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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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15th Air Force
09.12.1944 30th Bomb Squadron (H) B-17G 42-97739, 1st.Lt. Woodruff J. Warren

Operation: Brüx synthetic oil refinery, Czechoslovakia

Date: 9th December 1944 (Saturday)

Unit: 2nd Bombardment Group (H), 30th Bombardment Squadron (H), 5th Bomb Wing, 15th Air Force

Type: B-17G

Serial No: 42-97739

Code: Allocated but not known

Location: "Galgenberg" (gallows hill), today called Šibenični vrch, Czechoslovakia

Base: Amendola Air Base, Foggia, Italy

Pilot: 1st.Lt. Woodruff Joseph Warren O-755803 AAF Age 24. Survived (1)

Co Pilot: 1st.Lt. Donald Lloyd Hart O-822620 AAF Age 26. Survived (1)

Navigator: 1st.Lt. Burke William Jay O-2058488 AAF Age 23. PoW *

Bombardier: 2nd.Lt. William Jolly O-777407 AAF Age 23. Survived (2)

Radio Operator: T/Sgt. Warren Anderson 14076996 AAF Age 23. PoW **

Mickey/Navigator: 2nd.Lt. George Damon Mayott O-768826 AAF Age 23. Survived (1)

Engineer/Gunner: T/Sgt. Frank Pinto Jr. 38284136 AAF Age 24. Survived (1)

Right Waist Gunner: S/Sgt. Joseph A. Cox 14182286 AAF Age 32. Survived (1)

Left Waist Gunner: S/Sgt. Ralph Ernest Henry 14192736 AAF Age 27. PoW *

Tail Gunner: S/Sgt. Benjamin Joseph Sheppard 12133360 AAF Age 21. PoW ***

* Unknown PoW camp

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

*** 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:

B-17G 42-97739 took off from the Amendola Air Base, Foggia, Italy on the morning of the 9th December 1944 on a mission to bomb the Brüx synthetic oil refinery in Czechoslovakia.

Because of unfavourable weather conditions the formation was directed off course to an alternate target, the Regensburg oil storage in Germany.

Over this target, the second wave made three runs, not bombing because of Path Finder Force (PFF) equipment malfunctions. This wave, composed of two squadrons, then proceeded to an alternate target at Pilsen (Plzeň), Czechoslovakia. After bombing this target at 12:50 hrs, the aircraft of the formation continued on same heading, delaying their turn off the bomb-run and encountered intense, accurate, heavy flak from Praha. At this time the formation was broken up. However, due to 10/10th cloud cover from 20,000 to 25,000 ft, reforming was difficult. The majority of aircraft were flying on instruments and observation of other aircraft was thus impossible.

PFF equipment was the description for H2X, an airborne ground-mapping radar system developed from the British H2S system. It was popularly known as ‘Mickey’.

The following is an after mission statement by 1st.Lt. Sidney P. Upsher, O-768316, pilot on B-17G #660, flying in formation of the second wave, second squadron, second element, number one position.

“At 18:30 hrs, at 47 00N, 13 10E at 21,500 feet, I called B-17 #789 to ask about the formation. Then he called our aircraft saying that he had one engine feathered and trouble with one other and that he didn't know if he could make it over the Alps. He said he would have to bail out if he couldn't and would have to ditch if he did make it over the Alps. He was losing altitude and his altitude at that time was 15,000 feet. I called him back and wished him “Good Luck” and then heard no more from him.”

The Lat/Long 47 00N, 13 10E is some 8 km NNE of Dürnvellach in Austria.

From the only available Individual Casualty Questionnaire S/Sgt. Sheppard reported that he had heard 1st.Lt. Warren telling the crew that they would not get over the Alps and that they had to abandon the aircraft.

S/Sgt. Cox requested S/Sgt. Sheppard to ask the pilot to force-land the aircraft as he had refused to bail out. He last saw 1st.Lt Warren aboard the aircraft and believed that he did in fact force-land the aircraft after giving the order to bail out. He had no knowledge of where the aircraft came down.

