01.03.1945 358th Fighter Squadron P-51D 44-14230 ‘Trigger III’ Capt. Jack McNider Beckman DFC
Operation: Escort on a Ramrod* mission to Central and Southern Germany
Date: 1st March 1945 (Thursday)
Unit: 358th Fighter Squadron, 355th Fighter Group, 8th Air Force
Type: P-51D Mustang
Serial: 44-14230 Trigger III **
Base: Steeple Morden, (Station #122), Cambridgeshire, England
Location: Near to Kröttenbach, Germany
Pilot: Capt. Jack McNider Beckman DFC, O-2045225 AAF Age 22. Survived/Murdered
* ‘Ramrod’ was the codeword for a short range (medium) bomber mission against ground targets.
Left: Another kill being added to the tally (Caption on the reverse of image “Only 1 confirmed air victory 11/44”); Right: Capt. Beckman posing in 'Wizard Kite - Judy’. (Credit: American Air Museum)
These are images of P-51B 43-6945, YF:R 'Wizard Kite - Judy’, Capt. Beckman’s aircraft, which was lost on the 8th July 1944 when flown by O-821740, 1st Lt. James P. Lowder Jr., Air Medal, Purple Heart. He was killed when the aircraft collided with the tops of trees during a low-level strafing run over the Bois De Jouarre, 6 miles NE of Coulommiers, France. He was interred at Epinal American Cemetery, Dinozé, France, Plot B, Row 39 Grave 43.
** P-51D 44-14230 ‘Trigger III’ was assigned to O-36976, Capt. Walter V. Gresham Jr., DFC (Oak Leaf Cluster), Air Medal (Two Silver and 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters). (Credit: American Air Museum)
REASON FOR LOSS:
Capt. Beckman took off from Steeple Morden at 10:55 hrs as the leader of Bentley Blue flight on a Ramrod mission to Central and Southern Germany. He was last seen 8 km SW of Neuberg at 12:45 hrs.
The following is the after mission statement provided by O-832627 2nd Lt. Leroy R. Leaf Jr. on the 1st March 1945:
“On 1 March, 1945, I was flying Blue #2 on Capt. Beckman’s wing. The flight peeled off in an attempt to intercept some Me-262’s, along with other flights in the Group. In the resulting action lost identity of individual ships in flight, joined the more isolated one, which turned out to be Blue #3. Had no further contact with Blue Leader.”
An Me-262 from I./KG-54, unknown pilot, claimed a Mustang P-51 on the 1st March 1945. This was the only Me-262 claim and the only P-51 loss on this date although no location information has been found.
The fate of Capt. Beckman was unknown until a General Military Government Court was convened in Dachau, Germany, during the period 8th to 17th October 1947.
Five German nationals were charged that they did, at or near Wassertrüdingen, Germany, on or about the 1st March, wrongfully encourage, aid, abet and participate in the killing of a member of the United States Army, who was then and there a surrendered PoW in the custody of the then German Reich.
Those charged were: Georg Eckstein, who was a former SA-(Sturmabteilung=Para-military wing of the Nazi party) Medical Untersturmführer (2nd Lt) and the ranking officer of the Wassertrüdingen Volkssturm (Home guard); Ernst Ittameier who was a former Kreisleiter (Nazi county leader) of Dinkelsbühl and the Bürgermeister (Mayor) of Wassertrüdingen; Fritz Stiegler who was a former Amtsleiter (Office leader/chief clerk) at Ittameier’s office; Johann Georg Sturm also known as Hans Sturm, who was a former Wehrmacht Feldwebel (Sgt). They were all members of the Nazi party. Friedrich Tiefenbach, whose status was not established, was also charged.
The court heard that on the 1st March 1945, an American airman, believed to be Capt. Jack McNider Beckman, parachuted from his disabled aircraft and landed near Kröttenbach and was immediately captured. He was taken to Unterschwaningen, which is about 1 mile east of Kröttenbach, and into custody of the Gendarmerie (Rural police).
