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Archive Report: US Forces
1941 - 1945

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.

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8th Air Force
03.10.1944 325th Bomb Squadron (H) B-17G 43-38445, 1st.Lt. Niels R. Nielsen

Operation: Nürnberg (Mission #662), Germany

Date: 3rd October 1944 (Tuesday)

Unit: 92nd Bombardment Group (H), 325th Bombardment Squadron (H), 1st. Air Division, 8th Air Force

Type: B-17G

Serial No: 43-38445

Code: NV:Q

Location: Gießen-Wieseck, Germany

Base: Podington (Station #109), Bedfordshire, England

Pilot: 1st.Lt. Niels R. Nielsen O-760659 AAF Age 22. Killed

Co Pilot: 1st.Lt. Clyde Henry Saylor Jr. O-824904 AAF Age 22. Killed

Navigator: 1st.Lt. Rudolph J. Granata O-709350 AAF Age 22. Killed

Bombardier: 1st.Lt. Kenneth D. La Plante O-771941 AAF Age 22. Killed

Radio Operator: T/Sgt. Howard C. Garrison 13099875 AAF Age 21. Killed

Engineer: T/Sgt. William C. Stretton 39293032 AAF Age? PoW *

Ball Turret: S/Sgt. Harry W. Raber 33667826 AAF Age 21. Killed

Waist Gunner: S/Sgt. Franklin W. Adams Jr. 35658138 AAF Age 20. Survived (1)

Tail Gunner: S/Sgt. Leonard F. Mohr 16046941 AAF Age? Killed

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 4 Gross-Tychow, Pomerania, Prussia now Poland (Moved from Stalag Luft 6 Heydekrug. Moved to Wöbbelin near Ludwigslust and then to Usedom near Swinemünde)

Original Nielsen crew photograph (Courtesy: Tom Boisseau)

Back L to R: T/Sgt. Stretton, S/Sgt. Adams Jr., T/Sgt. Garrison, Unknown (Tail Gunner), S/Sgt. Raber, Unknown (Waist Gunner); Front L to R: 1st.Lt. Nielsen, 1st.Lt. Saylor Jr., Unknown (Bombardier), Unknown (Navigator)

1st.Lt. Granata, 1st.Lt. La Plante and S/Sgt Mohr are not represented on this photograph.

REASON FOR LOSS:

On the morning of the 3rd October 1944 43-38445 joined a force of aircraft on a mission to bomb the Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg (MAN) AG Industry complex at Nürnberg in Germany.

At about 12:00 hours, whilst making a turn before reaching the Initial Point (IP) over Gießen, two aircraft from the Low squadron, the deputy lead aircraft 42-38445 and Insomnia flying in the high element collided. Insomnia was seen to go down out of control with a hole in the starboard wing. Eye witness accounts believed that the aircraft exploded after falling below the cloud cover which was around 20,000 ft. 42-38445 was also seen to go down with its tail section missing.

It was later established that T/Sgt. Stretton was one of three crew members who were known to have survived the collision. He was injured either during the collision or during the parachute jump and was treated at a hospital in Gießen before being transferred to Dulag Luft on the 12th December 1944. T/Sgt. John Eugene Boisseau from 43-38396 Insomnia related in his biography that a badly injured airman, not from the Insomnia was captured along with himself and 1st.Lt. Charles R. Walter but died of his injuries.

After hostilities had ceased and in the course of investigations carried out by US authorities it was determined that three airmen from the two crews had been killed by hostile action after being captured. Additional research, see (2), has identified the possibility that a fourth airman was also captured and killed by hostile action.

(1) Two General Military Government Courts were convened in Germany at Ludwigsburg on the 20th, 21st and 23rd November 1945, and in Dachau on the 9th and 10th June 1947.

Two German nationals, Ludwig Schad and Julius Lassak, were charged that they on or about the 3rd October 1944, at or near Gießen, did wrongfully encourage, aid, abet and participate in the killing of three members of the United States Army, believed to be Franklin Adams, Wallace Bengson and Edmund Dornburgh who were PoWs of the then German Reich.

1st.Lt. Wallace Woodrow Bengson and 1st.Lt. Edmund L. Dornburgh from the 327th Bomber Sqn B-17G 43-38396 Insomnia.

