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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
26.11.1944 703rd Bomb Squadron (H) B-24J 42-50729 2nd Lt. Lee E. McPartland

Operation: Misburg (Mission #725), Germany

Date: 26th November 1944 (Sunday)

Unit: 445th Bombardment Group (H), 703rd Bombardment Squadron (H), 2nd Air Division, 8th Air Force

Type: B-24J

Serial No: 42-50729

Code: RN+:?

Location: Near Springe, Germany

Base: Tibenham airfield (Station #124), Norfolk, England

Pilot: 2nd Lt. Lee E. McPartland O-823508 AAF Age 26. Killed

Co-Pilot: 1st Lt. Carl Joseph Hert DFC, O-887066 AAF Age 29. Survived (1)

Navigator: 2nd Lt. Joseph Jacob Hanzook O-2056795 AAF Age 21. PoW *

Nose Gunner: Sgt. George Eugene Diamond 38389221 AAF Age 21. PoW **

Radio Operator: S/Sgt. Donald Benjamin Dykstra 32834490 AAF Age 26. PoW **

Engineer: S/Sgt. Walter Otto Grotz 37566220 AAF Age 19. PoW **

Right Waist Gunner: Sgt. Gordon Lester Benson 31417427 AAF Age 23. PoW ***

Left Waist Gunner/Togglier: S/Sgt. Cletus Arthur Sisley 36832348 AAF Age 19. PoW ***

Tail Gunner: Sgt. William Robert Foster 32756416 AAF Age 23. 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.

Togglier - When it was required for all aircraft in a Squadron formation to drop their bombs simultaneously, the designated Bombardier was on the lead aircraft. The task of the Bombardiers in the rest of the formation was to drop their bombs when the lead aircraft dropped theirs. When there were personnel shortages the role of Bombardier was carried out by an enlisted crew member and was designated as the Togglier.

* Stalag Luft 1 Barth-Vogelsang, today part of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany.

** Dulag Luft 12 Groß-Tychow Pomerania, Prussia now Tychowo, Poland.

*** 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:

42-50729 took off from Tibenham on the 26th November 1944 as part of the 445th Bombardment Group (BG) mission to bomb the synthetic oil installations at Misburg in Germany.

An eyewitness account reported that the aircraft was hit by German fighters just after bombs away and while still under control two men were seen to bail out of the nose. There was a good possibility that other parachutes came out but that jumps were delayed. The aircraft was last seen at 10:40 hrs.

Twenty-one B-24s, including 42-50729, were shot down by German fighters on this mission.

However, the crew in their Individual Casualty Questionnaires (ICQ) described a different series of events. Before reaching the target the aircraft was attacked by Fw190s and sustained a number of hits to the starboard wing during the attack. This resulted in a fire in the vicinity of #2 engine, severing the main fuel line which in turn started a fire in the bomb bay area. The pilot was asked by S/Sgt. Sisley if he should salvo the bombs to which 2nd Lt. McPartland replied “Not until we are over the target”.

According to Sgt. Foster, S/Sgt. Dykstra and Sgt. Benson bailed out before the bombs were dropped and the remainder of the crew after bombs away. He later saw all of the enlisted men at Stalag Luft 4 and 2nd Lt. Hanzook at Stalag Luft, Oberursel. He was told that 2nd Lt. McPartland was last seen leaving his seat preparing to bail out. Others of the crew last saw 1st Lt. Hert still in his seat having not removed his flak suit.

In their ICQs none of the crew had any specific knowledge of the fate of the two pilots. It was speculated that the bomb bay fire had reached the pilots compartment and may have prevented them from bailing out or that they perished when the aircraft exploded.

S/Sgt. Sisley later retold that 2nd Lt. McPartland has been wounded during the fighter attack but remained at the controls and perished in the crash (Ref 1).

The aircraft wreckage fell to earth near Springe, about 28½ km SW of Misburg at about 12:50 hrs.

(1) The circumstances leading to the death of 1st Lt. Hert were unknown until a General Military Government Court was convened at Dachau, Germany on the 3rd & 4th December 1947.

