13.09.1944 849th Bomb Squadron (H) B-17G 43-43-38128 ‘Bombo’ 1st.Lt. Robert W. Funk
Operation: Ludwigshafen, IG Farben Industries (Mission #628), Germany
Date: 13th September 1944 (Wednesday)
Unit: 490th Bombardment Group (H), 849th Bomber Squadron (H), 3rd Air Division, 8th Air Force
Type: B-17G Bombo
Serial No: 43-38128
Location: Fürth, 4 miles east of Ottweiler, Germany
Base: Eye (Station #134), Suffolk, England
Pilot: 1st.Lt. Robert W. Funk O-761922 AAF Age? PoW *
Co-Pilot: 2nd.Lt. Frank R. Hedeen O-768090 AAF Age 20. Survived (1)
Navigator: 2nd.Lt. Allan P. Quinn O-708554 AAF Age? PoW *
Bombardier: 2nd.Lt. Rae A. Stokes O-76586 AAF Age 19. PoW *
Radio/Op: S/Sgt. Stephen J. Andrews 32756036 AAF Age? Survived (2)
Engineer: S/Sgt. Thomas Dobson 32773302 AAF Age? PoW **
Ball Turret: Sgt. Robert G. Lawrence 38564389 AAF Age? PoW **
Waist Gunner: Sgt. Robert N. Lincoln 37622618 AAF Age 19. Killed (3)
Tail Gunner: Sgt. Charlie Jennings Fowlkes Jr.33525012 AAF Age 21. Killed (4)
One of the two Waist Gunners were removed from crew complements starting on the 7th June 1944 and then both from 23rd February 1945.
* Stalag Luft 1 Barth-Vogelsang, today situated in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany.
** Stalag Luft 4 Gross-Tychow, Pomerania, Prussia now Tychowo, Poland (Moved from Stalag Luft 6 Heydekrug. Moved to Wöbbelin near Ludwigslust and then to Usedom near Swinemünde).
REASON FOR LOSS:
On the morning of the 13th September 1944 B-17G 43-38128 Bombo took off from Eye to join a force of 74 bombers on a mission to bomb the IG Farben Industries oil refinery at Ludwigshafen, Germany.
Just after dropping its bombs the aircraft was hit by flak which burst between the nose and the starboard engine. The lead aircraft for the 490th BG was a PFF (Path Finder Force) aircraft from the 96th BG which was hit at the same time. Both aircraft lost about 5000 ft and dropped out of formation. 1st.Lt. Funk decided to try and reach France but when the aircraft became uncontrollable he ordered the crew to bail out.
The 96th BG PFF aircraft was from the 413rd Bomb Squadron. B-17G 42-97993 which crashed 11 km SE of Saarbrücken, the crew of 10 all bailed out and became PoWs.
2nd.Lt. Quinn and 2nd.Lt. Stokes landed near Börsborn some 12 km east of the crash site. 2nd.Lt. Hedeen was uninjured and seen to bail out from the nose escape hatch and his parachute open. Nothing more was seen or heard of him.
Sgt. Fowlkes was uninjured and was last seen by Sgt. Lawrence. He spoke with Sgt. Fowlkes just before they bailed out together and saw his parachute open.
S/Sgt. Andrews was hit by shrapnel in the knee and the head and was in shock. He was thrown out of the rear escape hatch by Sgt. Lawrence and S/Sgt. Dobson near St. Wendel some 11 km west of the crash site, and they saw his parachute open. Nothing more was seen or heard of him.
German records report that the aircraft crashed near Fürth (Fürth im Ostertal) 6½ km east of Ottweiler at 11:00 hrs and was almost totally destroyed.
(1) The entry for the B-17G 43-38128 Bombo in the “Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Force Volume 4” (Stan D. Bishop and John A. Hey, MBE) reports that 2nd.Lt. Hedeen landed near Altenkirchen and was captured by soldiers of the 2nd SS Armoured Division “Das Reich” who shot him in the afternoon that day. He was buried in the Altenkirchen cemetery.
The Altenkirchen in question is some 7 km east of the location where the aircraft crashed.
After the war exhaustive investigations were carried out to find those responsible but they could not be traced.
(2) The circumstances of S/Sgt. Andrews’ death were unknown until a General Military Government Court was convened at Dachau, Germany during the 2nd and 3rd April 1947.
Two German nationals were charged in that they did, at or near Fürth, Germany, on or about the 13th September 1944, wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid, abet and participating in the killing of a member of the United States Army, believed to be Stephen J. Andrews ASN 32756036, who was then and there a surrendered and unarmed PoW in the custody of the then German Reich.
The two accused were an Otto Robert Peschke who was a former Wehrmacht Unteroffizier (Cpl) and later a Unterfeldwebel (Sgt.) and a Josef ‘Sepp’ Heinrich Schmitz who was a former Wehrmacht Leutnant (2nd.Lt.).
The court acquitted Schmitz of the charge as there was no evidence of him being involved in the murder of the airman.
They were members of No.1 Section of the 102nd Artillerie-Regiment of the Wehrmacht which was stationed at Fürth, Germany, under the command of a Leutnant (2nd.Lt.) Jacques (his name was variously recorded as Jaques and Schaak).