Schad was a Nazi Blockleiter (Block leader: responsible for political supervision of a neighbourhood), and a Gruppenführer (Guard leader) of the Volkssturm (National militia). Lassak was the former Police Director (Civilian appointment) of Gießen and also an Allgemeine (Regular) Schutzstaffel Standartenführer (SS-Col.).

On the day in question, three American airmen parachuted safely from a disabled aircraft [sic] and landed near Gießen-Wieseck in Germany. They were captured at about 1200 hours and delivered to the police station in Wieseck where they were handed over to a police officer named Heinrich Momberger. After placing them under guard he reported their capture to his superior, a man named Laud.

Lassak arrived at the police station and ordered the unidentified Chief of Police to turn over the airmen to the Nazi party. That day on the road between Gießen and Wieseck, Schad, Hans Sonntag and Heinrich Goerig, who were members of the Volkssturm, were met by Kreisleiter (Nazi district leader) Brück who ordered them to go to the police station and shoot the three American airmen held there.

The three joined a Hans-Joachim Wilke, who was a leader in the Hitlerjugend (Nazi party youth organisation), at the police station where he demanded that the airmen be turned over to them. Momberger refused to comply as he was under orders to hand over such captives to the Luftwaffe. About 30 minutes later Harri Hellwege-Emden, an Oberstleutnant der Polizei (Lt.Col. in the Police), arrived and ordered Momberger away from the police station. He left after handing over custody of the airmen to Friedrich Doerr, a policeman on duty.

Wilke then re-entered the police station and demanded that Doerr hand over the airmen. When he refused to do so Wilke and the others forcibly took the airmen into their custody. At about 1400 hours Schad, Wilcke, Goerig and Sonntag left the police station with the airmen and marched them along Marburgerstraße toward the Gießen New Cemetery. En route an air-raid alarm sounded and as the airmen were passing a group of apple trees the four guards opened fire at the same time killing the airmen. The bodies were covered with straw and later buried under arrangements made by Schad with the cemetery caretaker.

Schad was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment which was later reduced to 30 years. He was paroled in October 1954. Lassak was also found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. He died in prison of cancer on the 26th March 1950.

It is clear from the Review & Recommendations for the case that Wilke, Goerig and Sonntag were implicated in the killing of the three airmen. The court was informed that Goerig and Sonntag had died before they could be apprehended. One had died during an air raid on Gießen on the 6th December 1944 and the other had committed suicide by hanging himself on the 3rd May 1945. It is not known why Wilke was not before the court.

(2) At another Military Government Court held at Dachau in Germany between the 10th January and 21st March 1947, Lassak along with a Leonard Braner and three other senior German principals, were charged, that they did on or about the 3rd October 1944, at or near Gießen, wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid, abet and participate in the killing of an unknown member of the United States Army who was then and there a surrendered and unarmed PoW in the custody of the then German Reich.

The court heard that Ernst Muenk, an Ordnungspolizei Meister (Police Sgt. Maj.), arrested an airman on the day in question and escorted him to the police station in Gießen. He was met by Lassak who ordered him to take the airman down to the orderly room in the cellar. Some time later Lassak ordered that the airman be handed over to an unnamed Gestapo agent who was present.

Muenk accompanied the agent and the airman to the Gestapo headquarters (HQ) in Gießen where Braner, a Gestapo Kriminalsekretär (Criminal secretary: equates to a rank of 2nd.Lt.) was waiting. After handing over the airman Muenk returned to the police station.

Ernst Hermann Friedrich Kohn, an officer in the Kriminalpolizei (Criminal police) working at the Gestapo HQ was present when Muenk arrived with the airman. With them were Kriminalrat (Detective Superintendent) Wintzer, Kriminalsekretär Schneider and Braner. Kohn told them that the airman should be turned over to the military at the Gießen airfield. Kohn did not hear any orders being issued but Braner said that he would take the airman away. Kohn’s impression was that the airman was going to be killed. About 15 to 20 minutes later Braner returned without the airman. Braner then met with Wintzer and indicated that the airman had been ‘taken care of’. After this Kohn overheard Braner on the telephone speaking with someone at the Gießen cemetery telling them that the dead airman at the Philosophen forest should be collected.

