27.02.1945 701st Bomb Squadron (H) B-24J 42-51506 2nd Lt. Stanley W. Vitkavage.
Operation: Halle (Mission #851), Germany
Date: 27th February 1945 (Tuesday)
Unit: 445th Bombardment Group (H), 701st Bombardment Squadron (H), 2nd Air Division, 8th Air Force
Serial No: 42-51506
Location: Betzenhausen, 1½ km WNW of Freiburg, Germany
Base: Tibenham (Station #124), Norfolk, England
Pilot: 2nd Lt. Stanley William Vitkavage O-829596 AAF Age 22. PoW *
Co-Pilot: 2nd Lt. James P. Sullivan O-720735 AAF Age? PoW *
Navigator/Bombardier: 2nd Lt. Lambert Erwin Koupal O-2072788 AAF Age 21. Killed
Radio Operator: S/Sgt. Allan Henry Burns Jr. 33728946 AAF Age 22. PoW *
Engineer: S/Sgt. Louie Frank Tillery 34801877 AAF Age 22. PoW *
Nose Gunner: Sgt. Warren Joseph Anderson 39911604 AAF Age? PoW *
Right Waist Gunner: Sgt. Eugene James Smietana 36758482 AAF Age 20. PoW *
Left Waist Gunner: Sgt. Felix Walenty Kolasinski 35331002 AAF Age 26. Survived/Murdered (1)
Tail Gunner: Sgt Ralph Lewis Squires 15126504 AAF Age 21. PoW *
Originally the B-24 had 10 crew positions. Crew complements evolved during the war and generally comprised 9 personnel who were typically, but not always, Pilot, Co-Pilot, Bombardier, Navigator, Flight Engineer/Top Turret Gunner, Radio Operator/Waist Gunner, Nose Gunner, Ball Turret Gunner, Waist Gunner, Tail Gunner.
The Ball Turret was being removed as an operational decision to reduce weight and the improve manoeuvrability of the aircraft from July 1944.
* Unknown PoW Camp
REASON FOR LOSS:
B-24J 42-51506 took off from Tibenham on the morning of the 27th February 1945 on a mission to bomb the road and railway communications at Halle, Germany.
From what little information that has been found regarding the circumstances of the loss of the aircraft it appears that an engine had been feathered, perhaps for technical reasons, over the target. From then the aircraft started to fall back from the formation and was last sighted in the Koblenz area still with the engine feathered but under control.
Two minutes past the target the aircraft left the formation and near Freiburg it was hit by flak. 2nd Lt. Koupal was killed instantly aboard the aircraft and the remainder of the crew bailed out. Sgt. Kolasinski was seen to bail out of the aircraft uninjured. 2nd Lt Sullivan counted seven parachutes in the air, eight with his own. However, Sgt. Kolasinski was never seen again.
Seven of the crew were captured between 15:45 hrs and 18:00 hrs in the immediate vicinity of Freiburg.
The aircraft crashed at Betzenhausen, 1½ km WNW of Freiburg, Germany at 15:30 hrs.
(1) The fate of Sgt. Kolasinski was unknown until a General Military Government Court was convened at Dachau, Germany on the 12th and 13th June 1947.
One German national was charged in that he did, at or near Ebnet, Germany, on about the 27th February 1945, wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully kill a member of the United States Army, believed to be Sgt. Felix W. Kolasinski, ASN 35331002, who was then and there a surrendered and unarmed PoW in the custody of the then German Reich, by shooting him with a pistol.
The accused was a Franz Weiss who was a former Luftwaffe Stabsfeldwebel (M/Sgt).
The court heard that during the afternoon of the 27th February 1945, in the vicinity of Ebnet near Freiburg, Germany, an American airman, identified as probably being Sgt. Felix W. Kolasinski, parachuted from a disabled plane and landed safely in woods a short distance outside of Ebnet. Three men, a woodcutter named Anton Pfaff, a Polish man and an unidentified third person were working near to the spot where the airman had landed. The airman raised his hands to these men in surrender and was searched and was found to be unarmed.
The airman, Pfaff and the Polish man then started walking toward Ebnet. En route the group encountered Weiss and a Feldwebel (Sgt) Menzel, both of whom were stationed in Ebnet. When Weiss was within 15 to 20 metres of the group, completely unprovoked, he aimed his pistol at the airman and fired, the bullet striking him in the head. The wounded airman fell forward after which Weiss and Menzel ran up and examined the body. Menzel asked if the airman was dead and Weiss fired another shot into the back of the airman’s head. When Pfaff asked Weiss why he had shot the airman he responded “He didn’t deserve anything else”.
The airman’s body was buried that night in Community Cemetery Ebnet, near Freiburg. On the 5th April 1946 his remains were exhumed and an autopsy was carried out. The autopsy disclosed that two gunshot wounds were found in the skull and the bone of the thumb on the right hand was shattered. An identification tag and a ring taken from the body indicated that the remains were those of Sgt. Felix W. Kolasinski.
Weiss claimed that he only shot and wounded the airman in the shoulder and left him in the custody of an Unteroffizier (Cpl) Stark and left the scene in search of the parachute. When he returned he found that the airman had been shot again through the head and was dead.
The court found that the evidence was sufficient to establish that Weiss, without any semblance of justification or excuse had deliberately shot and killed the airman. Weiss was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. His sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment. He was paroled in February 1954.
(Credit of and in memoriam of the late J.B. Anderson and the Argus Leader, dated Wednesday November 17th 1948)
2nd Lt. Lambert Erwin Koupal. Air Medal. He was initially buried in the Freiburg Town Cemetery, Field 31, Row 3, Grave 58. His remains were later repatriated and interred at the ZCBJ (Also known as the Roseland or St. Johns Catholic Cemetery) Cemetery in Wagner, Charles Mix, South Dakota on the 16th November 1948. Born on the 3rd February in Wagner, Charles Mix, South Dakota. Son of Anton Charles and Stella A. (née Valenta) Koupal of Wagner, Charles Mix, South Dakota, USA.
Above: Felix Walenty Kolasinski (Credit of the Toledo, Ohio, Woodward High School Yearbook 1936)
Sgt. Felix Walenty Kolasinski. Air Medal. Repatriated and interred at the Calvary Cemetery in Toledo, Lucas County, Ohio. Born on the 15th November 1918 in Toledo, Lucas, Ohio. Son of Felix W. and Joanna ‘Jennie’ (née Grunzinski) Kolasinski of Toledo, Lucas, Ohio, USA.
Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’.