17.08.1943 401st Bomb Squadron (H) B-17F 42-5437 ‘Frank’s Nightmare’, 1st.Lt. Arlynn E. Weieneth
Operation: Schweinfurt (Mission #84), Germany
Date: 17th August 1943 (Tuesday)
Unit: 91st Bombardment Group (H), 401st Bombardment Squadron (H), 1st Air Division, 8th Air Force
Type: B-17F Frank’s Nightmare
Serial No: 42-5437
Location: Hergarten, Germany
Base: Bassingbourn (Station #121), Cambridgeshire, England
Pilot: 1st.Lt. Arlynn Earl Weieneth O-728942 AAF Age 21. MiA (1)
Co Pilot: 2nd.Lt. Eugene D. Cook O-518965 AAF Age 22. PoW * (2)
Navigator: 2nd.Lt. Clarence Henry Blackmon O-673461 AAF Age 21. MiA (1)
Bombardier: 2nd.Lt. William A. Warose O-735221 AAF Age 23. Killed
Radio/Op: T/Sgt. John Joseph Halloran 31133246 AAF Age 23. MiA (1)
Engineer/ Top Turret: T/Sgt. Charles E. Reidy 35381792 AAF Age 27. Killed
Ball Turret: S/Sgt. Joseph D. Hall 12132303 AAF Age 19. MiA (1)
Right Waist: S/Sgt. Vernon E. Lamplot 20607129 AAF Age 24. Killed
Left Waist: S/Sgt. Edgar Allan Roe 17086315 AAF Age 23. Killed
Tail: Sgt. Robert Henry McDonald 39279407 AAF Age 24. Killed
* Stalag Luft 1 Barth-Vogelsang, today part of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany
'Frank’s Nightmare' crew prior to being joined by 1st.Lt. Arlynn E. Weieneth and Sgt. Robert Henry McDonald. (Courtesy Michel Beckers)
Back row, left to right: 2nd.Lt. Eugene D. Cook; 2nd.Lt. Joseph R. Herbert, Jr.; 2nd.Lt. William J. Warose; 2nd.Lt. Clarence H. Blackmon. Front row, left to right: S/Sgt. Edgar A. Roe; S/Sgt. Joseph D. Hall; S/Sgt. Edward J. Conrecode; T/Sgt. Charles E. Reidy; T/Sgt. John J. Halloran; S/Sgt. Vernon E. Lamplot.
2nd.Lt. Herbert was replaced by 1st.Lt. Weieneth and S/Sgt. Conrecode by Sgt. McDonald prior to the 17th August 1943 mission to Schweinfurt.
1st.Lt. William H. Wheeler and crew of B-17F 42-29816 'The Eager Beaver', 401st Bomber Sqn. (Courtesy Fold3)
1st.Lt. Arlynn E. Weieneth has been identified as being 3rd from left on the back row.
Note: 'The Eager Beaver' was lost in a mid-air collision with B-17F 41-24523 ’Snooks’ over the North Sea on the 31st August 1943. Only the tail gunner from the 'The Eager Beaver' survived and was rescued by ASR. He was not asked to fly again and was transferred to ground duties.
REASON FOR LOSS:
On the morning of the 17th August 1943 Frank’s Nightmare took off from Bassingbourn along with six other B-17s from the 401st Bomber Squadron on a mission to bomb the Schweinfurt KugelFischer ball bearing plant.
En route moderate inaccurate flak was encountered. It was reported that Frank’s Nightmare was hit by flak over Woenschrecht *, Belgium.
* No such place has been found, however, it is probable that this was actually Woensdrecht in the Netherlands, which is about 3½ miles west of the Netherlands/Belgium border. Woensdrecht was almost directly under the flight path of the bomber stream.
German fighter attacks started over Antwerp, Belgium. The 101st Composite Group was the high group in the lead formation and came under heavy fire from the beginning. Frank’s Nightmare was in the low element of the group and was the first to fall out of formation.
An after mission statement made by Lt. Robert E. Nichols O-1699081 described that:
“Fourteen aircraft out of 91st Group were behind and to our left. An aircraft believed to be #437 (42-5437 Frank’s Nightmare) was hit by flak at Woenschrecht [sic] and by enemy aircraft at or about 14:10 hrs. The aircraft snapped up out of formation and half fell into tight spin getting tighter and tighter. It was last seen at 14:13 hrs, at an altitude of 18000 feet in vicinity of 50 14N, 07 11E. (this Lat/Long is about ½ mile north of Hambuch and ½ mile SE of Eulgem). It is believed that one parachute came from this aircraft”.
