28.12.1944 352nd Bomb Squadron (H) B-17G 44-8107 ‘Josephine’, 1st.Lt. Donald J. Hillyer
Operation: Regensburg, Germany
Date: 28th December 1944 (Thursday)
Unit: 301st Bombardment Group (H), 352nd Bombardment Squadron (H), 5th Bomb Wing, 15th Air Force
Serial No: 44-8107 Josephine
Code: Allocated but not known
Location: 2 km west of Leiblfing, Germany
Base: Lucera airfield #8, Foggia, Italy
Pilot: 1st.Lt. Donald James Hillyer O-774656 AAF Age 21. PoW *
Co Pilot: 2nd.Lt. Louis Herman Keil O-779886 AAF Age 20. PoW *
Navigator: 1st.Lt. Charles Allen Dews O-1633805 AAF Age 23. PoW * (2)
Bombardier: F/O. James Piersol Jr. T-129552 AAF Age 18. PoW *
Radio Operator: S/Sgt. Stanley Michael Koltuniak 36868045 AAF Age 21. PoW **
Engineer/Gunner: S/Sgt. Leslie Pershing Perrine 39274694 AAF Age 26. PoW ***
Ball Turret: S/Sgt. Benjamin Lewis Hill 35894605 AAF Age 22. PoW *
Right Waist Gunner: S/Sgt. Jon Edward Eggleston 38514757 AAF Age 20. Survived (1)
Left Waist Gunner: Sgt. Darwin Jerome Hansen 36877758 AAF Age 20. PoW **
Tail Gunner: S/Sgt. Howard George Hyde 16187312 AAF Age 19. PoW **
* Stalag Luft 1 Barth-Vogelsang, today part of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany.
** Unknown Camp.
*** Stalag 3a and work camps (also Oflag 3-6) Luckenwalde (was originally interrogation centre) Brandenburg, Prussia.
REASON FOR LOSS:
On the morning of the 28th December 1944 aircraft from the 301st BG took off from Lucera airfield in Italy as part of a formation of eighty B-17s to bomb the oil facilities at Regensburg in Germany.
Whilst Josephine was en route to the target #3 engine was feathered because of a problem. Tail gunner, S/Sgt. Glenn M. Hammond, witnessed Josephine jettison six of its bombs and fall out of formation. The aircraft continued to drop back from the formation losing altitude and was seen to jettison its remaining six bombs. Josephine was last seen by S/Sgt. Hammond flying to left of the target at about 20,000 ft and under control. He did not see the aircraft coming off target but Josephine was heard calling the Squadron Leader to say that the crew was bailing out at 12:40 hrs. As the aircraft was not in sight no parachutes were seen. S/Sgt. Hammond’s navigator estimated that the crew of Josephine bailed out at Lat/Long 48 40N, 10 25E, which is about 14km SW of Leiblfing, and that the weather at that time was CAVU.
CAVU = Ceiling and Visibility Unrestricted (indicating a ceiling of at least 10,000 feet and visibility of at least 10 miles)
S/Sgt. Hyde later reported that a number of oil lines had ruptured when they were about 20 minutes from the target. About 30 minutes later the pilot was forced to feather 3 engines and then order the crew to abandon the aircraft.
German records document that the aircraft crashed about 2km west of Leiblfing at 12:50 hrs, which is some 40km SE of Regensburg.
German records document that 1st.Lt. Hillyer was captured 14km west of Straubing. Eight of the other nine when captured in the vicinity of Haimbuch. S/Sgt. Hill bailed out just before S/Sgt. Eggleston and saw his parachute open above him. He last saw him lying face down in a nearby field but he was not allowed to approach his body. However, he later saw S/Sgt. Eggleston’s personal effects and his blood stained parachute.
(1) The circumstances leading to the death of S/Sgt. Eggleston were determined by an American General Military Court which was convened at Munich, Germany on the 28th July 1945.
One German national, an Ernst Waldmann who was a former Wehrmacht Unteroffizier (Cpl), was charged in that he on or about the 28th December 1944, did, at or near Haimbuch, Germany, wrongfully and unlawfully kill Jon Eggleston, rank unknown, a member of the Armed Forces of the United States of America by shooting him with a rifle.
The court heard that on the day in question at about 13:00 hrs near Haimbuch, Germany an airman parachuted to earth and landed in a field near the village. Other parachuting airmen had been seen in the air and a group of people were waiting to take them into custody.
