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Archive Report: US Forces
1941 - 1945

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.

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8th Air Force
16.04.1945 350th Fighter Squadron P-51D 44-15594 ‘Miss Kay’ 2nd.Lt. Donald E. Howie

Operation: Traunstein, Germany

Date: 16th April 1945 (Monday)

Unit: 353rd Fighter Group, 350th Fighter Squadron, 3rd Air Division, 8th Air Force

Type: P-51D Miss Kay

Serial: 44-15594

Code: LH:E

Base: Raydon (Station #157), Suffolk, England

Location: Near Pocking, Germany

Pilot: 2nd.Lt. Donald Emerson Howie O-820499 AAF Age 20. Survived (1)

2nd.Lt. Howie was credited with two Fw 190s destroyed on the ground on the 21st March 1945.

REASON FOR LOSS:

On the morning of the 16th April 1945 2nd.Lt. Howie took off from Raydon with Seldom White flight on a area patrol mission in the region of Traunstein, Germany.

After mission report by 1st.Lt. Bernard Greenfield, O-720840:

“On April 16, 1945 I was flying number four position in Seldom White flight which was led by Col. Ben Rimerman. While strafing Pocking A/D I heard Lt. Howie make the following transmission: “Hello Jonah, this is Seldom 67, I'm going to belly-in.” I didn’t hear anyone acknowledge the message nor was there any further transmission from Lt. Howie.”

A/D = Air Depot. Pocking A/D was an operational German airfield in Bavaria, 130 km ENE of Munich and some 3½ km SSW of Pocking village.

On 16th April 1945 the airfield was attacked by P-51s. It was ‘claimed’ that 119 aircraft were destroyed or damaged, almost all Bf 109s and Fw 190s, with a few Ju 87s, Ju 88s, Ju 188s and Fi 156s (Fieseler “Storch”). (Luftwaffe Airfields 1935-45 Germany (1937 Borders) - Henry L. deZeng IV).

(1) The fate of 2nd.Lt. Howie was unknown until a General Military Government Court was convened in Dachau, Germany, on the 12th July 1946.

Two German nationals were charged that they did, at or near Thanham, Germany, on or about 16th April 1945, wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid, abet and participation in the killing of Donald E. Howie, a member of the United States Army who was then unarmed and in the act of surrendering himself as a PoW.

The two accused were a Herbert Langner, who was a former Leutnant (2nd.Lt.) in the Luftwaffe and Hans Toelle who was reported as having a rank between Unteroffizier (Cpl) and Stabsgefreiter (Pvt. 1st. Class) in the Luftwaffe.

Both were stationed at an unidentified Luftnachrichten (Luftwaffe Signal’s post). Although unconfirmed, this might have been located at Pfarrkirchen, Germany.

The court heard that on the 16th April 1945 at about 15:30 hrs 2nd.Lt. Donald E. Howie parachuted to earth near Thanham, Germany. After landing he walked across a field and into some woods.

Franz Binder, a guard from a prison camp at Thanham had gone out to capture the airman. When he was within 500 metres of the airman he shouted three times for him to stop. The airman disappeared into a small hole or depression in the ground.

A witness testified that he had been within 8 metres of the airman and saw that he had a pistol in his hand. He then went on to meet Binder to whom he spoke. Binder then fired a warning shot in the air at about 50 metres distance to induce the airman to come out and surrender.

Toelle then arrived on the scene accompanied by two soldiers named Madl and Zoehrer. Madl shouted to the airman “Hands Up” after which the airman appeared from the hole with his empty hands up over his head. Toelle also shouted “Hands up” but then immediately fired off four shots from his machine pistol. The airman fell to the ground on his face in front of the hole. The airman’s pistol was found in the hole which was confirmed by Madl.

Jakob Riener, a former Wehrmacht Leutnant (2nd.Lt.), was at home on leave and was out looking for a family member when he heard the shouts and gunfire. He saw the body of the airman and removed his personal effects which were later handed over to the Company Commander of the Luftnachrichten. He spoke with a witness to the shooting who explained how Toelle had shot the airman. Toelle left the scene shortly after the shooting.

The medical officer of the Luftnachrichten examined the body of the airman and established that it was Donald E. Howie.

The defence revealed to the court that Toelle did general company duties, had nothing to do with weapons and that he had no training with machine pistols. He was an excitable character and had several physical disabilities including bad eyesight for which he was forced to wear glasses. Langner in his testimony stated that Toelle was not a soldier but a civilian in uniform who did not have a reputation for being “blood thirsty”.

The court heard that this was the first time Toelle had encountered the enemy and that he was excited. Toelle claimed that the machine pistol just went off and he had no intention in shooting the airman.

The court decided to acquit Langner as there was no evidence in the record that he gave orders to hunt for and shoot the airman. The record shows that his orders were limited to finding the airman.

In the case of Toelle the court decided that there was some doubt that the crime constituted murder and chose to consider the crime in the light of manslaughter. Toelle was found guilty and sentenced to six years imprisonment commencing on the 29th May 1945. The final disposition of his sentence is unknown.

Burial details:

2nd.Lt. Donald Emerson Howie. AM (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Lorraine American Cemetery, Plot D, Row 5, Grave 20. Born 12th February 1925 in Salem, Massachusetts. Son of Everett Lawrence (his father predeceased him in 1936) and Florence Edith (née Tadgell) Howie of Marblehead, Massachusetts, USA.

Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this Pilot. Thanks also to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’. Our sincere thanks to Tobi Gourley, the grandniece of 2nd.Lt. Howie, for the use of the photograph of him and the grave marker.

RS & TV 06.02.2021 - Initial upload

Acknowledgments: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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