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Crash of B-17 44-8015 MARC 12657

(1945)

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Sgt. Francis George Adkins (37727471) waister gunner of the B-17 'Johnny Reb', tail number 44-8015, 452nd Bomb Goup, 731 Bomb Squadron stationed at Deopham Green, Norfolk, England. Adkins was born in 1919 in South Dakota and enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps on 23 November 1943 at Fort Leavenworth, KS.
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Missing Air Crew Report for the Lt. William T. Emmet, II crew that were shot down on 22 February 1945 over their target near Freilburg, Germany.
Deopham Green, England
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Gate to station 142, home of the 452nd Bomb Group.
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Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 8th Air Force send their bombs plummeting through clouds on to the important railway marshalling yards at Mainz, Germany. Eerie white vapor trails make a split rainbow over the target as the first of the bombers
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Photo taken of the Emmet crew by Francis “Jerry” Adkins in fall of 1944
Photo taken of the Emmet crew by Francis “Jerry” Adkins in fall of 1944
Standing l to r: Sidney Mason, William F. Hoffman, Deane P. Clementson, James E. Moss, George L. Benedict; kneeling l to r: Clinton W. Ewen, William T. Emmet II, Warren L. Holt.
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Mission 206, 452nd Bomb Group

Pfaffenholfen an der Roth, Germany

Photo taken of the Emmet crew by Francis “Jerry” Adkins in fall of 1944

The 452nd Bomb Group, 731st Bomb Squadron of the Eighth Air Force was based at Station 142, Deopham Green, England.  Deopham Green was located 1 ¾ miles north of Attleborough in the forested and heathland area of Norfolk. The sign at the right was located at the entrance to Deopham Green. There was a 2,000 yard main runway with two intersecting auxiliary runways.  Two large hangers, fifty hardstands and temporary housing for 2,900 men of the 452nd Bomb Group, was the home of the groups B-17 Flying Fortress’. The group flew 250 missions during the course of the war, losing 110 of the bombers. 

            In early September 1944, the William T. Emmet crew was assembled and trained for three months at El Paso Army Airfield, TX. The crew was sent to Lincoln Army Airfield in Nebraska on 4 December 1944 for final processing for overseas duty.  After being granted a short leave to home, the Emmet crew left Lincoln, NE on 1 January 1945 on a troop train to Boston.  At Boston, the men boarded the SS Ile de France for an 11 day journey across the Atlantic Ocean, arriving in Glasgow, Scotland on 17 January 1945.  Again traveling by train, the crew finally arrived at their final duty station at Doepham Green.

After only a couple of weeks at Doepham Green, the Emmet crew flew their first mission on 15 February 1945.  The mission that day marked the 200th mission flown by the 452th Bomb Group.  435 B-17’s took off that Thursday to bomb the Cottbus oil refinery.  Despite the groups lead plane being shot down and their aircraft being hit by flak, the Emmet crew returned to base. There second mission to bomb the Hamm railroad marshaling yards resulted in being hit by flak again.  No one was injured.  Bad weather conditions the next couple of days cancelled many missions.  Emmet, Hoffman, Ewen and another pilot, Dick Quinton, were given a two day pass to London.  Staying at the Red Cross Club, the four celebrated Quinton’s 22nd birthday and hired a cab to see the sights of London. They returned to base about 10:30 on Tuesday night, 20 February.  They were awakened early the next morning at 3:00 AM and told to be ready for another mission.  After chow and a briefing, the B-17s of the 731st Bomber Squadron took off on their bombing mission.  The Emmet crew were now going on their third mission and in a third aircraft.  Joining the 1,661 other B-17s that left England that Wednesday, Emmet and crew were to bomb the Nurnberg rail hub and adjacent tank factory.  Shortly after take-off, one engine caught fire but after feathering the engine, they continued on.  Somewhere over France a second engine caught fire. Informing the lead plane of their troubles, Emmet was told to use his own judgment.  Emmet and crew managed to target Merseburg, just over the German border, drop their bombs and return to Doepham Green. Landing with one engine still on fire, the crew was forced to run for their lives away from the burning plane. Next day they would fly their fourth mission in a week and with a different plane.

On Thursday, 22 February 1945, Mission #206 was scheduled to bomb the region near Freilburg/Ulm, Germany.  This mission was part of the Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces “Operation Clarion.”  According to Bill Yenne’s book B-17 at War, “Operation Clarion – an integrated effort to shut down the already devastated German transportation and communications network by attacking network hubs that had not previously received much attention.  In a matter of two days, the Eighth launched a crushing 2,702 bomber sorties and 1,567 fighter sorties.  The former included 1,882 Flying Fortress sorties, with minimal losses from the exhausted German defenses.  The list of targets struck by the B-17s during those 48 hours was like an encyclopedia of largely ignored German Reichsbahn rail hubs, as well as a few familiar targets.”