At about 14:30 hrs that day a man named Kattinger, who was the battalion adjutant of the Wassertrüdingen Volkssturm, told Eckstein, Sturm and other unnamed individuals to take custody of the airman being held by the Gendarmerie in Unterschwaningen and transport him to the Wassertrüdingen Rathaus (City hall) jail which is about 5 km SSE of Unterschwaningen.
The court heard that a former Oberleutnant der Polizei (Police 1st Lt.) named Blank called at Ittameier’s office and requested that Capt. Beckman be turned over to his custody so that he could be taken to the local Luftwaffe airfield. Although the request was initially granted by Ittameier, Kattinger who was also present, protested and the consent was withdrawn.
At about 16:00 hrs that day Ittameier, Eckstein, Stiegler, Sturm and Kattinger conferred in Ittameier’s office. At the conclusion of the meeting either Ittameier or Kattinger told the others to return later that night at about 22:00 hrs. The court heard that after Capt. Beckman was removed from the jail he was mistreated by Kattinger who punched and brutally kicked him. After which they and Capt. Beckman got into Kattinger’s car and, after stopping off at his house to collect three spades, drove a short distance out of Wassertrüdingen in a southerly direction towards Oettingen.
Kattinger stopped the car and everyone got out and walked away from the car with Kattinger walking ahead with Capt. Beckman. Kattinger began hitting him with a spade and when Capt. Beckman fell to his knees Sturm brutally struck him twice over the head with his spade. Eckstein then shot and killed Capt. Beckman with his side arm. The court heard contradictory statements regarding whether the wounds were inflicted to his head or neck and the number of shots that were fired. The body was then taken to a nearby wood and buried. The next morning Stiegler returned to the burial site to ensure that it would not be noticed.
From the testimony presented to the court it was established that Kattinger was one of the prime suspects in the killing of Capt. Beckman. However, he escaped justice by committing suicide before he could be brought before the court.
The court rejected the defence of 'superior orders' by the accused and found Eckstein, Ittameier and Sturm guilty of the charge and sentenced them to death by hanging. All three were hanged at Landsberg, Ittameier and Sturm on the 5th November 1948, and Eckstein on the 3rd December 1948.
Stiegler was found guilty of the charge and sentenced to life imprisonment. His sentence was later reduced to 25 years and he was paroled in December 1954. Tiefenbach was acquitted of the charge.
Capt. Beckman biography:
Capt. Beckman had served with the RCAF from December 1941 to January 1944 and then transferred to the US AAF as a Flight Officer (FO). He was assigned to the 358th Fighter Sqn, 355th Fighter Group and had completed 99 Missions in the European Theatre of Operations (ETO) with at least three claims, one of which was confirmed.
His DFC Citation reads:
"The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 2, 1926, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross to Flight Officer Jack M. Beckman (ASN: T-223078), United States Army Air Forces, for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as a Fighter Pilot of the EIGHTH Air Force, in accomplishing fifty fighter combat mission, or the equivalent thereof, over enemy occupied Continental Europe during World War II. The skilful and zealous manner in which this officer has sought out the enemy and engaged him in aerial combat, his devotion to duty and courage under all conditions serve as an inspiration to his fellow flyers. His actions on all these occasions reflect the highest credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the United States."
(Credit: Judy (Beckman) Jackson)
Capt. Jack McNider Beckman. DFC (Two Oak Leaf Clusters), Air Medal (10 Oak Leaf Clusters (=One Silver and Four Bronze)), Purple Heart. Repatriated and interred at the Aspen Grove Cemetery, Block 319, Lot 79. Grave 6, Burlington, Des Moines County, Iowa on the 29th May 1949. Born on the 13th September 1922. Son of David Lee and Eunice Marguerite (née Walker) Beckman of Burlington, Des Moines County, Iowa, USA.
Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to Judy (née Beckman) Jackson, daughter of Capt. Beckman and to his family. Thanks also to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’.