07.07.1944 579th Bomb Squadron (H) B-24H 42-52160 ‘Ski-Nose’ 1st.Lt. Harold W. Prouse
Operation: Bernburg, airfield and factory (Mission #458), Germany
Date: 7th July 1944 (Friday)
Unit: 392nd Bombardment Group (H), 579th Bombardment Squadron (H), 2nd Air Division, 8th Air Force
Type: B-24H Ski-Nose
Serial No: 42-52160
Location: Eastern side of the airfield at Bernburg, Germany
Base: Wendling airfield (Station #118), Norfolk, England
Pilot: 1st.Lt. Harold Wayne Prouse O-694023 AAF Age 24. PoW *
Co-Pilot: 1st.Lt. Ralph E. Taylor Jr. O-2044872 AAF Age 24. Killed
Navigator: 2nd.Lt. Samuel Joseph Levine O-707287 AAF Age 23. Murdered (1)
Nose Turret: S/Sgt. Raymond LaVerne Linn 36448842 AAF Age 25. Killed
Radio/Op: T/Sgt. John M. Chojecki 36355990 AAF Age 25. Murdered (1)
Engineer: T/Sgt. Fred Stuart Thom 6547418 AAF Age 21. Killed
Right Waist: S/Sgt. Walter Francis Dinsmore 33252527 AAF Age 24. Murdered (1)
Left Waist: S/Sgt. Lowell Ishmael Quick 37184344 AAF Age 34. PoW (2)
Tail: S/Sgt. George Edgar Whitlock 11035727 AAF Age 21. PoW **
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, Radio Operator/Waist Gunner, Nose Gunner, Ball Turret Gunner/Radar Operator, Waist Gunner, Tail Gunner.
* Stalag 7a Moosburg, Bavaria (Work Camp 3324-46 Krumbachstrasse and Work Camp 3368 Munich).
** 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).
REASON FOR LOSS:
On the morning of the 7th July 1944 starting at 04:46 hrs 42 B-24s including the Ski-Nose took off from Wendling airfield to bomb the Bernburg airfield and Junkers aircraft factory located some 2 miles NW of Bernburg and 21 miles west of Dessau. 38 of the aircraft eventually arrived over the target.
An eye witness statement recorded that just before the Ski-Nose released its bombs enemy fighter attacks set the bomb bay area on fire. The aircraft dropped out of formation and went down under control until about 10,000 ft when it exploded. One parachute was seen in the air.
Parts of the wreckage crashed some 550 yards from the front of ‘O’ [sic] (it is believed that this was in fact Halle “201”) hangar on the eastern side of the Bernburg airfield at around 09:40 hrs.
Oberfeldwebel (T/Sgt.) Richard Löfgen from 5./JG 300 registered a claim for a B-24 at 6000 m at 09:35 hrs (Local) over Bernburg. Abschuss No. 22. (Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (OKL) (High Command for the Luftwaffe).
Fahnenjunker-Oberfeldwebel (Cadet 1st Class, prior to being commissioned) Richard Löfgen was KiA on the 2nd March 1945.
Bernburg Junkers plant damage assessment photograph with location of aircraft crash. (Courtesy Hugo Junkers web site)
1st.Lt. Prouse reported that S/Sgt. Quick and S/Sgt. Whitlock bailed out at approximately 5000 ft and that he bailed out at about 400 ft after the aircraft had broken in two parts by the explosion. All three suffered injuries and were captured at about 10:00 hours near to Bernburg.
T/Sgt Thom’s body was recovered, by personnel of a German searchlight battery, from Löbnitz on the Bode river, located between Bernburg and Staßfurt, and he was buried at the community cemetery in Löbnitz on the 9th July 1944.
German records for the burial of S/Sgt. Linn indicate two different locations. Firstly in a common grave together with an unknown airman in the Bernburg-Roschwitz cemetery and secondly at a cemetery in Kleinzerbst, some 13 miles almost due east of Bernburg. This discrepancy has not been resolved.
The flight deck of the aircraft was engulfed in flames after the fighter attack and it was speculated that 1st.Lt. Taylor Jr. died aboard the aircraft. His initial burial location was not recorded.
2nd.Lt. Levine, T/Sgt. Chojecki and S/Sgt. Dinsmore were buried in a common grave at Kleinzerbst.
(1) The circumstance of the deaths of 2nd.Lt. Levine, T/Sgt. Chojecki and S/Sgt. Dinsmore and the reason for their burial so far east of Bernburg was unexplained until a General Military Government Court was convened at Ludwigsburg in Germany on the 2nd and 3rd April 1946.
Two German nationals were charged that they did, at or near Kleinzerbst, Germany, on or about the 7th July 1944, wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully encourage aid, abet and participate in the killing of Samuel J. Levine, Walter Duismore [sic] and John M. Chojecki, members of the United States Army who were unarmed, surrendered PoWs in the custody of the then German Reich, by shooting them with guns.
The two accused were Friedrich (aka Fritz) Pöhla and Ernst Otto Vogler. Both held former positions of Kriminalsekretär (Detective Inspector) in the Kriminalpolizei at Dessau and were members of the Schutzstaffel (SS) with a rank of SS-Sturmscharführer (Sgt.Maj). Vogler was also a member of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) since 1942.
The court heard that on the morning of the 7th July 1944 the chief of the Kriminalpolizei at Dessau, an Arthur Jetzinger, summoned the two accused and another policeman named Jakob Kämpf to his office and ordered them to Hohenerxleben, some 6½ miles NW of Bernburg, to collect three American airmen held in custody of the Bürgermeister (Mayor). He instructed them to remember Himmler’s order which implied that they were to kill the three airmen.
