09.08.1944 365th Bomb Squadron (H) B-17G 42-102962, 2nd Lt. Harry F. Bowling
Operation: Munich/Karlsruhe (Mission #533), Germany
Date: 9th August 1944 (Wednesday)
Unit: 305th Bombardment Group (H), 365th Bombardment Squadron (H), 1st Air Division, 8th Air Force
Serial No: 42-102962
Location: In the region of Enzklösterle 1½ km south of Gompelscheuer, Germany
Base: Chelveston (Station #105), Northamptonshire, England
Pilot: 2nd Lt. Harry F. Bowling O-756162 AAF Age? PoW *
Co Pilot: 2nd Lt. Harold Chester Shackleton O-823717 AAF Age 27. PoW *
Navigator: 2nd Lt. Furman James Davis O-685553 AAF Age 24. PoW *
Bombardier: FO Robert Winwood Day T-002487 AAF Age 27. PoW No. 7383 *
Radio Operator: S/Sgt. Robert Louis Harmon 13109766 AAF Age 25. Survived/Murdered (1 & 2)
Engineer/Gunner: S/Sgt. John Bartholamew Novota 16018981 AAF Age 25. PoW **
Ball Turret: Sgt. William Edward Evans 35873914 AAF Age 20. Killed
Waist Gunner: Sgt. Kenneth L. Palmer 13073655 AAF Age 22. Survived/Murdered (1 & 3)
Tail Gunner: Sgt. Robert A. McDonough 11120761 AAF Age 19. Survived/Murdered (1 & 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 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).
** 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 9th August 1944 42-102962 took off from Chelveston, assigned to bomb the primary target at Munich. The PFF and weather recce aircraft flying ahead reported that Munich was in cloud from ground level to an altitude of 35,000 feet so the formation turned to bomb their secondary target of Karlsruhe.
Before the target was reached the formation was attacked by German fighters. Intelligence reports recorded that 42-102962 was last seen between Strasburg and Karlsruhe between 10:40 and 11:00 hrs. No explosion was witnessed but nine parachutes were seen to open.
The abandoned aircraft crashed in flames at 10:50 hrs in the region of Enzklösterle 1½ km south of Gompelscheuer, Germany. The bombs aboard the aircraft exploded at the crash site, which was in a large forest area.
Aboard the aircraft Sgt. Evans had called over the RT “German fighters at six o’clock low” just before his turret exploded killing him. It was reported that 800 rounds of 50 Cal ammunition exploded their magazines as a result of the aircraft being on fire.
2nd Lt. Shackleton’s statement in his Individual Casualty Questionnaire (ICQ) reported that 2nd Lt. Davis was the first to bail out followed by FO Day. 2nd Lt. Bowling was next and 2nd Lt. Shackleton was the last of the crew from the nose compartment of the aircraft to bail out. He had assisted S/Sgt. Harmon, who had been injured in the left shoulder and back, and clipped on his parachute and pushed him out of the bomb bay.
The four officer survivors were immediately captured upon landing. FO Day suffered some minor injuries at the hands of hostile civilians but survived. They all became PoWs at Stalag Luft 3.
2nd Lt. Davis reported in his ICQ that S/Sgt. Novota was injured but bailed out of the nose escape hatch and landed safely. The nature of his injuries were not reported. Sgt. McDonough had suffered a wound to his forehead in the fighter attack.
Sgt. McDonough had lost his ‘dog tags’ and was wearing those of Sgt. Roy C. Ashes, 17050269 for the mission. He had reported the loss to the Sqn Adjutant several days before this mission.
There is no information regarding the circumstances of the capture of S/Sgt. Novota.
The Chief of the Gendarmerie (Rural Police) in Gernsbach reported by telephone on the 10th August 1944 to the Gendarmerie section in Calw that three dead American airmen were found between Forbach and Weisenbach. He made the assumption that they were members of the crew of the bomber that crashed in Gompelscheuer, Germany.
After his release and return to the United States 2nd Lt. Shackleton wrote and informed the Army Air Forces Head Quarters in Washington DC of his concerns regarding the fates of S/Sgt. Harmon, Sgt. Palmer and Sgt. McDonough. The following is an extract from his report:
1. Attached herewith is all information the writer has concerning four members of his crew who were casualties. I am personally convinced that three of the men met death at the hand of German civilians although no living crew member can claim witness to this as we were all widely separated upon leaving the plane.
