26.07.1943 336th Bomb Squadron (H) B-17F 42-5893 ‘Sad Sax’, 1st Lt. Oliver V. Robichaud
Operation: Hanover (Mission #77), Germany
Date: 26th July 1943 (Monday)
Unit: 95th Bombardment Group (H), 336th Bombardment Squadron (H), 3rd Air Division, 8th Air Force
Serial No: 42-5893 Sad Sax
Location: Dörrieloh, about 24 km east of Diepholz, Germany
Base: Horham (Station #119), Suffolk, England
Pilot: 1st Lt. Oliver V. Robichaud O-791336 AAF Age 26. PoW *
Co Pilot: 2nd Lt. Martin Heathcote O-733649 AAF Age 27. PoW **
Navigator: Capt. Roy Emmett Deadman O-789459 AAF Age 25. PoW **
Bombardier: 1st Lt. Robert William Katz O-731381 AAF Age 27. PoW *
Radio/Op: T/Sgt. Graham H. Smith 35326756 AAF Age? Killed
Engineer: T/Sgt. Charles Bluford Cothran 18040338 AAF Age 23. PoW *** (1)
Ball Turret: S/Sgt. James M. Bloxom 18117276 AAF Age 19. PoW **
Right Waist: S/Sgt. Clarence F. Borchardt 36323929 AAF Age? PoW **
Left Waist: S/Sgt. Joseph E. Mutz 16048838 AAF Age 24. PoW ****
Tail: S/Sgt. George Lawrence Kosturko 31124123 AAF Age 26. PoW *****
* Stalag 7a Moosburg, Bavaria (Work Camp 3324-46 Krumbachstrasse and Work Camp 3368 Munich)
** Stalag Luft 3 Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).
*** Stalag 17b Krems-Gneixendorf near Krems, Austria.
**** Stalag 9c Bad Sulza, Saxe-Weimar.
***** Stalag 10b Sandbostel, Schleswig.
1st Lt. Robichaud’s crew: Rapid City, South Dakota 1942 (Courtesy of the 95th BG Heritage Association)
Back Row L to R: 1st Lt. Robichaud, 2nd.Lt. Heathcote, 1st Lt. Katz, T/Sgt. Cothran; Front Row L to R: T/Sgt. Smith, S/Sgt. Kosturko, S/Sgt. Bloxom, S/Sgt. Mutz, S/Sgt. Borchardt.
Capt. Roy Emmett Deadman was not depicted on this photograph
REASON FOR LOSS:
The Sad Sax took off from Horham at 07:52 hrs joining 21 other aircraft from the 95th Bombardment Group, on a mission to bomb the primary target of the Continental Gummiwerke A.G. (Tyre factory) in the centre of Hanover. The aircraft was last seen with both flak and fighter damage near Diepholz, Germany. The aircraft crashed at 12:55 hrs near Dörrieloh, about 24 km east of Diepholz.
On this day the only Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (OKL = High command for the Luftwaffe) fighter claim in the vicinity of Diepholz was by Oblt. Helmut Niklas of Stab I./NJG 3, (flying a Bf 110G-4 out of Vechta airfield which was about ½ mile east of Diepholz airfield), who shot down a B-17 10 miles SSE of Vechta airfield, at 7500m at 12:55hrs (local).
All of the crew bailed out of the aircraft. S/Sgt. Borchardt, S/Sgt. Kosturko and 1st Lt. Katz were last seen at the Diepholz airfield severely wounded.
T/Sgt. Smith was seen by 2nd Lt. Heathcote at the city hall of a small town near to Diepholz where he had died. According to the German doctor present his injuries were entirely internal and were in his opinion sustained either by striking an obstruction whilst parachuting or when his parachute collapsed as he neared the ground.
S/Sgt. Bloxom reported that he had assisted the uninjured T/Sgt. Smith from the radio room to the waist escape door. He was in the process of bailing out when his foot slipped which resulted in his upper body falling out of the door and being blown into the side of the door by the slipstream. He was held in place by the slipstream and was freed by S/Sgt. Bloxom pushing him out of the door. Later he saw T/Sgt. Smith’s body which was badly bruised about the chest and stomach. He was buried at the nearby unnamed Luftwaffe airfield.
(1) T/Sgt. Cothran was captured and was eventually sent to Stalag 17b. He may have been amongst the 1350 US Army Air Force NCOs transferred from Stalag 7a, Moosburg, Bavaria on the 13th October 1943.
On the 8th April 1945 as Soviet forces approached from the east the Germans forced all non-Russian PoWs, some 4000 men, who were able to walk were made to evacuate Stalag 17b and march west along the Danube river toward Braunau in Austria. This was the start of an 18 day march of some 450 km towards the approaching American army.
2nd Lt. James W. Corson O-723951, from B-24J 42-51356 'Lassie Come Home' reported that a PoW who was with T/Sgt. Cothran told him that T/Sgt. Cothran had been shot and killed whilst trying to escape during the march from Stalag 17b.
S/Sgt. Bloxom reported that on the second day of the march, the 10th April 1945, T/Sgt. Cothran escaped and according to the reports received from German guards by some of the men in another marching group was shot by SS troopers.
On the 1st June 1945 the US authorities recovered T/Sgt. Cothran’s body from a mass grave in Stein, Austria. It was officially established that he died during the forced march from Stalag 17b.
It is not known whether the SS trooper or troopers who shot T/Sgt. Cothran were ever identified.
Above Grave marker for T/Sgt Smith: Credit Fieldsofhonour
T/Sgt. Graham H. Smith. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Ardennes American Cemetery, Neupré Plot A, Row 17, Grave 18. Son to Clarence H. Smith of Toledo, Ohio, USA.
T/Sgt. Charles Bluford Cothran. Purple Heart. Repatriated. Reburial at the Evergreen Cemetery in Paris, Texas. Born on the 15th September 1921. Son of Carl R. and Verna M. (née Ford) Cothran of Paris, Texas, 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’.