26.08.1944 706th Bomber Squadron B-24H 41-29177 ‘Ginger’, 1st.Lt. Ralph Vincent Shaffer
Operation: Ludwigshafen, Germany
Date: 26th August 1944 (Saturday)
Unit: 706th Bomber Squadron (446th Bombardment Group (H)), 8th Air Force
Type: B-24H Ginger
Serial No: 41-29177
Location: Schœneck near Forbach, France
Base: Bungay (Station #125), Suffolk, England
Pilot: 1st.Lt. Ralph Vincent Shaffer O-706001 AAF Age 24. Killed
Co Pilot: 2nd.Lt. George Lesko O-713813 AAF Age? PoW *
Navigator: FO Norman H. Phillips T-126398 AAF Age 21. PoW **
Nose Gunner: Sgt. Jack W. Staton 35654944 AAF Age 20. Killed
Radio/Op: S/Sgt. Frank William Loichinger 16078711 AAF Age? PoW ***
Engineer: T/Sgt. Charles Edward Wyatt Jr., 38399233 AAF Age 20. Survived (1)
Ball Turret: Sgt. Albert H. Lang 37624671 AAF Age? PoW ****
Right Waist: Sgt. Ted Zemonek, 35767461 AAF Age 20. Survived (1)
Left Waist: Pvt. Jack A. Maxwell, 14056809 AAF Age? Survived (1)
Tail: Sgt. Willard R. Fetterhoff, 36595057 AAF Age 19. Survived (1)
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 Luft 1 Barth-Vogelsang, Prussia now Poland.
** 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).
**** Stalag 9c Bad Sulza, Saxe-Weimar.
REASON FOR LOSS:
B-24H Ginger took off from Bungay on the morning of the 26th August 1944 to bomb the assigned target of the I.G. Farben chemical plant in Ludwigshafen, Germany.
An after mission statement recorded that the aircraft was hit by flak whilst over the target. The aircraft then went into a steep dive but eventually pulled up and levelled off at about 8000 feet. After which the aircraft was lost from sight and was not seen again.
S/Sgt. Loichinger in his Individual Casualty Questionnaire speculated that, as he was in the area of a rifle range after he landed, that 1st.Lt. Shaffer, whose parachute he saw open fully, along with T/Sgt. Wyatt, Sgt. Zemonek, Sgt. Fetterhoff and Pvt. Maxwell were killed by German civilians. 1st.Lt. Shaffer’s remains have never been found and the circumstances of his death are unknown.
It is recorded that Sgt. Staton drowned after he landed in the River Saar. 2nd.Lt. Lesko, Sgt. Lang, FO Phillips were captured later that day at 1120 hours in the Gersweiler Wald near to Saarbrücken. The circumstances of S/Sgt. Loichinger’s capture are unknown.
German records indicate that T/Sgt. Wyatt was found dead and that he did not have his ‘dog tags’ but was identified from a slip of paper found in his uniform.
The aircraft crashed at Schœneck near Forbach, France, SW of Saarbrücken at 1120 hours and was totally destroyed.
(1) The fates of T/Sgt. Wyatt Jr., Sgt. Zemonek, Sgt. Fetterhoff and Pvt. Maxwell were unknown until a General Military Government Court was convened at Dachau during the period 30th June to 15th July 1947 where three German nationals were charged with the second of two charges that they did on or about the 25th August 1944, deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid, abet and participate in the killing of members of the United States Army, believed to be T/Sgt. Charles E. Wyatt Jr., ASN 8399233, Sgt. Ted Zemonek, ASN 5767461, Sgt. Willard R. Fetterhoff, ASN 36595057 and Pvt. Jack A. Maxwell, ASN 14056809, who were then and there surrendered and unarmed PoWs in the custody of the then German Reich.
The first charge concerns the killing of 1st.Lt. Emil Berry Jr., 2nd.Lt. John Burns Good and S/Sgt. Lewis E. Pulsipher from B-24H 42-52467 'Hula Wahine II' from the 704th Bomber Squadron (446th Bombardment Group (H)).