2. This information has come to me through a Reuters dispatch from Paris which was found in the Boston Herald of August 19, 1945 on page 19. It stated that French Occupation Authorities has uncovered testimony that three vaguely identified men had been killed by civilians on the date the plane was shot down, but sufficient identity for me to be able to furnish all missing identification. Later another AP dispatch dated at Paris September 8th, 1945 was printed in the Evening Bulletin, Providence, Rhode Island of September 9th, 1945, saying that this information had formally been turned over to American authorities by the French War Crime Commission.
3. While at AAFRS #1, Atlantic City, New Jersey I filed all the information I had on the case with the representative of the Judge Advocate General, Benjamin S. Harrison, Capt., Inf., Summary Court, which was to be forwarded to Washington through channels and thence to the War Crimes Division for their use. This affidavit was classed Confidential and was dated 24 August 46, and carried with it the above mentioned August 19th news-clipping. I would respectfully refer you to that affidavit.
AAFRS = Army Air Force Redistribution Station. It provided rest and recreation for military combat personnel returning to the United States from overseas service.
(1) The circumstances leading to the deaths of S/Sgt. Harmon, Sgt. Palmer and Sgt. McDonough were determined by an American General Military Court which was convened at Dachau, Germany between 12th and 29th May 1947.
Sixteen German nationals were cited on four charges. Of the sixteen, the individuals Franz Deck and Fritz Kern were not served and not tried and Kurt Overlack was acquitted.
The remaining thirteen German nationals were:
Hans Rothacker who was the former Kreisleiter (District Leader) of Bühl (Baden);
Adolf Phillip Eiermann who was the former Ortsgruppenleiter (Nazi party local group leader) of Wiesbaden and served in the Volkssturm (Home guard);
Xaver Götz who was a former Luftschutzwart (Air Raid warden) and member of the Nazi party;Matthäus Götzmann who was a former Blockleiter (Nazi party block leader);
Maurus Haitzler who was a former Ortsgruppenleiter at Au;
Wilhelm Karcher who was a former Obertruppführer (T/Sgt) in the Nationalsozialistisches Kraftfahrkorps (NSKK), (National Socialist Motor Corps);
Isidor Klumpp who was a former Blockleiter;
Hermann Wendelin Krieg who was a former Blockleiter at Au;
Rudolf Merkel who was a former member of the Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth);
Julius Ratzke who was a former member of the Nazi party and in charge of Film & Radio in Hilpertsau;
Johann Gotthilf Schneider who was a former SA (Sturmabteilung)-Hauptscharführer (S/Sgt), (SA= Paramilitary arm of the Nazi party);
Heinrich Stichling who was the former assistant to Ortsgruppenleiter of Gernsbach and deputy to the Bürgermeister (Mayor) of Gernsbach;
and Franz Johann Wieland, who was the local education leader, local press office leader and local leader of the Nationalsozialistische Volkswohlfahrt (NSV), (NSV = National Socialist Peoples Welfare Organisation).
On Charge 1, also referred to as the “Common Design”, all thirteen of the named individuals where accused in that between the 9th day of December 1941 and the 8th day of May 1945, at sundry places within the then German Reich, individually and collectively, as principals, accessories, leaders, organizers, instigators and accomplices, did engage in, formulate and participate in a common plan or design to commit, or cause to be committed, violations of the Laws and Usages of War, and pursuant thereto did deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid, abet, order and participate in, or took a consenting part in the subjection of members of the Armed Forces of the United States of America, who were then and there surrendered and unarmed prisoners of war in the custody of the then German Reich, to cruelties and mistreatment, including killings, beatings, tortures, abuses and indignities.
(2) On Charge 2, also known as Incident 1, Rothacker, Eiermann, Götz, Götzmann, Haitzler, Karcher, Ratzke, Schneider, Stichling and Wieland were charged in that they, did, on or about 9th August 1944, at or near Weisenbach, Germany, wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid, abet, order and participate in the killing of a member of the United States Army, believed to be S/Sgt. Robert L. Harmon, ASN 13109766, who was then and there a surrendered, unarmed and wounded prisoner of war in the custody of the then German Reich.
ASN = Army Serial Number
The American airman, who had landed on the Weinerbuckel (Wingertbuckel) near Weisenbach, sometime between 10:00 and 11:00 hrs, was wounded when taken into custody. After being given first aid he was transported to the courthouse in the nearby town of Weisenbach where he was locked in the office of the Amtsschreiber (Recorder of deeds). Kohler, the Bürgermeister of Weisenbach, instructed the clerk to keep the room locked until the airman was taken away.