S/Sgt. Sheppard was the first to bail out of the waist door followed by S/Sgt. Henry and then by T/Sgt Anderson. 1st.Lt. Jay left from the nose hatch. To the best of S/Sgt. Sheppard’s knowledge none of the crew were injured.

S/Sgt. Sheppard was told by a German citizen that after 1st.Lt Warren had been captured he had been shot by a German farmer, which was subsequently proved to be incorrect. He had no knowledge of the fates of 1st.Lt. Hart, 2nd.Lt. Jolly, 2nd.Lt. Mayott, T/Sgt. Pinto Jr. or S/Sgt. Cox.

It was subsequently determined that 1st.Lt Warren was one of five crew that remained aboard the aircraft when it was forced-landed and that 2nd.Lt. Jolly had bailed out.

German records documented that the aircraft made a forced-landing at Unterhaid (today Dolní Dvořiště) near Kaplitz (Kaplice), Czechoslovakia at 14:25 hrs.

According to research conducted by Fritz Fellner and Karl Affenzeller the exact location of the forced-landing was on the northern slope of the "Galgenberg" (gallows hill), today called Šibenični vrch and is equidistant between Rybnik, Czechoslovakia and Wullowitz, Austria.

Fritz Fellner is a local historian from Friestadt, Austria. Karl Affenzeller, whose surname was a pseudonym, is a member of the 2nd Bombardment Group Association.

The German document which recorded the location of the force-landing also recorded that six of the crew were shot whilst allegedly attempting to escape.

(1) The circumstances of the deaths of five of the airmen was determined during an American Military Commission convened at Dachau, Germany on the 24th August 1945.

One Austrian national was charged on two counts, which specified that on or about the 9th December 1944, that he did at or near Kaplitz in Czechoslovakia, wrongfully and unlawfully shoot and kill one American airman with a machine pistol and shoot another American airman, whose names, ranks and serial numbers were unknown.

Although the identities of the five airmen were not known to the court, it was later established that the five were 1st.Lt Warren, 1st.Lt. Hart, 2nd.Lt. Mayott, T/Sgt. Pinto Jr. and S/Sgt. Cox.

The accused was a Franz Xaver Strasser who was the former Kreisleiter (Nazi party county leader) of Kaplitz in Sudetenland (Czechoslovakia).

The court heard that on the afternoon of the 9th December 1944, an American bomber made a forced landing near Zahdelesdorg, Czechoslovakia. (Probably Zartlesdorf, today Rybník).

Five American airmen were apprehended and loaded onto a truck for the ostensible purpose of transporting them to Kaplitz. Strasser preceded the truck in a motor car and, in the execution of a prearranged plan, stopped the truck near a mountain top where the five airmen were killed.

Strasser participated in the shootings, and by his own admission shot one and perhaps two of the airmen. It was Strasser’s contention that he shot in order to prevent the airmen from escaping. However, in the court’s deliberations it was deemed that the overwhelming weight of evidence refuted Strasser’s contention.

An analysis of the facts showed that Strasser, together with two other individuals named Hermann Nelböck and Walter Wolf, left the location where the airmen were being held, in a vehicle. Strasser’s car was followed by a truck with the airmen and driven by an individual named Josef Pusch. A third vehicle in the convoy was a car with Karl Lindemeyer who was Oberleutnant (1st.Lt.) der Polizei of Kaplitz and driven by an individual named Johann Reichl.

Pusch was the main witness for the prosecution.

The testimony describing the events immediately before and at the time of the killing was conflicting. However, what was not in dispute was that the convoy stopped near the summit of a high elevation on the road to Kaplitz. Here, by his own admission, Strasser shot and killed two of the airmen. The other three airmen were killed by Lindemeyer.

The evidence presented was overwhelming that there was no attempt on the part of the airmen to escape, and that the killing of the airmen was as a result of a preconceived course of action on the part of Strasser and Lindemeyer. It was unclear who was killed by whom.

The court found Strasser guilty of the charges and sentenced him to death. He was executed at Landsberg on the 10th December 1945.

