Operation: Hamburg (Mission #425), Germany
Date: 20th June 1944 (Tuesday)
Unit No: 748th Bombardment Squadron (H), 457th Bombardment Group (H), 1st Air Division, 8th Air Force
Type: B-17G Snafusk Shamrock
Serial No: 42-31615
Location: At Wardershof, near Altenwerder-Harburg, Hamburg, Germany
Base: Glatton (Station #130), Huntingdonshire, England
Pilot: 2nd Lt. William Byron Bomar O-812213 AAF Age 25. PoW No 6202 *
Co Pilot: 2nd Lt. Jack Allen Lade O-818696 AAF Age 22. PoW **
Navigator: FO. Charles Curione T-001828 AAF Age 22. PoW *
Bombardier: 2nd Lt. Robin Edgar Hilzner O-762100 AAF Age 27. PoW *
Radio Operator: S/Sgt. Edmund Klein 32324338 AAF Age 34. PoW ***
Engineer: Sgt. William H. Kane 32824677 AAF Age 27. Murdered (1)
Ball Turret: Sgt. Albert W. Leeming 32778003 AAF Age.19. KiA
Waist Gunner: Sgt. Edwin E. Tengler 13070280 AAF Age 22. KiA
Tail Gunner: Sgt. Richard Aloysius Bohl 36876416 AAF Age 28. PoW ***
One of the two Waist Gunners were removed from crew complements starting on the 7th June 1944 and then both from 23rd February 1945.
* Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).
** Stalag Luft 7a, Moosburg, Southern Bavaria, Germany.
*** Unknown camp.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Above: B-17G 42-31615 'Snafusk Shamrock' (Credit: American Air Museum)
The 457th Bombardment Group (BG) provided thirty-six aircraft for the mission to bomb the Europäische Tanklager und Transport A.G. (EuroTank) oil refinery, located at the western end of the dock area on the Elbe river in Hamburg. The BG, including the Snafusk Shamrock, started taking off from Glatton, Huntingdonshire at 04:46 hrs on the morning of 20th June 1944.
A summary of facts and statements regarding the fate of B-17G 42-31615 described the following:
The aircraft was observed to have been hit by AAGF in the target area. It was then seen to peel off from the formation and go back into a bank and later spin. Aircraft left the formation at approximately 09:30 hrs on fire and with tail shot off. Aircraft was seen to break off into several pieces 1000 to 2000 feet off the ground. Three parachutes were sighted.
AAGF = Anti-Air Ground Fire
The wreckage of the Snafusk Shamrock fell to earth at 09:38 hrs in the vicinity of Waltershof, near Harburg-Altenwerder, Hamburg, and was scattered and partially sunk into a swamp.
The following is an extract from Maj. William B. Bomar’s story of the 20th June 1944 mission to Hamburg. (Ref 1 - p.119 - p.123).
Since they were the new crew they had been assigned the position of ‘low man’ in the ‘low squadron’, the good old “Tail-end Charlie”.
The term “Tail-end Charlie” used by the USAAF describes the last aircraft in the box formation, the most vulnerable position and ‘reserved’ for the newest crew. In the RAF it is used to describe the rear gunner in their bombers.
On the bomb run, with the bomb bay doors open, the aircraft was hit by a burst of flak. He believed that the aircraft was hit in the starboard wing near the fuselage. The explosion knocked out both starboard engines and the intercom, locked the controls and set the fuel tanks in that wing ablaze.
What was unbeknown to him, he was told later, was that three of the gunners had decided prior to the mission that they would not parachute from the aircraft if it was hit. S/Sgt. Klein who knew of their decision waved to them as he made his way to the escape hatch.
In his Individual Casualty Questionnaire 2nd Lt. Bomar was told by other crew members that Sgt. Leeming and Sgt. Tengler made no attempt to bail out. Also after the mission briefing the two gunners told others that they would rather stay in the aircraft than jump over Hamburg.
Very soon after 2nd Lt. Bomar exited the aircraft he saw it explode. He later found out that the spinning aircraft had trapped Sgt. Bohl in his tail position. When the aircraft exploded Sgt. Bohl was knocked unconscious and thrown clear. He recalled that when he regained consciousness that he was under his opened parachute, uninjured and falling to earth.
Since 2nd Lt. Bomar jumped at an altitude where there was little oxygen he decided to free-fall. When he opened his parachute it was in the hope that he would drift away from the burning fires below him. During his descent he came under rifle fire by persons on the ground but was not hit. He landed close to a German gun emplacement and was surrounded by a group of soldiers who proceeded to assault him until an NCO arrived and saved him from further attacks.
