13.03.1945 319th Fighter Squadron P-51D 44-15378 ‘Honey Jo’, Capt. Sheldon K. Anderson DFC
Operation: Strafing Regensburg to Landshut, Germany
Date: 13th March 1945 (Tuesday)
Unit No: 319th Fighter Squadron, 325th Fighter Group, 306th Fighter Wing, 15th Air Force
Type: P-51D Honey Jo
Base: Rimini, Italy
Location: Near St. Johann [Sankt Johann], Austria
Pilot: Capt. Sheldon Keith Anderson DFC, O-702741 AAF Age 23. Murdered (1 & 2)
Caption reads: Lt. Sheldon K, Anderson, Sheridan Road, Kenosha, Wisconsin, A, U. S, Army 15th Air Force Mustang fighter pilot and flight leader holds up five fingers, one for each of the enemy aircraft that he shot down in the course of a five-minute encounter with the Hun while on a mission to Vienna where he escorted heavy bombers attacking strategic targets in that area, This was the first time he had shot down any German planes. (Credit Fold3 and USAAF)
Capt. Anderson was ultimately credited with 3 Victories
Caption reads: Three men who accounted for 9 enemy aircraft in one day, pose for this picture at their 15th Air Force base in Southern Italy, All three - P-51 Mustang fighter pilots, were escorting heavy bombers of the 15th Air Force against strategic targets in Vienna, Austria when they tangled with the Hun, Left to right: 1st Lt. Leonard D, Voes, 841 N, 15th, Milwaukee, Wis., who accounted for two planes; 2nd Lt. Sheldon K, Anderson, Route 1, Sheridan Road, Kenosha, Wis., who accounted for five Hun planes in five minutes; and 2nd Lt. Vernon B, Kahl, 521 S, Cherry Street, Troy, Ohio, accredited with downing two more of the German planes. (Credit Fold3 and USAAF)
REASON FOR LOSS:
An after mission witness statement by Maj. Ralph F. Johnson, Sqn Commander, described the loss of Capt. Anderson and his aircraft:
“While returning from a rail target strafing mission in the Regensburg-Landshut area in which only small arms fire was encountered, Captain Sheldon K. Anderson called at approximately 19:47 hours and said that his airplane was overheating. At this time we were flying just east and south of Salzburg. I flew up along side of his airplane and noticed that he was losing coolant, although he had operated his emergency coolant actuator and his coolant door was full open. He then began to lose altitude and told me he thought he would have to bail out. Black smoke then began issuing from his engine. Capt. Anderson jettisoned his canopy and flew east, dropping down into a small valley. At approximately 12:53 hrs I could see flames coming from the engine and at that time the airplane suddenly nosed down into a steep dive, throwing Capt. Anderson clear approximately 7500 feet indicated altitude. His parachute opened shortly afterwards and he landed in a wooded area on a mountain side, about ½ mile from a road and 3 miles east of the town of St. Johann [Sankt Johann] . His chute caught in a tree top. I was unable to see Capt. Anderson but since I saw the chute jerk violently as if he had pulled the shroud lines. I believe his jump and landing were successful.
I circled the area for twenty minutes and attempted to get a radio fix without success. I then returned to base.”
Credit of Kenosha Evening News, Tuesday March 27, 1945.
The circumstances leading to the death of an unknown American airman, assumed to be Capt. Sheldon K. Anderson but not positively identified, were established at a General Military Government Court convened at Dachau, Germany on the 11th December 1945.
One German national was charged in that he did, at or near Dürrenzimmern, Germany, on or about the 24th March 1945, wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully, encourage, aid, abet and participate in the killing of an unknown member of the United States Army who was then an unarmed, surrendered PoW in the custody of the then German Reich.
The accused was Richard Drauz who was the former Kreisleiter (District leader) of Heilbronn, Germany.
(1) From three separate trial cases it was established that on the afternoon of the 21st March 1945, six PoWs, who were American airmen, arrived by bus in the town of Neckarsulm, Germany. They were in the custody of three armed Wehrmacht NCOs, who were escorting them to Frankfurt for onward transfer to Dulag Luft, Oberursel. The guards and PoWs alighted from the bus on the corner of Neckarstraße and Urbanstraße, some 260 m (850 ft) NE of the Bahnhof (Railway station) at about 16:45 hrs. Two of the guards appeared to have left the group, as only one guard figures in what transpired. The airmen were standing in a line along Neckarstraße with the remaining guard.