That morning a group of 77 aircraft headed to Ulm to drop 323.5 tons of bombs. Pilot 2nd Lt. William T. Emmet II and his crew from the 731st Bomb Squadron were assigned to that mission. The 10-man crew that day included pilot Emmet, co-pilot 2nd Lt. William F. Hoffman, navigator F/O Clinton W. Ewen, bombardier Sgt. Warren L. Holt, engineer Sgt. Sidney Mason, radioman Sgt. George J. Benedict, ball-turret gunner Sgt. James E. Moss, waist gunner Sgt. Francis (Jerry) G. Adkins, tail gunner Sgt. Deane P. Clementson and radar man Staff Sgt. William M. Lorig.

Emmet, flying his fourth mission, was piloting a B-17G “Flying Fortress” with serial number 44-8015, nicknamed “Johnny Reb”.  This plane was a B-17G-45-VE Pathfinder model with advanced H2X radar technology and built by Lockheed Vega in the spring of 1944 at Burbank, CA.  According to the Individual Aircraft Record Card for 44-8015, the aircraft was delivered to the USAAF on 12 May 1944. It was first ferried to the Dallas Modification Center in Texas for about a month.  On to Langley AFF base in Virginia before departing from Dow Field, Bangor, ME on 14 July 1944. The aircraft arrived at Deopham Green airfield on 16 July 1944 and immediately put into service. An odd entry into the individual aircraft record card states that on 20 January 1945, the “Johnny Reb” was declared not airworthy and condemned to the salvage yard due to non-battle damage.  It is not clear what damage occurred to 44-8015.  However, the plane was patched up and available this day.

That morning the Emmet crew was flying the number three position in the low box of the formation.  Around noon and after being in the air about five hours, the plane began to have trouble. Late in the morning, the tail gunner’s intercom was not working properly.  Radio operator Benedict crawled back to see if he could repair the problem.  He returned to his station but was not wearing a parachute.

Before the aircraft made it to the target, it entered heavy white clouds and started to break in half. According to The Roll of Honor: St. Paul’s School in the Second World War: With visibility zero, Emmet, on the extreme left of the formation, steered still further to the left to prevent collision. Soon his plane was bucking and rolling in the “prop wash” of the plane immediately ahead and to the right, which had evidently also moved over to its left. Then there was a crash, not due to collision as the men for a moment thought, nor to enemy action. Overstrained, the B-17 had broken apart in the middle.

In a letter dated 16 August 1989, Jerry Adkins, the waist gunner, remembers what he experienced during the crash: We were descending from 25,000 feet and hit heavy white clouds at 19,000 feet, so thick that we couldn’t see the other planes in our formation.  At about 17,000 feet, I think we got in prop wash from the ship in front of us.  Our pilot had let the landing flaps down and throttled down to nearly stalling speed.  We broke in half.  The three of us were able to parachute to safety and the rest of the crew (7) were killed.

In another letter, Adkins gave other details of crash: We were quite close formation, and since we couldn’t see, our pilot was afraid he would chew the tail of the plane in front of us.  We started to vibrate from prop wash meaning we were pretty close.  In trying to turn up and left sharply, our plane broke in two in the middle, right between the ball and radio room bulk head.

The front end went down like a rock and our radio man was thrown out without a chute.  The ball gunner and myself bailed out and were captured right away.  The tail gunner and everybody in the front were killed in the crash.

Another eyewitness of the event was provided by Dick Quinton, also a pilot with the 731st Bomb Squadron and a good friend of co-pilot William F. Hoffman.  Quinton stated: Our group was led by a new man, Major William P. Middleton, a former cadet commandant from Thunderfield Field at Phoenix with no combat experience.  Man, what a struggle.  Still going in toward the target, we could see ahead towering cumulus clouds above us.  As new as we were we wanted to turn aside and get some more altitude, since we were still climbing to reach our assigned bombing altitude.  As new crews, we were both at the rear of the whole formation in coffin corner.  Bill (Hoffman) in #3 and myself #2 on our element lead ship.  Suddenly, the group lead ship made a sharp bank and turn to the left.  At the rear, we had to throttle back to keep from overrunning the ships in front of us. At this moment, we went into the cloud bank and zero visibility.  I could feel our heavy ship shuddering into a stall and we immediately poured on full emergency power and climbed back straight ahead to avoid all the mass of 36 loaded B-17s in front of us. I know Bill and Emmet had to stall out and roll over on their back and break in two.  Bill was a better pilot than Will Emmet, who was rather slow and measured in everything he did, especially in athletics, which we had done a lot of together for months.  Of course, we couldn’t see visually, but were so close to it that I know exactly how it happened.  We finally broke out on top and there were scattered airplanes everywhere.  We hooked onto a ship with a radar box showing and dropped our bombs when they dropped theirs.

