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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
13.09.1944 579th Bomber Squadron B-24H 42-50279 ‘Envy of ‘em All’ 2nd.Lt. Albert E. Joynt

Operation: Schwäbisch Hall airfield (Mission #628), Germany

Date: 13th September 1944 (Wednesday)

Unit: 579th Bomber Squadron (392nd Bombardment Group (H)), 8th Air Force

Type: B-24H

Serial No: 42-50279 Envy of ‘em All

Code: GC:-J

Location: Near Rüdesheim, Germany

Base: Wendling (Station #118), Norfolk, England

Pilot: 2nd.Lt. Albert E. Joynt O-702283 AAF Age 24. Killed

Co Pilot: 2nd.Lt. Edward James Taylor O-767683 AAF Age? PoW *

Navigator: 2nd.Lt. Homer Harrison Phipps Jr. O-703790 AAF Age? PoW *

Bombardier: 2nd.Lt. Bruce F. Forsberg O-765765 AAF Age 22. Survived (1)

Radio/Op: S/Sgt. Odis Lee “Sonny” Apple Jr. 18184135 Age 21. Survived (2)

Engineer: T/Sgt. Roy Austin Smith Jr. 14178008 AAF Age 21. PoW **

Radar Observer: S/Sgt. Earl J. Propst 15070720 AAF Age 21. Killed

Right Waist: S/Sgt. C.L. Hester 18242027 AAF Age 21. PoW ***

Left Waist: S/Sgt. L.G. Floyd 18168215 AAF Age 27. Killed

Tail: S/Sgt. Charles E. Vavra 37675010 AAF Age 19. Killed

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, Radar Operator, Radio Operator/Waist Gunner, Nose Gunner, Ball Turret Gunner/Radar Operator, Waist Gunner, Tail Gunner.

* Stalag Luft 1 Barth-Vogelsang, Prussia now Poland

** Dulag Luft 12 Gross-Tychow Pomerania, Prussia Tychowo, 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)

Photograph of 2nd.Lt. Joynt’s crew

Standing, left to right: 2nd.Lt. Albert E. Joynt, 2nd.Lt. Edward J. Taylor, 2nd.Lt. Homer H. Phipps Jr., 2nd.Lt. Bruce F. Forsberg. Kneeling, left to right: T/Sgt. Roy A. Smith Jr., S/Sgt. Odis L. Apple Jr., S/Sgt. L.G. Floyd, Cpl. Richard J. Barlog (Gunner), S/Sgt. Charles E. Vavra. (Courtesy B24bestweb.com)

Cpl. Richard J. Barlog was not aboard the aircraft for this mission. S/Sgt. Earl J. Propst and S/Sgt. C.L. Hester are not depicted in this photograph

REASON FOR LOSS:

The Envy of ‘em All took off from Wendling in Norfolk on the morning of the 13th September 1944 on a mission to bomb the Schwäbisch Hall airfield which is about 37 miles NW of Stuttgart.

On this day the Schwäbisch Hall airfield was bombed by 65 B-24 Liberators and strafed by P-51 Mustangs. Five Ju-88s from II./NJG 6 were destroyed on the ground and the airfield was severely damaged. (Extract from Luftwaffe Airfields 1935-45 Germany (1937 Borders) - Henry L. deZeng IV).

Strike photograph of Schwäbisch Hall airfield (Courtesy: Fold3)

An after mission report recorded that the Envy of ‘em All was last seen at about 12:15 hours flying at 19,000 ft over Bingen but in a steep dive with #3 engine on fire but under control. Six parachutes were seen in the air.

The various Individual Casualty Questionnaires (ICQ) described the events just after the aircraft crossed the river Rhine on the return leg of the mission. They had encountered some scattered flak and unluckily the aircraft was hit by a burst under the bomb bay which initially did not appear to have seriously damaged the aircraft.

Shortly later S/Sgt. Hester or S/Sgt. Apple Jr. reported that a fire had broken out in the bomb bay but when it became apparent there was nothing the crew could do to bring it under control, 2nd.Lt. Joynt ordered the crew to prepare to bail out. He then attempted to blow out the fire by diving the aircraft, but all that happened was that the fire worsened and spread to the wings. According to 2nd.Lt. Taylor the fire had partially burned through the partition between the bomb bay and the flight deck.

The aircraft exploded in mid-air before all of the crew were able to parachute to safety. The wreckage fell to earth at about 12:15 hours between the towns of Rüdesheim and Bingen, which are north and south of the river Rhine and about 16 miles due west of Mainz, Germany.

