29.07.1944 568th Bombardment Squadron (H) B-17G 42-97863 ‘Shack Rat’, 1st Lt. Charles A. Norby DFC.
Operation: Merseburg (Mission #503), Germany
Date: 29th July 1944 (Saturday)
Unit No: 568th Bombardment Squadron (H), 390th Bombardment Group (H), 3rd Air Division, 8th Air Force
Type: B-17G Shack Rat
Serial No: 42-97863
Location: About 2¾ km west of Bad Bibra, Germany
Base: Framlingham (Station #153), Suffolk, England
Pilot: 1st Lt. Charles Allen Norby DFC, O-759494 AAF Age 23. Murdered (1)
Co Pilot: 2nd Lt. Charles Moore Allen O-820929 AAF Age 20. PoW *
Navigator: 2nd Lt. Robert Thomas Hanrahan O-716579 AAF Age 22. PoW *
Bombardier: 2nd Lt. John Thomas Christie O-765774 AAF Age 19. PoW **
Radio/Op: T/Sgt. Vincent Rocco Fugarazzo 12125661 AAF Age 22. PoW ***
Engineer: T/Sgt. William Chambly Devine 19084853 AAF Age 33. PoW ***
Ball Turret: S/Sgt. Dale Lynch Buffington 37564509 AAF Age 19. PoW ***
Waist Gunner: S/Sgt. Samuel Turetsky 19128385 AAF Age 22. PoW ***
Tail Gunner: S/Sgt. Charles Archie Hauskins 39918315 AAF Age 19. PoW ***
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 1 Barth-Vogelsang, today situated in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany
** Stalag 7a Moosburg, Bavaria (Work Camps 3324-46 Krumbachstrasse and 3368 Munich).
*** Stalag Luft 4 Groß-Tychow, Pomerania, Prussia now Tychowo, Poland (Moved from Stalag Luft 6 Heydekrug. Moved to Wöbbelin near Ludwigslust and then to Usedom near Swinemünde).
REASON FOR LOSS:
B-17G #42-97863 took off on the morning of 29th July 1944 on a mission to bomb the IG Farbenindustrie Leunawerk synthetic oil production plant at Merseburg, Germany.
The after mission intelligence report described that at 10:15 hrs in the target area aircraft #42-97863, flying in #6 position in the low squadron of the 390 Bombardment Group, was observed, after bombs away, to leave the formation after being hit by flak. Engines #3 and #4 were feathered and the aircraft was last seen about 12 km north of Zeitz at 10:23 hrs, falling further behind, losing altitude and heading south. No parachutes were seen.
Aboard the aircraft all of the crew bailed out of the aircraft and, except for 1st Lt. Norby, were captured. 2nd Lt. Allen, 2nd Lt. Christie, T/Sgt. Fugarazzo, S/Sgt. Buffington, and S/Sgt. Hauskins were apprehended by rural guards and farmers at about 12:00 hrs between Apolda and Eckartsberga. 2nd Lt. Hanrahan and T/Sgt. Devine were captured 4 km west of Bad Sulza, on the edge of Niedertrebra. S/Sgt. Turetsky was captured at an unknown location.
The aircraft crashed about 2¾ km west of Bad Bibra at a place named "Mordgraben" (murder ditch), some 48 km further west of the last seen location. It appears that the aircraft exploded in mid-air with parts falling within a radius of 2 km.
T/Sgt. Fugarazzo was told by a Luftwaffe officer that someone had not bailed out as a parachute was found in the aircraft. T/Sgt. Fugarazzo did not confirm or deny his statement as he knew there was an additional parachute aboard the aircraft.
(1) The fate of 1st Lt. Norby was determined at a General Military Government Court convened in Dachau, Germany from the 10th to the 12th March 1947.
Two German nationals were charged, in that they did, on or about 29th July 1944, at or near Buttstädt, Kreis Weimar, Germany, wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid, abet and participate in the killing of a member of the United States Army, believed to be 2nd Lt. Charles A. Norby, who was then and there an unarmed and surrendered prisoner of war in the custody of the then German Reich.
The two accused were Hermann Gustav Adolf Brückner and Arno Otto Bornschein both of whom were former members of the Landwacht (Auxiliary Policemen).
The court heard that 1st Lt. Norby had surrendered to an unnamed farmer who escorted him to the police station in Buttstädt. Brückner, Bornschein and Dr. Gustav Becker were summoned to the police station to collect the airman. They proceeded to Weimar in a car driven by Dr. Becker. After they reached the outskirts of Buttstädt on the Weimar road Brückner instructed Becker to stop and turn the car around and take an alternative road to Weimar.
