In the summer of 1943, Luftwaffe ace Johannes “Macky” Steinhoff was on his first tour as Kommodore of JG77 based at Foggia Airfield in Italy. Around 8 a.m. on Wednesday, August 25, 1943, Steinhoff took off to test a new engine that had been installed in his Messerschmitt Me109 G6. Oberleutnant Theo Lindemann flew as his wingman. Only a few miles from Foggia, Steinhoff and Lindemann encountered approximately 140 P-38 Lightnings inbound from their bases in North Africa for an early morning surprise attack on the German airfields in the area. The P-38s have flown over 1,000 miles and were now were flying at low level to avoid detection enroute the target area.
In a head-on pass, Steinhoff fired into the Lightnings, downing two. One of the P-38 pilots bailed out and landed on the runway at Foggia. He was immediately captured by the Germans. That evening, the American pilot was invited to dine with Steinhoff at his tent quarters. The two men enjoyed friendly conversation late into the night and got very drunk on the local wine, undoubtedly part of Steinhoffs' plan to ensure no escape would be attempted by the U.S. pilot. * Quoted from a magazine interview with Steinhoff: “Well, he was picked up and made a POW, and I invited him to my tent for a drink and dinner, as well as to spend the night. We drank some of the local wine... and drank and drank. I thought to myself, "What am I going to do with this guy?" Well, it was long after midnight, so I lay down in my tent and stretched my legs so I could reach his head. He woke up and said, "Don't worry, I won't run away, you have my word as an officer and a gentleman. Besides, you got me too drunk." We slept, and he kept his word, and I never placed a guard on him” . . . “ He was a very likable man, and I was very pleased to have the victory, but as I told him, I was even more pleased to see him uninjured and safe”.
** U.S. combat records for that mission indicate a LT. Williams was shot down and bailed out over Foggia Airfield on this date. Steinhoff claimed a total of four P-38s on this day.