T/Sgt. Smith Jr. bailed out of the top hatch and made it over the top of the aircraft without serious injury. 2nd.Lt. Taylor was knocked unconscious when the aircraft exploded and thrown clear of the wreckage. When he regained consciousness he found that his parachute had opened and he landed safely. He and T/Sgt. Smith Jr. were captured near Bingen on the 14th September.

S/Sgt. Floyd was seen to bail out through the camera hatch by S/Sgt. Hester who, a few seconds later, followed him but did not see S/Sgt. Floyd’s parachute open which may have been the reason why he perished. Before he bailed out through the camera hatch S/Sgt. Hester looked to the rear to see if S/Sgt. Vavra was still in the tail but seing no one he assumed that he had already bailed out of the aircraft. The circumstance of S/Sgt. Vavra’s death are unknown. S/Sgt. Hester landed in the middle of the river Rhine near to Mainz and was immediately rescued.

2nd.Lt. Taylor reported that S/Sgt. Propst was last seen on the flight deck and badly burned. He believed that S/Sgt. Propst was still in the aircraft when it exploded. He also saw 2nd.Lt. Joynt bail out of the top hatch of the aircraft. The circumstance of his death are unknown.

2nd.Lt. Phipps Jr. saw 2nd.Lt. Forsberg standing near to the nose turret with his parachute on and believed that 2nd.Lt. Forsberg would follow him out of the nose wheel door. On landing 2nd.Lt. Phipps Jr. saw two open parachutes in the air to the west of his position but did not know who they were. He was captured by a local farmer and then handed over to two Wehrmacht soldiers who took him by car to Mainz.

None of the surviving aircrew remember seeing S/Sgt. Apple Jr. after the fire was discovered in the bomb bay although it was believed that it was he that raised the initial alarm.

(1) It was rumoured that 2nd.Lt. Forsberg had been captured between Dromersheim and Ockenheim and first taken to Ockenheim, which is about 4 miles SE of Bingen, where he was repeatedly beaten. The Bürgermeister (Mayor) of Ockenheim began to feel uneasy about the whole thing, so he had the airman taken to Dromersheim and shot there during the night. To date no evidence has been found to corroborate this story.

The source of this story was a newspaper article that reported that there had always been a rumour that the murder of an airman had happened at Dromersheim. At the very last moment a contemporary witness, who had since passed away, was able to confirm a version of events which points to murder. The father of this witness saw the dead body, and another witness reported to have heard a shot during the night and was afterwards advised by Nazi sympathizers to keep quiet.

(2) The fate of S/Sgt. Apple Jr. was unknown until a General Military Government Court was convened in Ludwigsburg in Germany on the 23rd, 24th and 26th May 1946. The court was then moved to Dachau and continued on the 4th, 5th and 6th June 1946.

Six German nationals were charged on two counts that they, did, at or near Bingen, Germany, on or about the 12th September 1944, wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid, abet and participate in the killing of (Charge 1) and assaults upon (Charge 2) an unknown member of the United States Army, who was then an unarmed, surrendered PoW in custody of the then German Reich. It the course of the trial it was established that the airman was S/Sgt. Odis L. Apple Jr.

Those charged were: Ludwig Firmenich who was a former SA-Obersturmführer (Sturmabteilung=Paramilitary wing of the Nazi party (1st.Lt)) and a member of the Nazi party; Heinrich Overdick who was a former SA-Scharführer (Cpl) but was not a member of the Nazi party; Hugo Schuck who was an apprentice at the Kreis Sparkasse (District Savings Bank) with no Nazi party affiliations; Adolf Knell who was a former employee of the Bingen branch of the Reichsarbeitsdienst (Reich labour Service) and a member of the Nazi party but held no positions in any of its affiliates; Philipp Jaeger who was employed with the District Reichnährstand (Nazi government organisation to control food production) with no known political or military affiliations; Wilhelm Kraft who was an Ortsgruppenleiter (Local group leader of the Nazi party) in Bingen.

The court heard from various witnesses and the six accused that on the 13th September 1944 an Allied airman bailed out of an aircraft in the vicinity of Bingen, Germany.

Jaeger was en route to Bingen by car and was stopped by a Wehrmacht NCO and requested to take a captured airman to a previously notified military unit in Bingen who would assume control of him.