Back at debriefing that evening, we all went through the debriefing procedure and Major Middleton caught hell from Col. Bernie Batson, our commanding officer, a West Point graduate, only 28 years of age, but a real sharp veteran.  I was at his office when Major Middleton came out and the man was actually crying, tears running down his dirty cheeks.  Of course, we only knew that Bill and Emmet didn’t make it back that night.  Bill and I had adjoining cots in the same Nissen hut and we shared everything.  By the 26th, on Monday, their crew was declared MIA.  On the 28th, I packed all of Bill’s personal effects and took them over to personnel effects office to be sent to Leavenworth, Kansas after a certain period of time.  It was a very emotional time for me and it was well that I had to fly almost every day as a new crew soon moved in (after) a few days.

In an interview later, one of the survivors considered their pilot one of the finest, not at all inclined to take chances, and said the co-pilot was steady as a rock.  He also mentioned that Ewen was a fine navigator.

Lorig and Benedict were thrown from the aircraft as it broke apart. The plane began to spin and Adkins and Moss were able to bail out.  All of the others on the crew were not able to bail out, trapped by centrifugal forces. As the aircraft was going down, three bombs came loose and exploded.  The aircraft crashed in an open field near Pfaffenhofen an der Roth, south of Ulm, Germany. The craters are still visible today.  Other parts of wreckage crashed near the present day street Zur Birkenalle.  About 50 years later, a local resident who lived on Hermann-Köhl-Straβe was digging at the edge of his garden and uncovered part of a propeller from the “Johnny Reb”.  Close by were found an aluminum plaque with English text from an oxygen tank and several rusted steel helmets.

One of the survivors had a Colt .45 revolver (possibly Lorig) and the airmen were able to stand off a crowd of angry civilians.  But finally German police arrived and took Lorig, Adkins and Moss prisoner. Adkins later said that police were shooting at his parachute as he descended and he found two holes in the ‘chute. An elderly lady resident of Pfaffenhofen recently remembered that “My father told me that there is something happening.” As was customary, she ran as a seven-year-old with other children to the crash site “It was a terrible sight.” The next day the girls saw the survivors.  The airmen stood at the site of a former gas station (where the post office is now located), waiting to be transported to a prison camp.

All three were sent to the German interrogation center at Dulag Luft-Oberrursel.  After about a week, the prisoners were sent by box car to Stalag 13d Nuremberg, then forced to march by foot for over 100 miles south on a ten day journey to Stalag VIIa-Moosburg.  They were finally liberated shortly after noon on 29 April 1945 by the Fourteenth Armored Division, part of General George S. Patton’s Third Army.  Patton was reported to have declared, “I bet you sons-of-bitches are glad to see me!”  The next day, the New York Times reported “Huge Prison Camp Liberated...27,000 American and British prisoners of war at a large camp at Moosburg.”  However the following day, the Times had to make a correction.  There were not 27,000 but 110,000 POWs, making it the largest camp in Germany.

The dead crewmen were initially buried in a local cemetery in Pfaffenhofen. A marker over the grave stated, “Here sleep seven American soldiers.”   The bodies were later moved to a small cemetery at Rentil, eight kilometers south of Ulm. Missing Air Crew Report 12657 was filed after the aircraft failed to return home to base. Discovered by advancing American troops on 8 June 1945, the bodies of the seven killed airmen were moved. Five were later interred at the Lorraine American Cemetery in Saint-Avold, France and two were sent home to be buried in their hometown.

 

 

Francis George "Jerry" Adkins

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Sgt. Francis George “Jerry” Adkins (37727471) was the waist gunner.  Adkins was born on 12 December 1919 in Sioux Falls, SD the son of Elmer Olsen Adkins ( ) and Mattie (Bernau) Adkins ( ). He graduated from high school and enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps on 23 November 1943 at Fort Leavenworth, KS. He received most of his training at Yuma, AZ.  He had married Mildred L. Uhrmacher on 6 June 1940.  Mildred lived at 415 Clay Street, Chillicothe, MO in 1945.

