05.09.1944 566th Bomber Squadron B-24J 42-50511, 2nd.Lt. Kenneth E. Frazee
Operation: Karlsruhe (Mission #605), Germany
Date: 5th September 1944 (Tuesday)
Unit: 566th Bomber Squadron (389th Bombardment Group (H)), 8th Air Force
Serial No: 42-50511
Location: Between the villages of Surbourg and Soultz-sous-Forêts, France
Base: Hethel (Station #114), Norfolk, England
Pilot: 1st.Lt. Kenneth Ellsworth Frazee O-805900 AAF Age 21. PoW *
Co-Pilot: Capt. Edward Walter Appel, DFC O-745854 AAF Age 27. Evaded (1)
Navigator: 1st.Lt. William Carl Beasley O-717371 AAF Age 21. PoW *
Navigator: 2nd.Lt. Charles Robert Steinforth O-681828 AAF Age 23. PoW *
Bombardier: 1st.Lt. Charles W. Davis O-716715 AAF Age 19. Killed
Pilotage Bombardier: 2nd.Lt. Theodore E. Rachel O-717110 AAF Age 24. Killed
Radio/Op: T/Sgt. Maynard A. Latten 6917758 AAF Age? Survived (2)
Engineer: S/Sgt. Louis Joseph Trosclair 38313489 AAF Age 22. PoW **
Ball Turret: -
Right Waist: T/Sgt. Raymond Henry Keller 32132639 AAF Age 26. PoW Unknown camp
Left Waist: S/Sgt. George Bryant Steele 38470609 AAF Age 21. PoW Unknown camp
Tail: S/Sgt. Curtis Eugene Hodges 37623179 AAF Age 19. Survived (2)
Observer: Capt. Paul Christian Andersen O-1551783 Age 27. PoW *
The B-24 had 10 crew positions. Crew complements evolved during the war and generally comprised 9 personnel who were typically, but not always, Pilot, Co-Pilot, Bombardier, Navigator, Flight Engineer/Top Turret Gunner, Radio Operator/Waist Gunner, Nose Gunner, Ball Turret Gunner, Waist Gunner, Tail Gunner.
Ball Turrets were being removed in the spring of 1944 due to the increased long-range fighter escort being available and to save weight.
* Stalag Luft 1 Barth-Vogelsang, Prussia now Poland
** Stalag Luft 4 Gross-Tychow, Pomerania, Prussia now Poland (Moved from Stalag Luft 6 Heydekrug. Moved to Wöbbelin near Ludwigslust and then to Usedom near Swinemünde).
REASON FOR LOSS:
The aircraft took off from Hethel in Norfolk at 0700 hours on the 5th September 1944 on a mission to bomb the Karlsruhe marshalling yards in Germany.
A statement by the Command pilot for the mission, Lt. Col. John B. Narbeth, noted that 42-50511 left the formation between the Initial Point (IP) and the target with #3 engine smoking. After seeing the aircraft peeling off to starboard it was seen to jettison its bombs. The aircraft was last seen at Lat/Long 48 50N, 08 00E, which is west of the river Rhine and some 20 miles NE of Strasbourg, losing altitude but under control.
Capt. Appel’s Escape and Evasion (EE) report recorded that the flak knocked out three engines and later the fourth. They salvoed the bomb load and he gave the order to bail out.
All of the crew bailed out of the aircraft and landed in dispersed locations in the region of Alsace.
From the various Individual Casualty Questionnaires (ICQ) it can be deduced that the aircraft crashed between the villages of Surbourg and Soultz-sous-Forêts at 1200 hours.
Capt. Appel’s ICQ recorded that in May 1945 he returned to the area of the aircraft crash and where the crew bailed out of the aircraft. He determined from local sources that the body of 1st.Lt. Davis was found in a meadow with his parachute unopened. He was buried by French civilians and German soldiers in the Catholic cemetery in the village of Preuschdorf, 3½ miles NW of the crash site.
Also that the body of an airman was found by French civilians, from the village of Hoelschloch, about 200 ft from the local cemetery with his parachute unopened. The date was the 5th September 1944 and the time about 1230 hours which makes it probable that this airman was 2nd.Lt. Rachel. The body was buried in the cemetery at Hoelschloch just 1 mile outside of Surbourg.