A B-17 was claimed by Hauptmann (Capt.) Günther Specht from Stab II./JG 11 at 15:20 hrs local during the Schweinfurt raid, west of Hergarten Kreis Schleiden at 6000m and at 15:20 hrs. This was his 16th Abschuss and his second on this day. (OKL (High Command for the Luftwaffe) Fighter Claims, Reich & Western Front 1943).
Research undertaken by Herr Jörg Dietsche, AG Luftkriegsgeschichte Rhein/Mosel (Airwar History Study Group Rhine/Moselle) e.V. and Lt.Col. Mario Cremer has established that the Frank’s Nightmare crashed in the forested region west of Hergarten. This is some 39 miles to the NW of the last reported position of the aircraft. The fighter claim location coupled with the above mentioned research and the location of 2nd.Lt. Cook’s capture suggests that the last reported position was probably in error.
The aircraft broke up upon impact but its bombs, still aboard, did not explode and despite the fuel aboard there was only a small fire. The tail section, along with the Rear Gunner’s compartment, broke off and came to rest some 330 yards (300 Metres) from the main wreckage.
It is probable that the six crew members whose bodies were recovered perished in the fighter attack or were not able to escape the aircraft because of the centrifugal forces imparted by the violently spinning aircraft.
The 401st Bomber Squadron lost two other aircraft on this mission.
B-17F 42-5069, LL:G, Our Gang. Shot down by fighters near St. Goar, 15 miles south of Koblenz at about 14:10 hrs. 10 PoW.
Note: 1st.Lt. Wheeler, O-791528 was the pilot of this bomber. After the war he remained in the USAF and retired as a Col. He passed away aged 93 (11th June 1916 - 18th Aug 2009) and was interred at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, New York.
B-17F 42-3043, LL:B, Hitlers Gremlin. Ditched in the North Sea, some 45 miles from the English coast due to mechanical failure after flak damage. All of the crew were rescued by a 277 Sqn Walrus (Sea plane) from RAF Hawkinge. The pilot 1st.Lt. Eugene M. Lockhart who was on the first American raid with the 97th Bomber Group on the 17th August 1942, said when he was picked up, “This is a hell of a way to celebrate an anniversary”.
(1) A German report, provided by Lt.Col. Cremer, addressed to a Luftwaffe unit at Fliegerhorst (Airfield) Bonn-Hangelar dated 23rd August 1943 provided details of four Allied airmen from Frank’s Nightmare buried on the 17th September at the Cemetery in Vlatten, about 2 miles due north of Hergarten. Additionally two unknowns are also documented and all six were buried in consecutive grave numbers 9a to 9f so it is almost certain that the two unknowns were also from the Frank’s Nightmare.
Lt.Col. Cremer has provided an eyewitness account from 2nd.Lt. Cook that describes how S/Sgt. Hall died aboard the aircraft during the German fighter attacks. The attacks disabled the ball turret and also severed its oxygen supply. With T/Sgt. Reidy severely injured when the top turret was also disabled, and the other gunners engaging the German fighters no one could come to the aid of S/Sgt. Hall and he died from oxygen starvation. It seems likely that the one of the unknowns was S/Sgt. Hall but to date he is still commemorated on Tablets of the Missing at the Luxembourg American Cemetery.
The other unknown must have been T/Sgt. Reidy as he was reinterred at the Netherlands American Cemetery.
No records have been found that document the recovery of the bodies of 1st.Lt. Weieneth, 2nd.Lt. Blackmon or T/Sgt. Halloran.
Herr Dietsche has knowledge of visits to the crash site by teams from the Defence PoW/MiA Accounting Agency (DPAA), in August 2016 (Ref) and the last being in 2019, but no human remains were found.
Eyewitnesses interviewed in recent years by Lt.Col. Cremer state that two airmen were seen to bail out from the spinning and out of control aircraft just before it crashed. The airman furthest away* from one eyewitness disappeared from sight but it was speculated that he landed somewhere in the region of Wolfgarten or Hergarten.
* It is probable that this was 2nd.Lt. Cook but it cannot be ruled out that others from the aircraft could have escaped or had been ejected from the spinning aircraft before the eyewitnesses attention was directed by the noise of the crashing aircraft.
The closest airman to the eyewitness landed in a meadow belonging to the monastery Mariawald. He was arrested by the Bürgermeister (mayor) of Heimbach, a Josef Radermacher, and was first taken to the monastery where he was interrogated in the abbot’s room. The eyewitness saw five people in the room, Radermacher, an SA man named Liborius Löhrer, two Gestapo agents and the airman.
