28.09.1944 349th Bomb Squadron (H) B-17G 44-6306, 1st.Lt. Raymond E. Harney
Operation: Merseburg oil installation (Mission #652), Germany
Date: 28th September 1944 (Thursday)
Unit: 100th Bombardment Group (H), 349th Bombardment Squadron (H), 3rd Air Division, 8th Air Force
Serial No: 44-6306
Location: Schwickershausen, SSW of Meiningen, Germany
Base: Thorpe Abbotts (Station #139), Norfolk, England
Pilot: 1st.Lt. Raymond E. Harney O-523208 AAF Age 24. Killed
Co Pilot: 2nd.Lt. William Ross Kimball Jr. O-823625 AAF Age 22. Survived (1)
Navigator: 2nd.Lt. Charles Marion Hamrick Jr. O-2056584 AAF Age 27. Survived (1)
Bombardier: 2nd.Lt. Warren McKinley French O-712282 AAF Age 22. Killed
Radio/Op: S/Sgt. Hubert William Burleigh Jr. 18138031 AAF Age 21. Survived (2)
Engineer: S/Sgt. Robert Charles Minear 17056051 AAF Age 21. Survived (1)
Ball Turret: S/Sgt. Melvin F. Cordray 35895365 AAF Age 19. PoW *
Waist Gnr: S/Sgt. James J. Sorenson 17155212 AAF Age 20. PoW **
Tail: S/Sgt. Jack Donald Francisco 37352553 AAF Age 23. PoW ***
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 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).
*** Dulag Luft 12 Groß-Tychow Pomerania, Prussia now Tychowo, Poland.
REASON FOR LOSS:
On the morning of the 28th September 1944 B-17G 44-6306 took off from Thorpe Abbotts to join a force of 301 bombers to attack the Merseburg oil installation in Germany.
An eye witness report described that: “Aircraft #306 was hit in #2 engine by flak at 12:10 hrs in target area. The engine caught fire, but was quickly put out when it pulled away from our formation. It then pulled under our group but began to fall back when #4 engine was also feathered. Later #4 started running again and it was thought that this a/c followed our formation for 28 to 30 minutes then was seen to go down into the undercast near 50 51N, 10 57E with 2 P-51’s escorting.”
The aircraft was last seen at 12:38 hrs at position 50 51N, 10 57E which was over Arnstadt about 9½ miles SSW of Erfurt and about 57 miles SW of Merseburg.
German records documented that the aircraft crashed at 14:00 hrs near Schwickershausen some 8½ miles SSW of Meiningen, Germany.
S/Sgt. Cordray and S/Sgt. Francisco only had knowledge of S/Sgt. Burleigh Jr. along with themselves and S/Sgt. Sorenson having bailed out of the aircraft. S/Sgt. Cordray saw that S/Sgt. Burleigh Jr. was uninjured and that his parachute had opened. He believed the Germans had either shot him whilst he was descending or on the ground.
Both S/Sgt. Cordray and S/Sgt. Francisco believed that the other members of the crew did not bail out of the aircraft but had no knowledge of whether they were injured or why they failed to bail out.
A German document reported that 1st.Lt. Harney and 2nd.Lt. French had died of 3rd degree burns so it can be assumed that they had failed to bail out and perished in the aircraft or when it crashed.
The circumstances of the deaths of 2nd.Lt. Kimball Jr., 2nd.Lt. Hamrick Jr., S/Sgt. Minear and S/Sgt. Burleigh Jr. were unknown until two separate General Military Government Courts were convened in Ludwigsburg and in Dachau, Germany.
(1) A General Military Government Court was convened at Ludwigsburg between 5th April and 24th April 1946.
Four German nationals were charged that they did at or near Nordheim, Germany, on or about 1st October 1944 [sic], wrongfully, wilfully, and deliberately aid, abet, and participate in the killing of three members of the US Army, whose exact identities were unknown, each of whom was then unarmed and surrendered PoW in the custody of the then German Reich.
A German document recorded that 2nd.Lt. Hamrick Jr., S/Sgt. Minear and an unknown (probably 2nd.Lt. Kimball) were offering resistance and shot by police. The court did not establish the identity of the three members of the US Army, however, the circumstances of the killings presented to the court makes it probable that this case related to the three named American airmen.
