The mission this day would see the 392nd suffer its heaviest losses, both aircraft and aircrew members, of any individual raid ever flown during its combat experience in World War II. Before the mission was completed, (14) aircraft and crews would be lost and (9) other ships damaged by fighters and flak, all totaling (154) casualties. General briefing for (28) aircrews was conducted between 0400-0530 hours.
The 579th Squadron was slated to lead the Group with Lt White as lead Bombardier. Aircrews were briefed with a dual option of Friedrichshafen as a primary target and Russleheim, outside Frankfurt, as a secondary. Crews learned around 0800 hours that the primary was confirmed as their target. At approximately 1000, take-offs began. Of the (28) aircraft dispatched, (4) aborted for mechanical difficulties and returned early and (2) others met misfortune and were lost in a mid-air collision over France at 4934°N-0216°E. Both aircrews were from the 577th Squadron. In aircraft #174 ‘R’ for Roger, another Gotha veteran, 2nd Lieutenant Dalton’s crew got caught in propeller wash, colliding with aircraft #824, 2nd Lieutenant Anderson’s ship, slicing off the tail and tail turret of ft 824. Both ships collided again going down and exploded in sheets of flame before crashing. One chute was positively seen and one other probable. (Click here) to see corrections regarding Dalton/Anderson/Feran crews) The remaining (22) Liberators pressed on to their target without mishap or enemy opposition.
"Researchers note: The information in the following paragraphs was based on 392nd mission reports and survivor statements. However, in the heat of battle, what many witnesses saw was applied to the wrong aircraft. Please examine the Missing Air Crew Reports below for the most reliable information available on the fifteen aircraft that did not return to Wendling on this day."
Nearing the target, flak became heavy. Just before the bomb run, the 44th Bomb Group in the lead of the 14th Combat Wing made a 360 degree turn for some unknown reason at the time. The 392nd continued on ahead with the first block of leading ships bombing the target but overshooting it with some bombs impacting in the city of Friedrichshafen. The second block of the Group’s aircraft, disconcerted now by the maneuvering up ahead, chose to bomb a Target of Opportunity the railroad yards at Stockach. A total of (1246) 100# bombs were released with results evaluated as fair to poor. By bomb release time, the maneuvering of the formations had separated the 392nd’s aircraft from a compact unity. Further complicating the situation was the running behind time by some (9) minutes for the briefed fighter escort rendezvous which was missed. The time then was about 1500 hours when an estimated 60-75 ME-109 and FW-190 fighters swept in on the Group out of the contrails, five and six line-abreast, and attacked through the formation. Enemy fighters attacked twice more in the same fashion before P-38 interceptors could intervene. In the running air battle and flak barrage of about thirty-five minutes between 1445 and 1530 hours, the Group lost (12) B-24s. The intensity of the fighter encounters was attested by the (28) confirmed claims made by the 392nd gunners. The toll for the Group was far more devastating and in this short span of time and savage activity the fate of a number of aircrews was not known.
From the 576th Squadron, (3) aircrews were lost and MIA. In ship #692 ‘J’ for Juliet, 1st Lieutenant W. T. Hebron’s crew, who had flown to Gotha in the same airplane, was believed to have left the formation at 1514, position 4830N-0810E, and explode with no chutes observed. 1st Lieutenant D. K. Clover’s aircraft #411 was last seen fifteen minutes after the target drifting from formation to the south under control. No chutes were seen. On airplane #651, 2nd Lieutenant J. E. Feran’s crew who had also been to Gotha, nothing was known on the loss of aircrew and ship. Two (2) aircraft and crews were lost and MIA from the 577th Squadron. In aircraft #497 ‘N’ for Nectar, 1st Lieutenant L. G. Peterson and his crew, also participants in the 24 February Gotha mission, were last seen at 1510 hours at position 4816N-0741E. One outboard engine was afire with the ship spinning down to the left and crashing. Four (4) chutes were seen opening at once as the airplane difficulties began with (3) more chutes sighted from delayed crew member jumps. The other 577th aircrew lost was a Gotha veteran also. In #826, nothing further was known about the loss of 1st Lieutenant G. T. Haffermehl and his crew. The 578th Squadron was to lose (4) aircraft in this short time, also. Flying ship #981 ‘U’-Bar, the aircraft he had flown to Gotha, 1st Lieutenant Clifford L. Peterson with his crew was last seen at 1500 hours at 4815N-0750E in a power dive at approximately 2000 feet. Only one chute was seen coming from his ship and the fate of the crew was not further known. In #518 S-Bar, 1st Lieutenant W. C. Raschke and his crew were last seen at 1500 hours at 4812N-0812E when the bomber was seen to fly an almost impossible aerodynamic maneuver by completing an outside loop, then, went straight down and crashed. Nine (9) parachutes were observed. In X-Bar #465, 1st Lieutenant Rex Johnson’s crew was seen last at about 1500, position 4812N-0812E, crashing with no chutes seen. In ship #945, 2nd Lieutenant Bruce L. Sooy and his crew were lost and MIA with nothing known about their fate. The 579th Squadron was not to be spared their losses. In this unit, (3) aircrews were lost and MIA. In airplane #127, 1st Lieutenant W. A. Kale’s crew was last seen straggling off to the formation’s left for approximately twenty minutes prior to target, then, salvoing bombs the aircraft went under the formation to the right heading toward Switzerland. Aircraft #117 with 1st Lieutenant W. G. Sharpe’s crew was seen at 1505 hours, position 4812N-0812E, going down with an undetermined number of parachutes coming out. Updated primary research information on Sharpe's crew at MACR #03329. In ship #742, 1st Lieutenant D. 0. Books and crew were last seen at 1505 at 4812N-0812E with the flight deck on fire, flying at low altitude under control with (8) chutes drifting away. On the return route, one other aircraft would be lost on this raid. Aircraft #100 with Lieutenant J. E. Muldoon’s crew had suffered a 20MM cannon shell hit which started a fire in the Radio compartment, shorting out the bail-out bell circuit. Just before reaching the French-German border, two crewmen bailed out and nothing further was known of their fate. Muldoon and his crew had also flown on the Gotha mission. As the (7) aircraft remaining returned to England, all with extensive battle damage, aircraft #989 ‘V’ for Victory, Lieutenant Tiefenthal as pilot, landed at Graves End badly shot up with wounded and (2) dead crew men aboard; Staff Sergeant W. W. Hull and Staff Sergeant John Sopchak. The last mission aircraft landed around 1845 bringing to a close the most tragic effort ever mounted by the 392nd. Click here to read Col. Keilman, first hand account of this mission.
See researcher Annette Tison's comprehensive article on this mission by CLICKING HERE
Annette is the 392nd Bomb Group historian and the newsletter editor for the 392nd Bomb Group Memorial Association. She has several articles concerning this mission. For further information see the 392nd BGMA NEWS of May, 1992 and August, 1993: Click here for the form to contact her.
My book, "After SHARPE The Liberators" (1999) tells my version of the Friedrichshafen story. My father was KIA. He was Navigator aboard the Sharpe plane, which also only had three bailed out survivors. The erroneous information about the Anderson plane being involved in the collision comes from the 392nd BG history of the mission, which was compiled shortly after, around June 44. As you probably know the actual two planes involved in the collision were the Feran plane and the Dalton plane, the latter of which was on the Anderson plane right wing. It is probable that the 392nd brass simply transposed the positions of the two planes and with eyewitness info not contradicting their assumption, figured it had to be the Anderson plane.
The info in the Bomb Group's history was picked up and repeated by Col. Bob Vickers in his book. And when the 392nd web site was put together they used the Vickers stuff as a primary source.
But other correct accounts later describe it, as this fellow and the survivors told, as going down after the bomb run. In the collision story there was only one survivor from both planes, I believe. However, in real life there were three survivors from the Anderson plane who lived to tell the real story. In actuality it was the Dalton plane that collided with Feran.
In some accounts of the March 18 Freidrichshafen mission it states my dad's plane, piloted by Ellsworth Anderson, was one of the ones in the mid-air collission. Other information (missing Arcraft Report (MACR) #03330 contains information that says it wasn't.
The Anderson aircraft made it to the target, dropped its bombs and was hit on the return trip. The pilot, Mr. Masteka and My dad all parachuted out. with the rest of the crew killed. My dad ended up in prison camp until June 1945. Masteka and Anderson also were POWs but I don't know where. My dad died of a heart attack at age 48 in April 1971. let me know if you need more info. I'm still trying to find some POW information. He never said much to anybody in our family about his war experiences. I wish he would have lived longer. It seems many WWII vets have stories to tell now...
Nephew of S/Sgt. Everette N. Morris, Engineer on the Books Crew has researched this mission and has additional information he is willing to share.
address - 304 Carea Rd. New Park, Pa. 17352
P 1/LT Hebron, Walter T. Jr INT CP 2/LT McGowen, Robert L. INT N 1/LT McDonald, Leo F. INT B 1/LT Kalionzes, Harry A. INT R/O T/S Martin, Earl M. INT EnG T/S Decker, Chester D. INT BG S/S Longchamps, Alfred L. Jr INT WG S/S Halsne, Milton 0. INT WG S/S Youst, Kenneth E. INT TG S/S Devoe, Charles N. INT NG T/S Bennett, Lloyd G. INT
MISSION LOSS CIRCUMSTANCES: An eyewitness report of a Group aircrew returning from this mission stated: "(This aircraft) believed to have left formation about (15) minutes after target, making an "S" left turn". Estimated time of this event was at 1500 hours. The mission facts concerning this aircrew and plane were learned later from their having proceeded southbound after leaving formation and landing safely in neutral Switzerland at Dubendorf field, near Zurich at 1545 hours (according to Swiss logs). All crewmembers were subsequently interned. This crew and ship were the second of three 392nd Group planes which landed in Switzerland on this raid within a short period of time. Enemy reaction damage to the Hebron Crew plane was never stated in the MACR account.
INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTS OF CREWMEN FATES: In his Internee report, 1/Lt Kalionzes reported that he had been nipped in the left arm by a piece of flak; it caused his electric suit to burn him. He and 1/Lt McDonald arrived back in the UK on 11 September 1944, returning via Naples. 2/Lt McGowen's Internee Report noted that he had arrived in the UK on 11 October 1944, returning via Lyon. (Pilot 1/Lt Hebron later reported that McGowen had been transferred to the United States and separated from the active Service.)
BURIAL RECORDS: None. This aircrew suffered no casualties as a result of their diversionary landing in a neutral County.
NEXT OF KIN DATA IN WWII:2/Lt McGowen was from Lake Charles, Louisiana; 1/Lt McDonald from Athens, Pennsylvania; 1/Lt Kalionzes from Los Angeles, California. After the war, S/Sgt DeVoe resided at 2330 S. Milwaukee, Denver, Colorado.