At some point Firmenich became aware that a captured Allied airman was being brought into Bingen. Firmenich sought out Schuck and another bank apprentice and ordered them to accompany him to the Kreis Sparkasse. He then tried to give a rubber truncheon to Schuck’s companion who refused to take it. He then handed the truncheon to Schuck and told him that an airman was being brought into town and was to be beaten. Firmenich, Schuck and one other proceeded to a filling station picking up Overdick en route.

The airman was seen approaching the town centre from the south along the road which runs parallel on the left bank of river Rhine, accompanied by Jaeger on foot and Kraft on a bicycle.

Near a filling station on the right side of the road Firmenich called out to Jaeger asking him if the airman was one of those that were killing Germans and threatened to beat the airmen to death. A bystander, identified as Knell, picked up a stone and threw it at the airman, striking him on the back of the head. Knell, Firmenich and Overdick crossed the street and started to kick and strike the airmen with their fists on his back, face and head.

Kraft was seen to throw a large rock which missed and then proceed to incite the gathered crowd to violence. Firmenich urged Schuck by threats to take part in the assault after which Schuck struck the airman three or four times resulting in the truncheon breaking.

In front of the Reichsarbeitsdienst office the airman held onto the fence for support. When the group arrived at the Sparkasse a man identified as Kunz pushed through the gathered crowd and produced a pistol from the satchel or brief case that he was carrying and shot the airman who then collapsed grasping his stomach. The airman lay in the street for 10 to 15 minutes before Kunz returned, knelt down and shot the airman again, this time in the neck.

Kunz was wounded during an air-raid on the town of Bingen later in 1944 and died from his wounds.

The undertaker who was instructed by the local Wehrmacht detachment to remove the airman’s body testified that the airman had some burns to the right side of his face and a bullet wound on the right side of the neck. The airman was placed into a coffin and taken to the New Cemetery in Bingen for burial.

The cemetery inspector testified that he had received three bodies that day, one had been recovered from the river Rhine, a second had been found on the nearby mountains and the third was the murdered airman. A Wehrmacht officer ordered him to add the notation "Airplane crash" with regard to S/Sgt. Apple Jr. who was identified at this time.

The identities of the other two bodies have not been determined at this time.

The court found Firmenich and Overdick guilty on both charges, and they were each sentenced to life imprisonment commencing on the 6th June 1946 and 6th June 1945 respectively. Both their sentences were reduced to 25 years and they were paroled in April 1954.

On the first charge Kraft, Jaeger, Knell and Schuck were found not guilty but all four were found guilty on the second charge. Kraft was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment commencing on the 9th June 1945. Knell and Jaeger were sentenced to 6 years imprisonment commencing on the 10th April 1945 and 20th March 1945 respectively. Schuck was sentenced to 1 year imprisonment commencing on the 31st July 1945.

Jaeger was released in March 1950, Knell was released in April 1950 and Kraft was released in February 1952. The final disposition of Schuck‘s sentence is unknown.

Burial Details:

2nd.Lt. Albert E. Joynt. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Repatriated and buried at the Pine Grove Cemetery, Freeland, Saginaw County, Michigan. Born on the 7th March 1920. Son of Robert Alvin and Delia M (née St. John) Joynt of Midland, Michigan, USA.

2nd.Lt. Bruce F. Forsberg. Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster), Purple Heart. Lorraine American Cemetery, St Avold, Plot B, Row 18, Grave 40. Born in 1921. Son to Angela (née Olding) Forsberg, of San Francisco, California, USA.

S/Sgt. Odis Lee “Sonny” Apple Jr. Repatriated and buried at the Sweetwater Cemetery Nolan County, Texas. Born on the 15th August 1923. Son of Odis Lee and Mable Bell (née Templeton) Apple of Sweetwater, Nolan County, Texas, USA.

S/Sgt. Earl J. Propst. Purple Heart. Lorraine American Cemetery, St Avold, Plot J, Row 22, Grave 7. Born 3rd August 1923. Son of Earl Henry and Alice Jean (née Buchanan) Propst of Monongalia County, West Virginia, USA.

S/Sgt. L.G. Floyd. Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster), Purple Heart. Lorraine American Cemetery, St Avold, Plot D, Row 42, Grave 23. Born on the 22nd September 1916. Son of George C. and Mary Etta Floyd of Arkansas, USA.

S/Sgt. Charles E. Vavra. Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster), Purple Heart. Lorraine American Cemetery, St Avold, Plot G, Row 18, Grave 12. Born in 1925. Son to Joseph Vavra of Ferguson, Iowa, USA.

Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew. With thanks to Traugott Vitz for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’.

RS & TV 02.04.2020 - 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', 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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