2nd. Lt. Charles Carlson: USAAF Thunderbolt Pilot Crash Found
The remains of Charles E. Carlson, a World War II pilot from New York City, have been identified after Carlson was killed in combat in 1944.
The Pentagon's Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced 31 July 2017 the remains of Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Charles E. Carlson, of Queens, have been identified after being found last year by History Flight, a private Florida-based group.
Military officials say Carlson was the 24-year-old pilot of a P-47 Thunderbolt fighter that was shot down near Bonn, Germany, during a dog fight with German planes on Decemeber 23, 1944.
German officials reported burying Carlson's remains at the crash site, but post-war efforts to find them were unsuccessful until his case was reopened in 2008.
Carlson's remains were buried at the Indiantown Gap National Cemetery in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania.
The only German record we have of a Thunderbolt being downed on December 23 1944 is the claim of Ofw. Heinrich Bartels of 15./JG27. His claim is recorded in German records as having crashed near Bad Godesburg, close by to Bonn. The USAAF Combat Operations Report for this date, however, refers to a total of 3 P-47s being lost on this day but we have no information from the German side claiming the other 2, so it's possible these additional losses occurred on the way home and were not observed by the Germans, which leaves Bartels' claim as being the sole one for a loss near Bonn.
Bartels was himself killed the same day, 23 December, 1944 in his G-10, 'Yellow 13' over Bonn, shortly after his last victory, which was observed to be a P-47 on the tail of Ofhr. Rolf Brand's Me 109 from 11/JG27. This P-47 is thought to be the aircraft being flown by Charles Carlson. Bartels' body was found on 26 January 1968 near Villip (Bad Godesberg), with the parachute intact.
It is thought that Col. David Schilling (shown right) Commanding Officer of the 56FG was the victor over Bartels on this date. Shilling was quite the operator. He arrived with the group in England in January 1943 as commander of the 62nd Fighter Squadron and began combat missions in April flying the P-47 Thunderbolt, recording his first kill on October 2, 1943. Schilling was promoted to group executive officer in August 1943 and to group commander on August 12, 1944, commanding the 56th Fighter Group until January 27, 1945. He was promoted to full colonel on October 1, 1944, at the age of 25. 'Hairless Joe' (code LM-S) was his personal P-47 from July 1944 up until his last documented combat mission on Jan 5th 1945. In his time in Britain, he became the sixth-leading ace of the 8th Air Force, scoring 22½ kills against Luftwaffe aircraft. On December 23, 1944 he downed five German fighters (one of them Bartels) to become one of the 38 USAAF 'Ace-in-a-Day' pilots. Schilling flew 132 combat missions in two combat tours with the 56th. He also destroyed 10.5 enemy aircraft on the ground, while strafing enemy airfields. He was impressively honoured, having earned the Distingushed Service Cross, the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, the British DFC and the French Croix de Guerre
Bartels (shown to left
) was himself vastly experienced, with over 500 missions, and 42 victories in the West, including at least 2 heavy bombers. He had earned the Ritterkreuz, the highest award in the German service, along with the Deutches Kreuz in Gold, the Ehrenpokal (Honour Goblet), and the Iron Cross First and Second Classes. These awards are described on our Axis Awards
Bartels had amassed an impressive total of 99 victories before falling himself. There is a fuller description of his record in our Kracker Luftwaffe Archive on this site, with a listing of his known victories on our Luftwaffe Victories by Name/Date database on this site.
The USAAF Combat Operations Report (on our site) for 23 December 1944 makes interesting reading. Item 5 refers to the operation in which Carlson was lost, along with 2 of his P-47 colleagues and 3 of his P-51 Mustang colleagues who were also lost. This was obviously a heavy operation involving 163 USAAF fighter opposed by an unknown number of Germans. This was probably a diversionary probe in force to attract German fighters away from the Bastogne region where the Germans were mounting their Battle of the Bulge effort to penetrate to Antwerp and stop the relentless Allied advance on the German homeland.
EUROPEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS (ETO)
AIRBORNE OPERATIONS (IX Troop Carrier Command): 260 C-47s drop 334 tons of
supplies in parapacks on several drop zones inside the besieged American
positions at Bastogne, Belgium.
STRATEGIC OPERATIONS (Eighth Air Force): 2 missions are flown.
Mission 757: 423 bombers and 636 fighters are dispatched to hit marshalling
yards, communication centers and a rail junction in the rear of the battle
area; 75-150 Luftwaffe aircraft are encountered and the AAF claims 75-5-23; 7
fighter are lost:
1. 148 of 153 B-17s hit the marshalling yard at Ehrang; 45 B-17s are
damaged; 1 airman is KIA and 1 WIA. Escorting are 54 of 62 P-51s; they claim
20-0-3 aircraft without loss.
2. 113 B-24s are sent to bomb communication centers at Ahrweiler (48),
Junkerath (31) and Dahlem (27); 74 B-24s are damaged; 3 airmen are WIA.
Escort is provided by 243 of 254 P-51s; they claim 1-0-0 aircraft; 1 P-51 is
lost (pilot MIA) and 1 damaged beyond repair.
3. 152 B-17s are dispatched to hit marshalling yards at Homburg (58) and
Kaiserslautern (40) and the rail junction at Homburg; 6 others hit targets
of opportunity; they claim 6-4-5 aircraft; 77 B-17s are damaged; 1 airman is
WIA and 7 MIA. Escorting are 112 of 117 P-51s; they claim 2-0-0 aircraft
4. 6 of 6 B-17s fly a screening mission.
5. 163 P-47s and P-51s fly a fighter sweep of the Bonn, Germany area; they
claim 46-1-15 aircraft; 3 P-47s and 3 P-51s are lost (all pilots MIA).
6. 20 P-51s fly a scouting mission without loss.
Mission 758: 5 B-17s and 7 B-24s are dispatched to drop leaflets in France,
the Netherlands and Germany during the night; only 10 aircraft drop leaflets.
The 374th, 375th and 376th Fighter Squadrons, 361st Fighter Group, based at
Little Walden, England with P-51s, begin operating from St Dizier, France;
the 486th and 487th Fighter Squadrons, 352d Fighter Group, based at Bodney,
England, begin operating from Asch, Belgium with P-51s.
First Tactical Air Force (Provisional): The 405th Fighter Squadron, 371st
Fighter Group, ceases operating from Dijon, France with P-47s and returns to
base at Tantonville.
Ninth Air Force: In Germany, around 500 B-26s and A-20s attack rail
bridges, communications targets, villages, a rail junction and targets of
opportunity losing 31 bombers; fighters fly bomber escort, armed
reconnaissance, and patrols (claiming 100+ aircraft downed and 3 airfields
bombed), and support ground forces between Werbomont, Belgium and Butgenbach,
Germany along the N battleline of Bulge and the US III, VIII, and XII Corps
forces along the S battleline of the Bulge. In Belgium, the L-5s of the 153d
Liaison Squadron, IX Tactical Air Command (attached to Twelfth Army Group),
cease operating from Liege and return to base at Tongres; the 161st Tactical
Reconnaissance Squadron, 363d Tactical Reconnaissance Group, based at Le
Culot begins operating from Conflans, France with F-6s and P-51s.