The two accused and Kämpf, armed with pistols and accompanied by a driver, left by vehicle at about noon. When they arrived at Hohenerxleben they found that the three airmen were being held in the local fire station. It was from here that they took over the custody of the airmen from the Bürgermeister.
The airmen, the two accused and Kämpf were driven a short distance beyond the town of Kleinzerbst to a wooded area a short distance from the main road. Here the vehicle stopped and Pöhla ordered the airmen and the others out of the vehicle and told Vogler and Kämpf that the airmen were to be shot.
The group walked 30 to 60 feet into the woods with each of the airmen being closely followed by each of the three policemen. Here Pöhla gave the order to shoot, with Pöhla shooting the first airmen, followed by Vogler who shot the second airmen. It is unclear from the court proceedings which of the three shot the third airman.
However, whilst conducting research into the alleged order to kill captured Allied airmen our researcher came across the decisions by a German disciplinary court (Reference 1). A higher court was concerned with the appeal by the disciplinary prosecutor against the decision of a lower court to drop the case against Friedrich Pöhla to remove his pension.
The higher disciplinary court said that "Participation in the shooting of captured aviators during the Second World War is a very serious breach of duty for an official, even if the act took place on orders which the official followed without compelling circumstances”. As a result of the ruling the legal consequences was that Pöhla lost his pension.
The court established that Pöhla himself fired a fatal shot from his pistol at one airman and that the other two airmen were shot almost simultaneously by Vogler and Kämpf.
Vogler and Kämpf guarded the bodies whilst Pöhla left to inform the Bürgermeister of Kleinzerbst and arrange for the burial of the victims. Pöhla returned with the Bürgermeister and told him the bodies were to be buried in secret. The three policemen left the scene and the Bürgermeister had the bodies removed and buried at the local cemetery in Kleinzerbst later that afternoon.
The court found Pöhla and Vogler guilty of the charge and sentenced them to death. Although Kämpf’s confession to his part in the killing of the airmen was presented during the court proceedings is not known why he was not charged along with Pöhla and Vogler. Clearly, Jetzinger effectively ordered the murderers of the three airmen but it not known if he was ever found, arrested and brought before a court.
The Review and Recommendations findings confirmed the death sentences but other documentation records that at some point in time both had their sentences commuted to 30 years imprisonment. Vogler and Pöhla were then paroled during May and June 1955 respectively.
(2) S/Sgt. Quick died of wounds, sustained during the loss of the aircraft, on the 3rd August 1944 in the Obermaßfeld Hospital #1249, which served Stalag 9c, Thuringia, Germany. He had suffered 3rd Degree burns to the face and right hand and had succumbed from bronchial pneumonia. 1st.Lt. Prouse was with him and said that he was cheerful to the last. 1st.Lt. Prouse was in attendance when S/Sgt. Quick was buried at 08:00 hours on the 7th August 1944 at the Meiningen Cemetery, Grave No. A I d 21.
(Left: Courtesy Dennis Wilson - FindAGrave) 1st.Lt. Ralph E. Taylor Jr. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Initially reinterred at the Netherland American Cemetery before being repatriated and buried at the White Rose Cemetery, Washington County, Oklahoma. Born in 1920. No further details.
(Right: Courtesy Jeff Kontoff - FindAGrave) 2nd.Lt. Samuel Joseph Levine. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Initially reinterred at the US Military Cemetery, Grave 3, Grand-Failly near Longuyon, France. Repatriated and buried in the Sons of Israel Cemetery, Plot H25, Hampden County, Massachusetts. Born on the 15th May 1921 in Springfield, Massachusetts. Son of Louis, who pre-deceased him, and Ida Levine from Massachusetts, USA.
Official records document his name as Samuel Joseph Levine, however, Levine family records document his name as George Samuel Levine. An explanation for the difference in name has not been found.
S/Sgt. Raymond LaVerne Linn. Initially reinterred at the Netherland American Cemetery before being repatriated and buried at the Rock Island Memorial Park Cemetery, Rock Island County, Illinois. Born on the 4th January 1924 in Rock Island County, Illinois. Son to Charles Joseph and Ollie E. (née Pearson) Linn of Illinois, USA.
T/Sgt. John M. Chojecki. Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster), Purple Heart. Initially reinterred in the Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, Block M, Row 4, Grave 1769. Relocated to Plot A, Row 25, Grave 39. Born on the 10th March 1919 in Illinois. Son to John and Mary A. (née Baradlo) Chojecki of Cook County, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
(Left: Courtesy Dominique Potier- FindAGrave) T/Sgt. Fred Stuart Thom. Purple Heart. Initially reinterred in the Ardennes American Cemetery, Neuville-en-Condroz, Block FF, Row 9, Grave 211, Relocated to Plot D, Row 3, Grave 21. Born 1913 in Canada. Husband to Lora Alice (née Williams) Thom of Los Angeles, California, USA.
S/Sgt. Walter Francis Dinsmore. Air Medal. Purple Heart. Repatriated and buried at the Holy Name Cemetery (New) Cambria County, Pennsylvania. Born on the 1st December 1919 in Cambria County, Pennsylvania. Son to Russell R. and Antoinette S. (née Smole) Dinsmore. of Ebensburg, Cambria County, Pennsylvania, USA.
S/Sgt. Lowell Ishmael Quick. Initially reinterred in the Ardennes American Cemetery. Reinterred at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Section 79, Gave 92, St. Louis County, Missouri. Born on the 4th December 1909, Osage County, Missouri. Son to James F. and Elsie M. (née Barbarick) Quick and husband to Lela M. (née Phelps) Quick of Douglas, Missouri, USA.
His grave marker records that he was born on the 4th December 1900, however, official records document his birth as the 4th December 1909.
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’.
1. BVerwG I D 26/57