28.09.1944 360th Bomb Squadron (H) B-17G 44-8330, 1st.Lt. Edward F. Shields Jr
Operation: Magdeburg (Mission #652), Germany
Date: 28th September 1944 (Thursday)
Unit: 303rd Bombardment Group (H), 360th Bombardment Squadron (H), 1st Air Division, 8th Air Force
Serial No: 44-8330
Location: Süpplingen, 9½ km SW of Helmstedt-Mariental airfield, Germany
Base: Molesworth (Station #107), Huntingdonshire, England
Pilot: 1st.Lt. Edward F. Shields Jr. O-816604 AAF Age? Killed
Co-pilot: 2nd.Lt. William Mattison Cooter O-705007 AAF Age 23. Killed
Navigator: 2nd.Lt. Bruce Colin Stangohr O-717593 AAF Age 20. Killed
Bombardier: 2nd.Lt. Wilbur Woodrow Lee O-769147 AAF Age? PoW *
Radio Op: T/Sgt. Almo Wilson Dennerle 35519869 AAF Age 26. Survived (1)
Engineer: T/Sgt. Leeland John Nagel 39397083 AAF Age 23. PoW **
Ball Turret: S/Sgt. Charles Horwitz 19002418 AAF Age 25. Killed
Waist Gunner: S/Sgt. Arthur ‘Art’ Edmond Sheehan Jr. 39139011 AAF Age 20. Killed
Tail Turret: S/Sgt. Joseph John Skubal 37675455 AAF Age 20. Killed
One of the two Waist Gunners were removed from crew complements starting on the 7th June 1944 and then both from 23rd February 1945.
* Unknown Camp.
** 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).
1st.Lt. Shields’ original combat crew, photographed in front of B-17G 42-97187 ‘Miss Umbriago’, 303rd BG, 360 BS, PU:I (‘Miss Umbriago’ was lost on the 28th September 1944 on a mission to Magdeburg, 6 KiA, 3 PoW). Courtesy of Fold3.
Back Row L to R: 2nd.Lt Wilbur W. Lee, 1st.Lt. William K. Mundell, 1st.Lt. Edward F. Shields Jr., 2nd.Lt William M. Cooter. Front Row L to R: S/Sgt. Charles Horwitz, Unknown, Unknown, S/Sgt. Arthur E. Sheehan Jr.
1st.Lt. William K. Mundell, Navigator, completed his combat tour. The two unknowns are two from T/Sgt. Leland J. Nagel, T/Sgt. Robert R. Chastain (Radio Op), S/Sgt. Erwin E. Gibbons Jr. (Waist Gunner) and S/Sgt Joseph J. Skubal. Note: Only 4 of the 6 enlisted men are in the photograph. S/Sgt. Gibbons had been removed from the crew when the crew complement was reduced to 9 men.
REASON FOR LOSS:
The 303rd BG detailed 28 aircraft plus two borrowed PFF B-17 aircraft on a mission to bomb the Krupp Grusonwerke AG at Magdeburg, Germany. The secondary target, to be bombed if PFF means were used, was the Magdeburg railroad marshalling yards. Last resort targets were airfields at Gardelegen, Quedlinburg and Gießen.
Gardelegen airfield was 47 km NNW of Magdeburg and about 3 km ENE of Gardelegen;
Quedlinburg airfield was 58 km SSW of Magdeburg in Anhalt and 4.5 km S of Quedlinburg;
Gießen airfield was 50 km N of Frankfurt am Main and 3.6 km ENE of the town centre.
The aircraft from the BG took off from Molesworth on the morning of the 28th September 1944 between 07:35 and 07:59 hrs.
The last radio contact with B-17G 44-8330 was at 11:50 hrs and its loss was described in general terms by the following after mission report:
“That the missing aircraft was flying in the low squadron of the Group. There were 12 aircraft in the squadron, of which only two returned to base. The remainder are missing. The formation was subjected to severe and intense fighter attacks about 11:50 hours in the vicinity of the IP which was at 52 11N, 10 35E. It is definitely established that the missing aircraft was lost due to these attacks, but no one can be found who can say definitely what happened to this aircraft. The crews of the two aircraft in the low squadron which did return and the crews of the aircraft in the lead and high squadrons have been able to furnish the same information with respect to certain of the missing aircraft but none as to this one. Statements can be obtained that an aircraft was seen to go down under certain circumstances, but since they cannot be tied definitely to any particular aircraft which was lost, they have been omitted”.
