10.04.1945 358th Bomb Squadron (H) B-17G 44-8427 'Henn’s Revenge', 1st Lt. Robert 'Boss' Murray
Operation: Oranienburg (Mission #938), Germany
Date: 10th April 1945 (Tuesday)
Unit: 303rd Bombardment Group (H), 358th Bombardment Squadron (H), 1st Air Division, 8th Air Force
Type: B-17G Henn’s Revenge
Serial No: 44-8427
Location: Grabowsee, 20 km NE of the target
Base: Molesworth (Station #107), Huntingdonshire, England
Pilot: 1st Lt. Robert 'Boss' I. Murray O-821336 AAF Age? Killed
Co Pilot: 2nd Lt. Lawrence L. Fries Jr. O-2062170 AAF Age 22. Killed
Navigator: FO. Harold S. Smith T-129758 AAF Age 20. Killed
Bombardier: T/Sgt. Carl O. Hammarlund 36296564 AAF Age 20. Survived (1)
Radio/Op: T/Sgt. Theodore A. Bates 33619466 AAF Age 21. Killed
Engineer: T/Sgt. Vito J. Brunale 12220844 AAF Age? PoW - unknown camp
Ball Turret: Sgt. Nicholas Rodock 33609025 AAF Age 22. Killed
Tail: Sgt. Robert P. Rennie 33609175 AAF Age 20. Killed
Spot Jammer: S/Sgt. Gerald Von Atkinson 34814970 AAF Age 21. Killed
One of the two Waist gunners was removed from crew complements starting on the 7th June 1944 and then both from 23rd February 1945.
Note: The aircraft was named Henn’s Revenge in honour of the tail gunner Sgt. Thomas Henn, who had been severely injured by flak in January 1945.
Note: Radar jamming equipment designed to disrupt German radar directed anti-aircraft systems. It typically comprised a receiver to detect a radar frequency and three transmitters to jam the frequency detected.
REASON FOR LOSS:
On the morning of the 10th April 1945 the Henn’s Revenge took off from Molesworth on a mission to bomb the ordnance and equipment deport at Oranienburg in Germany. After departing the target area the 303rd BG came under attack from a number of German fighter aircraft.
After action reports described that the formation and Henn’s Revenge was being persistently attacked from the rear by German Me-262 jet fighters resulting in the wing bursting into flames between #3 & #4 engines. The aircraft held course momentarily before nosing up slightly and then sliding over and down to the starboard and through the formation seemingly out of control. No parachutes were seen to leave the aircraft
Oberleutnant (1st Lt) Walter Schuck, Staffelkapitän (Sqn Commander) of III./JG-7 flying Me-262, Yellow 1, claimed shooting down the Henn’s Revenge.
“I hit the next B-17 between the two starboard engines. As it tiredly lifted one wing prior to going down, I thought I caught a glimpse of a name written on the exposed nose section: ‘Henn’s Revenge’. With the mortally wounded bomber practically filling my windscreen, I had to break upwards to avoid colliding with it.” (Reference: The Me 262 Stormbird by Colin D. Heaton and Anne-Marie Lewis: p160)
Henn’s Revenge exploded at about 2000ft and broke up into two main parts which came down in the Grabowsee, between Oranienburg and Liebenwalde some 20 km NE of the target and about 27 km NNW of Berlin. A wing and its engines fell into the northern part of the lake and the tail and part of the fuselage fell into the southern part of the lake. The wreckage could be seen 15 to 46 metres from the shore. (303rd Bombardment Group mission report)
The bodies of T/Sgt. Bates and Sgt. Rodock were recovered by the Germans from the tail section of the aircraft. Sgt. Rennie’s body was later washed ashore. The three airmen were initially buried in the cemetery at Groß Schönebeck. (Ref 1)
The remains of 2nd Lt. Fries Jr. were discovered in August 1951 partially buried on the NE shore of the Grabowsee. The circumstance of his death have not been established. His remains were taken to the Griesheim (Frankfurt am Main) Mausoleum in Germany and later repatriated to the USA at the request of his family. (Ref 1)
The bodies of 1st Lt. Murray and FO. Smith have never been recovered and are believed to be located in part of the aircraft wreckage which remains in the Grabowsee. (Ref 1)
S/Sgt. Brunale successfully parachuted from the aircraft, was captured and became a PoW.