Those charged, also named for the first charge, were Dr. Fritz Maria Josef Dietrich, who was the former Polizeipräsident (Police President) of Saarbrücken, an SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lt.Col) and the local Wehrmacht commander; Willy Stemmler, who was a former SS-Standartenführer (Col); Karl Hunsicker, who was a former SS-Untersturmführer (2nd.Lt.). All were members of the Allgemeine SS (General unit of the Schutzstaffel) and also members of the Nazi party.
On or about the 26th August 1944 Dietrich was informed that four American airmen had been captured and were being held at the police station in Burbach, west of Saarbrücken. Stemmler testified that he was ordered by Dietrich to have the airmen collected and then shot on the pretext that they were attempting to escape.
The airmen were picked up and driven towards Klanenthal, SW of Burbach, along a forest road. The car stopped in the forest and the four airmen were forced to walk into the woods, four abreast with arms linked, followed closely by Stemmler and Hunsicker with drawn pistols. The accused then each shot two of the airmen from behind with multiple rounds.
A man name Duchene, who was the assigned driver for Stemmler, testified that he was the driver of the police patrol car that transported the four airmen to the scene of the shooting. He witnessed the four airmen being marched into the woods by Stemmler and Hunsicker and heard numerous shots being fired. After the shootings he was ordered to collect the bodies and transport them to the Saarbrücken-Burbach cemetery for burial and en route collect the body of a fifth airmen.
After the bodies were disinterred and examined, four were shown to have died as a result of gunshot wounds and the fifth was listed with a cause of death of unknown. The four who had been shot were tentatively identified as T/Sgt. Wyatt Jr., Sgt. Zemonek, Sgt. Fetterhoff and Pvt. Maxwell, the fifth was identified as Sgt. Staton.
The court found Dietrich, Stemmler and Hunsicker guilty of the charge and they were sentenced to death by hanging. Dietrich was executed at Landsberg on the 22nd October 1948, Stemmler and Hunsicker were executed at Landsberg on the 29th October 1948.
A memorial to this crew was erected close to the crash site in 1998.
1st.Lt. Ralph Vincent Shaffer. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Cambridge American Cemetery, Tablets of the Missing. He was presumed dead on the 27th August 1945. Born on the 28th March 1920. Son to Francis and Catherine (née Schmeizer) Shaffer and husband of Margaret Ann (née Clawson) Shaffer of Akron, Summit County, Ohio, USA.
Sgt. Jack Warren Staton. Purple Heart. Repatriated and interred at the Sunset Memorial park, Berkley, Raleigh County, West Virginia. Born 18th August 1924. Son to Russell Cunningham and Bertha (née Webb) Staton of Mullens, Wyoming, West Virginia, USA.
In Jack Staton's hometown of Mullens, Wyoming County, West Virginia, the Mullens Overhead Bridge located on State Route 16 was named the "Sergeant Jack W. Staton Memorial Bridge."
T/Sgt. Charles Edward Wyatt Jr. Purple Heart. Repatriated and interred at the Rest Haven Garden Cemetery, Plot 2, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Born on the 15th October 1924. Son of Charles Edward and Grace Bell (née Mabry) Wyatt and husband to Willa Frances (née Foster) Wyatt, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA.
Sgt. Ted Zemonek. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Ardennes American Cemetery, Block YYY, Row 1, Grave 1. Relocated to Plot B, Row 40, Grave 52. Born on the 20th June 1924. Son to Blaise Zemonek of Oak Hill, West Virginia, USA.
Pvt. Jack A. Maxwell. Purple Heart. Lorraine American Cemetery, Block WWW, Row 12, Grave 138. Relocated to Plot D, Row 4, Grave 22. Son of Fred A. Maxwell of Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA.
Sgt. Willard R. Fetterhoff. Purple Heart. Repatriated and interred in Michigan. Born on the 20th January 1925. Son of Herman and Esther (née Adcock) Fetterhoff of Flint, Genesee, Michigan, USA.
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’