Benthe, near Hannover, Germany
Information on his final flight has recently been made available from Dirk Hartmann, of Hülsede, a very small village in Northern Germany, 50 Kilometres south-west of Hannover City in Lower Saxony. Since 1985 he has been investigating Aircraft Losses from WWII in the vicinity.
Recently he investigated the B-24 J Liberator 42-50628 which was lost on March 3, 1945 near Hannover close to the small town on Benthe. The date was given incorrectly in the reports from the Red Cross as February 3, 1945.
Dirk Hartmann then found the 26 page Datasheet from a Flak Unit in North Germany with the note that on March 3, 1945 a B-24 Liberator was shot down at 12:15 local time over Benthe. He had the MACR (Missing Air Crew Report).
The sheet shows also that the plane was burning in the air and exploded after some hits from a Flak Unit in Ronnenberg, near Hannover. This was the first “proof” that the story Dirk had heard as a child was true. Even the story that three of the crew had bailed out and were captured was true. Paul Earl Colby was not one of them. Seymour Weisman, Mickey Schleicher and John Coradetti survived. William Lozowski was the captain and he was killed when his parachute failed to open; as did Frank Glut’s and Anthony Morulli’s. Paul was the Radio Operator and was found in the tail section of the burnt plane along with Cornelius Carter and James Segar.
After speaking with some people in Benthe it was apparent that the exact place of the crash wasn’t in Benthe but more to the west, in the next village, Everloh. The current owner of the farm said that his wife, who is 82 years old, knows what happened that day.
Frau Seeßelberg was 14 years old that day when the Liberator was coming down over her parents’ farm. They were sitting in the kitchen having dinner. They heard the sound of a single aircraft which became louder and louder. The mother of Frau Seeßelberg was shouting that they would attack the farm; but after leaving the house they saw that a big bomber was burning in the air and flew twice over the village of Everloh. Then the bomber exploded in the air and some parts fell down on the Farm. Frau Seeßelberg said that right after the crash it was not possible to go over there because the wreckage was burning and ammunition was exploding all around. Later, when the fire stopped, they went to the crash site which was only 150 to 200 Metres from their farm house in a field opposite. She remembered that some of the dead crewmembers were among the wreckage and others at a distance in the mud of the field.
After recovering the dead Flyers, they were brought to the cemetery of Benthe and buried there. Later, the bodies were relocated to Belgium until the families could make arrangements to bring the bodied of their loved ones home.
Sergeant Paul Earl Colby returned home on June 2, 1949.