The Initial Point (IP) Lat/Long of 52 11N, 10 35E is about 3½ km NE of Wolfenbüttel and 2½ km E of Süpplingen where the aircraft fell to earth.
It was reported that B-17G 44-8330 went into a spin after being attacked by fighters and exploded almost immediately. It disintegrated in mid-air before the wreckage fell to earth at Süpplingen, 9½ km SW of Helmstedt-Mariental airfield, which was some 5 km NNW of Helmstedt, Germany.
The OKL fighter claims for the Reich, West & Südfront on the 28th September 1944, lists three confirmed B-17 claims in the vicinity of Wolfenbüttel with only one with a time of 12:50 hrs. However, it has not been possible to positively associate this claim for shooting down B-17G 44-8330.
2nd.Lt. Lee suffered a head and back injury but managed to bail out whilst the aircraft was spinning and T/Sgt. Nagel was blown out of the aircraft when it exploded. They were captured at 13:30 hrs and later transferred to Dulag Luft, Oberursel.
T/Sgt. Nagel reported in his Individual Casualty Questionnaire that he saw 1st.Lt. Shields and 2nd.Lt. Cooter still strapped into their seats when the aircraft exploded. He had had no knowledge of the fate of the other crew members.
It was reported that six of the crew perished either in the fighter attacks or when the aircraft exploded. Five of those who perished were named as 1st.Lt. Shields, 2nd.Lt. Stangohr, S/Sgt. Horwitz, S/Sgt. Sheehan and S/Sgt. Skubal. A sixth body could not be identified and a seventh airman was missing. The two airmen that were not named were 2nd.Lt. Cooter and T/Sgt. Dennerle.
(1) The fate of T/Sgt. Dennerle was established during an American General Military Government Court which was convened at Ludwigsburg, Germany on the 9th April 1946.
Two German nationals were charged that they did, at or near Groß-Denkte, Germany, on or about the 29th September 1944, wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid, abet and participate in the killing of a member of the US Army alleged to be Almo W. Dennerle, who was then an unarmed, surrendered PoW in the custody of the German Reich.
The two accused were:
Otto Sukopp who was a former Sturmführer (2nd.Lt.) in the NSKK (National Socialist Motor Corps, which was essentially a training organisation), and also a minor clerk in the office of the Landrat (Nazi County Administrator) of Wolfenbüttel and a member of the Nazi party;
Kurt Kiehne who was a former Wehrmacht Stabsgefreiter (Pvt 1st Class) but was not a member of the Nazi party or any of its affiliates.
The court heard that on or about mid-day on the 28th September 1944, a number of American airmen parachuted to earth in the vicinity of Groß-Denkte.
At that time Sukopp was working in the Landrat office at Wolfenbüttel. One of his duties was to search for and take into custody enemy airmen who had parachuted in the vicinity. On the day in question he left the office on a motorcycle accompanied by Hauptwachtmeister (Master Sgt.) of police, Rudolf Meyer, in the direction of Wendessen. En route they passed three American airmen on the road and when they reached a point a short distance from Wendessen they learned that a wounded American airman was in a nearby field. The two men left the motorcycle on the road and walked to a haystack in an adjoining field, where they found the wounded airman surrounded by several female farm workers. The airman had parachuted to earth a short time earlier and had been carried to the haystack by two German civilians.
Sukopp stated that when they had arrived the airman was still alive, but severely injured. The description of his injuries appeared to be consistent with those resulting from a heavy impact with the ground either through his parachute not opening in time or a partial parachute failure. Meyer attempted to move the airman so that he could be taken to a hospital for treatment but found that he was too injured to be moved. The airman was unconscious but still breathing although with difficulty, and Meyer was unable to find any pulse.
Whilst Meyer chased away the women and children and was behind the haystack Sukopp fired a shot from his service pistol into the airman’s head and almost immediately followed with a second. Meyer saw the second shot being fired and asked Sukopp why he had done that to which Sukopp replied that he had done it as an ‘act of mercy’.
Meyer examined the airman and was of the opinion that he was dead. He then removed the airman’s personal effects including one of his ID tags, leaving the other on the body, and subsequently turned over the items to the office of the Kreisleiter (District leader).
As Sukopp and Meyer left the scene they noticed a Gendarme (county policemen) named Ohlhoof and Kiehne approaching the haystack. Meyer spoke with Ohlhoof and asked him to remain at the scene and told him that he would send a vehicle to collect the body of the airman. Sukopp and Meyer then left the area to continue searching for other parachuted airmen.