Adkins was on his fourth mission with the Emmet crew when the plane broke apart and he parachuted to the ground. In a 1945 newspaper article, Adkins related his experience that day: “I was in the waist, my regular position, and I was being thrown from side to side. I don’t exactly know why I did it, but maybe I sensed that something was going to happen, for I took off my heavy flying suit and grabbed my ‘chute.  When the ship broke I was near the edge with 17,000 feet between me and the ground.” He told the newspaper that he was so near a village that immediately he was captured by civilian police, who had shot at him as he was coming down and counted tow hole is his ‘chute when he landed.  He received a cut on his leg, but otherwise was not hurt.  After being captured he was sent to the German interrogation center at Dulag Luft-Oberrursel.  After this photo was taken, the prisoners were sent by box car to Stalag 13d Nuremberg, then forced to march by foot for over 100 miles south to Stalag 7a-Moosburg.  During his time in captivity, Adkins kept a daily diary of his experiences.  His detailed notes were written on toilet paper with a pencil.   He later said his treatment was “fair” but he did not have much to eat, comparing his shrunken stomach to the size of a baseball.  He lost 36 pounds. He was finally liberated on 29 April 1945 by the Fourteenth Armored Division part of General George S. Patton’s Third Army. After returning home, he transcribed his notes into a written diary.

In 1992, Adkins lived in Raytown, MO. He was a computer program analyst for Johnson County Community College.  Adkins died on 17 March 2001 in Raytown, MO and is buried in the Green Lawn Cemetery, Kansas City, MO.  He was a member and past commander of Heart of America Chapter of the American Ex-Prisoners of War, the 452nd Bomb Group Association, the Caterpillar Club, and the American Philatelic Society.

A memorial brick in his honor is part of the Wall of Valor at the Eighth Air Force Museum in Pooler, GA.

 

William Marx Lorig

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Staff Sgt. William Marx Lorig (37704470) was the radar jammer.   Lorig was born on 6 May 1925 in Durango County, CO, the son of Marx L. Lorig (  ) and Phillipene (Ebler) Lorig ( ) of Telluride, CO.  He graduated from Telluride High School and enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps at Santa Ana Army Air Base, CA on 11 January 1943. He earned a degree in electronics from Mesa College.

Lorig was a veteran with 19 missions when he was assigned to the Emmet crew that day.  He was not part of the original crew. After the plane broke apart, he parachuted to the ground.  After being captured he was sent to the German interrogation center at Dulag Luft-Oberrursel.  After this photo was taken, the prisoners were sent by box car to Stalag 13d Nuremberg, then forced to march by foot for over 100 miles south to Stalag 7a-Moosburg.  He was finally liberated on 29 April 1945 by the Fourteenth Armored Division part of General George S. Patton’s Third Army.

He stayed in the military and made a career in the U.S. Air Force.  He retired a senior master sergeant having served from 1943 until his retirement in July 1964. On 10 April 1952 in Rossville, GA, Lorig married Arzella “Lou” Walden. They had a daughter Ann. In a letter dated 4 March 2009, Arzella commented: “He gave us 36 years of love and devotion. I still miss him greatly.” 

Lorig died at age 63 on 11 May 1988 in Grand Junction, CO.

 

James Eugene William Moss

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Sgt. James Eugene William Moss (37708542) was the ball turret gunner.  Moss was born on 18 September 1922 in Denver, CO, the son of William James Moss (1900-1963) and Maybelle Anna (Woodard) Moss (1903-1985) of Rifle, CO. He graduated from high school and enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps on 13 February 1944 at Fort Logan, Denver, CO.  His wife was Evelyn M. Moss who also lived in Denver, CO. Moss was on his fourth mission with the Emmet crew when the plane broke apart and he parachuted to the ground.  After being captured he was sent to the German interrogation center at Dulag Luft-Oberrursel.  After this photo was taken, the prisoners were sent by box car to Stalag 13d Nuremberg, then forced to march by foot for over 100 miles south to Stalag 7a-Moosburg.  He was finally liberated on 29 April 1945 by the Fourteenth Armored Division part of General George S. Patton’s Third Army.

Moss died on 26 June 1975 in Denver, CO and is buried in the Fort Logan National Cemetery, Denver, CO in section Q, site 6740.

 

2nd Lt. William Temple Emmet II

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2nd Lt. William Temple Emmet II (O-832053) was born on 21 September 1920 in New York City, the oldest son of Richard Stockton Emmet (8 April 1897- 5 October 1969) and Helen Ladd (Pratt) Emmet (15 April 1899-     ). William’s younger sister was Jane (Emmet) Drake (1923-1970) and younger brother Richard Stockton Emmet (1 October 1924-27 July 2007).  William’s father, Richard S. Emmet was a senior partner in the New York law firm of Emmet, Marvin & Martin. He was among the last descendants of Thomas Addis Emmet (1764-1827) to work for the firm, ending 164 years of family involvement.  From 1920 to 1925, the firm was known as Emmet, Marvin and Roosevelt. Partner Franklin Delano Roosevelt would later become the 32nd President of the United States, the person responsible for prosecuting the war with Germany.

