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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
28.09.1944 360th Bomb Squadron (H) B-17G 43-37930, 1st Lt. Victor L. Howard

Operation: Magdeburg (Mission #652), Germany

Date: 28th September 1944 (Thursday)

Unit: 303rd Bombardment Group (H), 360th Bombardment Squadron (H), 1st Air Division, 8th Air Force

Type: B-17G

Serial No: 43-37930

Code: PU:F

Location: Between Ohrum and Dorstadt near Wolfenbüttel, Germany

Base: Molesworth (Station #107), Huntingdonshire, England

Pilot: 1st Lt. Victor Llewellyn Howard O-764677 AAF Age 28. PoW *

Co-pilot: 2nd Lt. Aloysius I. Sapak O-823703 AAF Age 23. PoW *

Navigator: FO. Robert Boyle Ellis T-127046 AAF Age 24. PoW *

Bombardier: 1st Lt. Jack Lowell Timmins O-729516 AAF Age 26. PoW *

Radio Op: Sgt. Sheppard Kerman 16078681 AAF Age 22. Survived/Murdered (1)

Engineer: Sgt. Claude McGraw 35431732 AAF Age 26. PoW **

Ball Turret: Sgt. Joseph Carl Sofianek 33613391 AAF Age 19. PoW **

Waist Gunner: S/Sgt. George Eugene Stewart 39206106 AAF Age 19. PoW **

Tail Turret: Sgt. Thomas Edward Baker Jr. 33547623 AAF Age 19. PoW ***

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 Poland (Moved from Stalag Luft 6 Heydekrug. Moved to Wöbbelin near Ludwigslust and then to Usedom near Swinemünde).

*** Stalag 4b Mühlberg, Sachsen, Germany.

REASON FOR LOSS:

The 303rd BG detailed 28 aircraft plus two borrowed Path Finder Force (PFF) B-17 aircraft on a mission to bomb the Krupp Grusonwerke AG at Magdeburg, Germany. The secondary target, to be bombed if PFF means were used, was the Magdeburg railroad marshalling yards. Last resort targets were airfields at Gardelegen, Quedlinburg and Gießen.

Gardelegen airfield was 47 km NNW of Magdeburg and about 3 km ENE of the town centre of Gardelegen;
Quedlinburg airfield was 58 km SSW of Magdeburg in Anhalt and 4½ km south of the town centre of Quedlinburg;
Gießen airfield was 50 km north of Frankfurt am Main and 3.6 km ENE of the town centre.

The aircraft from the BG took off from Molesworth on the morning of the 28th September 1944 between 07:35 and 07:59 hrs.

The loss of 43-37930 was described in general terms by the following after mission report:

That the missing aircraft was flying in the low squadron of the Group. There were 12 aircraft in the squadron, of which only two returned to base. The remainder are missing. The formation was subjected to severe and intense fighter attacks about 11:50 hrs in the vicinity of the IP which was at 52 11N, 10 35E. The crews of the two aircraft in the low squadron which did return and the crews of the aircraft in the lead and high squadrons have been able to furnish the same information with respect to certain of the missing aircraft.

The Initial Point (IP) Lat/Long of 52 11N, 10 35E is about 3½ km NE of Wolfenbüttel and 8½ km north of where the aircraft wreckage fell to earth.

The summary account from two eyewitness aboard B-17G 43-8318, the lead aircraft which was one of the only two bombers from the Squadron that returned to base, described that the formation was subject to intense German fighter attacks which were pressed home. The missing aircraft was hit by 20mm shells and parts were seen to come off and setting the port wing ablaze. The aircraft was seen to fall out of the formation in a spin and four parachutes were seen to exit the aircraft from the waist area and opened immediately before the aircraft started to fall out of the formation.

The OKL fighter claims for the Reich, West & Südfront on the 28th September 1944, lists three confirmed B-17 claims in the vicinity of Wolfenbüttel. However, it has not been possible to positively associate a claim for shooting down B-17G 44-37930.

The aircraft disintegrated in mid-air with the wreckage falling to earth at 13:10 hrs between Ohrum and Dorstadt near Wolfenbüttel, some 18 km south of Brunswick.

All of the crew successfully bailed out of the aircraft.

The Germans told 1st Lt Timmins that Sgt Kerman had been killed and showed him his ‘dog tags’. It was established that Sgt Kerman had been wounded before bailing out of the aircraft. There was speculation that he may have died of his wounds but he had strength enough to assist another crew member out of the aircraft and then bail out himself. Others of the crew speculated that he may have met his death due to hostile action on the ground.

The captured airmen except for Sgt Kerman were assembled together at Wolfenbüttel before being transported to Brunswick by truck for onward transfer to Dulag Luft and onto PoW camps.

