11.01.1944 368th Bomber Squadron B-17F ‘Rationed Passion’, 1st.Lt. Willard D. Reed
Operation: Halberstadt, Germany
Date: 11th January 1944 (Tuesday)
Unit: 368th Bomber Squadron (306th Bombardment Group (H)), 8th Air Force
Type: B-17F Rationed Passion
Serial No: 42-30782
Location: near Rijssen in Holland
Base: Thurleigh (Station #111), Bedfordshire, England
Pilot: 1st.Lt. Willard Dale Reed O-742015 AAF Age 24. PoW *
Co Pilot: 1st.Lt. Thomas J. Brady O-802710 AAF Age? Killed
Navigator: 1st.Lt. Ivan E. Glaze O-670113 AAF Age? Survived (1)
Bombardier: 1st.Lt. Myron J. Dmochowski O-676926 AAF Age 26. PoW *
Radio/Op: T/Sgt. Charles A. Nichols 39082264 AAF Age? Survived (1)
Engineer: T/Sgt. Orian George Owens 37426819 AAF Age 29. Survived (1)
Ball Turret: S/Sgt. Joseph Gregory O’Connell 32447640 AAF Age 21. PoW **
Right Waist: S/Sgt. Albert C. Schaeffler 38149879 AAF Age 22. Killed
Left Waist: S/Sgt. John J. Gemborski 36608853 AAF Age 22. Survived (1)
Tail: S/Sgt. Warren Woodruff Cole 16075471 AAF Age? Survived (1)
* Stalag Luft 1 Barth-Vogelsang in Prussia, now Poland.
** 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).
Original McMahon crew:
Back: S/Sgt. Joseph G. O’Connell, S/Sgt. John J. Gemborski, S/Sgt. Albert C. Schaeffler, S/Sgt. Warren W. Cole, (Unknown rank) Sidney Gormez, T/Sgt. Orian G. Owens. Front: 1st.Lt. Ivan E. Glaze, 2nd.Lt. Norman J. Sansom, (Unknown Rank) Bruce J. McMahon, 1st.Lt. Willard D. Reed. (Credit: Fields of Honor)
For this mission Bruce J. McMahon was replaced by 1st.Lt. Reed as the Pilot, 2nd.Lt. Norman J. Sansom Jr: was replaced by 1st. Lt. Dmochowski as the Bombardier and Sidney Gormez was replaced by T/Sgt. Nichols as the Radio/Op.
REASON FOR LOSS:
B-17F 42-30782 Rationed Passion was one of nine aircraft of the 368th Bomber Squadron that took off from Thurleigh at about 0812 hours on the 11th January 1944. After action and intelligence reports described that the formation encountered some light flak en route and over the target. After leaving the target the formation was attacked by an Bf-110 fighter at about 1200 hours and then by 30 to 35 Fw-190 fighters at about 1322 hours. ‘Rationed Passion’ was reported as missing after the second attack.
The escape and evasion reports from 1st.Lt. Glaze and S/Sgt Coles described that Rationed Passion was shot down by five Fw-190 fighters. They reported that the aircraft was strafed by 20mm cannon fire which struck the nose, vertical fin and knocked off half of the starboard wing. Eight of the crew successfully bailed out of the aircraft at approximately 18000 feet. The aircraft crashed at about 1320 hours and had broken into two with the wreckage spread out over a large area. Their perspective of crash site differed but it is believed that the location was near Rijssen in Holland.
(1) 1st.Lt. Glaze, T/Sgt. Nichols, T/Sgt. Owens, S/Sgt. Gemborski and S/Sgt. Coles evaded capture with the assistance of the Dutch resistance who helped them make their way to Belgium. They joined 2nd.Lt. George W. Eike and 2nd.Lt. Robert J. Benninger, from the B-17G 42-31499 ‘Susan Ruth’, at Camp de Rièze. The camp comprised three large log-built cabins well camouflaged and hidden in the forest near the village of Rièze in Belgium.
Early on the morning of the 25th February the area around Rièze was surrounded by German troops believed to be acting on information provided by Belgian collaborators. Every house in the surrounding villages was searched and twenty-nine people were arrested and imprisoned. A young farmer, Gaston Constant who provided food to the camp, spotted the German patrols but was shot and badly wounded before he could raise the alarm. However, the gunfire alerted the men and they fled and successfully evaded the German patrols.
The airmen were taken to a small wooden cabin in the Bois de Pleumeont (Pleumeont woods). It was here that the farmer Florent Simon brought 2nd.Lt. Billy Hugo Huish from the B-17F 42-29656 ‘Skunkface’ to join the group. They were then moved to a broken down shed in the woods east of the Terne des Vaches (Hill of Cows) and south of St. Rémy. Florent Simon built a new hut in the Bois de la Champagne (Champagne Woods) into which the group moved on the 10th March.
On the 25th March the eight airmen were joined by Sgt. Vincent J. Reese from the B-17G 42-39795 ‘Woman’s Home Companion’ and Sgt. John Pindroch, another crew member from the Susan Ruth.
