28.05.1944 510th Bomb Squadron (H) B-17G 42-31721 ‘Black Magic’ 1st Lt Clyde W. McClelland
Operation: Aircraft assembly plant (Mission #376), Dessau, Germany
Date: 28th May 1944 (Sunday)
Unit: 351st Bombardment Group (H), 510th Bombardment Squadron (H), 1st Air Division, 8th Air Force
Type: B-17G Black Magic
Serial No: 42-31721
Location: Mernes, 5 miles east of Bad Orb
Base: Polebrook (Station #110), Northamptonshire, England
Pilot: 1st.Lt. Clyde Wayne McClelland O-801999 AAF Age 23. PoW *
Co Pilot: 1st.Lt. Richard Eugene Francis O-746322 AAF Age 26. PoW *
Navigator: 1st.Lt. John Bishop Duncan O-683230 AAF Age 25. PoW **
Bombardier: 1st.Lt. George Francis Kiely O-747591 AAF Age? PoW Unknown camp
Radio/Op: T/Sgt. Leonard John Kriesky 37383068 AAF Age 28. PoW No. 1770 ***
Engineer: T/Sgt. Louis E. Poole 34402361 AAF Age? PoW ***
Ball Turret: S/Sgt. Nathan Le Roy Williams 36804644 AAF Age 20. PoW ***
Waist Gunner: S/Sgt. Junior Hugh Edwards 16072792 AAF Age? PoW *
Tail Gunner: S/Sgt. LeRoy Desmond Cruse 37047568 AAF Age 29. Survived (1)
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 3 Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).
** Stalag 9C Bad Sulza Saxe-Weimar.
*** 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).
Above: Maj. Wheeler (Credit: American Air Museum)
Maj. David W. Wheeler O-436023 DFC, Air Medal, standing beside the B-17G 'Black Magic' - 10th April 1944. He was the 70th Officer to complete a tour (25 missions from April 1943 to November 1944). He survived three plane crashes and was badly injured in one whilst serving with the 351st BG.
1st.Lt. McClelland’s original crew during training in the USA in October 1943. Four of this crew were aboard 'Black Magic' on the 28th May 1944. The four were: Back row on the far right: 1st.Lt. McClelland. Front row from the left: 3rd, S/Sgt. Edwards; 4th,T/Sgt. Poole; 5th, S/Sgt. Williams. (Credit: Clyde W. McClelland and “Mission 376”)
Crew members of 'Black Magic’. From left to right: 2nd, S/Sgt Cruse; 4th, T/Sgt Kriesky. Remainder unknown (Credit: Leonard J. Kriesky and “Mission 376”)
Crew members of 'Black Magic': Standing from left to right: 2nd, 1st.Lt. Kiely; 3rd, 1st.Lt. Duncan. Remainder unknown. (John. B Duncan and “Mission 376’)
1st.Lt. McClelland was flying a mixed crew on this mission because of leave, groundings and injuries. S/Sgt. Cruse was wounded in an earlier mission for which he received the Purple Heart. Whilst he was recovering his original crew was also split up. After he was declared fit he became a spare gunner and flew with various different crews.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Black Magic was one of twenty aircraft from the 351st Bombardment Group which took off from Polebrook at 10:35 hours on the morning of the 28th May 1944 to bomb the aircraft assembly plant in Dessau, Germany.
An after mission report described that shortly after bombing the target Black Magic was seen to fall out of formation with #1 and #2 engines feathered. The report noted that there was no enemy fighter activity so it was believed that the aircraft was hit by flak which was moderate at the time. The aircraft was seen to be under control and apparently heading towards France. Nothing was heard on the radio and no parachutes were observed.
It was later established that the aircraft had been hit by flak and then attacked by enemy fighters which knocked out three engines. Individual casualty reports confirm that all of the crew successfully bailed out of the aircraft approximately 20 miles NE of Frankfurt, Germany. The aircraft crashed, at about 1630 hours, to the SW of Mernes which is about 5 miles east of Bad Orb in Germany.
Six of the crew were captured immediately in various locations. In a letter to the author of “Mission 376”, 1st.Lt. Duncan recalls that he had a very bad landing and suffered a compound fracture to both the tibia and fibula bones of his left leg. When he tried to stand he found he was not able to move from the waist down. The crowd which had gathered began to kick and hit him about the head, until eventually, a uniformed individual arrived to assume control of the situation. After trying to assist 1st.Lt. Duncan to his feet and causing further damage to his leg, the extent of his injury became apparent. His captors carried him to a nearby village where a local doctor anesthetized him and placed a cast on his leg, without setting the broken bones. He was then transported to a hospital for French workers where he was interrogated before being treated. 1st.Lt. Duncan wrote that he was then sent to the Reserve-Lazarett 9c(b) (hospital) in Meiningen and eventually to Stalag 7a at Moosburg. The camp was liberated on the 30th April 1945 by the elements of the 14th Armored Division. Note: Official records document that he was held at Stalag 9C in Bad Sulza Saxe-Weimar.