P 1/LT Books, Dallas 0. KIA CP 2/LT Gray, Harry E. KIA N CAPT Slowik, John E. KIA R/O T/S Slack, George E. KIA EnG S/S Morris, Everette N. KIA NG S/S Jones, Daniel C. KIA G S/S Strickler, Chester C. POW AG S/S Porter, Clifford T. KIA AG S/S Willig, Norman K. KIA TG S/S Hampton, Robert G. KIA
MISSION LOSS CIRCUMSTANCES: Accounts of this aircrew’s loss were very limited in reports from any Group returning aircrews. Major Keilman, Acting Command Pilot and 579th Squadron Commander in the Group lead ship for this mission, did report that flames were seen on the flight deck of Books’ aircraft and when last seen this plane appeared to be under control, flying very low and (8) parachutes were seen. In the hectic aftermath of withdrawal by the Group’s surviving aircraft after bombing this target where the entire formation had come under fierce, persistent and heavy enemy fighter attacks, the fates of many individual 392nd planes and crews could not be positively determined at the time. Every aircrew, aircraft and individual crew member in the remaining ships were literally fighting for survival in an all-out effort to repulse the many German fighter firing passes in protecting their own aircraft and the other ships in the Group’s formation, particularly as they all began the outbound route home immediately after target.
INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTS OF CREWMEN FATES: The only survivor of this aircrew’s tragic consequences was Staff Sergeant Chester Strickler who was taken as Prisoner-of-War near the plane’s crash site. After release from POW status, Sgt. Strickler wrote a lengthy letter to Mrs Morris, a close Family member of the crew’s Engineer, Staff Sergeant Morris, who perished in this emergency that mission day. In summary, Sgt Strickler by his correspondence of 29 July 1945 recapped the crew’s immediate background as a well-functioning unit and the events of that fateful day: the plane assigned to this aircrew for this mission was a newly acquired B-24 by the 392nd and was flying its first sortie with the Group. The Books’ crew promptly nicknamed the new plane, "OLD GLORY", just before they took off, and this mission was the 8th one for the entire crew. He related they were shot down about (80) miles northwest of Fredrichshafen on the return route and the time was around 3:15pm (1515) when the ship blew up. He recalled this time very well just after he hit the ground. No other details in this account dealt directly with the crew’s emergency leading up to the final crash. German Report #KU1254, and dated 21 March 1944, gave the general findings about the crashed plane and crewmember status. The final crash site was recorded as being (1500) meters northwest of the Community of Hardt, near Schramberg, County of Rottweil, Germany (Black Forest area), and occurring at 1510 hours. It further noted that (9) bodies had been recovered at the scene, (3) of which were not identifiable due to severe burns. A tenth crewmember had been captured which accounted for all (10) men. The deceased members identified were Books; Morris; Hampton; Gray; Slack and Porter. (The unidentified bodies were those of Slowik, Jones and Willig as later determined inasmuch as Strickler was the captured crew member). This German Report also noted that it had been ‘ascertained’ that a fighter had downed this aircraft. Another report from German Air Base Headquarters at Echterdingen (air base just south of Stuttgart proper) recorded the finding of three crewmen who had perished, burned and still inside the plane’s wreckage. A final German report gave summary details on the enemy capture of Sgt. Strickler in the area of the crash site, and that this prisoner was detained in Rottweil at a "PW" Hospital.
BURIAL RECORDS: The ‘Report of Captured Aircraft’ rendered by the German air headquarters at Echterdingen also reported the burial of the (9) deceased crewmen on 21 March 1944 in the Cemetery of Hardt, near Schramberg. However, a comprehensive investigation after the war by the 7887 Graves Registration Detachment revealed that this initial burial information was incorrect. The nine men in the Books crew were actually buried in the cemetery in Locherhof, Germany.
Additional Burial Information: The Group Burial File for Gyure, Hampton, Johnson, and Porter say. There's a paper signed by the burgermeister of Hardt, dated 23 January 1951 that says: "I have been Burgermeister continuously since 1920 and was also here during the war. I recall clearly the crash of an American plane on 18 March 1944. Nine (9) American soldiers were killed in this crash. One (a) soldier was taken prisoner. He had parachuted from the plane and was captured by a woman near a wood. After that, he was brought to my office. Then I turned him over to the German airforce. The deceased fliers from the plane were recovered and brought to a storage house. Five (5) days later, the remains were evacuated by order of the WEHRMELDEAMT ROTTWEIL, to LOCHERHOF for burial. The transportation was carried out with horse and wagon by farmer JOHANNES BROGHAMMER. I can state positively that the nine (9) American fliers were never buried in the community cemetery of HARDT."
On 24 Jan 1951 he amended his statement: "After the dead American fliers had been recovered, I was first ordered by a captain of the German airforce to bury the remains in the cemetery of this community. However, this order was later re-called and I was ordered by the "Wehrbezirkskommando" Rottweil, to transfer the deceased American soldiers to LOCHERHOF for burial. The burial was carried out just as I certified in my statement of yesterday."
There's another statement by Mr. Broghammer who said "I personally loaded the remains on my wagon at the place of crash, and transported them to LOCHERHOF immediately. The dead fliers were not previously taken to the cemetery of HARDT, but as I already stated, directly from the crash site to LOCHERHOF."
There's also a map of the 31 graves at Locherof. They have identified by name the graves where Gray, Slack, Morris, Jones, and Willig were initially buried. There also graves with "X" (for unknowns) that were later identified as your father, Slowik, and Hampton.
A review of all U.S. National overseas Cemetery listings records no permanent interment of any of these crewmembers at the present time. (Note: It is surmised that all were recovered and later returned to the States for burial upon request of Families. It is known, however, from Primary Source information, U.S. Army, that Lt. Books remains were recovered and re-buried by U.S. authorities on 5 August 1946 at 1600 hours in Plot 1111, Row 8, Grave 89 in the U.S. Military Cemetery at St. Avold, France).
S/Sgt Porter and S/Sgt Hampton are interred with Pvt Fred Gyure (MACR 3323) and 1/Lt Rex Johnson (MACR 3326) at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in Sec 84 Site 36-38.
NEXT OF KIN DATA IN WWII: Information recorded in this MACR is as follows:
Books (Father, Oliver, Eau Claire, Wisconsin); Morris (Mother, Beulah of Fawn Grove, Pennsylvania); Gray (Wife, Mrs. Harry K., Lindsborg, Kansas); Strickler (Mother, Berkeley, California); Slowik (Father, John, Hartford, Connecticut); Porter (Father, Aloius L., Detroit Lakes, Minnesota); Slack (Mother, Alice, Woburn, Massachusetts); Jones (Mother, Youngstown, Ohio); Willig (Mother, Minnie M. of Salem, Oregon); and Hampton (Mother, Dora S., Chattanooga, Tennesee). Identification tags found on the deceased members - Hampton, Porter and Books - also recorded the next-of-kin and addresses of these men.
P 2/LT Dalton, Gerald M. KIA CP 2/LT Storey, Harold D. KIA N 2/LT Sherman, Phillip (NMI)KIA B 2/LT Brandes, Arony H. KIA R/O S/S Conley, Erwin D. KIA EnG S/S Holmes, Homer W. KIA BG SGT Brown, John T. KIA WG S/SGT Payne, Charles F EVD WG SGT Hildebrand, Harner H. KIA TG SGT Taylor, Adraine L. KIA
MISSION LOSS CIRCUMSTANCES: An eye-witness account from returning aircrew members of the Group stated that the Dalton aircraft had been caught in violent propeller 'wash' and suffered a mid-air collision with another 392nd ship which at the time was falling back out of formation. The other plane was later determined to be 1/Lt. Feran's (#41-28651). The event was noted to have occurred at 1233 hours over France enroute at position 49-34N, 02-16E. German ground reports later confirmed (by tail number) that these two ships had indeed collided in mid-air.
The sole survivor of this crew, Sgt. Payne, was helped by the French underground forces and successfully evaded. After he returned to England on 4 July 1944, he made a statement to U.S. European Military Intelligence authorities concerning this mishap. The Dalton ship had a section of the right wing torn off behind the #4 engine as well as a portion of the tail assembly. The other plane (Feran's) had lost its left tail section and both wings. The collision occurred at 23,000 feet and Payne believed that he was the only one of his crew who was wearing a parachute at the time of this accident. The French people who helped him evade had told him that three officers of the Dalton crew were found clear of the wreckage; none was wearing a chute. They also said these crewmembers were identified at the crash site by their ID tags. Payne further stated that according to reports given to him, all crewmen on both aircraft had perished.
German ground reports confirmed that the Dalton and Feran planes went down in very close proximity to each other. Several reports noted the 'mixing' of names comprised of both aircrews during recovery of the bodies and later their initial burials together in the same location. All 19 crewmen from both aircraft who were killed were accounted for in these documents.
The primary German Reports dealing with these facts were KU #1236, from Headquarters Airfield 5/Xl Mondidier and KU #1237. This latter report, from a German Air District in Brussels and dated 2 April 1944, summarized all of the salient facts from the downing of these two ships: Investigation Report #5/2072 on the Dalton ship, #41-29174, stated this Liberator had collided with another B-24 (Report #5/2073) at 1232 hours in mid-air, and had crashed about 800 meters north of Le Ployron, France, eight kilometers south of Mondidier. It stated this ship was completely destroyed and burned after the crash in all probability "from the incendiary bombs it had been carrying which contained liquid fuel". All crewmembers were found dead; and no Group identification was discernible except a blue "D" in a white circle, and a portion of the rudder fin with an 'R' below the serial numbers reported.
INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTS OF CREWMEN FATES: The only survivor report was waist gunner Sgt Payne. In his Escape and Evasion Report (#823), Sgt Payne provided these details. "On the way to Friedrichshafen, tail-end Charlie of our squadron peeled off and, since we were flying spare, we moved up into his position. Later he came back toward us and his rudder hit our right wing between the outboard engine and the wing tip. Our plane went up. I threw off my flak suit, grabbed my parachute, and reached for the waist window. The plane broke in two where I was standing, and I fell out at about 23,000 feet." Damage caused by this collision: The right wing beyond the #4 engine had broken off and the tail was broken off from the waist. The left tail of the other plane (Lt Feran's, #42-28651) was broken off as were parts of both wings.
Payne waited till he was at about 3,000 feet to open his parachute. His plane crashed about 12:30 p.m. on the outskirts of the village of Le Ployron (Oise), France. He landed safely and was quickly taken away by Frenchmen. They hid him in a cement water tank about a mile from the crash site. The tank was about 40 to 50 feet high; he clung to a small iron ladder inside the tank until about 10:30 that evening. Then, the French returned, took him to a house, and assisted him until he was able to cross into Spain. He returned to the United Kingdom on 4 July 1944.
The French people who helped Payne told him that bodies of three men in his crew were found clear of the wreckage with none wearing a parachute. According to the French, Sgt Taylor was found dead in his tail turret. The plane was loaded with incendiary bombs that exploded when the plane hit the ground.