1st.Lt. Glaze and S/Sgt. Cole decided that after waiting almost a month that they would try to escape on their own and left early in April. They evaded capture with the assistance of the Belgian and French resistance, and Spanish partisans. They eventually reached Gibraltar on the 26th June and their Squadron at Thurleigh on the 30th June 1944.
On the morning of the 22nd April 1944 at about 0800 hours the remaining eight airmen and a Henri Fontaine, who had delivered the morning meal, were surrounded and captured by a disparate group of turncoats and traitors dressed in German uniforms. The families of two nearby farms who had been feeding the airmen were also arrested as were about thirty Belgian citizens from Chimay. Florent Simon, the father-in-law of Henri, was the only one to escape. The civilians were interrogated, sent to different jails and later to concentration camps. Research by Steve Snyder, the author of Shot Down, determined that Joseph Simon, Florent’s son and Henri Fontaine were transferred to Buchenwald concentration camp on the 1st September and eventually to the Dachau concentration camp. Joseph was killed during a US AAF raid whilst working repairing railway tracks near Koblenz, Germany. It was reported that Henri was alive after being liberated from Budapest but was never heard from again.
The eight airmen were stripped to their underwear and searched. They all had their ‘dog tags’ and two were still partially dressed in military uniform and could not be mistaken for freedom fighters despite the discovery of two ancient rifles and a pistol. They were interrogated at a local school and in the early afternoon returned by truck to the woods where they had been captured. They were separated and taken into the forest, hands tied behind their backs, with each airman accompanied by two guards in German uniform. On an arranged signal the eight airmen were shot in the back and killed.
Later that day their bodies were transported to the Luftwaffe airfield Gosselies, about 1-mile SSE of the village of Gosselies and buried in a mass grave. They were all later reinterred at the Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten.
The three murdered airmen from this aircraft were T/Sgt. Nichols, T/Sgt. Owens and S/Sgt. Gemborski.
Three of the other murdered airmen were 2nd.Lt. Eike, 2nd.Lt. Benninger and Sgt. Pindroch from the Susan Ruth.
“Shot Down” The true story of pilot Howard Snyder and the crew of the B-17 Susan Ruth: by Steve Snyder
The seventh and eighth murdered airmen were Sgt. Reese from the ‘Women’s Home Companion’ and 2nd.Lt. Huish from Skunkface.
Research conducted by the late Herman Bodson and documented in his book ‘Downed Allied Airmen and Evasion of Capture: The Role of Local Resistance Networks in WW2’, highlighted that there was little that the US Government Military Justice system could have done to track down the perpetrators and punish those responsible for the murders because they had no jurisdiction over Belgian citizens.
Herman Bodson describes that an uncovered document dated the 12th November 1947 recorded that the Belgian military tribunals had identified and prosecuted the main culprits responsible for the atrocity.
The actual charges levelled at the following six individuals remain unknown as was their role in the deaths of the eight US AAF airmen:
Marcel Jaye, the Commandant of the 3rd Company of Garde Wallone (Local auxiliary police force) was sentenced to death,
Charles Lambinon, the Head of the Regional Pro-German Information Service (SI) was sentenced to death,
Karl Berger, German citizen and the Head of the Chimay Feldgendarmerie (Military Police) was sentenced to death,
Jean Lefevre, the Adjutant 3rd Company Garde Wallone was sentenced to death,
Camille Raccourt, of the Garde Wallone who arrested Mrs. Simon, the wife of Florent, was sentenced to 10 years in jail.
The sentences recorded are those handed down by the Belgian military tribunals, but it is not known if they were carried out.
1st.Lt. Thomas J. Brady of Queens County, New York. Husband to Regina M. (née Pallotta) Brady of Jamaica, New York, USA. No further details except that his death was confirmed in Casualty lists (Fold3).
T/Sgt. Charles A. Nichols. Repatriated on the 8th June 1949 and interred at the Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, California in Plot 0 Grave 1039. Brother to Mrs. R.W. Allen of Stockton, California, USA.
T/Sgt. Orian George Owens. Repatriated and interred at the Lisbon Cemetery, Cedar County, Iowa. Born on the 22nd January 1915 in Cedar County, Iowa. Son to George H. and Myra A. Owens of Lisbon, Iowa, USA.
(Left) S/Sgt. Albert C. Schaeffler. Purple Heart, Air Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster). Interred at the Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten in Plot B, Row 17, Grave 17. Born on the 17th February 1922 in Oklahoma. Son to Fred C. and Emma A. (née Lucus) Schaeffler of Woodward County, Oklahoma, USA. (credit: Fields of Honor)
(Right) S/Sgt. John J. Gemborski. Air Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster). Interred at the Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten in Plot M, Row 4, Grave 6. Born during 1920 in Illinois. Son to Walter and Sophie Gemborski and husband to Helen M. (née Lastoa) Gemborski of Cook County, Illinois, USA. (credit: Fields of Honor)
Memorial in Saint-Rémy near Chimay, Belgium to the memory of the eight murdered USAAF airmen and two Belgian underground members who died in German camps. (credit: Steve Snyder and the American Air Museum)
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. Thanks also to Keith Janes from ‘escapelines’ for his advice and contribution. Special thanks to Steve Snyder for his advice and also for permission to use his research and materials.