The four accused were:
Friedrich Salzmann who was a former Hauptmann der Polizei (Capt in Gendarmerie (State rural police)) stationed in Meiningen;
Wilhelm Anding who was a former reserve Oberwachtmeister (Senior watch master, equates to a S/Sgt) in the Gendarmerie and served under Salzmann;
Albert Singer who was a former Meister (equates to Sgt.Maj.) in the Gendarmerie and stationed in one of the suburbs in Meiningen;
Walter Schneider who was a former Oberwachtmeister in the Gendarmerie and stationed at Untermasfeld.
The court heard that on or about the 1st October 1944 [sic] three unidentified American airmen parachuted and landed in the vicinity of Schwickershausen, Germany. They were taken prisoner and escorted to the office of the Bürgermeister (mayor) who was a man named Thomas, where they were searched and interrogated then placed under the guard of the Gendarmerie.
Salzmann, Anding, Singer and Schneider arrived at the Bürgermeister’s house where Salzmann ordered the others to take the airmen away. About 10 minutes later Salzmann drove away in the direction of Nordheim. Around an hour later Singer and Schneider returned to the Bürgermeister’s house where Singer reported that Schneider had been attacked by one of the airmen and that all three had been shot.
Singer however advised the Bürgermeister of Nordheim, whose name was Amthor, that the airmen had been shot when they attempted to escape.
The bodies were recovered from the scene of the shooting by Amthor who took the bodies to the cemetery. He saw no bullet wounds to their heads but as they were lying in pools of blood it was difficult to determine where they had been shot.
The court considered the stories of Anding, Singer and Schneider to be wildly different but found that there could be no doubt that they participated in the killing of the three airmen. The court was justified in disbelieving the different versions of the circumstances leading to the deaths of the three airmen.
Singer and Schneider admitted to have killed at least one airmen each. Both of them accused Anding of participating in the shootings although Anding denied that he had fired a shot.
Although it appeared that Salzmann was not directly involved in the actual shootings the testimonies of Anding, Singer and Schneider that Salzmann gave the order to shoot the airmen was compelling and made the story of an attempted escape of the three airmen less credible.
Furthermore it was determined that although there was a Wehrmacht unit located in Meiningen, some 8 miles NNE of Schwickershausen there was no Wehrmacht stationed at Bibra, which is some 3 miles ENE of Schwickershausen. Additionally, in order to get the airmen to Bibra it was necessary to march them through a third of the village of Schwickershausen.
Lastly, an examination of the three exhumed bodies found that all three had suffered gunshot wounds to various parts of their bodies.
As a consequence the court found all four of the accused guilty of the charge. Salzmann and Singer were sentenced to death by hanging. Salzmann’s sentence was subsequently commuted to life imprisonment, then to 30 years and he was paroled in June 1955. Singer died in prison on the 25th October 1949.
Anding and Schneider were sentenced to life imprisonment. Anding was released in January 1954. Schneider’s sentence was reduced to 25 years and he was paroled in June 1954.
(2) A General Military Government Court was convened at Dachau, Germany, from 17th September 1947 to 10th October 1947.
A number of German nationals were charged on four separate counts. On the 3rd count of the case seven German Nationals where charged in that they did at or near Bad Neustadt/Saale, Germany, on or about 29th September 1944, wrongfully, encourage, aid, abet, and participate in the killing of a member of the US Army, who was then unarmed and a surrendered PoW in the custody of the then German Reich.
Those charged were:
Franz Josef Büchler who was a former SS-Sturmbannführer (Maj) in the Waffen SS and Major der Polizei (Police Maj.) in the Gendarmerie (State rural police) of the Gau (Region) Mainfranken;
Norbert Endres who was the former deputy Kreisleiter (County leader of the Nazi party) of Bad Neustadt and a member of the SA;
Kurt Hans who was a former SA-Hauptsturmführer (Capt.) and the Kriminalrat (detective superintendent) of the Kriminalpolizei (Criminal police) at Würzburg;
Dr. Karl Hellmuth who was in charge of the office for Gauleiter Otto Konrad Hellmuth and a member of the Nazi party;
Dr. Otto Konrad Hellmuth who was the former Gauleiter (Regional Nazi party leader) of Gau (Administrative division) Mainfranken and also Reichsstatthalter (Regional governor) and defence Commissar of Gau Mainfranken;
Andreas Ingebrand who was a former SA-Obersturmbannführer (Lt.Col.) and Kreisleiter (Nazi county leader) of Bad Neustadt;
Dr. Richard Schulze who was a former SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lt.Col.), the Chef der Gestapo (head of the Gestapo) in Darmstadt and Oberregierungs-und Kriminalrat (Lt.Col.) in the Berlin office.