BURIAL RECORDS: All casualties of this aircrew and 1/Lt Feran's (MACR #3324) were interred in a cemetery at the eastern outskirts of Le Ployron, France. Three Dalton crewmembers were not identifiable by the Germans; they were later determined to be 2/Lt Sherman, 2/Lt. Brandes and Sgt Taylor. The French civilians buried 20 coffins at Le Ployron Cemetery in an effort to convince the Germans that everyone in the two planes had been killed and thus help S/Sgt Payne avoid capture. Three of the crewmen are now interred in the Epinal American Cemetery, four miles south of Epinal (Voges), France, on the west bank of the Moselle River: Dalton (Grave B-25-22); Brandes (Grave A-17-11); and Brown (Grave B-37-51).
2/Lt Sherman is interred at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in a group grave with 2/Lt Cummings, T/Sgt Dmoch, and 1/Lt Greene, all from 1/Lt Feran's crew. They are buried in Section 82 Site 38A. Sgt Hildebrand is buried in Monticello Memorial Gardens near Charlottesville, VA.
NEXT OF KIN DATA IN WWII: The MACR record is not clear on this information except as follows: Dalton (Wife, Mrs of New York State); Storey (Wife, Mrs of West Palm Beach, Florida); Sherman (Wife, Lucille, Los Angeles, California); Brandes (Father, Louis, Sheboygan, Wisconsin); Conley (Mother, Elizabeth H. of New York State); Holmes (Mother, Mrs Phyllis R., State of Kansas); Brown (Mother, Kathy L., Panama City, Florida); Payne (Mother, Lois, Lake Placid, New York); Hildebrand (Mother, Mrs Raymond C., Edgewood, Maryland); and Taylor (Mother, Mrs. Chyda, Cuthbert, Georgia).
Several years after the war, Roger Lavasseur of Le Ployron sent a letter to Sgt Hildebrand's mother. The letter was translated into English and says:
Excuse me, first, for taking the liberty of writing you, but I consider this task a duty. As a Lieutenant of the French Forces of the Interior and Chief of the Local Resistance Unit, I was eye-witness of the unfortunate accident which cost the life of your son and of eighteen of his comrades. Having picked up the only survivor, Charles Payne of Lake Placid, Florida, it was through him that I procured your address.
These are the circumstances of the accident: Saturday, March 18th, 1944, at one-thirty in the afternoon a large formation of Liberators passed over, flying very high in groups of six. Suddenly for an unknown reason, one of the planes detached itself and telescoped into the plane in which your son was flying. Immediately the two planes fell, rolling over each other. The rudders were torn off, the wings buckled and crushed by being struck by the propellers. One plane appeared to be about to crash on the village but in a last effort, the pilot, using full throttle, succeeded, for some seconds, in maintaining altitude. But the plane, with its load of bombs and fuel, crashed into the ground at some distance from the town.
The tanks exploded, the bombs blew up, the plane was cut to pieces, and immediately there arose an immense fire.
The other plane crashed near the railroad, 150 meters from the little house where we live. The children and their mother, who were alone, were terrified by the fire and explosions of the bombs which were, fortunately, not incendiary, which fact saved them from destruction.
During this time Payne, who alone had had time to strap on his parachute, jumped, and after a free fall of 4,000 meters, opened his parachute and descended slowly the remaining 3,000 meters, and landed. Upon his arrival on the ground one of my young comrades in the Resistance Movement succeeded in getting him away ahead of the Germans, who arrived rapidly on the scene, and hid him in the water reservoir of the village where he remained until nightfall.
The Commandant of the German Police Force ordered the Mayor of our village to have the victims buried near their planes.
Interposing myself, I obtained, with the support of three young German pilots, a certificate at a nearby hospital which expressed clearly in French the right to bury them in the community cemetery. I obtained also, upon our promise that all would be ready by one o'clock the following afternoon, the right to place them in coffins and immediately, with the aid of young comrades, we picked up the burned bodies, which we could nevertheless recognize. Only four gunners from the back … without parachutes, fell free of the planes, their bodies remaining intact and unburned. Your son was one of these four.
Unfortunately, they were robbed of all their personal possessions by the Germans, except for some rings which were turned over to the proper organizations.
The victims were then placed in the church, guarded by a moved and sympathetic crowd. During this time other comrades dug the grave, for we wished that all should be done by the hands of friends.
A great crowd came from everywhere and pressed about the church. The Germans charged with the burial were furious. The officers forbade the priest to follow any religious service. The disgruntled soldiers made the crowd draw back, menacing them with their fists. Then they seemed satisfied in perceiving that we, ourselves, would do the burying and left rapidly.
Even though there were only nineteen victims, we buried twenty coffins. [The translator of the letter than wrote, 'He means to convey here two thoughts; one, the fact that, though wood was one of the scarcest items, they used the precious material for separate coffins, which they did not do for their own dead, and secondly, that they even used extra wood for the twentieth coffin in order to cover up the escape of the one survivor, Payne.'] Then the crowd covered the tombs abundantly with flowers and after that they were carefully and reverently cared for and decorated by the young men and women of the village.
…Hoping that my letter will be a source of precious comfort to you in knowing in detail the last moments of him who is dear to you, I ask you to accept, dear Madam, the assurance of my respect and devotion.
P 1/LT Peterson, Lynn G. KIA CP 1/LT Lidgard, Willard V. KIA N 1/LT Long, Albert L. POW B 2/LT Cannistraro, Pietro A. POW R/O T/S Bellerive, Richard 0. POW EnG T/S Lawrence, Howard F. POW BG S/S Apgar, David R. POW WG SGT Opsahl, Roland C. POW WG S/S Smith, Alonzo C. Jr POW TG S/S Dinda, Bernard F. KIA
MISSION LOSS CIRCUMSTANCES: Eye-witness accounts from returning aircrews stated that this aircraft was last seen at 1510 hours after target at position 48-16N, 07-41 E. The ship was observed with one outboard engine on fire circling to the left and then spun down and crashed. Four parachutes were seen at once, then three more in a delayed jump sequence, totaling (7) chutes.
INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTS OF CREWMEN FATES: The only individual accounts concerning this aircrew’s missing status were those contained in German ground reports on-scene. Seven (7) men from this crew were reported as being taken prisoner by Report #KU1251 which also noted the time of the aircraft crash as 1530 hours near the village of Kinsheim. It was noted that (7) crewmembers were captured, all positively identified from their dog tags; and (3) others were found dead at the scene: The Pilot Peterson, L.G. and Co-Pilot Lidgard and one other who could not be identified (Note: This body later proved to be that of the Tail Gunner Dinda). From these enemy reports, it was determined that the three dead crewmen were found in the crashed plane which site was pin-pointed as (1) kilometer southwest of Kestenholz/County of Schlettstadt.
S/Sgt Apgar was wounded and spent some time in a POW hospital. While there, he wrote his sister a letter that the Germans apparently kept, as it is in file KU 1251. He told her, "Our bomber got shot down. But I bailed out just in time, before she blew up, I am wounded in the right arm. They got me on their second pass, but I'll be alright in time. I am in a German hospital and they treat me mighty fine. Don't tell mom what happened if you can help it, just tell her I am fine.
BURIAL RECORDS: The enemy reports above reflected that the deceased crewmen were buried on 20 March 1944 at 1445 hours in the community cemetery of Kinsheim. Later, U.S. National overseas Cemetery listings noted the following re-interments: Lidgard in the EPINAL Military Cemetery, France (Grave A-30-3) and Dinda, also at EPINAL (Grave A-14-3). There exists no record of Lt. Peterson in any U.S. overseas plot which suggests that his body was returned to the States later at Family request. Lidgard is noted to have earned the Air Medal with (3) Oak Leaf Clusters; and Dinda received an Air Medal with (2) Oak Leaf Clusters. Only Dinda is recorded to have been given a Purple Heart; but not Lidgard.
NEXT OF KIN DATA IN WWII: Information is as follows: Peterson (Father, Edward C., Frederick, South Dakota); Lidgard (Wife, Margaret A., Adrian, Michigan); Long (Mother, CIoe I., Allegan, Michigan); Cannistraro (Father, Dennie, Waltham, Massachusetts); Bellerive (Wife, Genevieve K., Collyer, Kansas); Lawrence (Mother, Ida A., Salem, Virginia); Smith (Wife, Mary F., Webb City, Missouri); Apgar (Sister, Mrs. Emily M. Whalen, Plainfield, New Jersey); Dinda (Mother, Anna E., Newton Falls, Ohio); and Opsahl (Wife, Dorothy K., Lakota, North Dakota).
P 1/LT Raschke, Walter C. KIA CP 1/LT Holm,Howard, J KIA N 2/LT Petrozzella, Benjamin C. KlA B l/LT Ward, Milton E. KIA R/O T/S Krek, Bailey R. KIA EnG T/S Wagonseller, Robert V. KIA BG S/S Davis, Roy W. POW/KlA WG PVT Gyure, Fred (NMI) KIA WG S/S Rankin, Jack H. POW TG S/S Doub, Harry G. Jr KIA
MISSION LOSS CIRCUMSTANCES: Accounts from returning 392nd crewmembers indicated this was a plane that did a complete outside loop after being attacked by enemy fighters-then went straight down and crashed. Nine parachutes were reported seen. (Note: In the confusion of a running fire fight with enemy aircraft, chances are this observation might have been mistaken for another Group ship also in trouble since a crew member’s report later accounted for only (2) men at most getting out of this stricken aircraft). A German ground report #KU1234 of 21 March 1944 from Air Field Command 6/VII at Boeblingen (south west of Stuttgart complex) noted only one crewmember being captured near Rottweil, that being Sgt. Rankin.
INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTS OF CREWMEN FATES: Only one such report is in this MACR and that of Sgt. Rankin after his return to the States and dated 25 February 1946, Lewistown, Pennsylvania. In this account, he stated the plane took a direct hit and exploded as a result of enemy fighter attacks within two minutes after ‘bombs away’; that he believed but was not certain that (2) other crewmembers bailed out besides himself, Pvt. Gyure and Sgt. Davis; but that the Germans later had told him that Gyure was found still in the plane where it crashed; and later, the War Department had notified the Wife of Sgt. Davis that he had died in a German Hospital while in POW status.
BURIAL RECORDS: German report KU 1265 stated that Holm, Wagonseller, Krek, Ward, Doub, and Raschke were buried on 22 March 1944 in the cemetery at Schramberg, county of Rottweil. A comprehensive investigation after the war by the 7887 Graves Registration Detachment revealed that this initial burial information was incorrect. Raschke, Holm, Petrozella, Ward, Krek, Wagonseller, Gyure, and Doub were actually buried in the cemetery in Locherhof, Germany. After S/Sgt Davis died at Konigsfeld Hospital from his wounds/injuries, he was buried in Konigsfeld Civilian Cemetery, Villingen, Baden.
