

Journal of the House.Sixtieth Legislative Assembly. Tuesday, January 16, 2007.

pg 158. http://www.legis.nd.gov/assembly/60-2007/journals/hr10.pdf

“Laurence E. Blumer.” Military Times Hall of Valor.http://militarytimes.com/citations-medals-awards/recipient.php?recipientid=6452

“Station A-71 ;Clastres , France.” 387th Bombardment Group. http://www.387bg.com/Stations/Clastres/Clastres.htm

“WWII Paintings by Scott Nelson Exhibit.”Dakota Territory Air Museum. Minot, ND.

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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