When Becker stopped the car Brückner, Bornschein and the airman alighted. The airman walked quickly into a wheatfield adjacent to the road and Brückner ordered him to halt, which he did and squatted in the field. Brückner approached the airman and shot him to death.
The reason for the airman entering the wheatfield and then squatting down when being ordered to halt could not be determined.
Confirmation of the crime scene location has come to light from a contemporary witness living in the area at the time of the crime. A young boy of 8 years, then living at Niederreißen which is south of Buttstädt, and on the road which Dr. Becker was told to turn the car around, was told by an older friend that "they shot dead an American at Buttstädt".
They rode their bicycles to the scene apparently on the day after the crime had taken place. The 8 year-old boy of 1944, now a gentleman of 85, described the location of the spot in the wheatfield as "30 to 40 metres from the road and not far from the Ziegelei (brick works) building".
The two boys saw a spot in the field where the wheat had been trampled down, and saw a pool of dried blood and traces of someone or something having been dragged away. The gentleman maintains that he always remembers the sight when he passes the spot. In addition to confirming the crime scene, this also proves that the crime was known in the next village, some 3 km distance, the day after it happened.
Brückner claimed in his defence that he thought the airman was trying to escape and ran after him ordering him to halt. The airman stopped, squatted down and faced him. When he closed on the airman he sprang up and grasped the sleeve of Brückner’s arm in which he held his weapon. The pistol accidently discharged and the round hit the airman in the right front temple killing him instantly. Brückner then ran away from the scene and later expressed regret that it had happened.
Bornschein testified that he thought that Brückner may have received an order to kill the airman from a Franz Hofmann but this was never proven.
Franz Georg Karl Hofmann was the Kreisleiter (Nazi party county leader) of Weimar, who was either directly involved or was instrumental in the killing of a number of Allied airmen in his county.
Brückner was found guilty of the charge and Bornschein was acquitted by the court.
There were a number of unresolved differences with the testimonies heard by the court especially whether the airman was indeed trying to escape, which would have been a stupid action on his part, and whether or not there was an altercation between the airman and Brückner and ultimately whether the shooting was an accident or deliberate. This may have contributed to Brückner being sentenced to life imprisonment and not the death penalty.
In view of his lenient sentence, one wonders whether the Court was aware of Brückner's political views and career. In any case, they are still remembered by present-day residents of Buttstädt who knew him as an avid Nazi party and SS member who volunteered for the Poland campaign in 1939. Who in later years boasted of his war experience, clad in black SS uniform, before 13 and 14-year-old Hitler Youth (Hiterjugend) and the League of German Girls (Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM)) members, assembled for the purpose in the local cinema.
The BDM was the female section of the Hitler Youth, its role was to indoctrinate girls into the beliefs and ideals of the Nazi regime.
Brückner was incarcerated in the Landsberg/Lech war crimes prison at 15:00 hrs on the 28th July 1947. The US Army announced on the 10th February 1956 that Brückner had been paroled because of ill health.
The cremation book of the Weimar Crematorium recorded that Charles Norby was cremated on the 2nd August 1944, cremation #14681. The urn with his ashes was sent back to Buttstädt on the 22nd September 1944 and buried in the local cemetery in Grave N-6.
Above: Credit: The Appeal Democrat, dated Wednesday, February 14th 1945.
1st Lt. Charles Allen Norby DFC. His urn was exhumed from the Buttstädt cemetery and interred at the Ardennes American Cemetery. At the request of his relatives his urn was later repatriated and buried at an unknown cemetery in California. Born on the 4th October 1920 in Bakersfield, California. Son to Erling Schriver and Florence (née Allen) Norby from Palo Alto, California, USA.
2nd Lt. Allen was a first cousin of 1st Lt. Norby.
Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew. Thanks also to Traugott Vitz for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’. These authors are indebted to Herr Bernd Schmidt for liberal access to his vast collection of documents, and for his permission to publish his findings on this web page. Thanks to Traugott Vitz for the additional information regarding the crime scene and Brückner which have come from reactions to the brochure by local witnesses at the time of the killing of 1st Lt. Norby (Aug 2021). Corrections to narrative received from Traugott Vitz and Herr Bernd Schmidt (Sep 2021).
Bernd Schmidt and Traugott Vitz have written a brochure covering the murder case under the title "Der Mord an Charles A. Norby in Buttstädt. Fliegerschicksale im 2. Weltkrieg Heft 4, Weimar 2021, ISBN 978-3-96567-058-7”.