Neither Nelböck nor Wolf had been apprehended but during the court proceedings it was determined that they had no involvement in the shootings. Lindemeyer committed suicide by shooting himself on the 8th May 1945 after Germany surrendered.

(2) Reference 1 confirms that 2nd.Lt. Jolly bailed out and landed safely. It also describes that after he had freed himself from his parachute a number of people had run towards him and that he raised his hands in surrender. In the group was Josef Wimmer, the Ortsgruppenleiter (Nazi party Local Group Leader) of Oppolz, who without warning shot and killed 2nd.Lt. Jolly.

Despite intensive searches by American and Czechoslovakian authorities Wimmer was never apprehended and brought before a court to answer for his actions.

Burial details:

A German document reported that the six airmen had been buried at Stiegelsdorf and Reichenau. The assumption being that 2nd.Lt. Jolly was buried at Reichenau whilst the other five murdered airmen were buried at Stiegelsdorf.

Stiegelsdorf is perhaps Stiegersdorf (part of Leopoldschlag/Upper Austria, south of Dolní Dvořiště) or Stygesdorf/Zdiky, west of the road going to Kaplice.

Reichenau is probably Reichenau an der Maltsch (Rychnov nad Malši), today part of Dolní Dvořiště.

Above: 1st.Lt. Warren DFC (Credit: The Evening Review, December 19, 1945)

1st.Lt. Woodruff Joseph Warren. DFC (Oak Leaf Cluster), AM (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Initially buried at the Lorraine American Cemetery, Plot CC, Row 6, Grave 147. Relocated to Plot J, Row 28, Grave 12. Born 1st December 1920 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Son to Woodruff Wilbur and Regina B. (née Emery) Warren of Hyattsville, Maryland. Husband to Lily M. Warren of Hyattsville, Maryland, USA.

Above: 1st.Lt. Hart (Credit: Bill McEvoy - FindAGrave)

1st.Lt. Donald Lloyd Hart. Repatriated and interred on the 15th January 1949 at at the Belmont Cemetery, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. Born 20th September 1918, Waltham, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. Son to Jessie M. Hart and husband to Madeline (née Mahan) Hart of Belmont, Middlesex, Massachusetts, USA.

2nd.Lt. William Jolly. Repatriated, however, burial details unknown. Named on casualty list for Houghton County, Michigan. Born on the 4th February 1921 in Baltic, Houghton County, Michigan. Son of John and Muriel Jolly from Houghton County, Michigan, USA.

2nd.Lt. George Damen Mayott. Purple Heart. Initially buried at the Lorraine American Cemetery, Plot CC, Row 6, Grave 146. Relocated to Plot A, Row 24, Grave 48. Born on the 6th July 1921 in Arkwright, New York. Son of John Ray and Grace Eleanora (née Lewis) Mayott of Columbus, Ohio, USA.

Above: T/Sgt. Pinto Jr.: (Credit: Fort Worth Star Telegram, January 7, 1949)

T/Sgt. Frank Pinto Jr. Repatriated and buried at the Greenwood Memorial Park and Mausoleum, Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Texas. Born 29th July 1920 Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Texas. Son of Frank and Pauline (née Ground) Pinto of Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Texas, USA.

Above: S/Sgt. Cox: (Credit: The Montgomery Advertiser, November 18, 1945)

S/Sgt. Joseph Aubrey Cox. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Initially buried at the Lorraine American Cemetery, Plot CC, Row 6, Grave 148. Relocated to Plot J, Row 5, Grave 12. Born on the 29th January 1911 in Pike, Alabama. Son of Joseph Beverly and Eula Cleome (née Jeffcoat) Cox and husband to Gladys Pearl (née Sanders) Cox of Covington, Alabama, USA.

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

Reference:

1. Österreichische Flugzeug Historiker (öfh) Nachrichten Issue 4, 1999 (=Newsletter of the Austrian Aircraft Historians).

RS & TV 05.01.2021 - Correction Stalag Luft 1 detail

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', 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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