15.04.1945 94th Fighter Squadron P-38L Lightning, Capt. Everett S. Lindley
Operation: Strafing between Regensburg and Pocking, Germany
Date: 15th April 1945 (Sunday)
Unit: No. 94th Fighter Squadron (1st Fighter Group), 8th Air Force
Type: P-38L Lightning
Base: Lesina, Italy
Location: 5 miles due South of Vilsbiburg, Germany
Pilot: Capt. Everett Sandborn Lindley O-815726 USAAF Age 26. PoW Unknown Camp (1)
REASON FOR LOSS:
Capt. Lindley as the 1st Fighter Group and 94th Fighter Squadron leader took off from Lesina airbase at 0819 hours on the morning of 15th April 1945, along with 32 other aircraft from the Group on a series of strafing missions.
Images of the 94th Fighter Squadron at Lesina, Italy. Left: P-38L Lightning (UN-W), Right: P-38L Lightning (UN-B) (credit: American Air Museum-Roger Freeman Collection)
The 94th Fighter Squadron were tasked with strafing targets on the double track railway line from Regensburg to Landshut, east of Munich in Germany where the flight separated, one flying SE from Landshut along the railway line from Neumarkt to Birnbach in Austria, and the other NE of Landshut along the railway line to a junction 3 miles west of Landau, then south by Neumarkt to Ampfing before returning to base. Intense and accurate light-flak was experienced from all trains attacked and was responsible for the shooting down of 5 aircraft including that of Capt. Lindley.
After-mission interrogations reported that at about 1100 hours Capt. Lindley’s aircraft was hit when attacking a flak car near Vilsbiburg. The aircraft caught fire and Capt. Lindley was observed rolling the aircraft before bailing out. At about 1125 hours he was spotted by 1st.Lt. Taylor and 2nd.Lt. Sortensen, flying overhead, safely on the ground with his aircraft burning nearby and he was then seen turning towards a small wooded area some 500 yards to the north of the crash site.
(1) Capt. Lindley was captured the same day by members of the Volkssturm (Militia) and taken to a nearby village where he was physically attacked by several unidentified German civilians. He was then turned over to two uniformed SA (Sturmabteilung) men, later identified as a Matthias Zierhut and Johann Gilch, who drove the airman into the countryside. When the vehicle stopped, Capt. Lindley was ordered out by Gilch after which Zierhut drew his pistol and shot at the airman but missed.
Capt. Lindley jumped into a ditch and faced his assailants with his hands raised and tried to surrender. This time both the SA men fired at him with their pistols and he was hit in the left shoulder by a single round. Capt. Lindley turned and ran away taking avoiding action whilst the two assailants pursued him and continued to shoot at him. Eventually Zierhut and Gilch caught up with Capt. Lindley. He recalls it was at this point he realised he would be killed if he did nothing to defend himself. He managed to disarm Zierhut and use the pistol to confront both the SA men who promptly ran away to a nearby farmyard where they were joined by a number of people from an adjoining house.
Three men from the gathered crowd, an elderly man, a Luftwaffe pilot and a Wehrmacht Feldwebel (Sergeant) approached Capt. Lindley, who had taken up a position on a small bridge over the stream which ran through the farmyard. It wasn’t until they had turned away an armed Volkssturm member, the two SA men and the mob that Capt. Lindley surrendered the pistol to the Feldwebel. His shoulder wound was dressed, after which he was escorted by the Luftwaffe pilot and the Feldwebel in the direction of the Mühldorf airfield near Mettenheim. En route they encountered a Luftwaffe Hauptmann (Captain) and reported the affair. Capt. Lindley was handed over and escorted to the Airfield where he received treatment for his wound. He was held at an unknown PoW Camp until his liberation.
(Left) Capt. Everett S. Lindley enjoys a plate of eggs after being liberated by the 3rd Army, on the 7th May 1945. Handwritten by Lindley on the reverse: "I once was lost but now, I'm found Amazing Grace! I was liberated by Patton's 3rd Army, just outside Freising, Germany”. This picture was taken by P/O Peter Cook, RAF, a fellow PoW on the 7th May 1945. Lindley noted that “the plate of fried eggs was delicious!”
(credit: American Air Museum-Roger Freeman Collection)
After he was liberated Capt. Lindley reported the incident to US authorities which prompted an investigation that resulted in a General Military Government court being convened at Dachau in Germany on the 22nd and the 23rd April 1947.
The two German civilians, Matthias Zierhut and Johann Gilch were charged that at or near Mühldorf in Germany, on or about the 27th March 1945, they wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully encouraged, aided, abetted and participated in committing assaults upon Capt. Everett S. Lindley O-815726, a member of the United States Army, who was unarmed and a surrendered PoW in the custody of the German Reich.
Both the accused were members of the Nazi party; Zierhut was an SA-Obersturmbannführer (Lt.Col.) and Gilch an SA-Oberscharführer (Staff/Sgt.). Zierhut was a Bürgermeister (Mayor) and Gilch a machinist. Testimony was heard from several eye witnesses corroborating Capt. Lindley’s extrajudicial statement of the events near the farmhouse. The court also heard that Gilch did not participate in the encounter when Zierhut was disarmed and remained passive during the occurrences near the bridge. Neither of the accused offered any testimony in their defence. The court found both Zierhut and Gilch guilty of the charges. Zierhut received a sentence of life imprisonment, which was reduced to 25 years on review and Gilch received a sentence of 10 years imprisonment. Zierhut was paroled in June 1955 and Gilch in October 1952.
Capt. Everett S. Lindley remained in the USAAF after the war and rose to the rank of Lt. Col. He was an Air Commander with the 152nd Fighter Interceptor Squadron, Rhode Island ANG (Air National Guard) initially based at Theodore Francis (T.F.) Green airport. The Squadron was later transferred to the Arizona ANG in Tucson and re-designated as the 162nd Tactical Fighter training group in 1969
(credit: "Polk's Providence City Directory" – 1956)
Lt. Col. Everett S. Lindley died on the 8th May 1997 in Alexandria, Virginia. Air Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters. Buried at the Arlington National Cemetery, Section 60, Site:1640, Virginia. Born on 6th April 1919 in Everett, Massachusetts. Husband to Doris Alice (née Eakin) Lindley and father to Mrs Joanne Elizabeth (née Lindley) Harrigan of Arlington, Virginia, USA.
Researched by Ralph Snape for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this airman with thanks to Traugott Vitz for his work on the ‘VitzArchive' and for his valued research and advice in compiling this report.