In the section entitled Silver Slipper (March 21, 1945) (Ref. 1, pp.191-199, p.204).
Note #51 describes how criminal investigators believed that four of the airmen were likely to be from the Silver Slipper; 2nd.Lt. Edward Adam Martiniak, S/Sgt. Roscoe William Harvey, S/Sgt. Donald Otis Griffith, S/Sgt. Richard Howard Palmer and a fifth was Capt. Sheldon Keith Anderson.
Shortly thereafter a man named Clemens Funder, the Ortsgruppenleiter (Nazi party local group leader) of Neckarsulm and his deputy Heinz Endress left the local Nazi headquarters on Salinenstraße across from a small park next to where the airmen were standing.
Endress saw the airmen and called out words to effect that they should be shot and moved towards the group. He closed to about 2 or 3 m (6 to 10 ft) and drew his pistol but the guard warned him off. Endress stepped back and momentarily holstered his pistol only to draw it again, advance towards the airmen and fire twice.
The airmen immediately raised their hands above their heads and some tried to hide behind nearby trees. The 2nd airman from the right of Endress fell to the ground grimacing in pain. The airman immediately to this man’s right, the 3rd in the line, tried to save himself only to be shot in the back by Endress. Witnesses testified that Funder also attempted to fire his pistol but it jammed. A third airman ran and hid behind a German civilian standing nearby. Endress ordered the man to move as he aimed his pistol and in fear the civilian bent over and stepped forward, then Endress shot the airman who then turned away and collapsed. Funder then walked over to this airman, who was still alive, and shot him.
A fourth airman started to run from the scene west along Neckarstraße and as he was out of pistol range, Endress called to the guard to shoot him with his rifle who then fired twice and the running airman fell to the ground. As the two approached this airmen they passed the first airman that Endress had shot, who was still alive, and each fired a shot into his body.
When Endress attempted to shoot one of the two remaining airmen, he was prevented from doing so by the guard. Endress and Funder then returned the Nazi headquarters.
An American pathologist identified four exhumed bodies as American airmen but confirmation of their names at the time of writing of this report remain unknown.
In the section entitled Silver Slipper (March 21, 1945) (Ref. 1, pp.191-199, p.204).
Note #54 describes how analysis of investigation files indicated that three of the four airmen were likely to be; 2nd Lt. Edward Adam Martiniak, S/Sgt. Donald Otis Griffith and S/Sgt. Richard Howard Palmer.
Endress was found guilty at his trial, held at Dachau on the 13th November 1945, for the killing of the four unidentified airman and was sentenced to death by decapitation. Upon review the sentence was upheld but the method of execution was changed to hanging. Funder was not tried for his part in the killings as it was reported that he had allegedly committed suicide. (Ref. 1, p.197).
Note: Decapitation was at the time the prescribed punishment in German penal law for common murder.
Endress was executed at the War Criminal Prison No.1 at Landsberg, Germany on the 4th December 1946.
The two survivors, who were believed to be S/Sgt. Roscoe Harvey and Capt. S.K. Anderson were taken to the Kaserne (Barracks) at Neckarsulm commanded by Karl Otto, at the time an Oberstleutnant (Lt Col) in the Heer (German Army). Otto was informed by the Oberfeldwebel (T/Sgt) in charge of the detail that the two PoWs would recommence their travel at 05:00 hours the following morning.
Shortly after 05:00 hrs on the 22nd March 1945 while the two PoWs were being marched to catch the train which was to take them to Frankfurt, they were fired upon by Endress and Funder. Both the airmen were wounded but Capt. Anderson made good his escape. S/Sgt. Harvey was taken back to the Kaserne guardroom.
Note: S/Sgt. Roscoe William Harvey 32784217 was the Tail Gunner from B-25J 43-27529 ‘Silver Slipper’, from 428th Bombardment (M) Squadron, which was shot down SE of Ora in northern Italy on 10th March 1845.
(2) After his escape from Neckarsulm Capt. Anderson evaded the searching German soldiers despatched by Oberstleutnant Otto. However, he was captured the next day near Brackenheim, which is some 10½ km (7 mls) SW of Neckarsulm.
On the 23rd March a Karl Josef Huber received a telephone call from Friedrich Schupp, a Gendarme (State policeman), advising him that an American airman had been confined in the local jail. Although Huber was not responsible to Drauz the Gestapo had been directed to notify Drauz of any such arrests. At about 21:00 hrs Huber attempted to telephone the Wehrmacht but the switchboard operator connected him to Drauz at Heilbronn. He then informed Drauz that a captured American airman was being held in the jail at Brackenheim. Drauz was of the mind that this was the airman who had escaped from his ‘guards’.