The court heard that on about the 29th September 1944 an American airman, identified as S/Sgt. Burleigh Jr., bailed out in the vicinity of Bad Neustadt, Germany, and was immediately captured. He was interned at the police station in Bastheim and into the custody of a Gendarme named Gustav Hofmann who then took the airman to the Bad Neustadt jail.
Following a phone call to Ingebrand, by a Kreisführer Repp who was Hofmann’s superior, he picked up his deputy Endres, ensuring that he was armed with his pistol, and they drove to Bad Neustadt to collect the airman from the jail. Ingebrand and Endres put the airman in a car and driven by Hofmann they proceeded along the road to Schwickershausen.
Just over ½ mile from the Bad Neustadt jail Ingebrand ordered the car to stop. The three accused left the car and took the airman about 200 yards further up the road where he was shot and killed.
Ingebrand claimed that Hofmann and Endres jointly shot the airman. On the orders of Ingebrand and Endres a local grave digger and his associate buried the airman in a field near to the scene of the shooting. The grave digger noticed that the airman had suffered a number of gunshot wounds to his chest and higher. Hofmann was then ordered to enter “shot while trying to escape” in his report.
Hofmann was not before the court as he had committed suicide. According to local lore he could not bear what he now saw as a grave mistake, to have delivered the prisoner to Ingebrand instead of the Wehrmacht.
The justification for these murders stemmed from the summer of 1944 when Büchler, who answered to Ingebrand, presided over a regular meeting of police leaders at which Hans was a guest speaker. The gist of the speech was that enemy airmen had bombed non-military targets and that the airmen were therefore outside the protection of international law.
The original orders had been for police to apprehend downed airmen and take them to the nearest Luftwaffe airbase or if that was not possible, to notify the Wehrmacht. Hans told those at the meeting that weapons were to be used immediately when “Terrorflieger” (Terror flyers) attempted to escape but no action could be taken if the military authorities had been informed.
He also informed the meeting that a “Jagdkommando” (a hunting team comprised of Kriminalpolizei, Gestapo, SS and Nazi party members) was available for apprehending any downed airmen and that the presence of downed airmen in the district was to be reported to the Kriminalpolizei.
The “Jagdkommando”, was an agency supervised by Schulze, and was alleged to have orders to shoot all Allied airmen that it apprehended.
The killing of the airmen was in compliance with orders from Otto Hellmuth, who was the superior of Ingebrand, Endres and Büchler who in turn was the superior of Hofmann.
The court found Endres, Otto Hellmuth and Ingebrand guilty of the charge and sentenced each of them to death by hanging.
Endres’ death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and he died in prison on the 11th November 1950 following abdominal surgery. Otto Hellmuth’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and he was paroled in May 1955. It was reported that he had died during 1968 in West Germany. Ingebrand was executed on the 26th November 1948 at Landsberg in Bavaria.
Büchler was found guilty of the charge and was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, commencing on the 14th April 1945. His sentence was later reduced to 5 years. The final disposition of his sentence is unknown.
The court found Karl Hellmuth, Hans and Schulze not guilty on this charge.
However, Karl Hellmuth was found guilty on the 1st charge and sentenced to 3 years imprisonment. He was released in June 1948;
Kurt Hans was found guilty on the 1st and 4th charges and sentenced to death by hanging. His death sentence was firstly commuted to life imprisonment, then reduced to 27 years and he was paroled in September 1954;
Schulze was found guilty on the 1st and 4th charges and sentenced to death by hanging. His death sentence was firstly commuted to life imprisonment, then reduced to 33 years and he was paroled in December 1956.
Addendum: A book published in 2020 by Schulze‘s grandson (reference 1) points out that the only evidence which connects Dr. Richard Schulze with the airmen murders as detailed in charge numbers 1 to 4 is the witness Kömm who testified that Schulze allegedly issued that killing order to the assembled participants of the meeting at Berlin. However Kömm was the only participant of the meeting who claims to have heard this order issued. Eight other men present, high-ranking CID officers from Düsseldorf, Kiel, Bochum, Recklinghausen, Flensburg, Bremen and Frankfurt, according to their post-trial sworn statements, testified that Schulze had said nothing of the sort but rather the contrary.