As a teenager, young Emmet traveled to Germany twice with his father aboard the S.S. Bremen for vacation.  The following year in September 1937 William traveled alone to Germany aboard the S.S. Europa.  Both times he set sail from Bremen, Germany and returned home to New York.

Emmet attended St. Paul’s School in Concord, NH for five years, graduating in 1938 when he was just 17 years-old. He then went on to Harvard and graduated in January 1942.   After a short term at the Harvard Business School, Emmet joined the U.S. Army Air Corps.  He was assigned service number O-832053 and received his wings in May 1944.

Emmet was married in January 1942 to Eleanor Motley, daughter of John Lothrop Motley (1879-1959) and Nancy Elizabeth (Barton) Motley (1892-1986).  Eleanor was born on 3 February 1921 in Boston, MA.  They had a daughter Kathleen born on 19 December 1942.  After her husband’s death, Eleanor remarried about 1949 to Richard W. Lee.

Emmet was a Second Lieutenant and assigned as a B-17 pilot with the 731st Bomb Squadron, 452nd Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force. In January 1945, he flew to England to be stationed at the Deopham Green airfield near the village of Attleborough in the forested and heathland area of Norfolk.

In England barely a month, Emmet was quickly assigned to several combat missions.  According to an alumni association book The Roll of Honor: St. Paul’s School in the Second World War edited by John B. Edmonds in 1950, Emmet’s first combat mission … took 14 hours.  His plane was hit by flak and the lead plane of his flight was shot down.  On his second mission his plane was again hit by flak.  On this third, just after he left England, one of his engines caught fire, and another began burning on the way across France.  Told to use his own judgment, he went on to Merseburg, just over the German border, bombed a target there, got back to England and landed with one of his engines still on fire.

Emmet died at age 24 on 22 February 1945 and was interred at Plot D, Row 42, Grave 13. Emmet was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.

2nd Lt. William F. Hoffman

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2nd Lt. William F. Hoffman (O-778471) was born on 7 July 1923 in Cranbury, NJ the middle child of William Cole Hoffman (1892-1983) and Sara (Perrine) Hoffman (1896-1995). After elementary school education in Cranbury, he was graduated from Hightstown High School, where he participated in soccer and basketball. Hoffman attended Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA to study engineering.  While in his sophomore year, Hoffman volunteered in the Army Air Corps Reserve in February 1943.  He had been a member of the varsity soccer team and was elected to the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.  He received his wings and commission at Stockton Field, CA in May 1944.  He went to England in early January 1945 with the rest of the Emmet crew.  Hoffman was on his fourth mission with the Emmet crew and died at age 21 on 22 February 1945. He is listed on page 128 of the Lehigh Epitome yearbook, 1945 as “missing in action since 22 February 1945.” Hoffman was interred in the Lorraine American Cemetery in Saint-Avold, France at Plot D, Row 42, Grave 12. His parents also erected a memorial to their son in the Brainerd Cemetery, Cranbury, NJ where they are also buried. He was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Cranbury.  His obituary in the local newspaper stated: “Another one of Cranbury’s finest young men had made the supreme sacrifice.  The terrific strain of the news, first that he was missing in action then to be followed by the news of his death, has stunned not only his family but the entire community.

“Billy” Hoffman was one fine boy, a promising young man with a host of friends. The sorrow caused by his death is lessened a trifle by the fact that he wanted to do his part well in making this a safe and peaceful world in which to live.  The deepest sympathy of the community goes out all the members of his family.”

A memorial brick in his honor is part of the Wall of Valor at the Eighth Air Force Museum in Pooler, GA.

F/O Clinton Wesley Ewen

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F/O Clinton Wesley Ewen (T-133928) was born on 7 April 1923 at the ranch home on Beaver Creek, near Shell, WY, the youngest son of Frank Adams Ewen (1876-1956) and Mary (Birmingham) Ewen (1891-1970). His family nickname was “Benny.”  He received his early education in the rural school near his home, going to Greybull for eighth grade and part of high school.  In June 1942, he graduated from St. John’s Military Academy at Delafield, WI.  He enrolled at Los Angeles City College in January for the 1943 Session of the Wyoming State Legislature where he served as reading clerk in the House of Representatives, of which his uncle, Clarke Gapen, was a member.  Shortly after the close of the session he was inducted into the Army at Fort Logan, CO, on 14 April 1943, just seven days after his 20th birthday. After training in Utah and California, Ewen graduated from Navigation School at Hondo, TX on 21 August 1944 with rank of Flight Officer. Ewen’s last letter home was dated 21 February and was an unusually long one describing in detail his weekend in London.  The trip was made with Lts. Emmet, Hoffman and others with whom they shared a Nissen hut on base.  Ewen wrote home that they had a fine time and were eager to go back to see more of the city.  The next day he was flying his fourth mission with the Emmet crew. He died at age 21 on 22 February 1945. Ewen was interred at the Lorraine American Cemetery in Saint-Avold, France at Plot D, Row 42, Grave 9. 