He eventually arrived at Stalag Luft 3 where he met up with Flying Officer (FO) Curione and 2nd Lt. Hilzner. Seven months later the PoWs were forced marched through Germany ending up at Stalag 7a where he and his fellow PoWs were liberated by US forces.
Sgt. Leeming and Sgt. Tengler perished in the explosion.
2nd Lt. Bomar, 2nd Lt. Lade, 2nd Lt. Hilzner, FO. Curione, S/Sgt. Klein and Sgt. Bohl were all reported to have been captured at 09:40 hrs in the district of Harburg in Hamburg.
(1) The fate of Sgt. Kane was unknown until a General Military Government Court was convened in Dachau, Germany, between the 31st January and 7th February 1947.
Three German nationals were charged in that they did, at or near Neu Wulmstorf, Germany, on or about the 20th June 1944, wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid abet and participate in the killing of a member of the United States Army, believed to be Sgt. William N. Kane, ASN 32824677, who was then and there a surrendered and unarmed PoW in the custody of the then German Reich.
The three accused were:
Ernst Böhrs who was farmer by profession and a member of the Nazi party;
Peter Brümmer who was a factory foreman by profession and a member of the Nazi party;
Hermann Dammann who was a former Zellenleiter (Nazi party cell leader), Volkssturm (Home Guard) leader and a member of the Nazi party.
The court heard that Sgt. Kane had been captured by a German civilian named Quast. He and a second German named Eggers were escorting Sgt. Kane to a Kaserne (Military barracks) when they encountered Böhrs, Brümmer and Dammann on the road. Quast testified that two or all three, without any warning, immediately started to attack Sgt. Kane.
The airman was knocked into the ditch, alongside the road, by the assault. Both Böhrs and Brümmer were seen to beat the airman about the head with their steel helmets. Dammann used the butt of his rifle to also beat the airman about the head and then used it to hold his head under the water and mud in the ditch. Quast tried to push them away from the airman but Dammann confronted him with his rifle and told him to step aside.
Quast was not sure if the airman died as a result of the beatings or from the so-called ‘mercy shot’ fired by an unidentified German soldier after Sgt. Kane had been pulled from the ditch and showed some signs of life.
The defence of Dammann claimed that when he arrived at the scene the airman was already in the ditch and that it was an unnamed Wehrmacht soldier who beat the airman with his rifle butt. It was also claimed that the airman’s name was Schwabe and that his papers contained the word “Canada”. A witness for the defence also claimed that a Wehrmacht Sgt. named Feix admitted to beating and shooting the airman.
This was essentially the defence for the other two accused coupled with the claim that the main witness for the prosecution was unsure if they were present when the airman was beaten.
The court decided that there was sufficient evidence to find the accused guilty of the charge and sentenced:
Böhrs to 7 years imprisonment commencing on the 11th May 1945. The final disposition of his sentence is unknown.
Brümmer to 20 years imprisonment on the 11th May 1945. This was later reduced to 18 years and he was paroled in June 1957.
Dammann to death by hanging. The sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment and then reduced to 33 years. The final disposition of his sentence is unknown.
Sgts Leeming and Tengler were buried in the Cemetery at Ohlsdorf in Hamburg. No burial location was recorded for Sgt. Kane.
Above: Sgt. Kane photograph and grave marker (credit: Fields of Honor and Des Philippet - FindAGrave)
Sgt. William H. Kane. Purple Heart. Recovered in January 1946 and interred in the Netherlands American Cemetery, Plot 3B, row 7, Grave 157 as X-2130. Relocated to Plot H, Row 15, Grave 7. Born on the 28th October 1916 in Pennsylvania. Son of Albert and Cecelia (née Gellin) Kane. Husband to Myrtle K. (née Gardner) Kane of Long Island, New York, USA.
Sgt. Albert W. Leeming. Recovered and interred in the Ardennes American Cemetery, Plot O, Row 9, Grave 211. Repatriated and reinterred at the Oak Grove Cemetery, Fall River, Bristol County, Massachusetts. Born on the 22nd August 1924 in Massachusetts. Son of William Joseph and Ethel (née Murray) Leeming of Fall River, Bristol County, Massachusetts, USA.
Sgt. Edwin E. Tengler. Recovered and interred in the Ardennes American Cemetery, