24.08.1944 613th Bomb Squadron (H) B-17G 43-37511 ‘Jill’s Jalopy’ 2nd.Lt. Melvin S. Fish
Operation: Weimar (Mission #568), Germany
Date: 24th August 1944 (Thursday)
Unit: 401st Bombardment Group (H), 613th Bombardment Squadron (H), 1st Air Division, 8th Air Force
Type: B-17G Jill’s Jalopy
Serial No: 43-37511
Location: Klein Thondorf, 11 miles NE of Uelzen, Germany
Base: Deenthorpe (Station #128), Northamptonshire, England
Pilot: 2nd.Lt. Melvin Silas Fish O-760610 AAF Age 23. PoW *
Co-Pilot: 2nd.Lt. Leslie Horace Hauss O-768543 AAF Age? Survived (1)
Navigator: 2nd.Lt. Eugene Francis Cramer O-723298 AAF Age 21. PoW *
Bombardier: 2nd.Lt. Kenneth Donald Lucas O-706622 AAF Age 25. PoW **
Radio Operator: Sgt. Melvin Harry Warren 15077351 AAF Age 26. PoW ***
Engineer: Sgt. Warren Gilbert Smith 37460314 AAF Age 21. PoW ****
Ball Turret Gnr: Cpl. William Ramon Cook 38563060 AAF Age 20. Killed
Waist Gnr: Cpl. John Walter Hanchak 33706573 AAF Age 27. PoW ***
Tail Gnr: Cpl. James William Huff 35917122 AAF Age 23. Killed
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 7a, Moosburg, Southern Bavaria, Germany.
** Unknown PoW camp.
*** 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).
**** Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).
REASON FOR LOSS:
The Jill’s Jalopy took off from Deenthorpe on the morning 24th August 1944 and was one of 39 aircraft detailed from the 401st BG to bomb the armament and rocket factories at Weimar in Germany.
After leaving the target area German fighter aircraft took advantage of what appeared to be a gap in US fighter escort cover. About 30 to 50 Luftwaffe fighters attacked the formation for about 15 minutes as the strung out aircraft were finishing their climb to altitude. About an hour later the enemy mounted another attack concentrating on one element and stragglers.
An eyewitness report recorded that the Jill’s Jalopy was last seen with #4 engine on fire and that it rolled onto its back and went straight down. It was thought to have exploded and no parachutes were seen. The Jill’s Jalopy was one of three aircraft from the 401st BG that was shot down by the fighter attacks.
The crew’s Individual Casualty Questionnaires variously describe that the 401st BG aircraft were attacked whilst re-joining the formation after dropping their bombs. In this attack the tail gunner of ‘Jill’s Jalopy’ was killed and the ball turret gunner was wounded. The aircraft was then attacked a second time, mortally wounding the ball turret gunner. It was reported that the aircraft was last seen at about 11:15 hrs at an approximate position of 52 30N, 10 30E, which is some 41 miles SSW of Klein Thondorf which was the location of the crash as reported in a German document.
Klein Thondorf is within the Jägermeldnetz map (Fighter network reporting grid) for NW Europe, 15 Ost Box DB. The OKL (Luftwaffe High Command) fighter claims for the Reich, West & Südfront on the 24th August 1944, lists three confirmed claims with a location of 15 Ost Box DB between 11:10 hrs and 11:18 hrs.
One claim was documented as "Endgültige Vernichtung" which was the nomenclature for "Final Destruction" i.e. shooting-down of a straggler previously damaged and separated from its formation.
This claim was made by Uffz. Siegfried Mielke, his one and only Abschuss, from III Gruppe, 9./JG300 flying a Bf-109G, in box DB at 5000m, SE Lüneburg at 11:18 hrs.
Aboard the Jill’s Jalopy Cpl. Huff was killed in the tail turret during the first fighter attack and was seen by Cpl. Hanchak slumped over his guns.
Cpl. Cook was injured by shell fragments in the fighter attack and climbed out of the ball turret to get first aid. As he was re-entering the turret it was hit again by 20mm cannon fire badly injuring him and damaging the turret mechanism which trapped his feet. Cpl. Hanchak and Sgt. Warren tried in vain to release him but he died during their efforts.
The aircraft became uncontrollable and went into a dive, spiralling down for about 10,000 ft before exploding in mid-air. German records document that the wreckage crashed to earth at 11:30 hrs near Klein Thondorf, 11 miles NE of Uelzen, Germany.
The remaining crew successfully bailed out of the aircraft. 2nd.Lt. Hauss was uninjured and was seen to bail out and his parachute open east of Hamburg. It was speculated that he was killed by civilians as he was not seen again and nothing was heard about him.
Cpl Hanchak met with Sgt. Smith and 2nd.Lt. Cramer en route to Luftwaffe Lazarett 4/11 Wismar, about 28 miles east of Lübeck. 2nd.Lt Cramer had shell fragments in a hand and remained in hospital for about a week. Sgt. Smith had suffered wounds to the back of his neck and Cpl. Hanchak was hit in both legs by 20mm shell fragments. They both remained in hospital for about 5 weeks followed by the customary visit to Dulag Luft, Oberursel.
(1) The fate of 2nd.Lt. Leslie Horace Hauss was unknown until a General Military Government Court was convened in Dachau in Germany on the 2nd and 3rd October 1946.
A German national * was charged that he did, at or near Groß Liedern, Germany, on or about 23rd August 1944, wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully kill a member of the United States Army, believed to be Lt. Leslie N. Hauss, who was then unarmed and in the act of surrendering himself to the then German Reich, by shooting him with a gun.
* The name of the individual has been withheld out of consideration for innocent family members still living in the region and will be referred to as ‘the accused’ in this report.
The accused was a former Oberarbeitsführer (notional Lt.Col.) of the Deutsche Arbeitsfront (German Workers Front - A Nazi labour organization) No. 81 Kreis (District) Uelzen and a battalion commander in the Wehrmacht.
The court heard that an American airman believed to be Lt. Leslie N. Hauss, of the United States Army Air Corps, parachuted to safety in the vicinity of Groß Liedern, Germany.
While the airman sat on the ground with his hands raised, his legs crossed and his parachute streamed out behind him, the accused ran toward him and shot him. The accused admitted killing the airman but claimed that it was in self-defence although no sidearm or holster was found on the airman.
The accused testified in his defence and admitted that the airman raised his hands in compliance with his command. He alleged that the airman then put his right hand into his combination suit and when he failed to raise his hands again at the accused’s command, he shot him.
When cross-examined he testified that he had removed the pistol from airman’s left side between his combination suit and leather jacket and took it to his office and locked it in his desk. He did not show it to anyone.
A defence witness testified that the airman’s combination suit was fastened. He did not see the accused with an American pistol and that he did not see the airman’s hand inside his clothes. The accused never said anything about an American pistol to him.
The court apparently could not rule out legitimate self-defence and therefore found the accused not guilty of the charge. However, this individual was found guilty at a later date of the shooting of Sgt. Harold E. Churchill the engineer from B-17G 43-38607 Lady Jane II.
2nd.Lt. Hauss was initially buried in the Groß Liedern Cemetery near Uelzen, east side, grave 1. Cpl. Cook and Cpl. Huff were initially buried in the cemetery at Himbergen.
2nd.Lt. Leslie Horace Hauss. Purple Heart. Reinterred at the Ardennes American Cemetery, Plot D, Row 2, Grave 12. Son of Mrs. Mildred Dely from Denville, New Jersey, USA.
(Right: Courtesy Eunice Chapmond-Kilgore - FindAGrave). Sgt. William Ramon Cook. Reinterred at the Ardennes American Cemetery, Plot F, Row 2, Grave 44. Repatriated and reinterred at the Delhi Cemetery, Sayre, Oklahoma. Born on the 13th March 1924, Elk City, Oklahoma. Son of William Paul and Mary T. (née Blaine) Cook of Sayre, Beckham County, Oklahoma, USA.
Sgt. James William Huff. Purple Heart. Reinterred at the Ardennes American Cemetery, Plot F, Row 2, Grave 46. Relocated to Plot D, Row 29, Grave 6. Born on the 4th July 1921 in Uhrichsville, Tuscarawas County, Ohio. Son to Mr. and Mrs. Dallas Huff from Denison, Ohio. Husband of Mrs. Lena Ruth (née Galbraith) Huff from Uhrichsville, Ohio, 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’.