A search of U.S. National overseas Cemetery listings finds the following information regarding U.S. reburials: Raschke in the LORRAINE Cemetery France (Grave B-34-38); Petrozzella, also in LORRAINE (Grave C-28-91); as well as Wagonseller (Grave B-16-26) and Davis (Grave D-9-16); and Krek is interred in the ARDENNES (Grave B-31-3). 2/Lt Ward is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Sec 34, Site 4327. Pvt Gyure is interred with S/Sgt Clifford Porter and S/Sgt Robert Hampton (MACR 3319) and 1/Lt Rex Johnson (MACR 3326) at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in Sec 84 Site 36-38. Awards noted are: An Air Medal with (1) Oak Leaf Cluster and the Purple Heart for all members except Raschke, who is shown with no Purple Heart citation.
NEXT OF KIN DATA IN WWII: MACR data is as follows: Raschke (Aunt, Miss Josephine Wirtz, Chicago, Illinois); Holm (Mother, Lola R., Eugene, Oregon); Ward (Sister, Mrs. Pearl L. Buss, Wausau, Wisconsin); Petrozzella (Father, Joseph Brooklyn, New York); Krek (Wife, Mrs Berg M., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) Wagonseller (Mother, Edna, Laureldale, Pennsylvania); Rankin (Father, Frank Lewistown, Pennsylvania); Davis (Wife, Ruth, La Follette, Tennessee); Doub (Father Harry G., Hagerstown, Maryland); and Gyure (Brother, Albert, Chicago, Illinois).
P 1/Lt Feran, John E. KIA CP 2/LT Hayes, Francis N. KIA N 2/LT Cummings, Francis J. KIA B 1/LT Greene, Donald R. KIA R/O T/S Dmoch, Thaddeus S. KIA EnG S/S Wolfer, Anthony J. KIA BG S/S Wheeler, Merwin (NMI) KIA WG S/S Gallagher, Richard (NMI) KIA WG S/S Hampton, William R. Jr. KIA TG S/S Boord, Wayne M. KIA
MISSION LOSS CIRCUMSTANCES: This plane and aircrew turned out to be that involved in the mid-air collision with the Dalton ship as the Group formation was enroute to target over France. (The account and the fate of this plane is related in the Dalton summary above, MACR #3320. There were no crewmember survivors of this flight crew as a result of this mishap). German Report #KU1236, 21 March 1944, at 2315 hours and sent to the (Luftwaffe) Evaluation Center - West Oberursel stated that this Liberator crashed at 1232 hours, 18 March, (1) kilometer south of the village of Doufront, (5) kilometers south of Montdidier, France, due to a mid-air collision (with another B-24, tail number 129174, which was the Dalton ship). All crewmen were found dead in this crashed aircraft. German Report #KU1237 noted that this plane also was probably carrying incendiary bombs containing liquid fuel which completely destroyed the aircraft by fire after the crash. The plane was identified with a blue "D" in a white circle and a tail number as ‘128651’. (Note: Montdidier is about (35) kilometers southeast of AMIENS, France)./
INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTS OF CREWMEN FATES: There were no survivors on this aircrew from the mid-air collision.
BURIAL RECORDS: The German Report #KU1234, as for the Dalton deceased crewmen, reflected the initial burial of all of these crewmembers in a common grave in the Cemetery Le Ployren, France, located at the eastern outskirts of this village. One ‘unknown’ member, noted as being identifiable by the Germans at the time, was Sgt. Dmoch. A search of U.S. National overseas Cemetery records lists the following burial information: Feran in the EPINAL, France, location (Grave B-40-22); and also the following crewmen there: Hayes (Grave B-27-22); Gallagher (Grave B-20-22); Wheeler (Grave B-30-22) and Boord (Grave A-6-11). 2/Lt Cummings, 1/Lt Greene, and T/Sgt Dmoch are interred at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Sec 82 Site 38A. The following medal awards to these men were: Feran (Air Medal w/Oak Leaf Cluster); Hayes (Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and the Purple Heart) Gallagher (no other Medal listed but the Purple Heart); Wheeler (Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal w/ (3) Oak Leaf Clusters); and Boord (Air Medal w/Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Purple Heart).
NEXT OF KIN DATA IN WWII: The data is recorded as follows: Feran (Mother, Cleo E.., Minneapolis, Minnesota); Hayes (Wife, Harriette F., Chicago, Illinois); Cummings (Mother, Winifred T., North Braddock, Pennsylvania); Greene (Mother, Ethel M., Watertown, New York); Dmoch (Mother, Alice, Syracuse, New York); Gallagher (Father, Joseph, Buffalo, New York); Wolfer (Wife, Mary, Trenton, New Jersey); Hampton (Father, William R., Parkin, Arkansas); Wheeler (Mother, Lydia Mae, Inglewood, California); and Boord (Mother, Edna, East Rochester, Ohio).
P 1/LT Clover, Donald K. POW CP 2/LT Berger, Robert M. POW N l/LT McMillan, William J. POW B l/LT McDonald, Paul R. POW R/O T/S Galler, Isadore (NMI) POW EnG T/S Losey, James C. POW BG S/S Royal, Clarence K. POW WG S/S Bell, Roger W. POW WG S/S Crawford, Earl G. Jr. POW TG S/S Ross, James M. POW N 2/LT Mitchell, Ray (NMI) POW
MISSION LOSS CIRCUMSTANCES: The returning eye-witness account stated briefly that this aircraft was seen about (15) minutes after target, drifting away to the left from formation and under control; but no parachutes seen. The time given was 1500 hours and weather was clear, ‘CAVU’. German reports on the capture and circumstances involved for some of these crewmen were given as follows: Report #KU1249 reported the crash site of the plane as (1) kilometer southwest of Kastenholz-County of Schlettistadt/Alsace on 18 March (the time of this crash was given as 1445 hours in this account, however, by the crew’s log as to when they were shot up and bailed out after target would place the correct time of the plane’s crash around 1512-1520 hours). The above German Report was made by the Air Field Headquarters A-10/VII at Hagenau/Alsace three days later on 21 March. It also noted the capture of Sgt. Losey at Kinsheim County-Schlettstadt/Alsace on 18 March at 1615 hours as well as Sgt Bell in the same location at 1620 hours. This Report continued to summarize that the following crewmen were apprehended once but escaped on a transport on 20 March near Dornata and then were recaptured again in Freiberg: Clover; McMillan; Bellerive; Royal and Berger; and that Galler and Ross had been admitted to the Reserve Hospital Colmar/Alsace - Surgical Department both having fractures of the legs with minor wounds (Galler instep fracture and Ross with left ankle broken and "complete recovery expected for both"). A supplementary message to the same report stated that Lt. Berger had been captured on 20 March at 1600 hours at Rappoltsweiler/Als. and that he, along with all the other non-injured crewmen were being sent to Dulag Oberursel on 22 March 1944 for further interrogation. All (11) crewmembers were accounted for in this enemy recap report as being taken as Prisoners-of-War. Other injuries of this crew not mentioned in any German reporting was that Lt. Berger had gotten frost bitten in the ground ordeal, and Sgt. Royal had been wounded above the eye.
INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTS OF CREWMEN FATES: There were several crewmembers who made out ‘Casualty Questionnaires’ after repatriation from POW status to U.S. authorities who gave varying accounts of the crew’s emergency situation on this mission. One such was that of the crew primary Navigator, that of (then) Captain William McMillan who summarized the following circumstances: On the route flown he noted that the "Group Lead overshot turning point and the IP. causing Group to fall behind (the) Division, and be attacked by (90) fighters, and their crew left the formation between Colmar and Stuttgart west of the Rhine River and the remainder of their block was shot down or left formation". He continued this account by noting the entire crew began bail out at 1510 hours after being hit by heavy enemy fighter fire; that all crew members got out of the plane around (30) seconds before the aircraft exploded; all parachuted within a five minute period and landed within a (25) mile area and subsequently were captured within two days later. His report continued by stating that all members were accounted for after the war except for Sgt. Ross who had to fall out of a forced march across Germany as a POW due to illness of fever. Regarding the fate of Pilot Clover (which was not known at this time after the war by U.S. authorities presumably), the Navigator further stated that Lt. Clover had continued interphone conversation all along describing condition of the plane, the attacking fighter positions, and ending with a warning that the aircraft was about to blow up followed with the "bail out" order. The Co-Pilot, Lt. Berger, in his account stated their ship had not actually left the formation at all (their formation position was that of ‘lead ship’ in the 2nd Section, Low and Left of the main ‘lead’ formation); that he knew all crewmen got out of the ship safely; and later he did see all crewmembers at Camp Lucky Strike (Le Havre, France area) and at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. In regards to his query about the Pilot, the latter noted that Lt. Clover had given the "bail order" on interphone followed by ringing the ship’s alarm bell; that he last saw Clover at the Dulag-Luft interrogation center; and had obtained heresay evidence that the Pilot had been taken to an Officers’ POW Camp at Sagan, Stalag Luft III. A third crew member also rendered a ‘Casualty Questionnaire’ account (name of crewman not given) on the individual members sometime after the war. This account noted that he had heard from each and all crewmembers later (except for Lt. Clover whom he had seen at Camp Lucky Strike after POW release); that he had been in touch with these men from their homes and knew their general "status" as related to him concerning their ordeals and wounds. He stated that there were (11) men but the extra crew member’s name he did not recall at this writing, however he had heard from this individual who also stated he had been wounded in the hand by flak during their emergency (this 11th individual was the second navigator person, Lt. Ray Mitchell). It was further noted that he learned that one other crew member, Sgt. Losey, Flight Engineer, had had an operation on his neck while in POW camp to remove some scar tissue and dirt thought to have been caused from a wound of flying glass during the crew in-flight emergency. It seemed in conclusion that reporting crewmembers thought that most or all of their aircrew were on their 22nd or 23rd combat mission this day.
BURIAL RECORDS: Not involved for this aircrew as all crewmembers survived and were taken as POWs.
NEXT OF KIN DATA IN WWII: Information in this MACR is as follows: Clover (Mother, Louise M., Roseville, California); Berger (Mother, Pearl L., Perry, Oklahoma); McMillan (Wife, Mary L., Shaker Heights, Ohio); McDonald (Wife, Louise S., Winston-Salem, North Carolina); Galler (Mother, Clara, Washington, D.C.); Bell (Mother, Mary W., New Kensington, Pennsylvania); Losey (Mother, Mae Y., Unionville, Missouri); Crawford (Wife, Betty E., Polk, Pennsylvania); Royal (Mother, Dixie W., Talladega, Alabama); Ross (Father-in-Law, William E Bergis, Hinsdale, New Hampshire); and Mitchell (Father, Thomas D., Wilson, Oklahoma).