(1) Capt. Appel’s EE report recorded that he bailed out at an altitude of about 500 ft and landed not far from the wreckage of the aircraft. He quickly discarded his parachute and hid in a nearby vineyard. A short time later he heard Germans searching the area and he headed off in an easterly direction. He passed by a small village near Surbourg, beyond which was a Sumpfgraben (swamp ditch), where he hid until dark.
As darkness fell he started walking southwest through woods and fields taking care to avoid the roads. He continued walking for three days avoiding at all times the areas where he could be seen and where he thought there may have been German soldiers. During this time he existed entirely on apples, turnips, plums and the food from his escape kit. He later remarked that he found the latter particularly unpalatable.
As he was skirting the village of Hochfelden, some 17 miles SW of Surbourg, he encountered an elderly woman and a man riding in a wagon. He took a chance and greeted them as they passed. They stopped and motioned for him to get onto the wagon and he was taken to their home on the northern side of the village.
He remained in their home, hidden upstairs, until elements of a French armored unit liberated the village on the 24th November 1944. However, he remained in the village until units of the XV American Corps arrived and arrangements were then made to take him to the rear and then back to the UK.
After returning to the UK, Capt. Appel joined the 62nd Fighter Sqn (56th Fighter Group). On the 16th April 1945 whilst flying P-47M, 44-21230, LM-A, on a mission to attack the Mühldorf airfield near Munich, the aircraft was brought down near Zangberg, 70 miles east of Augsburg. His second EE report recorded that he had once again evaded German forces. Over a period of ten days he travelled on foot in a north westerly direction for about 100 miles. He was recovered by US forces on the 26th April 1945 at Tagmersheim, some 30 miles north of Augsburg in Germany.
Capt. Appel was one of a few pilots that had completed tours with a Bomber Group (30 missions) and as a fighter pilot (17 missions). On the last missions of both tours he was shot down and successfully evaded the enemy.
(2) Research conducted by Capt. Appel during May 1945, and recorded in his ICQ, established that T/Sgt. Latten and S/Sgt. Hodges had been in hiding with a French civilian in the village of Wilwisheim until the 23rd September 1944. They were provided with civilian clothes and taken to Saverne, about 6½ miles west of Wilwisheim and then to Volksburg, about 14½ miles to the north of Wilwisheim. Local sources informed Capt. Appel that they were captured in Volksburg by the Schutzstaffel (SS) and taken to Schirmeck La Broque.
After their capture the fates of T/Sgt. Latten and S/Sgt. Hodges were unknown until a British Military Court was convened in Wuppertal, Germany, between the 6th and 10th May 1946.
Eleven German nationals were charged with committing a war crime in that they, at Rotenfels Security Camp, Gaggenau, Germany, on the 25th November 1944, in violation of the laws and usages of war, were concerned in the killing of ten PoWs; four American, six British and four French nationals. Since there were French nationals among the victims, a French Air Force Captain (Capt.) was a member of the court, sitting with one Brigadier (Brig.) four Majors (Maj.) and a Judge Advocate.
The accused were Karl Buck, SS-Hauptsturmführer (Capt.) and commander of the Sicherungslagers Schirmeck La Broque and Rotenfels/Gaggenau, Robert Wünsch, SS-Untersturmführer (2nd.Lt.) and administrative officer at the Gaggenau camp, Karl Nussberger, Oberleutnant (1st.Lt.) in the Police and Commanding Officer (CO) of the police unit responsible for the security at the Gaggenau camp, one Karl Zimmermann, SS-Sturmscharführer (Sgt.Maj.) and several police Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) of varying rank, Erwin Ostertag, Josef Muth, Bernhard Josef Ulrich, Heinrich Neuschwanger, Karl Wilhelm Dinkel, Helmut Korb, and Franz Xaver Vetter.
The court heard that during November 1944 at Schirmeck La Broque, prisoners of various categories were held, some of them in the “Block“ (a prison within a prison). When the Allied forces approached, orders were given to move the “Block“ prisoners from Schirmeck La Broque further to the east. The victims named in the charge were transported to Rotenfels/Gaggenau, which was also under Buck's orders.