The trial transcript for case 12-2000 (incident 3) recorded that Arthur Trenkner, the Gießen funeral director, received an instruction from the Gießen airfield on the afternoon of the 4th October 1944 to collect an American airman from the Philosophen forest. This airman was one of 14 on this day for whom he had received instructions to bury.

(Above) A page from the Gießen cemetery record contains entries for 12 named airmen from 42-38445 and Insomnia. The two unknowns listed were later identified as airmen from Insomnia. Of the 14 entries on the page, 3 have been identified as murder victims. Although it has not been possible to determine the identity of the fourth victim it can be concluded with some degree of certainty that the unidentified American airman alluded to in case 12-2000 (incident 3) was one of the other 11 airmen recorded.

Lassek was found not guilty of the charge and Braner was tried in absentia but no findings or sentence was recorded by the court.

Burial Details:

Research has determined the crew that died were initially buried at the Gießen community cemetery before being relocated to the US Military cemetery in Eisenach and later relocated to the Netherlands American Cemetery on the 28th June 1945.

(Above Courtesy: Tom Boisseau) 1st.Lt. Niels R. Nielsen. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters) Purple Heart. Interred at the Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Block SS, Row 2, Grave 32. Relocated to Block L, Row 16, Grave 19. Born in 1922. Son to Mrs. Ida Nielsen, Yankton, South Dakota, USA.

1st.Lt. Clyde Henry Saylor Jr. Interred at the Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Block SS, Row 2, Grave 41. Repatriated and buried at the Cedar Hill Cemetery, Section XIII, Row 6/55, Covington, Virginia. Born on the 24th May 1922. Son to Clyde H. and Pearl Juanita (née Heironimus) Saylor of Virginia, USA.

(Above: Courtesy: Glenn-FindAGrave) 1st.Lt. Rudolph J. Granata. Interred at the Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Block SS, Row 2, Grave 42. Repatriated and buried at the National Cemetery, Section J, Site 15651, Long Island, New York on the 17th December 1948. Born on the 14th February 1922. Son to Nicholas J. and Amelie Marie (née James) Granata, of Richmond, New York, USA.

(Above: Courtesy: Sherry-FindAGrave) 1st.Lt. Kenneth D La Plante. Interred at the Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Block SS, Row 2, Grave 40. Repatriated and buried at the Sacred Heart Cemetery, Lebanon, New Hampshire. Born on 19th February 1922. Son to Willis J. and Ruth P. (née Fowles) La Plante of Lebanon, New Hampshire, USA

(Above: Courtesy: Joel-FindAGrave & Fred-FindAGrave) T/Sgt. Howard C. Garrison. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters) Purple Heart. Interred at the Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Block SS, Row 2, Grave 36. Relocated to Plot L, Row 16, Grave 17. Born in 1923. Son to Clyde E. and Rubena C. (née Hershberger) Garrison of Pennsylvania, USA.

S/Sgt. Harry W. Raber. Air medal, Purple Heart. Interred at the Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Block SS, Row 2, Grave 37. Repatriated and interred at the Arlington National Cemetery, Section 34, Grave 3021 on the 29th April 1949. Born on the 3oth September 1923. Son to Jacob Raber of Pittsburgh, USA.

S/Sgt. Franklin W. Adams Jr. Air Medal (1 Oak Leaf Cluster), Purple Heart. Interred at the Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Block SS, Row 2, Grave 38. Repatriated and buried at the Sunset Memorial Park, Beckley, West Virginia. Born on the 13th April 1924. Son to Franklin W. and Olive L. (née Osborn) of Fayette, West Virginia, USA.

(Above: Courtesy: Des Phillppet-FindAGrave) S/Sgt. Leonard F. Mohr. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters) Purple Heart. Interred at the Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Block SS, Row 2, Grave 28. Relocated to Plot L, Row 16, Grave 18. Son to Joseph A. Mohr of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.

Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with additional thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’. Special thanks to Tom Boisseau the son of T/Sgt. John Eugene Boisseau (27th February 1917 – 9th July 1995) for his generous contributions and permission to use extracts from his father’s biography for this report. Information updates by Aircrew Remembered (Jan 2021).

RS & TV 18.01.2021 - Editorial amendments

Acknowledgments: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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