Above is a photo of the gravestone of his mother and a plaque in memory of her son, located in the Donald J. Ruhl Memorial Cemetery, Greybull, WY, block 10, lot 93.

 

Sgt. Warren L. Holt

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Sgt. Warren L. Holt (37531736) was born in 2 September 1924 in Kansas City, MO to Charles Holt (1894-   ).  He was raised by his grandparents William M. Holt (1871-1945) and Georgian Holt (1874-1957). He attended Argentine High School in Kansas City and worked at the Simmons Company before he entered the Army.   He was on his fourth mission with the Emmet crew when he died at age 21 on 22 February 1945. Holt was initially buried in a local cemetery in Pfaffenhofen, Germany.  His body was later brought home and interred in block #15 at the Maple Hill Cemetery, Kansas City, Kansas.

Sgt. Sidney Mason

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Sgt. Sidney Mason (19151801) was born on 16 July 1913 in Toronto, Canada to John Edgar Mason (1875-1951) and Margie O. (Bennett) Mason (1887-1946). In 1930, he lived with his parents in San Diego.  In the 1939 and 1944 Coronado City directory, Sidney was listed as living at 405 I Avenue with his parents John and Margie Mason. Sidney’s occupation in 1939 was listed as a motion picture operator but his 1944 occupation was U.S. Army. He married Ruth May Roberts (1915-1997) and they had a daughter Carol who was born on 18 November 1936 in Coronado, CA.  In 2007, Carol (Mason) Ledford wrote a book Miraculous Interventions in Life.  She described her father on page 27: “When my father was shot down in Germany and died, my paternal Grandmother [Margie (Bennett) Mason (1887-1946)] grieved so much that she had a stroke and soon died.  She lived her life for her son and she just gave up her will.  She died October 26, 1946 and is buried at New Hope Cemetery in San Diego, California. . . . .

            My father had a hobby of making miniature trains out of balsa wood.  He would carve them and get them to run on a large model “village” with train tracks.  The “village” took up his entire bedroom.  He was a Charter Member of the First Model Train Club in San Diego.  His best friend, Ray Fife, was in that club also. When I was older I found Ray’s name and wrote to him.  He wrote back and told me that when my father died his collection was donated to the Ford Foundation and I believe it was integrated in with other miniatures and is now on display at the San Diego Zoo Exhibits buildings.

            My father’s pilot training led him to owing his own plane.  He gave flying lessons to beginners in the flight world.  He was serving his country by being a Tail Gunner over Western Germany in World War II when he died. He is buried in the United States Military Cemetery in St. Avold, France plot T, row B grave 2741.  My father loved to fly and had his own little Piper plane.  He also had a boat and belonged to the Coronado Yacht Club.  His boat was named “Gypsy.”  Oh, how I wish I had known him, but God always has a perfect plan!

Mason was on his fourth mission with the Emmet crew.  He died at age 31 on 22 February 1945 and was initially buried in a local cemetery in Pfaffenhofen, Germany.  He later was interred at the Lorraine American Cemetery at Saint Avold, France at Plot D, Row 42, Grave 11.

Sgt. George Leslie Benedict

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Sgt. George Leslie (Benny) Benedict (37485642) was born on 16 September 1921 in Mills County, IA the first of eight children born to Fenton Eber Benedict (1898-1986) and Clara Elvina (Lee) Benedict (1905-1997). He graduated from Hastings High School in 1938.  In a series of letters published in the Malvern (IA) Leader newspaper, Benedict tells of his training and preparation for assignment to a B-17 crew.  In early 1944, he went to radio operator mechanic school in Sioux Falls, SD.  In June 1944, he was assigned for two months of gunnery school at the Yuma Army Airfield, AZ.  He commented on how hot it was in the Arizona desert.  He was then transferred to Biggs Field near El Paso, TX for overseas training.  In November 1944, Benedict married 17 year-old Twyla Lee Carter in El Paso, TX.  Finally in January 1945, he was assigned to the Emmet combat crew at Lincoln Army Airfield, NE.  Benedict was on his fourth mission with the Emmet crew when he died at age 23 on 22 February 1945.  He was awarded the Purple Heart for his service. After initially being buried in the local cemetery in Pfaffenhofen, Germany, his body was later sent back to America and buried in the Hastings Cemetery, Hastings, IA.  His mother was later buried beside him.