A Heinrich Rixen, who was a former Obergefreiter (Cpl) in the Landwehr (German infantry), was charged that he did, at or near Springe, Germany, on or about the 26th November 1944, wrongfully kill a member of the Armed Forces of a nation then at war with the then German Reich, who was then and there a surrender and unarmed PoW in the custody of the then German Reich.

The identity of the member of the Armed Forces was not known at the time of the court proceedings but was later established to be 1st Lt. Hert (Ref 1).

The court heard that on the 26th November 1944, an unidentified Canadian [sic] airman parachuted to the ground near Springe, Germany.

A forester named Ringelhan who was in the locality testified that he saw the airman coming down through high trees and saw him lie on the ground for a while before crawling away. A police official named Schönemeier arrived and found Rixen and Ringelhan who was armed with a hunting rifle at the scene. Rixen was wearing a blue-white uniform of a hospital patient.

Schönemeier saw the airman sitting next to a tree and motioned to him that he should get up and come toward him. The airman pointed to his legs and Schönemeier then gave him two sticks with which to support himself. In a half-crawling manner and partially supporting himself with a stick, the airmen moved himself about 30 metres.

Schönemeier had to go to the aircraft crash site so Rixen volunteered to remain with the airman. However, Schönemeier told him to take the airman to the hospital located nearby. Ringelhan handed over his rifle to Rixen, who was unarmed, and drove off with Schönemeier to a hunting lodge.

Haselhorst, the chief physician at the hospital located at Springe, riding aboard a coach saw Rixen and the airman, who was walking with the aid of two large sticks, making their way to the hospital. When Haselhorst arrived at the hospital he warned a hospital Feldwebel (Sgt.) that a prisoner would shortly be arriving.

Schönemeier, after arriving at the hunting lodge heard a shot and then returned to where he had left the airman with Rixen and found the airman’s body with a catastrophic head wound as a result of the type of ammunition loaded in the hunting rifle. Schönemeier questioned Rixen who claimed that the airman had resisted so he shot him.

Rixen subsequently arrived at the hospital alone and when questioned by Haselhorst he claimed that the prisoner had threatened him and he had shot him. Haselhorst remonstrated with Rixen who claimed that such airmen were frequently lynched because they always shot women and children.

Upon learning of the shooting the chief physician of the hospital instructed his adjutant, a Hauptmann (Capt.) Schultze, to investigate the killing. His investigation found that Rixen had claimed self defence because the airman had attacked him with a stick. However, the bullet wound inflicted to the back of the airman’s head made the claim of self defence implausible. The report was forwarded to higher headquarters but when the chief physician did not receive a reply after about 2 weeks he inquired via telephone and was told in no uncertain terms to leave well alone.

The court rejected Rixen’s claim of self defence and found him guilty of the charge and sentenced him to death. The Review & Recommendations board recommended that the findings and sentence be approved. It appears that a further review must have been undertaken because his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. The term of imprisonment was then reduced to 27 years and he was paroled in April 1957.

Burial details:

2nd Lt. Lee E. McPartland. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Recovered and reinterred at the Ardennes American Cemetery Plot F, Row 7, Grave 166. Repatriated and interred in the Veterans Plot, Lincoln Memorial Park, Portland, Oregon. Born on the 12th March 1918. Son of Blanche L. Smith from Cicero, Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Above Grave marker 1st Lt. Hert DFC (Credit Dominique Potier - FindAGrave)

1st Lt. Carl Joseph Hert. DFC, Air Medal (3 Oak Leaf Clusters). Recovered and reinterred at the Ardennes American Cemetery Plot L, Row 10, Grave 233. Relocated to Plot D, Row 13, Grave 29. Born 22nd September 1915 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. Son of Joseph Anthony and Martha Irene (née Kamin) Hert. Husband to Gladys V. (née Marzullo) Hert from Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, 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’. Thanks also to John Meurs for his permission to refer to his book and research materials.

Reference

1. Not Home for Christmas - A Day in the Life of the Might Eighth, Chapter 33 - John Meurs

RS & TV 27.05.2021 - Initial upload

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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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