30.11.1944 570th Bomb Squadron (H) B-17G 42-107041, ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’, 1st Lt. Douglas Meigide
Operation: Merseburg oil installation (Mission #212), Germany
Date: 30th November 1944 (Thursday)
Unit: 390th Bombardment Group (H), 570th Bombardment Squadron (H), 3rd Air Division, 8th Air Force
Type: B-17G Ain’t Misbehavin
Serial No: 42-107041
Location: Eschwege, Germany
Base: Framlingham (Station #153), Suffolk, England
Pilot: 1st Lt. Douglas Meigide O-811114 AAF Age 24. Killed
Co Pilot: 2nd Lt. Pat Thomas Condon O-821670 AAF Age 20. Killed
Navigator: 2nd Lt. John J. Kaufmann O-719956 AAF Age 20. Killed
Togglier: S/Sgt. Joseph Sylvester Standard 39556253 AAF Age 22. PoW *
Radio Operator: T/Sgt. Forest Allan Peterson 36243752 AAF Age 25. Survived/Murdered (1)
Engineer: T/Sgt. Frank H. Hudson 18074949 AAF Age? PoW *
Ball Turret: S/Sgt. DuLanne Porter Gunn 39291588 AAF Age 21. Killed
Waist Gunner: S/Sgt. Ervin Alois Sabel 36822264 AAF Age 21. PoW **
Tail Gunner: S/Sgt. George Hartman 36452775 AAF Age? 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 4 Groß-Tychow, Pomerania, Prussia now Poland (Moved from Stalag Luft 6 Heydekrug. Moved to Wöbbelin near Ludwigslust and then to Usedom near Swinemünde)
** Unknown PoW Camp
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 Bombardier’s 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 who was designated as the Togglier.
Above crew photograph from 390th Memorial Museum, Tucson, Arizona (Courtesy of Loren George Meigide)
REASON FOR LOSS:
On the morning of the 30th November 1944 Ain’t Misbehavin joined a force of 433 B-17s on a mission to bomb the Leuna oil installations at Merseburg.
At about 11:55 hrs Ain’t Misbehavin was flying at approximately 25,000 feet when it was hit by flak which knocked out the #2 engine. As they were some 5 mins from the target 1st Lt. Meigide instructed all personnel to stay with the aircraft. At about 12:05 hrs, 5 mins after bombs away, #3 and #4 engines were knocked out by flak which also damaged the aircraft controls and instruments. The aircraft went into a dive from which the pilots managed to recover at a low altitude.
The crew started to jettison guns, ammunition and other removable equipment in an effort to maintain height and flying speed. Ain’t Misbehavin proceeded in westerly direction on its single working engine for about another hour before 1st Lt. Meigide gave orders to abandon the aircraft.
The enlisted crew gathered at the rear of the aircraft and all except S/Sgt. Standard successfully bailed out. T/Sgt. Hudson followed S/Sgt Sabel, S/Sgt. Hartman, S/Sgt. Gunn and S/Sgt. Peterson and saw five parachutes in the air as he was descending. T/Sgt. Hudson managed to evade capture for some 24 hrs before being apprehended near Rommerode, some 19 km west of where the aircraft crashed.
S/Sgt. Standard remained aboard for another 15 mins during which time he, 2nd Lt. Condon and 2nd Lt. Kaufmann worked to lighten the aircraft further by throwing out anything that was loose. 1st Lt. Meigide eventually gave the order to bail out upon which S/Sgt. Standard went out first of those remaining. He pulled his rip-cord as he exited the door. The aircraft was at such a low altitude that his parachute opened just as he hit some high-tension wires before hitting the ground.
After S/Sgt Sabel, the first to bail out, landed he immediately started walking to the NW. After travelling about 300 ft he found the body of S/Sgt. Dunn who he believed had died when his parachute failed to open although his parachute had ‘spilled’ around him where he had landed. He initially had difficulty in recognizing S/Sgt. Dunn because the nature of his injuries but confirmed that it was him after examining the body.
He continued NW for about another 1 mile where he saw T/Sgt. Peterson’s dead body lying on the ground surrounded by German civilians. He could not get close enough to the body to examine it to determine how he was killed before being captured. However, he could see that T/Sgt. Peterson’s parachute was not on his body. He later learned that S/Sgt. Hartmann had seen T/Sgt. Peterson land safely and take off his parachute. According to where he was found he thought that he may have travelled about 200 ft from where he had landed. He believed that T/Sgt. Peterson had been killed by hostile action on the ground.
1st Lt. Meigide, 2nd Lt. Condon and 2nd Lt. Kaufmann perished in the aircraft when it crashed at about 14:00 hrs near Eschwege.
(1) The circumstances leading to the death of T/Sgt. Peterson was determined by a General Military Government Court convened at Dachau, Germany on the 28th, 29th and 30th August 1946.
Two German nationals were charged in that they did, at or near Küchen [sic], Germany, on or about the 30th November 1944, wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully, encourage, aid, abet, and participate in the killing of a member of the United States Army, believed to be Forrest [sic] Peterson, who was then an unarmed, surrendered PoW in the custody of the then German Reich.
As the aircraft was flying in a westerly direction from Merseburg and crashed near Eschwege the reported location of the crime at or near Küchen is questionable as it is some 16 km further to the west of the crash site.
The two accused were; Reinhard Möller who was a civilian railway worker at the time of the killing and Gustav Engelhardt who was reported to be a former Kreisstabsführer (County Staff Leader) in the Volkssturm (National Militia = Home Guard) and a member of the Nazi party.