On the morning of 24th or 25th November 1944, Buck came to Rotenfels/Gaggenau and issued orders to Wünsch that certain prisoners were to be killed. Wünsch related this order to Nussberger who in turn conferred with his subordinates who then started to make the preparations they thought necessary. At 1400 hrs on the 25th November 1944, a van appeared at the camp gate to take the prisoners and their escort, comprising the accused policemen, except for Nussberger, plus four Russian prisoners who had picks and shovels with them.
The lorry drove to a place outside Gaggenau called Erlichwald (Erlich woods). There the accused made the prisoners, in four groups of three and one group of two, dismount from the lorry and walk some distance into the wood where they were shot dead from behind, their bodies falling into a bomb crater. The individuals who did the shooting were Neuschwanger, Ulrich and Ostertag. The bodies were stripped of their clothes and personal effects. The bomb crater was then filled in and the clothes and effects burned on the spot, although in their haste they left several vital clues which later assisted in identifying the victims.
When French troops reached Gaggenau at the end of April 1945, word of the atrocities reached them fairly quickly, and they ordered the exhumation of the bodies from the bomb crater, using local Nazis as the workforce. Identification was only partly successful, and the victims were reburied in individual graves in the local cemetery on 13th May 1945. On 10th June, Maj. Eric ‘Bill’ Barkworth of the 2nd Special Air Service (SAS) Regiment arrived and ordered a fresh exhumation. Careful examination of the bodies and graves, together with investigations at the bomb crater site, established the identities of the victims as named in the charge. Maj. Barkworth, in his evidence in court, said he found the ‘dog tags’ for S/Sgt. Hodges on one of the bodies exhumed from the Gaggenau cemetery. Two other bodies was tentatively identified as US airmen one of whom may have been T/Sgt. Latten.
The court found all the accused, with the exception of Muth, guilty of the charge and rejected their defense of Superior Orders (in this case: Hitler’s Commando Order of 18th October 1942). Buck, Neuschwanger, Nussberger, Ostertag and Ulrich were sentenced to death by shooting. Wünsch was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment, Dinkel 8 years, Korb 3 years, Vetter 2 years and Zimmermann 10 years. The sentences were confirmed by the Commander in Chief of the British Army of the Rhine on 6th July 1946, but not all of them were promulgated and executed.
The French authorities wanted to try some of the accused in this case for other, similar crimes and demanded their extradition. It is not clear why Neuschwanger was the only one to pay with his life for the murders of 25th November 1944. He was executed at the shooting range located adjacent to Neheimer Straße in Werl, Germany, by a British firing party on 26th September 1946 at 0800 hrs. It is speculated that he may not have been named on the extradition list.
Buck, Nussberger, Ostertag, Ulrich and Wünsch, and also the acquitted Muth were extradited to the authorities in the French Zone of Occupation and stood trial before the Tribunal Général at Rastatt, Germany, from 20th February to 18th March 1947.
They were charged for war crimes under the Control Council Law No. 10, for the ill-treatment and the murder of Allied nationals in Security and Work Camps. Buck, Muth, Nussberger, Ostertag and Ulrich were found guilty and were sentenced to death whilst Wünsch received a sentence of one year imprisonment.
Upon appeal, the (French) death sentences of Buck and Nussberger were commuted to life imprisonment with hard labour. The sentences of Muth and Ostertag were both commuted to fifteen years imprisonment with hard labour. Ulrich’s (French) death sentence was carried out by shooting on 26th August 1947 at 0700 hrs in a gravel pit to the southwest of Sandweier (today part of Baden-Baden), and he was buried in Plittersdorf. It is not quite clear when the British decided to reprieve Buck, Nussberger and Ostertag, and to commute their sentences to prison terms, seeing that (a) the French would not hand the prisoners back and (b) that it would be very much against British tradition anyway to enact a death sentence many years after the actual sentencing.