1st.Lt. Francis was captured the next day by local police near Aufenau and S/Sgt. Williams evaded capture but was arrested three days later on the 1st June near Obertshausen by Unteroffizier (Cpl.) Willi Alexander, a Wehrmacht Pionier (Army Engineer), and turned over to the Bürgermeister (Mayor) of Offenbach.
(1) S/Sgt. Williams reported that S/Sgt. Cruse was the first to bail out of the waist exit and that he was the second. He witnessed S/Sgt. Cruse’s parachute open and his landing in a clearing about 400 feet from his own landing location. S/Sgt. Cruse was seen to pick up his parachute and wave and that was the last S/Sgt. Williams saw of him.
Some of his fellow crew members reported their suspicions that S/Sgt. Cruse met his death at the hands of unknown German civilians. However, official German documents recorded that S/Sgt Cruse was killed in the parachute jump. The Bürgermeister of Schlüchtern and the head of the Schutzpolizei (Uniformed Police), a man named Köhler, attended the burial at the local cemetery in Elm, Germany. Whether this was an attempt to deflect from the true nature of the events surrounding the death of S/Sgt. Cruse will never be known.
After the US Army occupied the region an investigation into the crew’s suspicions resulted in a General Military Government Court being convened at Dachau, Germany on the 10th and 11th June 1946. The court charged Richard Wegmann, a German national and a farmer, that he did, at or near Elm, Germany, on or about the 28th May 1944, willfully, deliberately, and wrongfully kill a member of the United States Army, believed to be Lt. Roy D. Cruse who was then an unarmed, surrendered PoW in the custody of the then German Reich.
The Court was in doubt that Lt. Roy D. Cruse was the victim in this case but considered it immaterial as it was sufficient that the victim was an American airman. The assumption is that Lt. Roy D. Cruse was a misrepresentation of S/Sgt. LeRoy D. Cruse.
The court established that S/Sgt. Cruse surrendered to the civilians who had gathered around him after he landed. An Alois Holze, the railway station superintendent, together with a Wehrmacht soldier took him into custody and searched him for weapons, finding none. They were joined by a Christian Dollefeld, a technical railway inspector, and the three escorted the airman towards the Bürgermeister’s office in Elm. En route Wegmann arrived with his rifle, pushed through the crowd and threatened to shoot anyone who attempted to stop him. He then shot S/Sgt. Cruse who fell to the ground. When the airman attempted to stand up and raise his hands in surrender, Wegmann shot him a second time. A third shot hit S/Sgt. Cruse in the head killing him instantly. Witnesses to these events described Wegmann acting like a crazed man shouting his own name at S/Sgt Cruse and blaming him for his brother’s death, who had died in an Allied air-raid on Frankfurt.
The defence counsel for Wegmann claimed that he was suffering serious mental deficiencies from the effects of a head wound sustained whilst serving with the Wehrmacht, and that he was not criminally responsible at the time of the shooting. This defence was rejected by the court and Wegmann was found guilty of the charge and sentenced to death by hanging.
Upon review of the case the Judge Advocate General commuted the sentence to 30 years imprisonment commencing on the 12th June 1946. His term of imprisonment was further reduced to 25 years. Then, after Wegmann’s father was killed in an accident on the family farm in 1954, his imprisonment was reduced to 10 years with effect from the 13th May 1945 and consequently he was paroled shortly thereafter.
S/Sgt Cruse was initially interred at the community cemetery in Elm, in the district of Schlüchtern on the 29th May 1944. He remains were exhumed and reinterred in QQQ, Row 2, Grave 18 at Lorraine American Cemetery, St Avold, France in February 1945.
Above S/Sgt. Cruse (Credit: Larry L. Tuel – “Mission 376”)
S/Sgt. LeRoy Desmond Cruse. Purple Heart, Air Medal. Repatriated and reinterred in December 1948 at the Fairview Cemetery Plot 181-5 in Terril, Dickinson County, Iowa. Born on the 26th April 1915 in Terril. Son of Michael Robert and Della Mae (née Staples) Cruse of Dickinson County, Iowa, USA.
Mission 376 Battle over the Reich, May, 1944. Author Ivo De Jong (an officer in the Dutch Army). This is the detailed story of a routine mission of the Allied Bombing strategy. Some 1200 American B-17s and B-24s took off from bases in England and headed for targets inside Germany.
Researched by Ralph Snape for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Traugott Vitz for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’ and for his valued research and advice in compiling this report. Special thanks to the publishers of the book “Mission 376, Battle over the Reich May 28, 1944”, for the use of information and images for the McClelland crew.