The American was described as wearing a khaki (green) flight suit and was tall, had a round face and wet sweaty blond hair*. He appeared to be exhausted as he sat lopsidedly on his chair with his head lolling back. Radermacher was seen to slap him in the face, allegedly to bring him to his senses. Afterwards the airman was locked in the fire engine house above the abbey mill and then later taken to the Heimbach town hall where he was interrogated again. The next day, the airman had disappeared. A stubborn rumour persists to this day amongst the older inhabitants of Heimbach that this airman may have been killed and buried by Radermacher during the night. At this time it is unknown whether these claims were ever officially investigated.
* The eyewitness was shown a photograph of the crew but did not recognise anyone, albeit it did not depict 1st.Lt. Weieneth. When shown a separate picture of 1st.Lt. Weieneth the eyewitness declared that he could have been the airman but was not sure. At this time, without access to the Individual Deceased Personal Files (IDPFs) for the missing airmen, it has not been possible to corroborate the eyewitness account.
(2) The circumstances of 2nd.Lt. Cook’s capture were unknown until a General Military Government Court was convened at Dachau, Germany on the 23rd April 1947.
Two German nationals, an August Julius Klaebe and a Paul Förster* were charged that they did, at or near Schleiden, Germany, in the vicinity of Hergarten, on or about the 17th August 1943, wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid, abet and participate in committing an assault upon 1st.Lt. [sic] Eugene D. Cook, a member of the United States Army, who was then unarmed and in the act of surrendering as a PoW to the then German Reich.
* Förster was a former Hauptmann der Polizei (Capt) who escaped custody whilst awaiting trial. Klaebe was tried alone in this case.
Klaebe was a former member of the German police and was reported to hold a rank equivalent to a T/Sgt. which was probably a Zugwachtmeister. There is no record of him having served in the German military or having any Nazi party connections.
In his written testimony Klaebe stated that at about 14:00 or 15:00 hrs, some time in August 1943 near Hergarten, two American squadrons were attacked by German fighters. One of the aircraft exploded and he saw 4 to 6 parachutes in the air. Klaebe on his motorcycle together with a Wehrmacht soldier named Hans Witsch, who was on leave, began to search for the parachuted airmen and to assist at the scene of the crashed aircraft.
They searched some woods but they did not find anyone. Exiting the woods back onto the road they saw an airman crossing the road. Klaebe shouted out in German to the airman that he would not harm him and to come out of the woods but he did not receive an answer. Another motorcycle arrived ridden by Förster, who was Klaebe’s superior. It was then that the airman reappeared on the road and Förster pointed to him and told Klaebe to fire. Klaebe fired his service pistol at the airman who collapsed to the ground.
Förster then urged Klaebe to hurry with him to the scene of the crashed aircraft but Klaebe instead went to the wounded airman. He ordered Witsch to stay with the airman to protect him and to stop the first passing car and take the airman to a doctor.
Klaebe then went with Förster to the scene of the crash where he took charge and had four [sic] of the recovered crew placed into coffins and buried in the village cemetery. He had members of his own family attend the funeral service. He also prosecuted a farmer for having removed a ring from the hand of one of the dead airmen, for which the farmer received a jail sentence.
In advance of Allied forces in 1945, Klaebe fled to southern Bavaria, but returned after being informed by his wife that he was wanted in connection with the shooting of an American airman. Upon his return to his home in April 1946, which was in the British zone of occupation, he immediately and voluntarily reported to the British authorities.
Klaebe admitted to the court that he had fired the shot which wounded the airman but contended that the shooting was justified because the airman repeatedly failed to respond to demands to surrender and was in the act of attempting to escape.
The written statements by Förster and Witsch did not differ materially from that given by Klaebe.
The written statement of 2nd.Lt. Cook describes the incident:
"My plane was shot down on 17 August 1943. I landed and disposed of my parachute. About five minutes afterward two German soldiers, each on a motorcycle, approached me from opposite directions. There were also quite a few German civilians around, so I had no chance to get away. One of the German soldiers was in the road and called out several words in German that I didn't understand. I just walked out from a small wooded area onto the highway. The German soldier who had spoken drew his pistol and wanted to know whether I was an American. I said I was and he pulled the trigger and shot me in the right hip. I was watching him closely and could see his finger tighten on the trigger. When I saw his finger tighten on the trigger, I swung around sidewise thinking by doing so I could cause the shot to miss me and just as I got swung around about half way he shot me.