Sgt. Deane Paine Clementson

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Sgt. Deane P. Clementson (39140901) was born on 4 May 1925 in Erskine, Minnesota to Oscar E. Clementson (1902-1982) and Margurite Grace (Paine) Clementson (1906-1993). Clementson attended Palo Alto High School for two years and his name is listed on a memorial plaque.  In the shadow of Palo Alto High School's campanile, a bronze plaque set in concrete sits between two rosemary bushes near the center quad. A bronze bald eagle seems to soar from the plaque's surface, and beneath it are the words "This plaque is dedicated as a memorial to those students of Palo Alto High School who gave their lives while serving their country in World War II."  Clementson enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps on 25 September 1943 in San Francisco, CA.  In 1944, he was living at 133 Hutchinson Avenue in Palo Alto, CA with his parents.  Clementson and his wife, Elizabeth (Talcott) Clementson are shown in photo taken in December 1944 two months after they were married.

Clementson was on his fourth mission with the Emmet crew when he died at age 19 on 22 February 1945.  He was buried in the Lorraine American Cemetery at Saint Avold, France at Plot D, Row 42, Grave 10.

IN SEARCH OF THE GOLDEN RING

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I have been researching my family’s roots for over 40 years, but never have I found anything like what I found in late 2007 in the National Archives II at College Park, Maryland.  I was searching for an ancestor I believed had been a prisoner-of-war (POW) in Germany during World War II. This search led me to Record Group 389 and several boxes of old papers and photographs. Hidden at the bottom of one box, was an old, yellowed envelope which contained 175 wallet sized, sepia-toned photographs of soldiers. The photos were all stuck together and curled from age. The only identification was a number across the bottom of the photograph. After reviewing the many photographs, I thought to myself “I could figure out who these guys are.” Most of the photos had numbers that began with 3, some began with 1 and many began with the letter O. Later I learned that the number 3 was for men drafted into the Army, O for officers and 1 for those that volunteered for military service.

The archives staff allowed me to make digital copies of the old photographs and I saved them to my memory stick. When I returned home, I began what would become a three year research project to discover the names of these soldiers who had served our county during World War II more than 65 years earlier. They appeared to be POW photos and my first search was at www.archives.gov and the AAD, Access to Archival Databases. A search of the World War II Prisoners of War Data File, 1941-1946 allowed me to enter the serial numbers from the photographs. Information resulting from the search revealed the name, grade, state of residence, type of organization, parent unit, detaining power and latest report date. After several searches, it became clear that these 175 photographs were of airmen serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps in the European theatre of operations.

I constructed a database file to keep track of all the information that I was soon discovering. Not all the numbers searched resulted in a positive match. I soon determined that although I had discovered 175 photos, there were only 171 different airmen. I now had many names, some unit numbers and the understanding that all of these men were reported missing in the early months of 1945.

 While using Google search to look for names and numbers of these airmen, a web site called footnotes.com kept coming up in the search results.  Footnotes.com, now called fold3.com, had complete digital images of Missing Air Crew Reports that were made when an aircraft did not return to base.  These digital images provided a wealth of information about the airmen, their units, the bombing missions and their next of kin.

While searching one Missing Air Crew Report, I discovered the image that I wanted to read was blurred and unreadable.  I contacted footnotes.com to see if they could adjust the image. They determined that they did not have a better image but referred me to a researcher in the Netherlands who might be able to help. After contacting Teunis Schuurman, an historian and fold3 member in the Netherlands, Tenunis was able to help with the identity of airmen from England, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and even one pilot from Poland.

With this new information, I discovered that the airmen in these photographs were the pilots and crewmembers of B-17 Flying Fortress', B-24 Liberators, B-26 Marauders, P-51 Mustangs and other aircraft were shot down over Germany during February and March of 1945. A clearer understanding of the identity of these men was starting to emerge. Conducting a search of database of USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF aircraft serial numbers from 1908 to the present, I gathered more information as to the squadrons and the aircraft that these POWs were flying before being were shot down. With names, birthdates and hometowns, I researched the Social Security death index database at Ancestry.com.

A Google search of bomb groups, aircraft serial numbers and individual names also helped in finding specific information about the men. After corresponding with sources in Canada, England, Australia, Netherlands, South Africa and Germany, I was able to put a name to each one of the photographs.

Most have since passed away, but I was able to determine about forty airmen are still living. I have corresponded, talked with or meet over thirty of these veterans of World War II. Most had never seen their own photograph. The photos that I found were taken at the German interrogation center at Dulag Luft - Oberursel within hours or days of their capture in Germany, Austria and Italy. The airmen were sent by box car to Stalag 13d Numberg, then forced to march by foot for 100 miles in winter south to Stalag 7a – Moosburg. Here they were liberated on 29 April 1945 by elements of the Fourteen Armored Division, part of General George S. Patton's Third Army. All the veterans whom I have contacted were truly surprised and thankful to receive a copy of their photograph after six decades!

