21.07.1944 370th Fighter Squadron P-51B 43-7013 F/O Luther C. Reese
Operation: Bomber escort to Munich, Germany
Date: 21st July 1944 (Friday)
Unit: 370th Fighter Squadron (359th Fighter Group), 8th Air Force
Type: P-51B Mustang
Base: East Wretham, Thetford, England
Location: Near Ebersmunster, 5 miles NE of Sélestat, France
Pilot: F/O Luther C. Reese T-061366 AAF Age 23 Survived (1)
P-51B Mustang 43-7013 was originally CS:G Baltimore Babe before it was transferred to F/O Reese as CS:E.
REASON FOR LOSS:
An after-action statement by F/O Walter W. Wiley reported that the flight led by Lt. Siltamaki strafed an enemy airfield after which the four aircraft of the flight were separated. He heard F/O Reese, who was the third man in the flight, call Lt. Siltamaki on the radio and wish him good luck. F/O Wiley later heard F/O Reese call the Group leader for his position in order to re-join the formation. The last contact with F/O Reese was at 1130 hours when he was asked for his own position. He was last seen in an area to the north of Landsberg and west of Penzing which encompassed the airfield that the flight strafed.
Research has determined that Lt. Siltamaki was 1st.Lt. Robert W. Siltamaki whose aircraft was hit whilst strafing the airfield. He successfully bailed out, was captured and became a PoW at Stalag Luft 1. Further research into the enemy airfield in question has found that this was probably the Landsberg/Lech airbase located 2½ miles NE of Landsberg and just west of the village of Penzing. Records detail that on the 21st July 1944 the airbase was strafed by P-51 Mustangs of the 8th Air Force during which 3 Ju-88s were claimed as destroyed and 10 Ju-88s damaged.
(1) The whereabouts and the fate of F/O Reese remained unknown until after hostilities in the region ceased. How an investigation was instigated is unknown but it was established that F/O Reese force landed his aircraft near Ebersmunster, 5 miles NE of Sélestat in Alsace, eastern France and close to the French-German border. He was captured and killed in a forest near to his crashed aircraft and buried in the local cemetery in Muttersholtz which is 2½ miles due south of Ebersmunster.
The investigation resulted in a General Military Government court being convened at Dachau in Germany during the period 3rd to 27th October 1947. The court laid out three charges and particulars with only the 2nd charge related to the death of F/O Luther C. Reese.
The particulars of the 2nd charge were that Kurt Petersdorf, Johann Fuerboeck, Alois Haak, Viktor Philipp and Friedrich Mutschler, German nationals, did, on or about 21st July 1944, at or near Muttersholtz, Alsace in France, wrongfully encourage, aid, abet, order and participate in the killing of a member of the United States Army, who was then and there a surrendered, unarmed PoW in the custody of the then German Reich.
Petersdorf and Fuerboeck were acquitted of all three charges for unknown reasons. They were the only named accused for the 3rd charge and particulars which related to the killing of an unknown member of the United States Army on or about the 15th August 1944 at or near Wolfisheim near Strasbourg.
Haak was a Captain and district leader in the Gendarmerie, Philipp was a Lieutenant and section leader in the Gendarmerie and Mutschler was a Gendarme, all based at Sélestat. All three were Nazi party members, Haak and Mutschler from 1937 and Philipp from 1933.
The court heard that Haak had been notified of a crashed aircraft and that he went to the scene but found that the airman had escaped. Whilst at the scene Haak was informed by an individual named Cullmann, who was presumably a member of the Gendarmerie, that the airman had been captured in the nearby woods and taken to the Gendarmerie station in Muttersholtz, which was about 2½ miles south of the position where the aircraft came down. Haak issued orders to Philipp and Mutschler to kill the airman. Cullmann, Philipp and Mutschler then took the airman back to the woods where he had been captured. It was here that Mutschler shot the airman twice killing him. The court could not determine whether Philipp was close to Mutschler when the airman was shot. It has not been possible to determine why Cullmann was not charged in connection with the killing.
It was established that prior to the killing of the airman Haak had received orders from his superiors that captured airmen were to be shot or handed over to the Kreisleitung (district committee). Haak denied that he had given orders for the airman to be shot. He did admit that he had passed on the orders to do so but insisted that the order should not be followed and the airman turned over to the Wehrmacht. Both Philipp and Mutschler stated that Haak had ordered them to shoot the airman. The court heard that Mutschler had in a written report stated that the airman had been shot whilst trying to escape.
The court found all three guilty of this charge and the 1st charge, which is not specified in this report. Mutschler was sentenced to life imprisonment, Haak to 25 years imprisonment commencing on the 8th March 1946 and Philipp to 3 years imprisonment. Both Mutschler and Haak were paroled during October 1954.
F/O Luther C. Reese. DFC, Air Medal (Three Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Initially interred in Plot PP-10-114 at the Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, France and later reinterred in Plot G, Row 13, Grave 34. Born on the 13th April 1921 in Georgia. Son to Mr. L.C. Reese, Port Wentworth, Georgia, USA.
(Credit: US 8th Air Force Little Friends Site)
Researched by Ralph Snape for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this airman with thanks to Traugott Vitz for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’ and for his valued research and advice in compiling this report.