392nd Bomb Group

Stetten, Germany - Anderson crew crash site and Flak position

by Jim Marsteller

News article
This map is roughly 6 miles by 4 miles
site1 site2 site3 site4 site5

"Stetten, Germany - Anderson crew crash site and Flak position."

The town of Stetten, crash site of Lt. Ellsworth F. Anderson. The German report (KU1255) we found at the National Archives listed the following information: place of crash - Stetten, County of Rottweil; kind of capture - by fighter; type of aircraft - Liberator; markings - D C; number on aircraft - 2109824; remarks - 5 men dead, 2 more may be recovered but not before the recovery of the plane, The destination of the other crew members is unknown; Dead - Cashen Edward, Haric Andrew, Maben Jack, Linzey J.D., Cagle William, 2 more men may be identified after recovery of plane.

Anderson crash<
Jim, Carsten and eyewitnesses of the Anderson crash

We met at a local pub in the town of Stetten with 3 witnesses of the crash. It was an interesting meeting with 11 of us setting around a table sharing information about something that happened so long ago. Carsten Kohlmann translated as one of the witnesses. Reinhard Irion talked, “The people haven’t forgotten March 18, 1944. I have not forgotten anything." Carsten replied, “ It is important not to forget." Mr. Irion surprised us by showing his notes and records on the crash that he has kept for 50 years. He has put his memories down on paper and presented us with his eyewitness account. He calls his memories, “Unforgettable Hours."

Reinhard remembered
Carsten translated as Reinhard Irion remembered the crash

'Unforgettable Hours"

by Rheinhard Irion
Eyewitness to the airbattle 18 March 1944

“We were once again interrupted from our sleep and sat in my uncle’s cellar, since we had no such air raid precautions of our own. The monotone growl of the group of English bombers was without end. Suddenly a muffled detonation could be heard. The cellar door, which was cracked, moved noticeably. Later in the night we learned details of the terrible incident: the crew of a plane, still carrying its bombs and wanting to get rid of them, had dropped them over Lackendorf, 4 km away. The bombs hit Locherhofer Street near the Eschach River and brought a disastrous result. The house of the Griesshaber family was swept away by the explosion; in this way the parents and their three children came to their end. Only the oldest child lived, who at the time was serving his mandatory service to the state. Naturally the neighboring house was also riddled with shrapnel - so much that it looked like a sieve; an elderly couple that lived there met their deaths in their bed from the shrapnel. Today a plaque in the Lackendorf Cemetery commemorates the victims of that terrible night. The combined strength of the people from the air raid shelters of the Eschach River Valley began in the night to clean up and put out the fires (my father was there), but new events were to follow.

"The next day was Saturday, March 18, 1944, and the class of 1928/1929 was busy decorating the church for confirmation. They were the oldest boys then; the boys from the class of 1926/1927 were already serving their service for the state in different places. In the middle of the confirmation preparations, the air raid siren went off and soon many white streams of exhaust appeared in the blue sky like needles that slowly moved southeast. It was American bombers flying over Flotzlingen at a height of 1000m, so that only the very tiny, shining points of the planes could be seen. I, as an eight year old boy, stood in front of our house and thought to myself where they would go today. At that time it was not yet known that these daily attacks,that were flown by the Americans, influenced the aviation industry in Friedrichshafen. Everything ran normally on the first leg of the fly-over, but on the return flight of the planes, sometime later, it was totally different. As the first wave of planes reached us again, it suddenly became very bright around the exhaust fumes. The straight streams of exhaust became irregular since a group of German interceptors had picked up the battle with superiority. As a school boy, I would have liked to have followed the air battle - we knew the different types of planes by heart- but we were never allowed to watch because mother always made sure I never stood in the way of the path to the cellar. The dismissed students, Ludwig Schaible and Albert Stolz, for example, were in a better position; their point of observation was under the Linden tree by the church. But this position was not undangerous, as it would soon turn out, since the onboard cannons of one of the planes firmly hit one of the bombers. It plummeted, as eyewitnesses from Oberdorf reported, rather directly over the church tower. The lower part of the plane passed over in the northwest direction. Thank God the altitude was high since this event stretched up until the farm of Borite Harlot between Stetten and Locherhof, where the crash subsequently followed. The plane of Lt. Anderson (whose name I have learned from his papers) was completely destroyed and the complete crew killed. A curious person is said to have taken a chocolate bar out of the jacket pocket of the dead flier on inspection of the scene. But how poor one when was!

