The Me-109 slowed, hoping Howard’s momentum would carry him forward so he could be shot from behind. But the American knew that trick, so he also slowed down to keep the German ahead of him. The enemy responded by going into a dive. Howard fired… and hit again!
No time to see if the plane crashed, because a Mustang and another Me-109 were zooming his way. The American saw Howard and dove. The German did, too, not seeing Howard – who fired. Howard didn’t know if he hit the target because more German planes were attacking the bombers.
Reaching them, he hit a Messerschmitt Bf 110, which flipped over and trailed smoke before moving out of sight. Howard didn’t claim this as a kill, though some of the bomber crews he was protecting swear they saw it crash.
Zooming toward another bomber squadron, he saw a Messerschmitt weaving among the bombers to avoid getting hit. Howard stayed outside the formation and waited till the German zagged out… and fired. Another hit!
Howard later claimed that, “I never did see thirty or forty of those planes all at once the way the bomber people tell it. I’d see one, give it a squirt, and go up again.”
But he was running out of ammo. So he used Ding Hao! to scare them off, using the kamikaze tactics he saw over Burma and China.
As Howard put it, “I was quite busy in a constant merry-go-round… presenting a good enough bluff for them to break off and dive away.”
He shot another German plane, which dove in a spiral. Howard followed and emptied his last bullets into the enemy, then zoomed back up to meet a Dornier 217 aiming at a bomber. Howard flew above the plane and dove. The Dornier did the same, probably wondering why it wasn’t being riddled with bullets.
Brigadier General Robert F. Travis, head of the bomber formation, said, “For sheer determination and guts, it was the greatest exhibition I’ve ever seen. It was a case of one lone American against what seemed to be the entire Luftwaffe. He was all over the wing, across and around it. They can’t give that boy a big enough award.”
So they gave him a Medal of Honor – the only fighter pilot in the European Theater to get one. They also made him a Brigadier General.