A German document recorded that 2nd.Lt. Hamrick Jr. was buried in the village cemetery at Nordheim. As S/Sgt. Minear, and probably 2nd.Lt. Kimball, were killed in similar circumstances it may be assumed that they were also buried at the village cemetery at Nordheim.
A German document recorded that 1st.Lt. Harney was buried at the Schwickershausen cemetery. The initial burial location for 2nd.Lt. French was not recorded but as his remains were recovered from the aircraft wreckage the assumption is that he was buried at the same cemetery at Schwickershausen.
The above image shows the initial grave marker for 1st.Lt. Harney and 2nd.Lt. French which was kept in the church attic at Schwickershausen for 70 years and is now on display at Thorpe Abbotts. (Courtesy of 100th Bomb Group Foundation).
Inscription translation: "Here rests in God!, 2 American Airmen" 28.9.44
There is no German record that provides the location of a cemetery where S/Sgt. Burleigh Jr. was initially buried.
Left: 1st.Lt. Raymond E. Harney (Photo Courtesy of the 100th BG Associations and Raymond Harney Jr,); Right: Grave marker (Courtesy of and in memory of the late Steve Edquist - FindAGrave)
1st.Lt. Raymond E. Harney. Reinterred in the Ardennes American Cemetery, Plot EE, Row 11, Grave 297. Repatriated and reinterred on the 11th July 1949 at the Fort Snelling National Cemetery, Section C-6, Grave 8259, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Born on the 16th March 1920 in North Dakota. Son of Earl and Vivian Elizabeth (née Propp) of East Grand Forks, Polk County, Minnesota, USA
2nd.Lt. William Ross Kimball Jr., Reinterred in the Ardennes American Cemetery, Plot EE, Row 12, Grave 300. Repatriated and reinterred at the Hill Grove Cemetery, Connellsville, Pennsylvania. Born on the 25th May 1922. Son of William Ross and Eleanor (née Kilpatrick) Kimball of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.
(Right: Courtesy of The Birmingham News October 24, 1944). 2nd.Lt. Charles Marion Hamrick Jr., Reinterred in the Ardennes American Cemetery, Plot EE, Row 12, Grave 299. Repatriated and reinterred at the Forest Hill Cemetery Plot, 24-15, Jefferson County, Birmingham, Alabama. Born on the 18th September 1917, Tallapoosa, Georgia. Son of Charles M. and Docia (née Cook) Hamrick and husband to Annie Virginia (née Wilson) Hamrick of Jefferson County, Birmingham, Alabama, USA.
(Left: Courtesy Michel Beckers). 2nd.Lt. Warren McKinley French. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Reinterred in the Ardennes American Cemetery, Plot EE, Row 12, Grave 298. Relocated to Plot B, Row 26, Grave 3. Born in 1920 in Pennsylvania. Son of William Mckinley and Margaret (née Jones) French of Kingston, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, USA.
(Left: Courtesy of The Monroe Star November 8, 1948). S/Sgt. Hubert William Burleigh Jr., Air Medal. Reinterred in the Lorraine American Cemetery. Repatriated and reinterred at the Cedar Hill Cemetery, Vicksburg, Warren County, Mississippi on the 10th November 1948. Born on the 7th April 1923, Mound, Madison County, Louisiana. Son of Hubert William and Mary (née Humble) Burleigh of Mound, Madison County, Louisiana, USA.
(Right: Implied courtesy OPPsheryl - FindAGrave (no contact details)). S/Sgt. Robert Charles Minear. Reinterred in the Ardennes American Cemetery, Plot GG, Row 1, Grave 21. Repatriated and reinterred at the Oakland Cemetery, North Manchester, Wabash County, Indiana. Born on the 3rd January 1923, Racine, Racine County, Wisconsin. Son of Charles Melvin, and Bernice C. (née VanVoorst) Minear of North Manchester, Wabash County, Indiana, USA.
Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’. Thanks also to Mike Farley from the 100th Bomb Group Foundation for the Schwickershausen grave marker and image of 1st.Lt. Harney.
1. Torsten Meyer, In schwierigen Zeiten. Annäherung an den Großvater, Norderstedt 2020, ISBN 9 783750 478275.