After researching and finding the obituaries for the veterans that have passed away, I have been able to contact the family members and share the photographs and information collected about the experiences and events that led up to their capture as a POW and their time spent in prison. All have been extremely appreciative. It has been very rewarding to share what I have discovered about these veterans.

In the summer of 2011, footnotes.com became fold3.com, a website devoted to original documents related to the military.  I met the folks from fold3.com at a genealogy conference in Springfield, IL.  They suggested I create a memorial page at fold3.com for each crash that would include links to the Missing Air Crew Reports, photos and a biography of each airman.  I began to create a memorial page for each of the 92 crashes that I had researched.  All the information would now be searchable on the internet.

On 13 October 2011, I received an email from Ralf Kull from Germany.  He had been researching and found the memorial page I had created.  His message read in part:

 

In Pfaffenhofen, a small town not far from Um, people are looking for survivors of the shoot down of the Flying Fortress B17 in February 1945.  By this aviation were killed 7 members of the crew and the further 3 were prisoner of the war.  Some people intend to build a memorial for the crashed Aircraft crew and further they are trying to find more information of the aviation of the B17.  The Date of the official memorial was the 04.11.2011 here in Pfaffenhofen.

If you could help me it would be very nice.

With best regards.                    Ralf Kull

 

I was able to provide Ralf all the information and photos of the three POWs from the 22 February 1945 crash of B-17 #44-8015 from the 452nd Bomb Group, Eighth Air Force.  I had photos and biographical information about Sgt. Francis G. Adkins, Sgt. James E. Moss and Staff Sgt. William M. Lorig.  All three had since passed away but I had been in contact with the widow of Staff Sgt. Lorig.

            Ralf Kull, Ulrich Seitz and others did dedicate a memorial honoring the American airmen who lost their lives or became prisoners-of-war in their town during World War II.  On a chilly fall afternoon, the dedication of the Reconciliation over the Graves memorial took place on 4 November 2011 near the crash site.  The Bürgemeister or mayor, eye-witnesses of the crash, an American Air Force pilot, clergy and citizens of Pfaffenhofen all attended the ceremony.  Several newspaper articles were written about the dedication and research conducted by Ralf Kull about the crash of the B-17.

            About three months later in late January 2012, I received another email from Ralf.  He stated “We must try to find the relatives of the pilots William T. Emmet.  The crash of the B-17 “Johnny Reb” was a “Golden Ring” out of the pilot.  This ring is here again and he should definitely return to America! Please register with me how we can make it.”

            After the newspaper accounts of the dedication of the memorial, the grandchildren of the individual who took a ring from the crash of the B-17 came forward and expressed his wish that the ring be returned to its rightful owner.  When this individual passed away, the family revealed the story that the ring belonged to the pilot.

            I began a search for information about the seven crewmen who were killed in the crash.  Because the Germans believed the ring belonged to the pilot, I started gathering information about 2nd Lt. William Temple Emmet, II.  I was able contact relatives of Emmet, including his daughter, but they all discounted that the ring belonged to Emmet.  I researched all the other crewmembers and the result of search is this report.  I was successful in corresponding with wives, daughters, brothers-in-law, nephews and other relatives of most of the airmen.  None seemed to think that the ring belonged to their loved one.

            Then I finally discovered a 1944 photograph of Sgt. George J. Benedict wearing two rings, one on each hand.  Shortly before the crash occurred, Benedict as radioman was called to the back of the aircraft to repair a broken intercom.  To squeeze back through the B-17 loaded with bombs, Benedict had to remove his parachute.  At the time of the crash, Benedict was not wearing a parachute and his body fell away from the aircraft.  Six crewmen were trapped in plane by centrifugal forces and died. 

            With the photo of Benedict wearing rings and the fact that only his body was separate from the crash site, a civilian could easily approach the dead American and take the ring.  Relatives of Benedict, including his widow, seemed to think the ring did indeed belong to Benedict.

            After contacting members of the Benedict family, I discovered that Jeff and Shirley Miller, already had tickets to go visit relatives in Germany.  Shirley’s mother was born in Germany and Jeff and Shirley were going to visit cousins.  An arrangement was made for Jeff and Shirley to meet with Ralf Kull and Ulrich Seitz in Pfaffenhofen. On 16 June 2012, the ring of George Benedict was returned to his American family members after 67 years!

On 27 June 2012, I was able to travel to Hastings, IA to meet Shirley and Jeff Miller and see the ring for myself.

 

Written by J. Kurt Spence

Event Details

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Liberation from Stalag VIIa Moosburg:
29 Apr 1945 1
452nd Bomb Group:
731st Bomb Squadron 1

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