Note: Karl Josef Huber was a former Kriminalsekretär (Detective Inspector) in the Gestapo at Heilbronn.
Drauz, after speaking with Otto, called Huber back and informed him that the airman would be collected the next morning. The next morning Endress went to Drauz’s office in Heilbronn and between 09:00 and 10:00 hrs the pair went on to Huber’s residence. From here with Karl Link driving the car, Drauz, Karl Otto, Huber and Heinz Endress departed from Heilbronn.
Karl Link was the assistant to Drauz and leader of the Deutsche Arbeitsfront (DAF) (German labour Front) in Heilbronn;
Karl Otto was a former Oberstleutnant (Lt Col) in the Heer (German Army) and the Commanding Officer of the military post and Kaserne (Barracks) at Neckarsulm. Otto was charged, the 2nd of three counts, for his involvement in the killing of Capt. Anderson during his trial for the killing of S/Sgt. Roscoe William Harvey but was found not guilty;
Heinz Endress was the former deputy Ortsgruppenleiter (Nazi party local group leader) of Neckarsulm. (see Section 1 above).
They arrived in Dürrenzimmern shortly before noon where Huber left to take care of some business. When he returned they drove back to Heilbronn and about 1 km (¾ ml) outside of Dürrenzimmern Drauz and Endress alighted from the car and walked towards some woods.
The other three then drove on to Brackenheim where Huber took custody of the handcuffed American airman. Link then drove back towards Dürrenzimmern and when they reached the town Link carried on without stopping to a prearranged spot outside of the town. With several aircraft (assumed to be Allied) overhead Otto ordered Link to stop and he alighted from the vehicle. Link then drove off the main road onto a country road, were upon reaching a small path, they stopped under some trees and he, the airman and Huber alighted the vehicle.
The evidence of the prosecution and that presented by Drauz in his own defence of the events leading on from this time are at variance. However, what is irrefutable was that the pathologist’s report, which was made approximately 3 months after the killing, revealed two gunshot wounds in the head of the airman, one entering the centre of the back of the head and the other the left frontal region.
Despite there being no evidence from anyone who was actually an eye witness as to who fired the first shot, and the record is otherwise silent as to who did fire it, the evidence was nevertheless strong that it was Drauz. Within a short space of seconds immediately after the first shot was fired two witnesses testified that Drauz, who was standing behind the airman, was holding the gun.
Drauz in his defence, places the blame on Link and that he had taken the gun from him after Link had shot the airman. However, from the eye witness accounts, this was deemed to be improbable as Link was standing next to Endress who himself was some distance from Drauz. Link was not before the court as at the time of the investigation and trial he was reported to have been killed.
The prosecution claimed that Endress then went up to the body of the airman and fired a second shot into his head. He claimed that he fired his weapon into the forest to test it. Endress was a witness at this trial but was tried for other offences. (see Section 1 above).
As Drauz made to leave the scene Huber stated that the airman should be buried to which Drauz allegedly replied, "That is out of the question. We are going to leave him here, somebody will find him”. Huber informed him that he was going to report the matter to the police station at Dürrenzimmern to which Drauz raised no objection. The group then proceeded to Dürrenzimmern, where Link and Huber went to the police station and reported the death.
Drauz was found guilty and sentenced to death. He was executed at the War Criminal Prison No.1 at Landsberg, Germany on the 4th December 1946.
Above: Stone Cross placed at the location of his killing on the anniversary of his death (Courtesy of Günter Keller)
Capt. Sheldon Keith Anderson. DFC, Air Medal (8 Oak Leaf Clusters (1Silver and 2 Bronze)), Purple Heart. Initially interred at the Lorraine American Cemetery, Plot PPP, Row 2, Grave 15. Repatriated and interred at the Green Ridge Cemetery, Kenosha, Kenosha County, Wisconsin. Born on the 4th January 1922 in Granville, Putnam County, Illinois. Son of Orville E. and Louise Katherine (née Piehl) Anderson from Kenosha, Wisconsin USA.
Sheldon Anderson, then a 1st Lt. was engaged to Loretta Brandt in July 1944.
Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this Pilot with thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’. Thanks to Günter Keller for the image of the memorial cross for Capt. Anderson (May 2023).
1. Terror Flyers - The Lynching of American Airmen in Nazi Germany - Kevin T. Hall