07.07.1944 579th Bomber Squadron B-24H 42-95229 ‘Rap ‘Em Pappy’ 1st.Lt. Leo Ruvolis Jr.
Operation: Bernburg (Mission #458), Germany
Date: 7th July 1944 (Friday)
Unit: 579th Bomber Squadron (392nd Bombardment Group (H)), 8th Air Force
Type: B-24H Rap ‘Em Pappy
Serial No: 42-95229
Location: Near Rhoden, 4 miles NW of Osterwieck, Germany
Base: Wendling (Station #118), Norfolk, England
Pilot: 1st.Lt. Leo Ruvolis Jr. O-697501 AAF Age 24. PoW *
Co Pilot: 2nd.Lt. Carl Francis Wunderlin O-819445 AAF Age 24. Survived (1)
Navigator: F/O Randell S. Mayer Jr. T-125218 AAF Age 20. PoW *
Bombardier: 2nd.Lt. Edward Young O-698950 AAF Age? PoW unknown camp
Radio/Op: T/Sgt. James A. Garvey 16077910 AAF Age 23. Killed
Engineer: T/Sgt. John Crawford Cowley 34588794 AAF Age 21. Killed
Ball Turret: §
Right Waist: S/Sgt. Gerald Ernest Beltz 37476941 AAF Age 22. PoW **
Left Waist: S/Sgt. Jacob ‘Jake’ Schenkenberger 35607640 AAF Age 32. Killed
Tail: S/Sgt. Theodore Vincent ‘Ted’ Sheridan 37494553 AAF Age 22. PoW *
§ The ball turret had been damaged in a previous mission and was inoperable.
* Stalag Luft 3 Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).
** Stalag 11b Fallingbostel, Lower Saxony, NW Germany.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Rap ‘Em Pappy was one of 42 B-24s which took off from Wendling, commencing at 04:46 hours on the 7th July 1944 with eventually 38 aircraft arriving over the JU-88 Assembly plant at Bernburg, Germany.
An after mission report described that about 5 minutes after dropping its bombs on the target Rap ‘Em Pappy was attacked by German fighters. Its nose landing gear was seen to drop followed by the main gear. The aircraft was then seen to leave the formation, under control with #3 engine ‘wind milling’ and #4 engine shut down. Some flames were seen coming from the aircraft.
While German fighters continued their attacks 1st.Lt. Ruvolis ordered S/Sgt. Beltz, S/Sgt. Schenkenberger and T/Sgt. Garvey to bail out from the waist windows as the bomb bay doors would not open. It was believed that as they moved through the bomb bay a burst of cannon fire from the German fighters may have killed S/Sgt. Schenkenberger and T/Sgt. Garvey.
German documents recorded that F/O Mayer Jr. and 1st.Lt. Ruvolis Jr. were captured near Rhoden at 10:15 hours. 2nd.Lt. Young and S/Sgt. Sheridan were captured near Osterwieck at 10:30 hours and 11:15 hours respectively and S/Sgt. Beltz was captured near Bersel, about 8 miles north of Wernigerode at 10:30 hours.
T/Sgt. Cowley had been wounded during the fighter attack and could not move. S/Sgt Beltz, who was also injured, tried to help him bail out but was unable to do so, nevertheless T/Sgt. Cowley got out or fell out of the aircraft and parachuted to the ground. He was found near Osterwieck at about 10:30 hours. It was not until the next day, on the 8th July, that he was admitted to the Hospital section of the Elementary School for girls at Wernigerode. He died from his injuries at 0705 hours on the 9th July and was buried at 15:00 hours on the 11th July 1944 in the NE corner, Row 3, Grave 26 in the community cemetery in Hasserode. T/Sgt. Garvey and S/Sgt Schenkenberger were recovered from the aircraft wreckage and, together with 2nd.Lt. Wunderlin, were also buried in the community cemetery in Hasserode.
German records indicate that the aircraft exploded in mid-air at about 09:20 hours. Parts of the aircraft were scattered over an area of roughly 1¼ miles near to Rhoden, about 4 miles NW of Osterwieck and NW of Halberstadt.
Rap ‘Em Pappy was one of five aircraft lost by the 579th Bomber Sqn all flying with the 492nd Bomber Sqn, which itself lost twelve aircraft, 50% of its strength.
S/Sgt. Gerald E. Beltz, Purple Heart, was repatriated after his leg was amputated due to the injuries he sustained in the fighter attack. He returned to the United States aboard the ‘MS Gripsholm’ out of Marseille, France on the 8th February, arriving in New York on the 21st February 1945.
(1) German documents recorded that 2nd.Lt. Wunderlin was recovered as dead. However, according to 2nd.Lt. Young‘s Individual Casualty Questionnaire (ICQ), 2nd.Lt. Wunderlin was alive when he saw him bail out of the aircraft through the nose wheel hatch. Furthermore during his interrogation at Dulag Luft he was shown an escape picture of 2nd.Lt. Wunderlin and asked if he knew were he was. Despite some confusion which indicated that 2nd.Lt. Wunderlin actually used 1st.Lt. Ruvolis Jr. parachute, he believed that 2nd.Lt. Wunderlin had landed safely and alive, ditched his flying overalls and inadvertently left his escape photographs in the pocket.
He was also asked by the Gestapo whether Wunderlin was Jewish. 2nd.Lt. Young indicated that he spoke no German so did not respond to their questioning. In his opinion the attitude and behaviour of the Dulag Luft interrogators led him to believe that they had shot 2nd.Lt. Wunderlin on the presumption that he was Jewish.
Evidence from a number of War Crime trials held in Dachau established that the Gestapo hunted down Allied airmen and summarily shot them when captured. Although no specific trial can be linked to the death of 2nd.Lt. Wunderlin the circumstantial evidence leads one to consider that at the very least he died in suspicious circumstances.
(Left: Courtesy: Michel Beckers). 2nd.Lt. Carl Francis Wunderlin. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Reinterred Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Block X, Row 3, Grave 63. Relocated to Plot D, Row 2, Grave 14. Born on the 13th October 1919. Son to Joseph Augustine and Anna M (née Cruse) Wunderlin of Michigan, USA.
(Right: Courtesy: Des Philippet). T/Sgt. James A. Garvey. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Reinterred Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Block R, Row 12, Grave 290. Relocated to Plot K, Row 10, Grave 13. Born on the 6th November 1920. Son to Bridget (née Blackwell) Garvey of Chicago, Illinois, USA
T/Sgt. John Crawford Cowley. Purple Heart. Reinterred in the Lorraine Cemetery, Plot 4K, Row 1, Grave 14 before being repatriated and buried at the Maple Hill Cemetery, Huntsville Alabama. Born on the 29th November 1922. Son to Allen Desco and Blanche F. Cowley and husband to Mrs Cowley of Huntsville, Alabama, USA.
(Left: Courtesy: Des Philippet). S/Sgt. Jacob ‘Jake’ Schenkenberger. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Reinterred Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Block R, Row 9, Grave 207. Relocated to Plot G, Row 13, Grave 8. Born on the 17th January 1912 in Akron, Ohio. Husband to Marian Corine Schenkenberger form Medina, Ohio, USA.
Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew. With thanks to Traugott Vitz for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’.