Two witnesses, a Frau Trinkl and a local farmer named Fruhstorfer who was armed with a rifle, approached the airman who had landed in the field near the village. They saw him remove his parachute, move away from them and then lay down in the field. As the two approached the prone airman he motioned in surrender. According to Fruhstorfer the airman appeared to be frightened so he unloaded his rifle and showed the airman the empty chamber and cartridges.
The airman returned to his parachute and picked it up and carried it along with his shoes under his right arm. The airman, flanked by Trinkl and Fruhstorfer, started to move off. After they had travelled about 100 metres they were met by an excited Waldmann.
Waldmann halted the trio and demanded the airman’s papers to which he was told by Fruhstorfer that the airman did not understand German. Waldmann then told the airman twice to put his “hands up”. He was told again by Fruhstorfer that the airman did not understand. However, the airman had immediately raised his left arm in surrender but continued to hold his parachute and shoes under his right arm with his fingers clearly visible. Both Trinkl and Fruhstorfer pleaded with Waldmann not to shoot the airman. Waldmann told them to “shut up” and then shot the airman in the neck resulting in his death about 10 minutes later.
Waldmann ordered Fruhstorfer to remain with the body whilst he went towards another captured airman some 30 metres away. Sometime later a man named Gierstorfer arrived at the scene with a wagon and Fruhstorfer helped him load the body. Two days later, Fruhstorfer and Trinkl helped bury the body in the Haimbuch cemetery.
Waldmann admitted in his testimony to the court that he had shot the airmen but claimed that the airman had not raised his hands when ordered to do so and thought that he had a weapon concealed by the parachute that he was holding. He denied that Trinkl and Fruhstorfer had pleaded with him not to shoot the airman.
The court considered that Trinkl and Fruhstorfer were credible witnesses who had testified that they were within a few metres of the shooting of the airman and subsequently rejected his defence which contradicted that of the witnesses. The court found Waldmann guilty of the charge and sentenced him to death. He was hanged at Landsburg on the 19th November 1945.
On the 16th July 1945 the airman’s remains were disinterred and identified as Jon A. Eggleston. His death was reported to be as a result of a “perforating object of great force” entering his chest and exiting his neck.
S/Sgt. Eggleston was initially interred in the Haimbuch district of Regensburg on the 29th December 1944.
(Courtesy of the Fort Worth Star Telegram, Sunday, June 3rd 1945)
(Courtesy The Austin American, Saturday, May 18th 1946)
(Left: Courtesy DaveCHIO - FindAGrave)
S/Sgt. Jon Edward Eggleston. Air Medal. Repatriated and interred at the Elgin City Cemetery, Elgin, Bastrop County, Texas. Born 16th November 1924 in Elgin, Bastrop County, Texas. Son of William Clarence and Tollie Rose (née Miller) Eggleston of Fort Worth, Texas, USA.
(2) On his return to the United States 1st.Lt. Dews continued his service with the US Air Force. He was promoted to Captain (Capt.) and served with the 4020 Headquarters Sqn, Weapons Development Group, Air Material Command (AMC) stationed at Seattle, Washington. On the 13th August 1951 he was aboard Boeing B-50D Superfortress (#49-0268) as the Radar Observer on a routine acceptance flight. Shortly after take off the aircraft developed engine trouble and crashed into an apartment complex 2 mls north of Boeing Field, Seattle, Washington, killing the three servicemen and three Boeing flight analysts on board and five civilians on the ground.
Above: Aftermath of the crash (Courtesy of Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives - Geneva)
Those aboard the aircraft were the Pilot,1st.Lt. Lloyd George Vanderwielen, Capt. Dews and Flight Engineer, M/Sgt. Frank A. Dodaro along with the Boeing technicians named as Kenneth C. Barrick, Earl H. Edwards (Co-Pilot) and Delon P. Turner.
(Left: Courtesy of LKat - FindAGrave)
Capt. Charles Allen Dews. National Defense Service Medal, Air Medal, Purple Heart. Interred at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas. Born on the 5th December 1920 in Louisiana. Son of Schley White and Lavonia Tabitha (née Hampton) Dews of Breaux Bridge, St. Martin, Louisiana and husband to Jeanne S. Dews of Austin, Texas, 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’.