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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
04.11.1944 707th Bomb Squadron (H) B-24J 42-51356 ‘Lassie Come Home’, 1st.Lt. William H. Ray

Operation: Hannover-Misburg (Mission #700), Germany

Date: 4th November 1944 (Saturday)

Unit: 446th Bombardment Group (H), 707th Bombardment Squadron (H), 2nd Air Division, 8th Air Force

Type: B-24J Lassie Come Home

Serial No: 42-51356

Code: JU:

Location: 5 km west of Detfurth, Germany

Base: Bungay (Station #125), Suffolk, England

Pilot: 1st.Lt. William H. Ray O-472987 AAF Age 20. Killed

Co Pilot: 2nd.Lt. Harold Gladstein O-826921 AAF Age? Killed

Navigator: 2nd.Lt. James William Corson O-723951 AAF Age? PoW *

Nose Gunner/Togglier: S/Sgt. Leon Synfelt 32740429 AAF Age 21. Survived (1)

Radio/Op: T/Sgt. Charles Luchinskas 33345067 AAF Age 26. Killed

Engineer: T/Sgt. Maurice Harold McNutt 33670928 AAF Age 20. Killed

Ball Turret: S/Sgt. Paul Arthur Reignier 31406363 AAF Age 18. Killed (2)

Right Waist: S/Sgt. William G. Bryant 32866886 AAF Age 27. PoW Unknown camp (3)

Left Waist: S/Sgt. Rudolph Bosnakovic 35174837 AAF Age 20. PoW **

Tail: S/Sgt. Harold F. Biddinger 42033851 AAF Age 22. Killed

Togglier - When it was required for all aircraft in a Squadron formation to drop their bombs simultaneously, the designated Bombardier was on the lead aircraft. The task of the Bombardier’s in the rest of the formation was to drop their bombs when the lead aircraft dropped theirs. When there were personnel shortages the role of Bombardier was carried out by an enlisted crew member who was designated as the Togglier.

*Stalag Luft 3 Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).

**Stalag Luft 4 Gross-Tychow, Pomerania, Prussia (Moved from Stalag Luft 6 Heydekrug. Moved to Wöbbelin near Ludwigslust and then to Usedom near Swinemünde).

Identities of crew members unknown at this time (Courtesy: B-24BestWeb)

REASON FOR LOSS:

42-51356 Lassie Come Home took off from Bungay on a mission to bomb the Misburg Oil Refineries at Hannover in Germany. Just after dropping its bombs the aircraft was hit by the intense flak in the area.

An after action report recorded that the aircraft was flying at 18000 feet and was seen to enter a spin with #3 engine on fire. It appeared that control was established as it disappeared into clouds. Two parachutes were seen. No further observations were made as to the possible causes of the aircraft leaving the formation.

German documents record that the aircraft crashed about 3¼ km west of Detfurth and about 13 km SE of Hildesheim at 12:20 hrs and was completely destroyed.

1st.Lt. Ray and 2nd.Lt. Gladstein were last seen alive and uninjured in the aircraft. German sources claimed that no trace of them was found in the aircraft wreckage. It has not been possible to establish the circumstances of their deaths at this time.

T/Sgt. McNutt, S/Sgt. Reignier and S/Sgt. Biddinger were last seen alive and uninjured in the aircraft. German sources claim that their dog tags were found in the wreckage. However, an Individual Casualty Questionnaire (ICQ) claimed that T/Sgt. McNutt bailed out of the aircraft and his parachute was seen to open. However, it was claimed after the war that his parachute did not open. It has not been possible to establish the circumstances of their deaths at this time.

(1) S/Sgt. Synfelt was uninjured and was seen to bail out of the aircraft. His fate was unknown until a General Military Government Court was convened at Dachau, Germany on the 2nd and 3rd June 1947.

The court charged Max Bruno Gartmann, Heinrich Hahne, Josef Hutler, Friedrich Meyer and Willi Dehnbostel, German nationals, that they did, on or about the 4th November 1944, at or near Bad Salzdetfurth, Germany, wrongfully encourage, aid, abet and participate in the killing of a member of the United States army, believed to be Sgt. Leon Synfelt, ASN 32740429, who was then and there a surrendered PoW in the custody of the then German Reich.

The accused were all former members of the No.1 Polizei (Police) Landesschützen (Home Guard) Company which was stationed in Bad Salzdetfurth. Gartmann was a Hauptmann (Capt.) and the Commanding Officer, and also a member of the Nazi party. Hahne was a former Oberfeldwebel (T/Sgt.), Meyer was a former Unteroffizier (Cpl), Dehnbostel and Hutler, of unknown rank, were former members of the Company.

The court heard that on or about the 4th November 1944 the No.1 Polizei Landesschutzen Company was returning from an exercise. Gartmann detailed between 10 and 25 men from the Company, which included the other accused, to search for an airman who had parachuted from a disabled aircraft and landed in some nearby woods.