P 1/LT Johnson, Rex L. KIA CP 2/LT Paules, Russell E. KIA N 1/LT Johnson, Delmar C. POW B 1/LT Hunter, Robert M. KIA R/O T/S Wohlstrom, Theodore C. Jr KIA EnG T/S Stancik, Martin (NMI) KIA WG S/S Reynolds, Hugh D. KIA WG S/S Kimball, Robert A. KIA BG S/S Milliken, Ellsworth W. POW TG S/S Nixon, Alton D. KIA
MISSION LOSS CIRCUMSTANCES: The returning crews’ eye-witness observation was very brief: "This aircraft was seen to crash; no chutes seen". A German Report #KU1254 from Air Base Headquarters Echterdingen (outside Stuttgart) stated this aircraft had crashed at 1510 hours, (400) meters west of Mariatell near Schramberg, County of Rottweil, Germany and that (5) men were found dead at the crash and fate of the others was not known. The aircraft tail number was identified correctly but other recognition was not possible due to the burned condition. Cause of downing was ascribed to be "fighter". One deceased crewmember had been recovered in a field near Hardt, Schramberg, while (3) were found inside the plane and the fourth’s location (Lt. Hunter) at the crash site wasn’t given in this reporting. One of the two surviving crewmembers, Lt. Delmar Johnson, the crew Navigator, gave this report: That he and Sgt. Milliken were the only two crewmen thought to have bailed out of this stricken ship successfully; aircraft’s position at the time it left the group formation was at approximately 48-1ON,08-25E; and all other crewmembers were in their battle positions, either badly injured or dead when the plane seemed to "pancake" into a vacant lot on the outskirts of a small village and catch on fire from ruptured wing fuel tanks; that he landed just east of this village near an evergreen forest where there was about one inch of snow covering the ground. He then met Sgt. Milliken, the other survivor, and they were sheltered in the village town hall where a nurse tended to the narrator’s fractured left lower leg and injured right knee. He was later admitted to POW Hospital at St. Agnes in Freiberg on 19 March for treatment.
INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTS OF CREWMEN FATES: Lt. Johnson’s account noted further that he and Sgt. Milliken had been picked up in a Wehrmacht army truck and taken to a prison compound at Villingen, Germany. Along the way other downed American flyers had been picked up as well. While there, a Luftwaffe man questioned them about a crew member whose dog tags this individual had, Lt. Hunter, the crew Bombardier. Both denied any knowledge about Hunter, and the subject was not pressed further by the Germans. On other crewmen who apparently went down with the plane, some were known to be mortally injured or dead from the fighter attacks. The crew was reported to be on their 17th combat mission.
BURIAL RECORDS: The German report #KU1254 of 21 March 1944 notes that the (5) dead crewmembers found at the crash area were interred in the Cemetery of Mariatell, near Schramberg, County of Rottweil on 21 March 1944. A comprehensive investigation after the war by the 7887 Graves Registration Detachment revealed that this initial burial information was incorrect. The eight men in the Johnson crew were actually buried in the cemetery at Locherhof, Germany U.S. Military overseas Cemetery listings record the following re-interments: Paules at the U.S. National Cemetery of LORRAINE, France (Grave A-22-29); Kimball also in that location (Grave J-14-17) and Nixon as well (Grave J-44-17) including Wohlstrom (Grave D-14-18). Stancik is interred in the U.S. Military plot at BRITTANY, France (Grave I-9-16). 1/Lt Johnson is interred with S/Sgt Clifford Porter and S/Sgt Robert Hampton (MACR 3319) and Pvt Fred Gyure (MACR 3323) at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in Sec 84 Site 36-38. Limited information exists on Medals awarded to some of these crewmembers, as follows: Kimball (Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster); Nixon (Air Medal with (3) Oak Leaf Clusters); Stancik (Air Medal with (2) Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Purple Heart); and Wohlstrom (Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and a Purple Heart).
NEXT OF KIN DATA IN WWII: Information in this MACR is: Johnson (Rex) (Mother, La Harpe, Kansas); Paules (Mother, Caroline A., Bloomsberg, Pennsylvania); Johnson, Delmar, (Wife, Lucille B., Vancouver, Washington); Hunter (Father, John S., Lynwood, California); Wohlstrom (Sister, Mrs Esther Larson, Orange, Connecticut); Kimball (Wife, Beatrice M., Portland, Maine); Stancik (Sister, Mrs. Helen Magee, Los Angeles, California); Reynolds (Mother, Mittie, Texarkana, Texas); Milliken (Wife, Virginia M., Denver, Colorado); and Nixon (Brother, Adelbert G., Blanchard, Oklahoma).
P 1/LT Sooy, Bruce L. POW CP l/LT Mardis, Kenneth A POW N 1/LT Jones, Orley R. POW B l/LT Schwartz, Edward S. POW R/O T/S Terrell, Paul J. POW EnG T/S Serafine, John M. POW WG S/S McBrayer, Henry G. Jr POW BG S/S McArn, Henry W. POW WG S/S Jones, Nixon J.E. Jr POW TG S/S Dorgan, William J. POW
MISSION LOSS CIRCUMSTANCES: There were no eye-witness accounts by returning aircrews about the missing status of this plane and crew. The only report of this aircrew’s downing and capture was in a German Report #KU1231, Air Field Headquarters at Freiberg dated 28 March 1944. This reporting noted the crash site of this aircraft by correct tail number at a location of Mühlenbach near Haslach, (30) kilometers north east of Freiberg/Breiagen at 1500 hours and the ensuing capture of all (10) crew members who had parachuted to safety. Cause of the ship’s downing was described as being "fighter", as obtained from a statement by local inhabitants.
INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTS OF CREWMEN FATES: No record exists in the MACR. All members were taken as prisoners by the Germans. The time of apprehending was given as 1500 hours for all (10) men. Sooy was captured at Hasslach/Kinzig Valley as were McBrayer, Mardis, Schwartz, McArn, Dorgan, Nixon, and Serafine. Jones and Terrell were taken prisoner near Kuehlenbach. This information is all that is available in these records.
BURIAL RECORDS: None; all men survived this mishap and were taken as POWs.
NEXT OF KIN DATA IN WWII: The following record is given: Sooy (Aunt, Mrs. A. Wolston, Camden, New Jersey); Jones (Wife, Dixie, Maize, Kansas); Mardis (Mother, Alma K., Cincinnati, Ohio); Terrell (Mother, Helen R.., Washington, Indiana); Serafine (Mother, Mrs. Julia Kubisenki, Binghampton, New York); Jones (Father, Simon I., Texarkana, Arkansas); Dorgan (Mother, Susan J., Lone Rock, Wisconsin); Schwartz (Wife, Gloria, New York, New York); McBrayer (Mother, Ola W., Atlanta, Georgia); McArn (Mother, Bessie W., Rowland, North Carolina).
P l/LT Peterson, Clifford L. POW CP 2/LT Vrieling, Russell I. POW N 1/LT Moorehead, James C. Jr POW B 2/LT Brown, Edmund J. KIA R/O T/S Rosko, Eugene M. POW EnG T/S Hinshaw, Hugh M. POW WG S/S Harrell, Ora L. KIA WG S/S Hancock, Leon G. KIA BG S/S Masters, Enoch E. KIA TG S/S Byrd, Jimmie C. KIA
MISSION LOSS CIRCUMSTANCES: The only eye-witness accounts were brief from returning crews: "Aircraft last seen in a power dive about 2,000 feet; one chute seen". Pilot Peterson’s later account after repatriation from POW status noted that their aircraft came under heavy fighter attacks after departing the target area, and he estimated they left the Group formation about (30) kilometers east of Strasburg, France where those crewmen who did survive managed to bail out of their gravely damaged plane. German Report #KU1243 from Air Field Command Freiburg to Dulag-Luft Oberursel/Frankfurt, dated 21 March 1944 at 1850 hours reported the crash location of the Peterson aircraft as in the Territory of Ettenheimmuenster, (30) kilometers north of Freiberg, Germany.
INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTS OF CREWMEN FATES: Lt. Peterson’s later report summarized the information as follows: That he and (4) other members did finally manage to bail out of this aircraft which was totally uncontrollable; all landed within a one mile radius of each other, and he about (300) feet from where their plane had crashed; that to the best of his knowledge the Tail Gunner, two Waist Gunners, Ball Turret Gunner and Bombardier were all either mortally injured or dead at their positions while in the air, and crashed with the ship. He noted that the Tail Gunner was reporting enemy fighter attacks, then suddenly ceased. Another crew member’s account in completing an "Individual Casualty Questionnaire" on the Tail Gunner’s fate and the other Gunners in the waist section to U.S. authorities later stated that he believed their plane was struck by a German fighter just in front of the tail section causing the ship to go into a spin immediately which most likely prevented any member in the rear from bailing out. This report continued on the Bombardier’s plight which stated that a German captor related to the Radio Operator subsequently that Lt. Brown’s body was found in the nose turret at the crash site. The Bombardier had been calling out previous fighter passes, but it was noted that he did not fire his guns on the final attack indicating he may have been killed at that time. (Note: It is surmised that this final head-on enemy attack resulted in this fighter striking the plane’s aft fuselage section). The German Report cited above included attachments which also summarized the crew members ultimate situations and fates on the ground later: it noted the capture of (4) crewmen as Peterson, Hinshaw, and Moorehead at the village of Ettenheimmuenster at 1600 hours the same day; the hospitalization of a wounded member, Co-Pilot Vrieling, who was taken to the PW Hospital in Strasburg/Alsace and admitted the next day, 19 March; and the recovery of (4) other dead crewmen, Harrell, Hancock and Byrd with Hunter in the crashed plane. The ship was fully identified by correct tail number, 578th Squadron, 392nd Group, and Base of Wendling. There was also an erroneous conclusion in this enemy report on the crew’s target this day as ‘Target: Air Base Freiberg’. This German reporting also picked up data on the 5th member captured, that of Sgt. Rosko who was admitted to the PW Hospital in Strasburg, France also. The identification tags of all (10) crewmen were also recorded in this enemy report which also gave full information on each member’s next-of-kin names and home addresses. This enemy reporting covered a number of updates under the same report number to German higher echelons of air command. The last and concluding account dealt with the finding of the 5th deceased crew member’s final whereabouts, Sgt. Masters, over four months later on 31 July 1944 when local berry-pickers found his remains and ID tags. Crew missions flown including this one were given as (16) to (19) combat missions for various individual members from the survivor accounts.
BURIAL RECORDS: German accounts on initial burial were contained in the above report attachments, as follows: The (4) members found together at the crash site were interred in the town Cemetery of Ettenheimmuenster in a common grave on 21 March. Sgt. Masters was reported later as being buried in the same communal cemetery, special Grave #2, on 31 July1944 the day his remains were recovered. The five deceased crewmen were returned to the U.S. for burial. Known interment sites are: T/Sgt Hancock at Ft Rosecrans National Cemetery, Sec J Site 243 (he is buried next to 2/Lt Bandura (MACR 3329, another casualty of this mission); 2/Lt Brown at Golden Gate National Cemetery Sec O Site 72; and S/Sgt Byrd at Ft Bliss National Cemetery Sec E Site 9742.
NEXT OF KIN DATA IN WWII: Information given in this MACR is: Peterson (Wife, Leah L. Peterson, Anoka, Minnesota); Vrieling (Father, John, Holland, Michigan); Moorehead (Mother, Nell A., Portsmouth, Virginia); Brown (Wife, Frances A., Hollywood, California); Rosko (Mother, Eva L., Brooklyn, New York); Masters (Mother, Mullin, Texas); Hinshaw (Brother-Family, Mrs Virginia Lee Anderson, Chicago, Illinois); Hancock (Wife, Jean 0., Seattle, Washington); Harrell (Wife, Betty, Hammond, Indiana); and Byrd (Mother, Ora L., Amarillo, Texas).