Note: Wingertbuckel translates to “vineyard hill“
At around 11:00 hrs Schneider was ordered by either Stichling or an SA-Untersturmführer (2nd Lt) named Pompeuse to report to Gernsbach city hall. Here Stichling ordered Pompeuse and Schneider to make their way to Weisenbach. En route they were joined by Karcher, and a man named Kern.
Upon arrival they entered the room in which the wounded airman was being held and immediately started to beat him severely. He was then removed to the courtyard where the beating continued and he was finally shot in the back of the head by Pompeuse. There was some evidence that Eiermann and Götzmann were also at the courthouse during the beating and shooting of the airman.
The body was removed that afternoon to the chapel at Weisenbach and was subsequently interred in the co-located cemetery. An identification bracelet bore the name Robert L. Harmon.
(3) On Charge 3, also known as Incident 2, Rothacker, Eiermann, Haitzler, Klumpp, Karcher, Krieg, Merkel, Ratzke, Stichling and Wieland were charged in that they, did, on or about 9th August 1944, at or near Weisenbach, Germany, wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid, abet, order and participate in the killing of a member of the United States Army believed to be Sgt. Robert A. McDonough, ASN 11120761, who was then and there a surrendered, unarmed and wounded prisoner of war in the custody of the then German Reich.
The American airman who landed in the wooded elevation known as the Schöllkopf was badly wounded and exhausted and he readily surrendered. A Franz Michael Klumpp who was a medic, together with Krieg and Merkel began to carry the airman down from the Schöllkopf. At approximately this time Eiermann came upon the scene and using Wieland as interpreter he questioned the airman.
He cursed him and ordered that he not be allowed to leave the woods alive. A vicious attack was then commenced upon the airman by Eiermann, Merkel, Krieg, Isidor Klumpp and possibly others. Upon the urgings of Eiermann an individual named Gerstner shot and killed the airman.
The airman’s ‘dog tags’ bore the name Ashes but he was subsequently identified as probably being Sgt. McDonough who had borrowed the ‘dog tags’ from Sgt. Roy C. Ashes that morning. The body was taken to a funeral home in Weisenbach and was later buried in the Weisenbach cemetery and named as Roy Cashes [sic].
(4) On Charge 4, also known as Incident 3, Rothacker, Eiermann, Götz, Götzmann, Haitzler, Karcher, Ratzke, Stichling and Wieland were charged in that they, did, on or about 9th August 1944, at or near Obertsrot, Germany, wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid, abet, order and participate in the killing of a member of the United States Army believed to be Sgt. Kenneth L. Palmer, ASN 13073656, who was then and there a surrendered, unarmed and wounded prisoner of war in the custody of the then German Reich.
The third airman landed in the neighbourhood of Hilpertsau at a point not far from the town's railway station. He was unarmed and wounded, and surrendered willingly to a policeman named Weingärtner. After dressing the airman's wound he started with him in the direction of Gernsbach.
Information received from Steffen Killinger described that the airman was immediately surrounded by local civilians who set upon beating him. The owner of a local sawmill. a Sebastian Grüber, arrived on the scene and urged the attackers to stop their abuse and reminding them of their sons and fathers who were serving in the Wehrmacht.
Sebastian Grüber was thrown out of the Nazi party just six days after incident by Heinrich Dieffenbacher, the Kreisleiter of Rastatt, because he helped the airman. Dieffenbacher was cited in the killing of a Flt Sgt. Martens, the rear gunner from 100 Sqn, Lancaster III PB172.
After they passed safely through the Hilpertsau and Obertsrot areas they were overtaken and stopped by Pompeuse, Kern, Karcher and Götzmann who had come from the direction of Obertsrot by bicycle. This occurred on the road between Obertsrot ond Gernsbach about 1½ km south of Obertsrot.
A melee ensued during which Pompeuse assaulted the policeman whilst the others attacked the captured airman who had been pushed off the road into an adjoining turnip patch. The beating continued until Pompeuse was seen to shoot and kill the airman.
Later during the day the airman's body was removed from the scene and taken to a former church at Obertsrot. The airmen’s remains were buried in the Weisenbach cemetery. This victim was identified as probably being Sgt. Palmer.
All of the thirteen of the accused were found guilty on Charge 1. Upon review it was recommended that the findings of guilty and the sentence be disapproved for Rotheracker, Götz and Haitzler. Rotheracker was later extradited to France for unknown reasons, whilst Götz and Haitzler were released.