The court heard that Kiehne was in the vicinity because as he was cycling in the countryside he had seen several airmen parachuting to earth and had captured one airman and turned him over to the Landwacht (Home Guard).
He approached the group of people around the haystack and discovered the airman on the ground and saw in addition to the extensive injuries, described above, that he had two gunshot wounds to his head.
Kiehne told Ohlhoof that he should shoot the airman as he was beyond help. However, Kiehne did not believe that Ohlhoof was capable so he borrowed his pistol and shot the airman once in the heart as a ‘coup de grace’ because he did not believe that airman was close to death. Shortly later a vehicle arrived and Kiehne assisted in loading the body onto the wagon which then left for the local cemetery for burial. The ID tag on the body indicated that the airman was Almo W. Dennerle ASN 35519869.
The court found Sukopp and Kiehne guilty of the charge and sentenced them to 12 years and 5 year imprisonment respectively commencing on the 13th March 1946. Sukopp was released in June 1953 and Kiehne in May 1950.
The Review and Recommendation (R&R) of the Judge Advocate General considered, although that it was originally preferred to have charged Sukopp and Kiehne separately, not doing so did not prejudice the outcome of the trial.
The airman was severely and possibly mortally wounded and it was probable that he would have died from his injuries had he not been shot by the accused. However, the evidence was clear that when Sukopp shot the airman he was breathing and in the opinion of both Sukopp and Kiehne, was alive.
The Court believed that the accused did not act out of “moral turpitude as in the usual pilot case” and therefore handed down a lighter sentence as opposed to one which would have been imposed given different circumstances. The review concluded that this was not a strict legalistic approach but decided to confirm the outcome of the trial and sentences imposed upon Sukopp and Kiehne.
The seven crew members who perished were initially buried in the Süpplingen Cemetery, 2nd.Lt. Cooter and T/Sgt. Dennerle as unknown airmen. They were reinterred at the Netherlands American Cemetery on the 12th June 1945.
1st.Lt. Edward F. Shields Jr. Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster), Purple Heart. Netherlands American Cemetery Plot 3K, Row 1, Grave 12. Relocated to Plot D, Row 12, Grave 3. Son to Mary C. Shields of Pleasantville, New Jersey, USA.
2nd.Lt. William M. Cooter. Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster), Purple Heart. Netherlands American Cemetery Plot 3K, Row 1, Grave 5. Relocated to Plot E, Row 13, Grave 11. Born on the 27th January 1921, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Son to Paul M. Cooter of Kenilworth, Illinois, USA.
Left: Courtesy of The Minneapolis Star, January 3rd, 1945; Right: Courtesy of Des Philippet
2nd.Lt. Bruce Colin Stangohr. Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster), Purple Heart. Netherlands American Cemetery Plot 3K, Row 1, Grave 9. Relocated to Plot E, Row 13, Grave 9. Born on the 15th May 1924 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Son to Otto Carl and Minnie Margaret Stangohr from Excelsior, Minnesota, USA.
T/Sgt. Almo Wilson Dennerle. Repatriated and interred at the Riverside Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio. Born on the 13th July 1918 in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Son of Harold Shattick and Elna Rita (née Leeseberg) Dennerle of Fairview, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, USA.
Left: Courtesy of The Los Angeles Times, November 12th, 1948
S/Sgt. Charles Horwitz. Netherlands American Cemetery Plot DD, Row 1, Grave 7. Repatriated and interred at the Beth Olam Cemetery in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California. Born 2nd July 1919. Son of Benjamin and Mary Horwitz from Los Angeles, California, USA.
S/Sgt. Arthur ‘Art’ Edmund Sheehan Jr. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Cluster), Purple Heart. Netherlands American Cemetery Plot X, Row 3, Grave 61. Relocated to Plot O, Row 5, Grave 14. Born on the 25th April 1924 in Connecticut. Son of Arthur Edmund and Gladys Annette (née Larson) Sheehan of San Francisco, California, USA.
Right: Courtesy of and in memory of the late Wm. Boileau - FindAGrave.
S/Sgt. Joseph John Skubal. Netherlands American Cemetery Plot DD, Row 1, Grave 8. Repatriated and buried at the Mount Olivet Cemetery, Riverside, Iowa. Born on the 28th August 1924 in Washington, Iowa. Son of Frederick Vincent and Isa M. (née Schradel) Skubal of Washington, Iowa, USA.
Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’.