PRIMARY SOURCE RESEARCH NOTE: See the note from MACR #03329
P l/LT Sharpe, William G. KlA CP 2/LT Bandura, Norbert A. KIA N 2/LT McGuire, William C.J. KIA B 2/LT Richardson, Frank E. KIA R/O T/S Wallace, Frank C POW/DIED EnG T/S Huffman, Ralph R. KIA BG S/S Coveney, Clarence M. POW WG S/S Anderson, Carl A. POW WG S/S Cugini, Michael W. POW TG S/S Maylander, Nathan (NMI) KIA
MISSION LOSS CIRCUMSTANCES: The MACR cites very briefly the eye-witness account on the missing status of this aircrew. This observation noted the time and position where the plane was last seen: At 1505 hours and 48-12N, 08-12E, under enemy fighter attack. German Report #KU1245, Air Field Command A-2/VII, Freiberg, dated 22 March 1944, cites this aircraft’s crash location as being near the village of Ettenheimmuenster, (30) kilometers north of Freiberg and (500) meters north east of this smaller town. A supplementary page to this same report (teletype message format sent by the same headquarters to the interrogation center at Dulag Luft-Oberursel/Frankfurt) of 21 March at 1925 hours stated the finding of (6) dead crewmen at the burned plane’s crash site, and identification of the ship’s tail number though this aircraft was reported as being 100% damaged. The Sharpe crew’s plane and that of the Peterson (C.L) crew crashed almost in the same proximity and the German reporting reflected an intermingled listing of members from both aircrews of capture, and recovery of the perished crewmen, from both crash areas on the same report. Local inhabitants of the village area reported the Sharpe aircraft being shot down by a fighter according to this enemy report.
INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTS OF CREWMEN FATES: From the limited MACR record on the Sharpe crewmembers, the one "CASUALTY QUESTIONNAIRE" completed by Sgt. Anderson after repatriation and given to U.S. authorities does give these particulars about this combat tragedy: that after the target bomb drop, all members at that time were at their crew stations, unharmed (ostensibly learned from a crew interphone check’ immediately after the bomb run); that shortly thereafter an enemy fighter attack resulted in the Pilot and Co-Pilot being wounded such that each immediately discussed over intercom which one would (could?) fly the aircraft; (Pilot was reportedly wounded in the right arm while the Co-Pilot had been struck in the left leg)) and this attack resulted in an aircraft fire with the plane going into a spin. His account reported that one Gunner, Sgt. Cugini, bailed out when the ship caught fire, and he followed. This report speculated further that it was felt that Pilot Sharpe, Co-Pilot Bandura, and Tail Gunner Maylander all went down in the plane. As a concluding comment about the Pilot’s injury, it was also noted that Lt. Sharpe had requested that the Radio Operator render first-aid to him. A final statement on this crewmember’s reporting gave the plane’s crash location as being (20) miles southwest of the town of Freiberg, however the later German Report on-scene pinpointed the final position as north of Freiberg. (Note: One seemingly unresolved circumstance on the actual fate at the time of downing of each man of the Sharpe crew seems apparent: the German Report #KU1245 attachments (found in the Peterson’s crew MACR #3328 due to the ‘mixing of the crewmen listings and accounts’ described earlier), states that (6) Sharpe crewmembers were found dead at the crash site of their plane, identified by the correct tail number. This same report also notes the taking of (4) prisoners at the same location. Inasmuch as seven (7) members of this aircrew are recorded in the MACR as having perished during the war, the additional man who perished appears to have been one who was taken prisoner in the crash area initially, and later due to unknown, unstated causes subsequently died while in POW status. While being supposition, though all related reports in these two MACRs have been sifted through very carefully, a conclusion seems to point that this additional member of the Sharpe crew was the Radio Operator, Sgt. Wallace, who was initially taken prisoner, and, but wounded, and later died while in, or as a result of, captivity. This conclusion stems from the fact that one of the German Report attachments found in the Sharpe crew MACR (part of #KU1245) reflects Sgt. Wallace along with Sgt. Coveney as wounded, and having been admitted to the PW Hospital SC in Strasburg, Alsace, France on 19 March 1944. Inasmuch as the Bombardier Richardson and Gunner Maylander were buried in the communal cemetery at Ettenheimmuenster on 21 March along with some members of the Peterson crew; and there are known U.S. Military overseas Cemetery grave locations for Lt. McGuire and Sgt. Huffman adding to the (3) members who were known to have survived and returned to the States from POW status as being Anderson, Cugini, and Coveney - a total of (7) crewmen is thus accounted for. Accordingly, this accounting would leave both pilots and Sgt. Wallace remaining to conclude about their individual fates. Since Wallace was reported as being captured at the same time but wounded, as given in the German report, though his full name was listed correctly but the serial number for him was incorrect, the premise that the "7th" casualty on this aircrew was Wallace seems most likely the circumstance. All of the Peterson crewmen who were found perished in the same general area were positively accounted for which tends to re-enforce the above conclusion in spite of the ‘mixed crew listings’ rendered at the time by the Germans).
BURIAL RECORDS: MACR records searched on both the Sharpe and Peterson aircrews reflect the following from German Report #KUI245 found in the Peterson crew file, MACR #3328: Lt. Richardson, Bombardier and Sgt. Maylander, Tail Gunner of the Sharpe crew were buried in the communal Cemetery at Ettenheimmuenster on 21 March 1944. This same report number (by an attached message form of 22 March also stated the burial of (2) other dead members of the Sharpe plane crash whose names and serial numbers were (quote) "unknown and not ascertainable" (end quote). No further information can be reconstructed regarding names from a search of these MACR records. Examination of U.S. National overseas Military Cemetery records reflect the later recovery and re-interments of these Sharpe aircrew members: Lt. McGuire was reburied in the National cemetery of LORRAINE (St. Avold, France) in Grave # A-23-40; Sgt. Huffman in the same location, Grave # D-37-21 and Lt. Richardson also in Grave # E-16-19. 2/Lt Bandura is interred at Ft Rosecrans National Cemetery, Sec J Site 244 next to T/Sgt Hancock (MACR 3328), another casualty of this mission. The National Cemetery record reflects the following Medals earned by the listed men interred there: McGuire (Air Medal with oak Leaf Cluster; Huffman (Air Medal with (2) Oak Leaf Clusters) and Richardson (Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster). All three members have "/" following their Medal award listings record; but only Huffman’s has a continuation symbol to reflect that at least one of his awards was the Purple Heart. From survivor crew member statements, it appears this crew had a total of (15) combat missions flown prior to this bombing raid for most all, if not all, members assigned. Note: Sgt. Huffman may have flown some additional missions from the Air Medal awards given him.
NEXT OF KIN DATA IN WWII: Information given in the MACR reflects the following: Sharpe (Mother, Freda, Carmel, California); Bandura (Mother, Mary J., Santa Monica, California); McGuire (Wife, Muriel P., Brooklyn, New York); Richardson (Sister, Alice M., Harve, Montana); Wallace (Father, John M., Spokane, Washington); Huffman (Mother, Frances G., Atchison, Kansas); Anderson (Mother, Alma M., Perry, Iowa); Cugini (Wife, Arlene P., Buffalo, New York); Coveney (Wife, Gertrude V., Woodside, New York); and Maylander (relationship not given, Mr. Albert Maylander, Brooklyn, New York).
PRIMARY SOURCE RESEARCH NOTE: Whatever the value of the evidence presented from the record in the "Individual Accounts Crewmen Fates" and "Burial Records" sections of the MACR #03329 for aircraft #42-100117 - Aircrew Sharpe -- a number of the suggested conclusions are wrong. I base this judgment on my own familiarity with the same source material, a visit to the crash scene, continuing correspondence and contact with local German researchers there in Ettenheimmunster, the crash scene, and possession of a thick IDPF file -- Individual Deceased Personnel file -- from Mortuary Affairs for the Sharpe Navigator, 2nd Lt. Wm. C. McGuire, my father. This file includes rough map, grave locations and depositions taken by the Army Quartermaster General's investigation at the sites in June 1946. (The C. Peterson B24, MACR #03328, AC#42-99981 was nearby.)
Eleven men from the 392nd BG's C. Peterson and Wm. Sharpe Liberators were buried in 1944 at the new Ettenheimmunster communal cemetery. Six from the Sharpe plane, five from the Peterson (#981) plane. Ten originally, on March 22, 1944. S/Sgt Enoch Masters, from the Peterson plane, was later discovered in nearby woods with a damaged parachute and buried with the others that July 31. His was the eleventh body in this common grave.
Three from the Sharpe B24 and five from the Peterson Lib survived and became POWs. The eleven men were buried in wooden caskets in a row, (There was a Church burial service on the 22 March 44)-- and the first three grave positions were Masters, S/Sgt J.C. Byrd and S/Sgt Ora Harrell. In the last three positions were S/Sgt Leon Hancock, my father Lt. McGuire and S/Sgt Nathan Maylander, both the latter two from #117 crew. The five remaining dead were never formally identified at the site in connection with this burial but are believed to be remains of four Sharpe crewmen: First Lieut. W. Sharpe; 2nd Lieut. N. Bandura; T/Sgt R. Huffman, and S/Sgt F. C. Wallace, plus the remaining unaccounted Peterson crew member, 2nd Lieut. E. Brown.
This is consistent with German reports of the number of dead found at the two nearby crash sites. The B24.net summary now concludes that Sharpe, Bandura and Wallace were not buried with the others and are unaccounted for. Not so. However, one body is indeed missing and unaccounted for based on these records, the German and American files which I also initially had access to.
The Germans, however, in the 1944 record from the wreckage scene, did speak of a medium height individual with curly dark hair who, unlike all the others at the two sites, was mysteriously untouched by the fires which raged through the two wrecks. He was not identified but, for some reason the Luftwaffe investigators took this body away for separate burial, leaving behind all the others for burial with the local Ettenheimmunster officials. I have never discovered an apparent reason for this. But in the spring of 1996, my German contacts found German documentation in the Military Archive that this individual was the remaining unaccounted for #117 crew member, 2nd Lt. Frank Richardson, the Sharpe Bombardier. He was buried at Lahr by the Luftwaffe, along with six crew members from a B17, which was the third heavy to crash in the same immediate area at the same time.
The last fact is very significant for it led to resolution of the biggest and most persistent mystery of the American dead at Ettenheimmunster. (This wreckage is referred to in the Quartermaster's site investigation in my dad's IDPF file and indicated on their map.)
The MACR info listed on B24.net notes that Frank Wallace, the #117 Radio Operator, according to Nazi records, seems to be among the wounded at a German hospital "but the serial number for him was incorrect." Earlier, the write up notes "Inasmuch as (7) members of this aircrew are recorded in the MACR as having perished..., the additional man who perished appears to have been one who was taken prisoner in the crash area initially, and later due to unknown, unstated causes subsequently died while in POW status." This is plainly wrong as I will now explain.