Buck and Nussberger stood trial again in Metz during January 1953, as did Robert Wünsch, who was tried in absentia. All three of them were sentenced to death. Once again Buck and Nussberger were reprieved and their sentences were commuted to twenty years imprisonment . Both were released from the British prison at Werl on the 9th September 1955 after having been returned to British custody.
According to archival records, Ostertag was still in prison in 1954. Otherwise, the final disposition of the sentences for Muth, Ostertag, Wünsch, Dinkel, Zimmermann and Korb is unknown.
In addition to S/Sgt. Hodges and T/Sgt. Latten those murdered and identified were:
2nd.Lt Garis Phillip Jacoby ASN O-556376 AAF, co-pilot from B-17G 43-37599 ‘Moonlight Serenade’ and Sgt. Michael Pipock ASN 16176838 AAF right waist gunner from B-17G 42-32086 ‘You Never Know’;
From the 2nd SAS Regiment: Maj. Anthony R. Whately-Smith, 113612; Maj. Denis Bingham Reynolds, 130586; Lt. David Gordon Dill, 265704; Gnr. Christopher Ashe, 847426; Pvt. Maurice Arthur Griffin, 873123;
Capt. Victor Albert Gough, 148884 of the team Jacob of Operation Jedburgh §, which was part of Operation Loyton, Special Operations Executive (SOE);
French nationals: Abbé (Priest) Joseph Alphonse Roth, Abbé Jean Justin Pennerath, Abbé Joseph Claude and Werner Jakob.
§ Operation Jedburgh was a clandestine operation during World War II, in which personnel of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the Free French Bureau Central de Renseignements et d'Action (Central Bureau of Intelligence and Operations) and the Dutch and Belgian Armies were dropped by parachute into occupied France, the Netherlands and Belgium to conduct sabotage and guerrilla warfare, and to lead the local resistance forces in actions against the Germans.
At the end of April 1945, the French authorities exhumed the victims from the bomb craters and had them reburied in the Gaggenau Cemetery on the 13th May 1945.
The image is captioned: “Heinrich Focken* (right) attending the burial of prisoners of war murdered in the Erlichwald, 13th May 1945." (Courtesy: Kreisarchiv Rastatt)
* From May 1945 till 1946, Heinrich Focken, a victim of Nazi persecution himself, was the Mayor of Gaggenau, installed in his office by the French Occupation Force.
This memorial commemorates the execution of 26 men and one woman, prisoners of Rotenfels camp in the forest near Erlich (Frank C. Müller)
In the year 1944 twenty six men and one woman who had fought for freedom,
democracy and peace were murdered in this place. Visitor, remember them!
The memorial plaque at chapel "Notre-Dame des Tilleuls" (Courtesy: aerosteles.net - picture: Jean-Loup FROMMER)
(Left: Courtesy: Karl Stelly-FindAGrave). 1st.Lt. Charles W. Davis. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Repatriated and buried at the Gettysburg National Cemetery, Adams County, Pennsylvania in Plot 2, Grave 637 on the 3rd February 1949. Born on the 17th March 1925. Son of Mrs. Nancy C. Davis of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.
(Right: Courtesy: Ice Tea-FindAGrave). 2nd.Lt. Theodore E. Rachel. Repatriated from the Lorraine American Cemetery, St Avold and buried at the Camp Butler National Cemetery, Sangamon County, Illinois, Plot 4, Grave 147 on the 15th September 1948. Born on the 25th December 1919. Brother to Mrs. H. Dallman of Riverside, Illinois, USA.
(Left: Courtesy: Major M.-FindAGrave). T/Sgt. Maynard A. Latten. Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster), Purple Heart. Lorraine American Cemetery, St Avold, Plot 4J, Row 7, Grave 162. Relocated to Plot B, Row 12, Grave 44. Son to Ole and Annette (née Madson) Latten of Cecil, Wisconsin, USA.
(Right: Courtesy: Theresa Harter-FindAGrave) S/Sgt. Curtis Eugene Hodges. Repatriated and buried at the Kinder Cemetery, Cuba, Crawford County, Missouri. Born 2nd June 1925. Son of William Floyd and Iren Anna (née Matlock) Hodges of Central, St. Louis, Missouri, 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’ .