"While the confirmands continued further under danger, hit after hit came. Christian Trion came running, out of breath, and cried, 'Come on,boys, and help put out the fire. Schreiner’s house is burning!' A burning bit of the plane that was probably attacked from above had hit the house of Schreiner Cammerer and set it in flames. Someone quickly got a water pump and used it as a fire extinguisher, and we systematically battled the flames side by side with older women and men. The miller Hans Haag from Berneck near Nagold, who came here for the confirmation of his godchild Ludwig, knew as soon as he arrived. He helped us so that the flames didn’t spread to the living area of the house.

"The men in Lachendorf were also hurried towards Flotzlingen at word of the crashed plane. They hurried across the countryside to the site. But while they neared the smoking and burning wreckage and saw that there was nothing more here to salvage, a second column of smoke rose into the air. But when they came into the village, they established that the women and men had done a good job and that the house was no longer in danger. Meanwhile the fighter plane had further success. While working to put out the fire, the helpers saw how an American plane moved out of its position in its convoy and headed in the southwestern direction, losing some altitude. Attentive observers didn’t let it escape their attention over the bodies and stretchers that the Liberators were a wreck. A part of the team succeeded in getting out because the parachutists descended into the Teufen stream valley. The plane crashed to pieces in the part of the forest called Bubenholz (boys’ woods). Brave citizens succeeded in capturing the Americans. Anti-aircraft soldiers from Stetthohe overtook the prisoners and led them through Flotzlingen, where it also almost came to a serious incident. An agitated citizen wanted to go after the Americans with a pitchfork, and only the energetic intervention of the anti-aircraft soldiers stopped him. At the Hirsch guesthouse the line of prisoners made a stop, and we children also got a look at the fliers. That were the Americans of whom we had already heard so much, and they made a resolved and satisfying impression carrying parachutes under their arms. Less satisfying were they by the examination. They reported that it would have been technologically and timewise possible to have rescued those injured, but their comrades were tragically already dead by the time they got to them.

"It was very interesting to learn about the event from the point of view of one of the fliers. Shortly after these events, a participating German pilot searched for the Cammerer family. He discussed his regrets and explained how everything happened from his point of view. Their squadron took off near Mainz and held the orders to follow first and foremost the orders of the Association of Liberator bombers. These fliers were to be attacked first after their accompanying planes had to turn back concerning fuel. Danger still threatened the Germans from the on-board and sniper weapons of the bombers themselves. The whole thing was played out rather passionately over us, as in the close surrounding area 5 shots (crashes) were registered. In contrast to the armored fortress planes, the Liberators were able to fight with shots (damage). In this way the incident at the Cammerer house occurred. The flier explained he had just seen what happened. He marveled at the fact that half the village didn’t burn.

"Even when 52 years have passed since those events, I still think often of what would have happened to our peaceful village if the planes had crashed in the residential area.

"In addition, an English Lancaster crashed on a February night in 1943 only 1 1/2 km away from the Stettener farm. That’s truly luck in bad luck! A small occurrence is still to be reported after the successful parachute jumps in the Teufen Stream Valley. The dismissed student Albert Stolz, who hurried to us, found it so nice when a bailed out American flier extended his hand towards a somewhat older German anti-aircraft soldier so that this man could better cross the little stream. Was there German-American friendship even then ?

With Sincere regards,

Rheinhard Irion"
translated 7/1997 by Courtney Wirwahn

Johnson crash site
Field Stetten - Still finding pieces of the Anderson aircraft after 52 years.

After a time of “getting to know each other” over a few good German brews, we headed to the crash site of Lt. Anderson. It was in the middle of a potato field that had been harvested several weeks earlier. Each witness told what they saw and through their words we relived that day so long ago as Carsten translated. The story having been told, we walked around the field and picked up wreckage from the Liberator of Lt. Anderson. The witnesses were surprised. The pieces were small, but several still had traces of the“Chromate Green” paint that was the standard color of the Liberators during that time in the war.

Flak #S6 gunners - 1944
Flak #S6 gunners - 1944
Flak #S6 gunners - 1996
Same flak site - 1996

An additional destination of our group was the “Stetten Summit” where the anti-aircraft defense was stationed at that time. Although no bunkers could be viewed, a swimming pool that the German flak gunners built is still in good shape after 50 years. We were told that such things were possible early in the war; however, as time went by, the flak gunners had no time for this type of pleasure. Also some anti-aircraft positions near Flozlingen, a short distance from Stetten, had several bunkers that could be viewed. These bunkers are now located in the middle of a farmer's field and are used for storage areas. As the day ended with the eyewitnesses of the Anderson crash, we shook hands and thanked our hosts for all their help. It would be another day that we would not soon forget. Another surprise came through the mail several weeks later, a map of the flight path of Lt. Anderson’s B-24 Liberator and the B-17 Flying Fortress of Lt. Croft drawn by Reinhard Irion. More pieces to put together to find the answers, to finish the puzzle, and answer the question that the families asked 52 years before, “Tell me about my boy."