(1) T/Sgt. Hammarlund successfully bailed out of the aircraft and landed near Emilienfelde some 3 km north of Liebenwalde. After leaving the area he came across a German Fallschirmjäger (Paratrooper) using the latrine at a nearby farm and held him at gunpoint. Whilst covering him with his side arm he ordered the paratrooper to remove his trousers, jacket and boots. In the process of removing his own flight suit and donning the German uniform the paratrooper managed to escape. (Ref 1)
T/Sgt. Hammarlund was then pursued by a German patrol and captured. A German Unterfeldwebel (Sgt) and Feldwebel (S/Sgt) were then ordered to escort the airman to the Luftwaffe Nachtjagdgruppe 10 (NJGr.10) (Night fighter group) headquarters at Kreuzbruch (Liebenwalde). They departed under the cover of night and en route the German NCOs shot and killed T/Sgt. Hammarlund claiming that the airman had attempted to escape. He was buried at the spot where he was killed. (Ref 1)
The description of the manner of T/Sgt. Hammarlund’s death may have been considered suspicious given that the phrase 'shot while attempting to escape' was a common way of covering up war crimes. However, because of the lack of evidence coupled with not knowing the identity or the whereabouts of the German NCOs that shot him, the death of T/Sgt. Hammarlund could not be proven to be a war crime.
In the late 1940s a German citizen of Liebenwalde gave a statement to the International Red Cross about the event and the locality of the grave. A US War Grave Commission unit recovered the remains from the grave located near to the small village of Gut Hammer which is to the east of Liebenwalde. The remains were identified as T/Sgt. Hammarlund and at the request of his family his remains were repatriated to his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin. (Ref 1)
1st Lt. Robert 'Boss' I. Murray. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Tablets of the Missing. Son to Gertrude R. Penny of New York, New York, USA.
2nd Lt. Lawrence L. Fries. Repatriated and buried at the Greenlawn Cemetery, Plattsburg, Clinton County, Missouri. Born on the 8th September 1922. Son to Lawrence L. and Grace K (née Stubbs) Fries of Missouri. USA.
FO. Harold S. Smith. Air Medal (4 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Tablets of the Missing. Born in 1925. Son to Clarence L. and Mildred E. Smith of Syracuse, New York, USA.
T/Sgt. Carl Owen Hammarlund. Repatriated and buried at the Oak Hill Cemetery, Janesville, Rock County, Wisconsin. Born on the 29th November 1924. Son to Carl Oscar and Nettie E. (née Stenlund) Hammarlund of Jamesville, Wisconsin, USA.
T/Sgt. Theodore A. Bates. Repatriated and buried at the Saint Stanislaus Cemetery, Lansdale, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Born on the 21st October 1923. Son to Harvey T. Bates of Lansdale, Pennsylvania, USA.
Sgt. Nicholas Rodock. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Ardennes American Cemetery, Neupré, Belgium, Plot CC, Row 7, Grave 152. Relocated to Plot B, Row 44, Grave 57. Born on the 1st November 1924. Son to John Rodock of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, USA.
Sgt. Robert P. Rennie. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters). Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, Hombourg, Belgium, Plot CC, Row 7, Grave 154. Relocated to Plot G, Row 15, Grave 68. Born in 1925. Son to James W. and Melvina (née Woodard) Rennie of Blossburg, Pennsylvania, USA.
Sgt. Gerald Von Atkinson. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Tablets of the Missing. Born on the 21st October 1923. Son to George Von and Lena L. (née Stewart) Atkinson of Chattahoochee, Florida, USA.
In June 2013, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency exhumed the remains of an unknown soldier buried in Plot E, Row 10, Grave 16 at the Brittany American Cemetery with the belief that an identification could be made. DNA analysis and historical evidence were used to positively identify the remains as belonging to S/Sgt. Gerald V. Atkinson. His remains were repatriated and buried with full military honours on the 16th August 2014 at the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, Chattahoochee, Gadsden County, Florida. His name remains permanently inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the Netherlands American Cemetery.
Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew. Thanks also to Traugott Vitz for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’.
1: Casualty and Investigative reports obtained by Mr. John A. Hey of Helgo, Holland in April 2003, by Mario Schultze at Oranienburg, Germany and the family of T/Sgt. Carl Owen Hammarlund.