The 102nd Artillerie-Regiment was an armoured unit and part of the XLVII Panzer Corps, 9th Panzer Division. The division was all but destroyed in the fighting and the escape from the Falaise Pocket. In late August 1944 it had lost 2/3rds of its strength and over the next two months it was rehabilitated and held in reserve.
The court heard that on the 13th September 1944, a member of the United States Army Air Corps had been captured by members of the Wehrmacht in the vicinity of Fürth, Germany. In the presence of Schmitz and Peschke and several other soldiers the airman was interrogated by Jacques.
Jacques then ordered Peschke, in the presence of the soldiers and a number of civilians, to take the airman away and shoot him. Peschke and three other soldiers protested that an existing order from higher authority directed that prisoners be delivered to divisional headquarters. Jacques, however, repeated his order to Peschke citing the reason as being the lack of fuel for transport, who then unwillingly obeyed and along with two other soldiers led the airman away.
Peschke, armed with a machine pistol walked directly behind the airman with the two other soldiers, both of whom were unarmed, and escorted the airman down a road. After the group had walked some distance Peschke shot the airman in the back with a burst of fire from his machine pistol. After the airman had fallen Peschke then fired two more bursts into the airman’s head. The shooting occurred at about noon. The airman’s body was buried a short distance away from the scene of the shooting, near a road and under a cherry tree. Three days later the body was removed by the local citizens and buried in the local cemetery at Breitenbach.
The court found Peschke guilty of the charge but took into consideration the consequences he would have faced had he disobeyed the order even though it was illegal. Therefore the court imposed a life sentence instead of the death penalty. The life sentence was later reduced to 20 years and he was paroled in February 1954.
Jacques was not before the court to answer for his part in the murder as it was reported that he had died some time after the 13th September 1944.
(3) After the aircraft was hit Sgt. Lincoln kept up a running commentary of the condition of the wings which were on fire and appeared to be calm and uninjured to those that saw him. He was last seen putting on his harness whilst standing near the top turret. After everyone had left the aircraft 1st.Lt. Funk vacated the pilot’s seat and saw Sgt. Lincoln taking off his harness. 1st.Lt. Funk shouted at him to put in back on and leave the aircraft but it appeared that Sgt. Lincoln was petrified from the thought of bailing out.
He did not appear to notice 1st.Lt. Funk but obeyed mechanically. 1st.Lt. Funk waited until the very last moment before he had to bail out and attempted to pull Sgt. Lincoln out with him. In 1st.Lt. Funk’s opinion Sgt. Lincoln was still aboard the aircraft when it crashed. He himself bailed out at about 2,000 ft and as he left the starboard wing was blown off. The rest of the aircraft exploded when it hit the ground. Nothing was seen of Sgt. Lincoln or heard of afterwards.
What remained of Sgt. Lincoln found by the Germans was probably buried at the crash site.
Klaus Zimmer’s research (Ref 1) established that the site had been excavated in November 1996 and again in March 1997 and that Sgt. Lincoln's “dog tags” and remnants of bone were recovered. His remains were repatriated and reburied at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery on the 30th June 2000 in the presence of his sister.
(4) Klaus Zimmer’s research (Ref 1) established that Sgt. Fowlkes’ dead body was found on the ground in a meadow without his parachute and in a condition suggesting an impact with great force. An empty parachute was found some 1¾ miles away. Eyewitnesses claimed to have watched as the detached starboard wing and the parachuting airman collided in mid-air which severed his parachute lines. He was buried on the same day in the Fürth Cemetery by German soldiers.
2nd.Lt. Frank Roy Hedeen. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Lorraine American Cemetery, Block ZZZ, Row 3, Grave 33. Relocated to Plot E, Row 10, Grave 2. Born on the 6th February 1924 in Chicago. Son of Mr. Ed Hedeen of Cook County, Chicago, Illinois and husband to Mrs. Margaret Hedeen of Wasco, California, USA.
S/Sgt. Stephen J. Andrews. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Lorraine American Cemetery, Block K, Row 14, Grave 25. Relocated to Plot K, Row 14, Grave 25. Nephew to Mrs. Mary Horfath of Woodridge, New Jersey, USA.
Above: Sgt. Lincoln. (Credit: Anonymous FindAGrave)
Sgt. Robert N. Lincoln. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Remembered on the Tablets of the Missing, Lorraine American Cemetery. Remains recovered and interred at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Lemay, St. Louis County, Missouri, Section 84, Grave 193. Born on the 12th June 1925. Son to Mrs. Ethel E. Lincoln of St. Louis County, Missouri, USA.
A rosette has been placed next to his name on the Tablets of the Missing which marks that he now rests in a known gravesite.
Sgt. Charlie Jennings Fowlkes Jr. Repatriated and buried at the Providence Baptist Church Cemetery, Providence, Caswell County, North Carolina. Born on the 12th October 1922. Son of Charlie Jennings and Grace (née Pearson) Fowlkes of Danville, Caswell, Virginia, USA.
Researched by Traugott Vitz and Ralph Snape for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with additional thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’.
1. Klaus Zimmer, Die Fliegende Festung "Bombo" des amerikanischen Piloten Robert W. Funk. Abgestürzt am 13. September 1944 bei Fürth, Westricher Heimatblätter, April 1997, p. 51-77