Lightning Encounter
by Nicholas Trudgian
P-38 Lightnings launch a surprise attack on a German freight train as it winds it's way
through the hills of Northern France towards the battle front, shortly after D-Day 1944

As a memorial to Ernie's WWII experiences, this print was acquired and framed with the two plaques below

Dressed in their black and white D-Day invasion stripes, P–38 Lightnings of the 370th Fighter Group launch an attack on a German freight train as it crosses a viaduct damaged by resistance fighters on its way through the hills of Northern France towards Normandy

One of the primary tasks of the ground attack Fighter Groups of the IX Air Force was to impede supplies heading for the Normandy battle front. Using their large caliber 20mm cannon, Lightning pilots gained an admirable reputation in their performance of this vital mission. Attacking ‘Kriegslok’ steam locomotives carried the extra risk that an exploding boiler could destroy the attacking aircraft. 370th Fighter Group pilots, flying out of RAF Andover, in southern England, were in the thick of these dangerous low–level operations.

Major General (then Lieutenant and Captain) Ernest T. Cragg was a pilot, flight commander and assistant operations officer of the 401st fighter bomber squadron in the 370th fighter group. He completed 76 combat missions, totaling 175 flying hours in P–38 and P–51 aircraft. He flew two P–38 combat missions on D-Day over the Normandy beachheads. His overall record was 2 confirmed kills, 2 probable kills and 1 damaged. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with 13 oak leaf clusters.

Like many veterans, he did not talk much about the war in the years following. The only war story he ever told his sons was to describe the spectacular explosion and geyser that would occur when the Lightning’s 20mm canon rounds hit a locomotive under full steam