During the trial there was evidence presented that Engelhardt was in charge of the Volkssturm battalion at Witzenhausen which could have made him a Bataillonsführer (Maj). Additionally there was evidence that Möller was a member of the Volkssturm, and that Engelhardt was his superior.
The court heard that on or about the 30th November 1944 and airman parachuted to safety in the vicinity of Küchen [sic], Germany. He surrendered to a German national named Otto Reuss and told him that he was an American. The two proceeded, the airman in front, along a path toward the village with Reuss following with his horses.
En route they met Möller and some other people. Without provocation Möller struck the airman twice about the head with a stick, knocking him down an embankment. Engelhardt arrived from the village with one Heinrich Pressler, who was armed with an old Infantry rifle, and ordered or urged that the airman be shot. Möller then took the rifle from Pressler and shot the airman from a distance of 6 or 7 metres who at the time was standing with his hands by his side facing Möller.
The airman collapsed, falling on his right side, but immediately raised his head from the ground. Engelhardt took a small calibre sidearm from his belt and fired a shot into the airman’s head.
The airman’s body was left at the scene until the following morning when Reuss, Pressler and two others collected the body along with that of another airman who had been killed while landing and took them to the Community House.
Evidence shows that the second body must have been S/Sgt. Gunn.
The bodies of T/Sgt. Peterson and S/Sgt Gunn were then taken to the Hessisch-Lichtenau airfield where they buried in a common grave along with two other bodies.
The Hessisch-Lichtenau airfield was some 7½ km WNW of Küchen (the alleged location of the crime).
Records for the exhumation of the grave at the Hessisch-Lichtenau airfield on the 6th March 1946, confirms the burial of T/Sgt. Peterson and S/Sgt. Gunn and also that 2nd Lt. Condon and 2nd Lt. Kaufmann were the other two bodies.
In his testimony Möller admitted that he struck the airman. He also claimed that he did not take the rifle from Pressler but that it was handed to him. He admitted that he did fire a shot at the airman, under orders from Engelhardt, but did not know if the bullet hit him. It was later in the evening when he passed by the airman that he saw that the body had a bullet wound to the head.
In his testimony Engelhardt claimed that he was subject to ‘superior orders’, under threat of punishment of 2 years in a concentration camp, to ensure that no future Allied airman was to be delivered alive.
The court rejected both their claims of ‘superior orders’ and determined that there was sufficient evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Möller and Engelhardt were guilty of the charge and sentenced them both to death.
Möller and Engelhardt were hanged at Landsberg on the 2nd May 1947. Möller was buried in Spöttinger Cemetery and Engelhardt, elsewhere by his family.
Above: Grave marker for 1st Lt. Meigide (Credit: Glenn R. Piwowar - FindAGrave)
1st Lt. Douglas Meigide. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters). Recovered from an unknown location and reinterred at the Ardennes American Cemetery, Plot EE, Row 3, Grave 71 as X-6861. Repatriated on the 24th August 1949 and interred at the Long Island National Cemetery, Farmingdale, Long Island, New York. Born on the 24th July 1920 in Clinton, Massachusetts. Son of Peter and Barbara Meigide. Husband to Sarah (née Marzullo) Meigide from Manhattan, New York, USA.
Above: Grave marker for 2nd Lt. Condon (Credit: msionds - FindAGrave)
2nd Lt. Pat Thomas Condon. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters). Purple Heart. Recovered and reinterred at the Ardennes American Cemetery, Plot D, Row 1, Grave 17. Relocated to Plot B, Row 29, Grave 10. Born on the 14th July 1924 in Homeland, Georgia. Son of Richard E. and Mary E. Condon from Westfield, Massachusetts, USA.
Credit: The Herald News, Dated Monday June 6th, 1949
2nd Lt. John J. Kaufmann. Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster). Recovered and reinterred at the Ardennes American Cemetery, Plot D, Row 1, Grave 22. Repatriated and interred at the Saint Mary’s Cemetery, Rochelle Park, New Jersey on the 8th June 1949. Born on the 1st August 1924. Son of Mr & Mrs John Kaufmann of Passaic, New Jersey, USA.
T/Sgt. Forest Allan Peterson. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Recovered and reinterred at the Ardennes American Cemetery, Plot D, Row 1, Grave 14. Repatriated and interred at the Commonwealth Cemetery, Commonwealth, Wisconsin. Born on the 9th June 1919 at Iron Mountain, Dickinson, Michigan. Son of Adolph H. and Mabel H. (née Sundberg) Peterson Husband to Dorothy Elizabeth (née Berdinner) Peterson from Iron Mountain, Dickinson, Michigan, USA.
S/Sgt. DuLanne Porter Gunn. Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster). Recovered and reinterred at the Ardennes American Cemetery, Plot D, Row 3, Grave 57. Repatriated and interred at the Nevilles Chapel Cemetery, Mount Pleasant, Texas. Born on the 20th June 1923 in Morris, Texas. Son of Walter Harrison C. and Lena Belle (née Porter) Gunn from Morris, Texas, USA. His father predeceased him in September 1931.
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’. Many thanks to Loren Douglas Meigide, a nephew of 1st Lt. Douglas Meigide, for the correction to his NoK details and for the crew photograph (Aug 2021). Thanks to Glenn R. Piwowar for permission to include the grave marker for 1st Lt. Douglas Meigide (Aug 2021).