I was confronted by this puzzle myself in even more dramatic form. In the mid 1990s, I had in my hands documented evidence that Wallace was buried on March 22, 1944 and very much alive in a German hospital on March 31, 1944. The key to solving the puzzle turned out to be that same B17 which also fell at the same German location on the late afternoon of 3.18.44.
The 390th BG A/C #42-37925 piloted by Lt. "Wade" Biesecker* was, at the same time the 392nd BG Sharpe and Peterson planes went down, on it way back from bombing Augsburg. It was shot down over Etteheimmunster by as many at three German fighters. Among the three airmen who bailed out and survived was waist gunner F. Grover Wallace. Wallace broke his back in a tree on landing and spent most of the rest of the war in German hospitals.
Frank Wallace, the #117 radio operator died aboard the Sharpe wreck and was buried with his crew members in the Ettenheimmunster cemetery. F. Grover Wallace lived a long and productive life near Lima, Ohio, passing away about 1997. Two different serial numbers. Two different 8th Air Force men. Both named F. Wallace.
Concerning these records and the b24.net account, it should also be noted that in the middle of the MACR for the C. Peterson plane #42-99981, in the Individual Accounts of Crewmen Fates section, reference is made to "the recovery of (4) other dead crewmen, Harrell, Hancock and Byrd with Hunter in the crashed plane."
There was no Hunter aboard this plane. Lt. Robert Hunter was Bombardier on the Rex Johnson B24 #42-52465, KIA along with 7 other crewmen. Perhaps this is the Hunter referred to. It could be a case of info blended in the same report from several sources, and not literally meant to imply that they came from the same wreckage. In the MACR for plane #465 here, the Navigator on this ship, Del Johnson, related being interrogated by German guards while being transported by truck after capture not a great distance from Ettenheimmunster. The guards asked him about Lt. Hunter and said that they had his dog tags. Possibly these two bits of information are related and they may further suggest that Lt. Hunter did not die in the wreckage of #465. In any case, his remains are not accounted for among known records we have access to at present.
On a separate and personal matter related to info presented here, although the American cemetery lists referred to in your summary do not show a Purple Heart for my father, as might be expected, he was given this honor posthumously. I have the medal and the paper that came with it. There is also some evidence he was wounded prior to the crash of #117.
I can't prove it but I believe that all the 392nd dead at Ettenheimmunster are now buried at either Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, France, or on sacred ground here in the U.S.A. May they and all our war dead rest in peace.
Bill McGuire, Larchmont, NY February 19, 2002
*After some delay, Lt. Biesecker's body was found under some wreckage and, as a result was buried separately, at Wallburg.
P 2/LT Anderson, Ellsworth F. POW CP 2/LT Maben, Jack F. KIA N 2/LT Cashen, Edward J. KIA B 2/LT Linzey, J.D. (I.0.) KIA R/O S/S Masteka, George F. POW EnG S/S Farren, Emil L. POW BG S/S Koch, William J. Jr KIA WG S/S Hardic, Andrew M. KIA WG S/S Cagle, William C. KIA TG SGT Bixby, Gerald C. KIA
MISSION LOSS CIRCUMSTANCES: Contrary to what eye-witness accounts from returning crews reported as occurring enroute over France where the aircraft of Lt. Dalton (MACR #3320) had experienced a mid-air collision with another 392nd plane, the latter ship was not that of Lt. Anderson, but rather the aircraft of Lt. Feran (MACR #3324). Lt. Anderson and his crew proceeded to the target, and after bombing, was attacked and downed by enemy fighter attacks. His account as Pilot is listed in summary: that their plane was attacked about (30) minutes after target at which point they left the bomber formation; that he and two others that he knew of did bailout successfully (Sgts. Ferren and Masteka) through the bomb bay doors and some of the other crewmen were either dead or injured so as to be incapacitated at this time in order to abandon the ship, however (4) parachutes were seen to burn on opening and the Tail Gunner was believed to be one of these. He stated further that the CoPilot, Lt. Maben, did exit the plane through the top hatch in the radio compartment, but was believed to have struck the top turret or tail assembly in bailing out. Another comment noted that Germans reported later that this crewmember was found on the ground with parachute unopened. The Flight Engineer’s later report stated that when the fighter attacks occurred, the plane’s flight controls were ‘knocked out’, and the Pilot, Radio Operator, and he went out the bomb bay in that order after the Pilot had opened the doors. He knew the Co-Pilot was having to put his parachute on at the same time, but did not know why he did not get out successfully, unless he was suddenly injured. It was also stated that a German Officer later said that the men in the plane’s nose section were found dead in the crashed ship. German Report #KU1255, Air Headquarters District in Boeblingen (Stuttgart area southwest suburb), dated 23 March, stated the crash location of the Anderson aircraft as occurring at 1500 hours, (2) kilometers southwest of Stettin, County of Rottweil, and about (6) kilometers west of Rottweil. Attachments to this same German report recorded the recovery of (7) dead crewmen at the crash site; (2) of whom "may be identified after recovery of (this) plane". The crew members positively identified at that time were: Lts. Maben, Cashen, Linzey, Sgt. Hardic, and Sgt. Cagle. Sgts. Koch and Bixby were subsequently identified by initial burial time of all deceased crewmen. Other attachments of this same report cited the capture of the (3) survivors, Anderson, Farren, and Masteka and related the findings from the aircraft’s wreckage that the plane was assigned to the 392nd at Wendling Base and the 577th Squadron. The latter also mentioned the plane’s target (erroneously) as "Echterdingen" (which was an airfield just on the southern outskirts of Stuttgart).
T/Sgt Masteka gave this brief statement after the war: "We were delayed over the target because of another group making their bomb run directly below us and we made a second run over the target, dropped our bombs and started back. Our group was separated from the main force on return flight. About 30 minutes flying away from target ME 109s attacked our formation. Their first pass on our ship shot the electrical and controls out and our ship went into a spin immediately." He bailed out "at the same time the ship exploded."
INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTS OF CREWMEN FATES: These were summarized above as given by Pilot Anderson and Flight Engineer Farren after their repatriation from POW status in their ‘Casualty Questionnaire’ statements.
BURIAL RECORDS: The MACR record contained in the German Report #KU1255 stated that all (7) casualties of this aircrew were buried on 22 March 1944 in the village cemetery at Stette, near Rottweil. A search of U.S. National overseas Military Cemetery listings finds the following: Maben buried in the LORRAINE location (Grave #K-32-32) as well as Hardic (Grave #K-33-39) and in the ARDENNES Cemetery, Linzey is interred (Grave #C-25-20). Medal citations also notes that all three members were awarded the Air Medal and Purple Heart. From the survivor reports, it is indicated that this mission was probably the crew’s 6th combat sortie.
NEXT OF KIN DATA IN WWII: The information contained in this MACR is of very poor quality for interpreting correctly. However, the following data can be made out in general terms on certain individuals of these crew members: Bixby (Mother, Mary, Dundee, New York); Koch (Mother, Pearl K., Louisville, Kentucky); Cagle (Father, Charles V., Greensboro, North Carolina); Farren (Father, Elmer F., Yorkville, Ilinois); Hardic (Mother, Mary, Carlisle, Pennsylvania); Masteka (Mother, Edna, New Rochelle, New York); Linzey (Wife, Mildred, Flint, Michigan); Maben (Mother, Los Angeles, California); Anderson (illegible data, Ohio?).
P l/LT Haffermehl, George T. POW CP 2/LT MacMullen, Donald H. INT N 2/LT Parks, Kenneth C. INT B 1/LT Poppel, Samuel B. INT R/O T/S Beausoleil, Leon J. INT EnG T/S Parker, Earl S. POW BG S/S Mitchell, Jewell W. INT WG S/S Harwick, Michael G. POW WG S/S Wagner, Frederick J. KIA TG S/S Landry, Louis H. POW
MISSION LOSS CIRCUMSTANCES: Eye-witness accounts of returning aircrews had no observations to report concerning the loss of this aircrew and plane. Later facts revealed that this aircraft had come under fighter attacks on the route outbound after target: the Pilot, Flight Engineer, both Waist Gunners and the Tail Gunner bailed out over Germany near Rottweil and were taken prisoner except for one Waist Gunner, Sgt. Wagner, who was killed when his parachute did not open; and the Co Pilot stayed with the ship and diverted it to Switzerland, crash landing the plane safely at Dubendorf Field (near Zurich) where he, the Navigator, Bombardier, Radic Operator and Ball Turret Gunner were interned. Their aircraft crash landed a Dubendorf at 1545 hours of the mission day.
INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTS OF CREWMEN FATES: Pilot Haffermehl’s "CasuaIty Questionnaire" given after repatriation later to U.S. authorities was very brief on events that took place and had no precise knowledge to record except that he had seen Sgt. Landry and Sgt. Hardwick in good health the next day after they all were captured in Germany. In another report concerning his deceased Gunner, Sgt Wagner, the Pilot stated "five of us, including S/Sgt. Wagner, bailed out when the plane was hit. I didn’t see him (Wagner), but the tail gunner said that his parachute didn’t open and that he saw S/Sgt. Wagner’s body on the ground and positively identified it. Later unidentified Germans told me that he was dead". Another crewmember’s account (name not given) on possible casualties of others on this crew stated that the Bombardier, Lt. Poppel, was last heard of giving out reports in the air on attacking enemy fighters and still later this crewmember had received a letter in POW Camp, Stalag Luft #4, from Poppel who was writing from internment ii Switzerland. This account noted also that Lt. Poppel had been wounded by 20MM cannon fire at his crew station, but had recovered successfully. Still another crewmember account given later (name not given) stated that the Bombardier was injured in the air, did not bail out, was last seen on the flight deck, and that the Co Pilot had refused to bail out, electing to fly the ship towards Switzerland where it was crash landed safely. A German Report, Air Headquarters in Freiberg, #KU873A reported the capture of the (4) men taken prisoner as follows: Haffermehl at l700 hours near Neierlingen,Waldshut County; Harwick and Landry at 1530 hours at Beren, Waldshut County, all on 18 March. This report also reported the recovery of the dead crewmember, Sgt. Wagner. One last crewmember account given on the fate of Sgt. Wagner stated that another crewman in captivity with him later had actually seen the body of this Gunner lying on the ground, and Sgt. Wagner’s parachute was lying about him but had not opened. The man had suffered mortal wounds in his stomach area and underneath the chin. It was mentioned further that Sgt. Wagner had gotten out of the plane safely, but perhaps was too low or waited too long to pull the rip cord on his chute. Regarding the capture of the fourth crew member, Sgt. Parker, the German report noted his being taken prisoner near the town of Rottweil at 1600 hours, 18 March. Survivor accounts also stated the crew’s total combat mission count as (20) sorties.