The airman was found in the custody of unidentified Wehrmacht soldiers who turned him over to Gartmann. Gartmann ordered him to stand in the ditch, which ran alongside a path in the woods. Hahne, Meyer, Dehnbostel, together with Adler and Spreitz, also members of the Company, formed a firing detail. Gartmann gave the order to take aim and fire and the detail fired a volley at the airman. The court heard that there was evidence that the airman was not killed outright and that Gartmann ordered Adler to fire another shot to kill the airman.

Hutler was present at the scene but was engaged in holding back the crowd.

Gartmann stole the airman’s wristwatch for himself and then ordered Spreitz and Hutler to guard the body whilst the rest of the Company moved off to their billets some 550 yards away.

Gartmann admitted that he had ordered his men to fire at the airman but at the trial his defence was the airman was shot whilst trying to escape. Hahne and Meyer admitted that they were on the firing detail but claimed that they had fired over the airman’s head. Dehnbostel admitted that he was on the firing detail and that he aimed and fired at the upper body of the airman, although at the trial his defence was that he could not aim at the airman.

The court rejected their defence claims and found them guilty of the charge. Gartmann was sentenced to death by hanging which was carried out on the 5th November 1948 at Landsberg in Bavaria. Hahne, Meyer and Dehnbostel were each sentenced to 10 years imprisonment commencing on the 17th August 1946. Hann and Dehnbostel were released in November 1951 and Meyer in December 1951.

Hutler was acquitted. Adler was tried at a separate trial and was acquitted. Spreitz has never been apprehended.

The airman, tentatively identified as S/Sgt. Leon Synfelt was buried in the communal cemetery at Bad Salzdetfurth on the 4th November 1944. The body was exhumed and removed by the US authorities on or about the 10th June 1945.

(2) It is believed that S/Sgt. Reignier had bailed out of the aircraft. S/Sgt. Bosnakovic was told at a PoW interrogation centre at Hannover that he was killed by civilians. At this time no evidence can be found to confirm the circumstances of his death.

(3) S/Sgt. Bryant was captured near Wesseln which is SE of Hildesheim and admitted to the Garrison Hospital in Weinburg, Hildesheim. The nature of his injuries or at which PoW camp he was held are unknown.

Burial details

T/Sgt. McNutt, S/Sgt. Synfelt, S/Sgt. Reignier and S/Sgt. Biddinger were initially buried in Salzdetfurth Cemetery and on the 7th June 1945 reinterred at the Netherlands American Cemetery.

The only recoverable remains for 1st.Lt. Ray, 2nd.Lt. Gladstein and T/Sgt. Luchinskas were reinterred at the Ardennes Cemetery, but could not be individually identified.

1st.Lt. William H. Ray. Air Medal (Two Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Repatriated on the 26 April 1950, and buried at the Arlington National Cemetery, Fort Myer, Virginia in a common grave, Sec.34, Site: 3854. Born on the 6th January 1924. Son to Henry Sylvester and Mary Susanna (nee Harris) Ray of Chatham County, Georgia, USA.

2nd.Lt. Harold Gladstein. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Repatriated on the 26 April 1950, and buried at the Arlington National Cemetery, Fort Myer, Virginia in a common grave, Sec.34, Site: 3854. Born on the 30th May 1919. Son to Samuel and Mollie (née Scher) Gladstein of Brooklyn , New York, USA.

T/Sgt. Charles Luchinskas. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Repatriated on the 26 April 1950, and buried at the Arlington National Cemetery, Fort Myer, Virginia in a common grave, Sec.34, Site: 3854. Born on the 29th July 1918. Son to Joseph and Ona (née Karpavich) Luchinskas of Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA.

Above: S/Sgt. Synfelt (Credit: Jeni - FindAGrave)

S/Sgt. Leon Synfelt. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Repatriated and buried at the St. Adalbert Cemetery, Rotterdam, Schenectady County, New York. Born on the 10th February 1923. Son to Leon and Valeria (née Levandovska) Synfelt of Schenectady County, New York, USA.

Above: T/Sgt. McNut. (Credit: Late Ralph Satter and Des Philippet - FindAGrave)

T/Sgt. Maurice Harold McNutt. Air Medal (With Oak Leaf Cluster). Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten. Plot P, Row 19, Grave 3. Born on the 1st May 1924. Son to Harold Nelson and Verlie Ernestine (née White) McNutt of Clarion, Pennsylvania, USA.

S/Sgt. Paul Arthur Reignier. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Repatriated and buried in Connecticut. Born on the 8th June 1925. Son to Corinna Reignier of Waterbury, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.

S/Sgt. Harold F. Biddinger. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Repatriated and buried at the Mount Olivet Cemetery, Maspeth, Queens County, New York. Born on the 20th Apr 1924. Son to George Biddinger of South Ozone Park, New York, USA.

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.

RS 27.10.2019 - Editorial amendments

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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