I was about 35 feet from the soldier who shot me and I had my hands raised above my head at the time. I raised my hands when the German soldier spoke to me and asked whether I was an American. The other German soldier came up and searched me and was then taken to a village and then to a hospital”.
2nd.Lt. Cook was initially taken to a Dr. Anton Schmitz, a General Practitioner in Gemünd, who administered First Aid. He was then taken to a hospital in Mechernich and then transferred to a military hospital at Münstereifel where the bullet was removed and then treated for six to eight weeks under the care of a Dr. Hermann Bremer.
The court was not convinced by Klaebe’s defence and found him guilty of the charge. He was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment commencing on the 21st May 1946. A review of the trial proceedings and sentencing approved the finding of guilty but recommended that the sentence of imprisonment be reduced to 3 years. The actions of Klaebe, immediately after the shooting, in doing all he could toward the care of the airman and in his conduct in the burial of four recovered bodies was instrumental in the recommended reduction in the imprisonment term. He was released in May 1949.
2nd.Lt. Cook, Purple Heart, remained in the USAF and retired after 22 years of service as a Lt.Col. He passed away aged 84 (9th March 1921 - 3rd October 2005) and was interred at the Arlington National Cemetery on the 6th October 2005.
1st.Lt. Arlynn Earl Weieneth. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters). Tablets of the Missing, Luxembourg American Cemetery. Born on the 17th February 1922 in Kensett, Worth County, Iowa. Son to Johann Frankline and Elizabeth Hattie Lizzie (née Fisher) Weieneth from Kensett, Worth County, Iowa, USA.
2nd.Lt. Clarence Henry Blackmon. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Tablets of the Missing, Cambridge American Cemetery. Born on the 22nd October 1921 in Jackson, Hinds County, Mississippi. Son of Henry Tilton and Edna Mae (née Cox) Blackmon of Yokena, Warren County, Mississippi, USA.
2nd.Lt. William J. Warose. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Repatriated and buried at the Old Saint Raymond’s Cemetery, Bronx, New York. Born in 1920 in New York. Grandson to John and Margerite Warose of Bronx, New York City. Husband to Marjorie (née Gardiner) of New York City, New York, USA.
T/Sgt. John Joseph Halloran. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Tablets of the Missing, Luxembourg American Cemetery. Born on the 1st December 1920 in Stoughton, Norfolk, Massachusetts. Son of John and Mary (née Goward) Halloran of Stoughton, Norfolk, Massachusetts, USA.
(Left: Courtesy Courtesy Michel Beckers - FindAGrave) T/Sgt. Charles E. Reidy. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Block DD, Row 11, Grave 236. Relocated to Plot M, Row 7, Grave 9. Born on the 16th February 1916 in East Palestine, Ohio. Son to Thomas Joseph and Elizabeth Jane (née Gorby) of Unity, Columbiana County, Ohio, USA.
S/Sgt. Joseph David Hall. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Tablets of the Missing, Luxembourg American Cemetery. Born during 1924 in Pennsylvania. No further details.
Grave markers: Courtesy Michel Beckers - FindAGrave
(Above left) S/Sgt. Vernon E. Lamplot. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Block DD, Row 10, Grave 238. Relocated to Plot F, Row 21, Grave 7. Born in 1919 in Illinois. Son to Irma Lamplot of Palos Park, Illinois, USA.
(Above right) S/Sgt. Edgar Allan Roe. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Plot I, Row 15, Grave 19. Born during Mar 1920 in Rifle, Garfield, Colorado. Son of Thomas (his father pre-deceased him) and Mildred (née Jones) Roe of Silt, Garfield, Colorado, USA.
(Left: Courtesy Cheryl Ayres - FindAGrave) Sgt. Robert Henry McDonald. Repatriated and buried at the Cowlitz View Memorial Gardens, Kelso, Cowlitz County, Washington, USA. Born on the 10th September 1918. Son to Daniel J. and Maude Elizabeth (née Kemp) McDonald of Kelso, Cowlitz County, Washington, 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’. Our thanks also to Herr Jörg Dietsche, AG Luftkriegsgeschichte Rhein/Mosel (Airwar History Study Group Rhine/Moselle) e.V. and Lt.Col. Mario Cremer for granting permission to use their research in compiling this report.
Norbert Saupp: "Heimbach, Geschichte einer Stadt", p. 22 and "The History of FRANK'S NIGHTMARE".