(1) The fate of Sgt Kerman was determined at two General Military Government Courts which were convened in Germany. The first in Ludwigsburg on the 31st May 1946 and the second in Dachau during the period 25th to the 28th August 1947.

At the first trial two German nationals were charged and at the second one German national was charged in that they did jointly, at or near Wolfenbüttel, Germany on or about the 28th September 1944, wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid, abet and participate in the killing of a member of the United States Army, believed to be Sgt Sheppard Kerman, who was then and there a surrendered and unarmed PoW in the custody of the then German Reich.

Note: Sgt Kerman was not identified in the first trial but was named in the second.

At the first trial the two accused were:

Gerd Hans Beck who was a former Hauptfeldwebel (M/Sgt) in the Fallschirmjäger (German Parachute Corps).

Otto Karl Weinreich who was a former Stabsgefreiter (Pvt 1st class) in the Luftwaffe and Nazi party administrator at Wittmar at the time of the killing.

This case originally came up for trial on the 20th December 1945 but representation was made to the court that Beck was insane and that a sanity hearing was requested. This was granted and the report was introduced into the prosecution’s testimony.

At the second trial the accused was a Wilhelm Kanschat who was a former Hauptmann (Capt.) in the Heer (German Army) reserve and member of the Nazi party. He was the Welfare officer at the hospital for injured soldiers in Wolfenbüttel. His task appeared to be indoctrinating the patients with National Socialist’s (Nazi) tenets.

It is believed that his job title may have been “Nationalsozialistischer Führungsoffizier (NSFO)”, (National Socialist Leadership Officer). This role was for officers in the German Wehrmacht during WW2. The Wehrmacht leadership considered it important that both the military technical leadership and the political-ideological educational task in the National Socialist spirit should be in the hands of the same troop leader. In this respect, the NSFO differed from the political officer or commissar of the Red Army (who obviously set the example, but did not perform regular military leadership tasks, only political ones).

The courts heard that on one day in the month of September 1944 an American airman parachuted from his aircraft during a raid on Wolfenbüttel, Germany. During his descent his parachute fouled on the roof of the house at Krumme Straße 28 in Wolfenbüttel, suspending him before a window. He had raised his hands in surrender. Several people entered the house and pulled the airman through the window. Those that entered wore Army and Nazi party uniforms.

The exact circumstances of what transpired could not be established and may never be known. A most probable story of the events was determined from statements of bystanders in the street, albeit they did not witness the killing itself, and from the testimony of Beck and Weinreich, was that the airman was cut down from where he swung in his parachute and pulled into a room on one of the upper floors of the house. In this room were an undetermined number of male Germans, most if not all of them, in various uniforms. Among them was Hauptmann Kanschat together with Beck and Weinreich.

Kanschat, who was a fanatical Nazi, ordered Beck to shoot the airman. Beck took Weinreich’s pistol and shot the airman in the head, apparently while the airman’s back was turned.

Later Beck was seen leaving the house with bloodstained clothing and hands, and when questioned he stated “I have just shot an American”. At trial Beck admitted that he had shot the airman but professed to have forgotten all the important details of the incident. except that he was ordered to do so by Kanschat and that he used Weinreich’s pistol. Weinreich admitted that he provided the pistol which was used to shoot the airman in the head.

The body of the victim was next seen in the yard of the house from where it was later removed and buried in a grave at Asse near Wolfenbüttel.

Beck and Weinreich were both found guilty. Beck was sentenced to death by hanging, however, this was commuted to life imprisonment and then reduced to 20 years. He was paroled in September 1954. Weinreich was sentenced to life imprisonment which was later reduced to 20 years and was paroled in July 1954.

Kanschat was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and then reduced to 20 years. He was paroled in November 1954.

Burial Details:

Above: Photograph and grave marker for Sgt. Kerman (Credit: Matt Smith and Jim Craig - FindAGrave)

Sgt. Sheppard Kerman. On the 27th May 1945 his remains were recovered and interred in the Netherlands American Cemetery, Plot DD, Row 5, Grave 103. He was repatriated and reinterred in the Westlawn Cemetery, Norridge, Cook County, Chicago, Illinois. Born on the 8th November 1921 in Cook County, Chicago, Illinois. Son of Simon David and Beatrice (née Savodkin) Kerman of Chicago, Illinois. USA.

Sgt. Kerman was honoured by the city of Wolfenbüttel by the installation of a Stolperstein (Stumbling Stone) outside of the building where he was murdered.

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 to Matt Smith, the nephew of Sgt. Kerman. who contacted us in Apr 2021.

RS & TV 18.04.2021 - Addition of photograph and grave marker

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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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