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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
07.10.1944 361th Fighter Squadron P-47D 42-76177 ‘Mad Wolves’ 1st Lt. Paul J. Roberts

Operation: Escort mission to Germany

Date: 7th October 1944 (Saturday)

Unit: 356th Fighter Group, 361st Fighter Squadron, 8th Air Force

Type: P-47D Mad Wolves

Serial: 42-76177

Code: QI:P

Base: Martlesham Heath (Station #369), Suffolk, England

Location: 2 km SE of Schiffelbach, Germany

Pilot: 1st Lt. Paul ‘Pinky’ J. Roberts Jr., DFC O-1283139 AAF Age 21. Survived

REASON FOR LOSS:

On the morning of the 7th October 1944 1st Lt. Roberts took off from Martlesham Heath as White #2 of a four aircraft flight on an escort mission to be followed by attacking targets of opportunity.

The following was the after mission statement by 1st Lt. Freeman P. Hooker O-1541970

“When the bombers that our group were escorting on Oct 7, 1944 had finished their target run, Green Flight Leader of our Squadron spotted an airfield about 20 miles SW of Kassel, Germany. We descended from 20,000 ft. in a fast left spiral, hit the deck out of this spiral and made a firing pass from east to west over the airfield, each man picking a target.

My position was #4 in Green Flight. When my run was completed and I was across the field I noticed another flight coming in across the field 180o to me. I pulled up and lost the rest of my flight. I then pulled around and joined this other (White) Flight in their second and third passes.

I heard two men say they were hit; one from Green Flight and one from White Flight. On my third and last pass, White #2 also said he was hit. I followed him in a climbing turn off the field and, at 2000 feet pulled up beside him and radioed to him that his engine was smoking from the underside. He lost speed and I followed him on a westerly heading for about 20 miles.

His engine was now smoking very badly so he prepared to bail out. At an altitude a little less than 1000 feet he left the plane from the right side, easily clearing the tail and apparently getting off in good shape. The chute opened fully almost immediately and he came to earth on the eastern slope of a wooded hill.

The abandoned plane went straight ahead and dropped down into the hill in a steep dive - no fire was observed where the plane hit. The time was approximately 13:30 hrs. I circled the area two or three times, and observed civilians about a mile away running toward the spot. I then left and went back to the vicinity of the airfield and picked up a course for home.”

The squadron was strafing the Fritzlar air base which was some 29 km SW of Kassel. Located on the south bank of the Eder River 2 km SSE of the town of Fritzlar. On the 7th October 1944 the airfield was attacked by P-47s. from the 8th Air Force. They claimed 5 Bf110s, 3 Ju88s and 1 unidentified aircraft destroyed, plus 7 Bf110s, 1 Me410, 11 Ju88s and 1 Hs123 damaged. (Luftwaffe Airfields 1935-45 Germany (1937 Borders) by Henry L. deZeng IV).

The P-47D crashed 2 km SE of Schiffelbach, 25 km NE of Marburg.

The circumstances leading to the death of 1st Lt. Roberts were established by a US Military Commission which was convened at Heidelberg, Germany on the 10th and 11th October 1945.

Two German nationals were charged that they, on or about the 27th October 1944 [sic], at or near Friedensdorf, Germany, did wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid, abet and participate in the killing of a member of the Army of the United States whose exact identity was unknown, who was then unarmed and a PoW in the custody of the then German Reich.

The two accused were Wilhelm Dietermann who was a former member of the Gendarmerie (Local police) and lapsed member of the Nazi party. The second was an Andreas Ebling who was acquitted of the charge.

The court heard that during the evening of the 27th October 1944 [sic] in the vicinity of Buchenau, Germany an American airman named Roberts was taken prisoner by the civilian inhabitants of Buchenau. He was disarmed and taken to the local Bürgermeister (mayor) for questioning During the interrogation the airman was told by an SS-Untersturmführer (Lt.) named Menge that he was going to be shot.

The airman’s full name was not disclosed in the record of the trial but was confirmed to be 1st Lt. Paul J. Roberts Jr., O-1289139 [sic]. His correct ASN was O-1283139.

Note: Evidence uncovered by local historians, Willi Balzer, Dirk Sohl and Robert Steiner indicate that 1st Lt. Roberts evaded the enemy for eight days and was captured on the 15th October 1944. Buchenau, where he was captured, is some 30 km WSW of the aircraft crash site 2 km SE of Schiffelbach.

Menge summoned Dietermann and asked him if he was familiar with the order of the Reichsführer of the SS (Heinrich Himmler) that Allied airmen should not be taken prisoner. Dietermann, construed this to mean that captured Allied airmen should be killed, replied that he did.

