From an original article by Stephen Chapis.
On October 2, 1944, 21-year-old Captain Valmore Jay Beaudrault of Milford, New Hampshire became the first Ninth Air Force pilot to score an aerial victory over a Me 262. For this action Beaudrault was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, but the victory was uncredited. Or was it? That question would go unanswered until 2012, a dozen years after Beaudrault’s passing.Prior to Beaudrault’s historic encounter with the Me 262, he shot down an Me 109 in a huge dogfight over Pairs on June 25, 1944. A few weeks later he survived a violent crash landing in Bricquebec on the Cherbourg Peninsula after being hit by 20mm flak on July 8. Though he suffered a back injury, gouged eye, facial trauma, and a concussion, Beaudrault groggily asked two questions while being pulled from the wreckage- “Am I in friendly territory?” and “Will I be able to fly again?”
On October 2, Beaudrault was leading a flight of 386th Fighter Squadron (FS) Thunderbolts on an armed reconnaissance mission near Munster. Flying at 9,000 feet, Beaudrault suddenly heard his element leader, Lt Robert Teeter, call out over the radio, “My God. What was that?!” Instinctively checking his six o’ clock Beaudrault saw something streak past his tail and go into the clouds. Beaudrault told his flight, “Let’s see what the sonofabitch is.” They entered the clouds, but saw no sign of the bogie when they came out on top.When they dropped below the clouds again, Beaudrault spotted the bogie at ten o’ clock low and he and his wingman, Lt Pete Peters, engaged water injection and dove on the bogie at 400mph. The bogie was Me 262A-1a Wk Nr 170069 flown by Ofw Hieronymous Lauer who had the dubious honor of becoming the first Me 262 pilot shot down by the USAAF when he was shot down by P-47s from the 78th FG on August 28! Finding himself in the Beaudrault’s gunsight, Lauer accelerated out of range and turned to engage them head on. The Thunderbolts turned to get a shot, but the jet, now clearly identified as a Me 262, zoomed to altitude to gain separation and turned to re-engage. Once again the P-47s broke into the attack and the Stormbird overshot. The fight turned into a classic scissors engagement that ended up on the deck just as the jet started to lose speed. Beaudrault noticed white puffs coming from the 262s engines and figured he’d either flamed out or run out of fuel. As Beaudrault closed in for the kill Lauer took evasive action by kicking the rudder, but in doing so his wingtip struck the ground and the 262 cartwheeled into a fireball. Incredibly, Lauer survived the crash albeit with serious injuries.
Although Beaudrault never fired his guns during the engagement, he did have the forethought to capture the jet on film with his gun camera and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. In addition, A-2 Periodic Report No. 71 stated somewhat erroneously, “…1st Lt Valmore J. Beaudrault should receive credit for the first jet-propelled E/A destroyed by any Allied pilot.” Despite these records, Beaudrault’s victory was never officially credited. Or was it?
After surviving 73 combat missions and the near fatal crash landing, Beaudrault was assigned as an air liaison officer with the 87th Infantry Division and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Luckily, Beaudrault survived that horrendous battle and returned home to his soon-to-be wife, Priscilla. Beaudrault remained in the service to become a founding member of the New Hampshire Air National Guard in 1947 where he continued to fly F-47Ds. He also spent 30 years flying for Eastern Airlines. Valmore passed away on March 8, 2000 at the age of 76.
In the years after his death, Priscilla made various attempts to get the Air Force to officially confirm Val’s victory over the Me 262, but she was unsuccessful. In February 2012, she wrote to her Senator, Republican Kelly Ann Ayotte, who promptly contacted the Department of the Air Force. A week later Sen. Ayotte received a letter from Colonel Kelly L. Goggin, Chief, Congressional Inquiry Division, which read in part, “A search of the archives at the United States Air Force Historical Research Agency (USAFHRA), Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, confirms Lieutenant Beaudrault did receive and aerial victory credit (AVC) for shooting down a ME-262 that has not been previously entered into the USAFHRA AVC data base. USAFHRA’s data base will be updated to correct the omission.” In just a few clicks of a mouse it was done. Thanks to the devotion of a loving wife and the magnanimousness of a patriotic Senator, Captain Valmore Jay Beaudrault has been officially credited as the first Ninth Air Force pilot to destroy a Me 262 in aerial combat.
By Stephen Chapis
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