Götzmann, Karcher, Schneider and Stichling were found guilty on Charge 2. Upon review it was recommended that the findings of guilty be disapproved for Götzmann.
Eiermann, Klumpp, Krieg, Merkel, Stichling and Wieland were found guilty on Charge 3. Upon review it was recommended that the findings of guilty be disapproved for Stichling.
Götzmann, Karcher, Ratzke and Stichling were found guilty on Charge 4. Upon review it was recommended that the findings of guilty be disapproved for Ratzke.
The sentencing for the accused was as follows:
Eiermann, Karcher. Schneider, Götzmann, Klumpp and Krieg were sentenced to death. Eiermann, Karcher. Schneider and Klumpp were hanged at Landsberg on 19th November 1948. Upon review it was recommended that the sentences for Götzmann and Krieg in respect to Charges 1 & 4 be commuted to imprisonment for life. Götzmann’s sentence was later reduced to 25 years and he was paroled in November 1954. Krieg was later transferred to a Mental Asylum and was discharged from there in February 1952.
Krieg in his interrogation stated that he had been dismissed from the Wehrmacht in 1941 because he was a schizophrenic. It is probable that his schizophrenia had returned and the reason for his transfer to a Mental Asylum.
Stichling and Merkel were sentenced to imprisonment for life. Stichling’s term of imprisonment was later reduced to 25 years and he was paroled in August 1954. Also upon review it was recommended that the sentence for Merkel was reduced to 15 years imprisonment commencing on the 29th May 1947. He was released in September 1951.
Ratzke and Wieland were each sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. Upon review it was recommended that the sentence for Ratzke be reduced to 4 years commencing on the 12th February 1945 and he was released in February 1949. Also upon review the sentence for Wieland was reduced to 8 years imprisonment commencing on the 19th April 1945 and he was released in September 1950.
Pompeuse, who was the main suspect in the killing of S/Sgt. Harmon and Sgt. Palmer, was not before the court because he had committed suicide on the 2nd June 1945 whilst being held at an internment camp in Metz, France.
It is not known who Gerstner was, although Krieg in his interrogation called him "the Ortsgruppenleiter" but failed to say of which village or town, and why he was not before the court to answer for his involvement in the killing of Sgt. McDonough.
Sgt. Evans was initially buried in the Unzhurst Cemetery, Plot 4A-5-55. S/Sgt. Harmon, Sgt. McDonough and Sgt. Palmer were initially buried in the Weisenbach cemetery.
It should be noted that German cemetery records list Sgt. McDonough’s burial as Roy Cashes.
Above S/Sgt. Harmon: Courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette dated Saturday September 8, 1945.
Above S/Sgt Harmon: Tacit courtesy of Liz Freeman FindAGrave.
S/Sgt. Robert Louis Harmon. Repatriated and buried at the Calvary Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Born on the 15th January 1919 in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Son of James Patrick and Emma Rosalie (née Martin) Harmon of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA.
Above: Sgt. Evans: Courtesy of Bobby Duff - FindAGrave
Sgt. William Edward Evans. Repatriated and buried at the Riverside Cemetery, Hazard, Perry County, Kentucky. Born on the 12th November 1923 in Perry, Kentucky. Son Eugene Debbs and Lucy Ellen (née King) Evans of Pikeville, Pike County, Kentucky, USA.
Above Sgt Palmer: Courtesy of Steffen Killinge
Sgt. Kenneth L. Palmer. Purple Heart. Lorraine American Cemetery, Plot E, Row 13, Grave 21. Born on the 6th July 1922 in Haywood County, North Carolina. Son of Mrs. Ada Palmer who resided in Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA.
Above Sgt. Robert A. McDonough: Left: Courtesy of The Boston Globe Friday, June 17, 1949. Right: courtesy of mslucie - FindAGrave
Sgt. Robert A. McDonough. Repatriated and buried at the Brookdale Cemetery, Dedham, Norfolk County, Massachusetts. Born on the 10th August 1924 in Dedham, Norfolk County, Massachusetts. Son of John F. and May W. McDonough of Dedham, Norfolk County, Massachusetts, 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’. Thanks also to Steffen Killinger for the additional information regarding the capture of Sgt. Palmer and for his grave marker image (Feb 2021). Thanks to Herr Bernd Schmidt for the interrogation report for Hermann Wendelin Krieg (Mar 2022).