Note: Hitler's Nazi party secretary Martin Ludwig Bormann sent out a secret circular on the 30th May 1944 which was to be transmitted verbally only to the local Nazi party leaders.

He wrote that during the past weeks low altitude fliers had repeatedly attacked non-military targets such as playing children, ploughing farmers etc., that in several cases the pilots of such planes who had to crash land or bail out were lynched on the spot by the enraged populace, and that, it had been decided not to prosecute the German nationals involved.

This was of course not just a report of things which had happened but a blatant instigation to kill. Other Nazi officials issued similar circulars in their departments, and the spiteful term of “terror fliers” which appeared in the press and radio over and over again, together with the horrible experiences of the civilian in the street (or rather in the air raid shelter) added to the general climate of hate.

On the 4th July 1944, the police received secret orders which amounted practically to the order to kill all Allied airmen, without regard for the circumstances of the case.

On the orders of Menge, Dietermann tied the airman’s hands behind his back and hobbled him with cord. Dietermann was then ordered to take the prisoner on foot in the direction of the town of Friedensdorf on the pretext to deliver him to a detention centre.

Friedensdorf is some 3½ km SW of Buchenau

En route Dietermann loosened the hobble so that the airman could walk at a quicker pace. Dietermann, in his testimony, claimed that between leaving the Bürgermeister’s office and reaching the Karlschotte [sic] bridge the airman had assaulted him by grabbing his private parts and twisting his right wrist. He further claimed that he did nothing in retaliation.

It is believed that this is actually the Carlshütte bridge which crosses the Lahn river and is about 1½ km SW of Buchenau.

Meanwhile, Menge, Ebling and a third unnamed individual, presumably the driver, drove to a point on the road near the Carlshütte bridge and waited for Dietermann and the airman to arrive. When they arrived they got into the car and were driven to a cross-roads where Dietermann, Menge, Ebling and the airman alighted. The three walked a short distance to a nearby stone quarry and there Menge gave Dietermann the airman’s confiscated sidearm and told him to shoot the airman in the head.

On modern day maps this disused stone quarry appears to be some 325 m. due west of the Carlshütte bridge on Bundesstraße 62.

Dietermann claimed that the airman again grabbed his private parts and lifted him off the ground at which point Dietermann struck the airman with the pistol and shot him in the head. It is believed that 1st Lt. Roberts’ body had been initially buried at the Friedensdorf cemetery in grave #195, by local residents.

Dietermann’s claim of self-defence was manifestly false given that the victim had his hands tied behind his back and was still hobbled. Consequently, the court found Dietermann guilty of the charge. He was sentenced to death by hanging and was executed on the 12th January 1946 at Bruchsal Prison by M/Sgt. John Woods.

It is not known if SS-Untersturmführer Menge, who was reported to have been the Gendarmerie-Kreisführer (District head of police) since 1944, was ever found and apprehended.

Burial Details

1st Lt. Paul J. Roberts Jr., DFC, Air Medal (4 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Recovered and reinterred in the Netherlands American Cemetery, Plot RR, Row 8, Grave 189. Repatriated and interred at the Arlington National Cemetery, Fort Myer, Virginia, in Plot 11, Grave 578 SH on the 29th December 1948. Born on the 10th October 1922 in Washington State. Son of Col. Paul J. and Betty Roberts from Rock Island, Illinois, USA.


Above: Dedication Ceremony at Martlesham Heath (Credit: Martlesham Heath Aviation Society)

Above memorials at Martlesham Heath. The 1st on the left is the memorial described below. (Credit: Martlesham Heath Aviation Society)

Above the plaque on the memorial in tribute to the fallen of the 356th Fighter Group (Credit: Martlesham Heath Aviation Society)

The members of the 356th Fighter Group had planned to erect a fitting memorial to their fallen pilots at Marklesham Heath but were deployed before the plans were enacted. Capt. and Mrs. Eric Hervey, two local Suffolk residents, then took up the plan and sponsored a public subscription to finance a plaque in tribute to the fallen pilots.

On the 13th June 1946 in a fitting ceremony the Earl of Stradbroke, the Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk County, unveiled a stone and bronze memorial. The names on the plaque include that of 1st Lt. Paul J. Roberts Jr., who was a former Los Angeles Times employee.


Above: The Lieutenant Paul J. Roberts Jr. Memorial Trophy (Credit: Civilian Marksmanship Program)

His father, Col. Paul J. Roberts a distinguished Rifle and Pistol Marksman, commissioned and financed a new trophy in memory of his son. The trophy was named the “Lt Roberts Memorial Trophy” and was presented to the highest scoring Air Force competitor in the National Trophy Individual Rifle Match starting in 1959.


Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot. Thanks also to Traugott Vitz for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’.

RS & TV 18.07.2021 - 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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