BURIAL RECORDS: The German records reflect that Sgt. Wagner was buried initially in the town cemetery at Boren, Waldshut County on 22 March. U.S. National overseas Military Cemetery listings show that Sgt. Wagner’s remains were recovered from Germany and reinterred in the LORRAINE Cemetery (Grave # E-22-42). Records reflect that he was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with (3) Oak Leaf Clusters. There is no indication of any posthumous awards.
NEXT OF KIN DATA IN WWII: Information is as follows: Haffermehl (Wife, Beverly, Boston, Massachusetts); Poppel (Mother, Dora 0., Lowell, Massachusetts); MacMullen (Mother, Gertrude F., Pottstown, Pennsylvania); Parks (Wife, Regina M., Chicago, Illinois); Beausoleil (Father, Wilford, Alhambra, California); Parker (Mother, Ida M. Newburgh, Indiana); Harwick (Mother, Evelyn M., Leechburg, Pennsylvania); Wagner (Sister, Madline S. Wagner, Glendale, Queens, New York); Mitchell (Mother, Dellie M., Sulphur Springs, Texas); Landry (Mother, Laura, Lowell, Massachusetts).
P l/LT Kale, William A. INT CP 2/LT Willingham, Nelson H. INT N 2/LT Syroid, Walter A. INT B 1/LT White, James G. INT R/O T/S Finley, Ray (NMI) INT EnG T/S Toler, Needham (NMI) INT BG S/S Birch,Veral J. INT WG S/S Peacock, Clyde E. INT WG S/S Hildebrant, Robert H. INT TG S/S Haaland, Milton L. INT
MISSION LOSS CIRCUMSTANCES: Returning crew member eye-witness accounts stated "it is believed that this aircraft was straggling off to the left of the formation for (20) minutes before target. Salvoed bombs and went to the right and under the formation toward Switzerland".
In his Internee Report, pilot 1/Lt Kale wrote, "Got some flak over coast. Reached Germany. Engines went to hell. Mechanically poor plane. Even on previous day's mission it was in terrible state and on take-off wheels locked. We decided to come down over Switzerland and actually landed on Dubendorf field safely. Another plane came in about the same time as mine. One of us, I think it was plane piloted Lt. Sefton [1/Lt Jean Sefton, 445th Bomb Group], hit and broke a high tension wire which killed two children. We destroyed all confidential equipment, radio, Gee set, bombsight, all confidential papers. On landing were taken over by Swiss soldiers, were interrogated by a 1st Lt in the Swiss Army who spoke English and lived in Philadelphia."
The aircrew Bombardier later gave this account after the war from his stateside address: "Our crippled ship landed at a field at Dubendorf, Switzerland on 18 March 1944. Our number one engine had gone out because of mechanical failure and 15 minutes short of the I.P., the number two engine ran away up to 3500 RPMs." S/Sgt Hildebrand's Internee Report confirmed that they crash-landed with two engines out.
INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTS OF CREWMEN FATES:Per 1/Lt White, "We were interned upon reaching Swiss territory and myself and S/Sgt. Haaland, a gunner, were treated for frozen toes. When I left, all the crew were interned in Switzerland and were well with the exception of Sgt. Haaland who had T.B. (tuberculosis) and was in the hospital." 1/Lt White arrived in the UK on 12 August 1944 via Casablanca.
1/Lt Kale arrived back in the UK on 1 September 1944, having been returned via Casablanca. S/Sgt Birch, S/Sgt Hildebrand, T/Sgt Toler, and T/Sgt Finley arrived in the UK on 25 September 1944 via Lyon, France.
BURIAL RECORDS: None. All crewmembers were interned and survived this ordeal.
NEXT OF KIN IN WWII:Only the hometowns of a few of the crewmen are known: 1/Lt White, Lawrenceburg, Tennessee; S/Sgt Birch, Sunnyside, Utah; S/Sgt Hildebrand, Pleasantville, New Jersey; T/Sgt Finley, Adams City, Colorado; T/Sgt Toler, Hawkinsville, Georgia.
P 2/LT Muldoon, James E. Landed Wendling CP 2/LT Otis, John J. Landed Wendling N 2/LT Walsh, Frank T. POW B 2/LT Savage, Charles C. POW R/O T/S DeHoff, LeRoy V. Landed Wendling EnG S/S Byrd, Jay M. ; Landed Wendling BG S/S Bluejacket, Junior W. Landed Wendling WG S/S Carpenter, Jesse A. Landed Wendling WG S/S Bednarcik, Stephen A. Landed Wendling TG S/S Svoboda, John J. Landed Wendling
MISSION LOSS CIRCUMSTANCES: This aircraft returned safely to Wendling after the Friedrichshafen mission but suffered major battle damage enroute home over France. The Navigator, Lt. Walsh, and Bombardier, Lt. Savage, were casualties on this return and were lost over France after parachuting from the plane. On 18 April 1944, the Pilot, Lt. Muldoon, gave this account of these events: "This aircraft, B-24J #42-100100, with the rest of the formation was under attack by enemy aircraft on route home from target (Friedrichshafen, Germany), and as the aircraft crossed into France (48-20N, 07-35E) the plane was hit by a 20MM shell and caught fire. Apparently the fire set off the bail-out bell signal (short circuit probable) since the pilot did not order the crew to abandon ship. These men (Lt Walsh and Lt. Savage referenced) bailed out at approximately 1505 hours at 17,000 feet. No one reported sighting the parachutes opening or the men landing. Both were equipped with parachutes". This report was the extent of the record contained in this MACR.
INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTS OF CREWMEN FATES: 2/Lt Savage's capture was reported on German KU 1249, which also reported the capture of 1/Lt Clover's crew (MACR 3325).
BURIAL RECORDS:None, as all crewmen either became POWs or returned safely to Wendling.
NEXT OF KIN IN DATA WWII: No records are included in this MACR account.
These crewmen were assigned to 1/Lt Tiefenthal’s aircrew on this day’s mission to Fredrichshafen where the aftermath of the 392nd’s fortunes on this raid was tragic indeed. The two fatalities were suffered by the over whelming enemy fighter opposition over Germany just after leaving the target area which repeatedly attacked the 392nd formations. The ship was so badly damaged that the pilot had to crash land just as the crew coasted-in over England. One of these crew members, Sgt. Hull, is buried in the U.S. National (overseas) Cemetery at CAMBRIDGE, England in Grave A-3-28. He was awarded an Air Medal with (2) Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart. His home of record was in Indiana. S/Sgt Sopchak is buried in St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Cemetery, Syracuse, New York. The Tiefenthal plane was a B-24J #42-99989, nicknamed "SON OF SATAN", Call Letter "V", whose crash site was at Gravesend in Kent on this date.
A press release in the 392nd Group History Folder in the National Archives gave this dramatic account: "Pierced in 2,500 (correct) places by bullets, shells and flak, carrying five wounded gunners and credited with destruction of four fighters and a probably, the Liberator Son of Satan limped back from Germany recently, its destination the scrap heap. The story of the bomber's battle with enemy fighters is an epic of heroism and achievement in one of the fiercest air battles in this Liberator Group's annals.
With 25 shell-holes more than a foot and a half in diameter, the Son of Satan was so badly damaged it will never fly again. Dismantled, the parts of the Liberator that can be used will be salvaged. The rest will be junked.
Forty ME-109's and FW-190's attacked the Liberator formation as it made its way back from bombing targets in southwestern Germany. Sweeping in with a mass attack on the aircraft, they killed one waist gunner on Son of Satan almost immediately, fatally wounding another. For a moment the waist positions were defenseless. As the enemy closed in for another attack, the ball gunner, unable to stay in his belly turret due to an oxygen leak, took over in the waist, manning first one gun and then the other, moving from side to side as the fighters pressed in. The pilot was taking violent evasive action. "I saw Libs maneuvering in a fashion I never expected," the copilot said. "One seemed to be doing an inside loop while another stood almost upright on its tail."
In the top turret, the radio operator was hit. He had just climbed into the turret ordinarily occupied by the engineer as the latter checked the transfer of fuel from reserve tanks. Wiping the blood from his eyes with one hand, the radio operator fired the guns with the other. For 15 minutes, he remained in the turret warding off the attacks of the fighters. Later when the danger had passed, he acted as a communications link between the flight deck and other sections of the bomber, replacing the shot-out interphone. Meanwhile, he refused to leave the turret.
In the waist, the ball gunner was hit several times in the legs and back in the enemy's second assault. Unable to stand, he continued to fire from his knees.
The tail gunner was flying in that position for the first time. Too big to wear a flak suit, he had thrown the back of the suit over his shoulders. In the first attack, an ME-109 cut it right off his back. The flak suit was ripped to ribbons, but the gunner was unhurt. "I spotted a fighter cutting across in front of me just about that time," the tail gunner said, "and I let him have it. He blew up. Then they gathered for another attack, this time coming in from the tail of the formation," he continued. "I thought there were about 40 of them all headed for the Son of Satan. I fired at one only, and saw him explode."
Close on the destruction of the second fighter, a second 20-millimeter shell burst inside the tail turret, knocking the sergeant out of position. Bruised and dazed, he began to climb back to his turret when a second 20-millimeter tore through, tearing metal, splintering glass and ricocheting past his head. Slightly stunned, he looked across the 10 feet of space between him and the waist gun positions. He found the ball gunner on his knees, trying to raise himself to the guns, the two waist gunners at his feet. Stumbling past the waist gunners, the Sergeant gently lifted the ball gunner away from the guns and forced him to lie down. Picking up extra flak suits, he placed them over the two men still alive.
At that point, two fighters made another pass at the left waist gun position. The tail gunner manned this gun, opening fire at 800 yards. One fighter burst into flames, going down in a spin; the other had enough and peeled off without pushing his attack. The wounded men demanded attention. Bandaging their wounds, the tail gunner reassured them, making them as comfortable as possible.
Up in the nose of the bomber, the fight had been equally fierce. Two head-on attacks had given the nose gunner all he could handle. Both guns were hot from almost continuous fire as he forced the enemy to keep a safe distance. Two more aggressive fighters had come in closer than was safe, however. Seared by the 50-caliber bullets from the nose turret, they had exploded, breaking into pieces as they hurtled down out of control.
The enemy left. The pilot and copilot, trimming the damaged bomber as best they could, checked on the injuries to the aircraft. Son of Satan's tail and fuselage had more holes than solid surface, the engineer reported. By masterful work at the controls, the pilots kept the bomber in formation until they crossed the coast of England. Heading for the nearest base, the pilot found the landing gear would not go down. He instructed the engineer to let the gear down with the emergency hand crank. By this means, the right wheel was let down, but the engineer found the cable for the left wheel had been shot away.
Ordering the nose wheel kicked down, the pilot decided to land on the nose and right wheels, hoping to keep the left wing off the ground until speed was lost. Setting the bomber down gently, the pilot guided the aircraft to the far end of the runway, before the left wing began to lower. As the wing tip touched earth, ground crews watched breathlessly, breaking the tension when the big Liberator came to a stop, slewing around in the opposite direction."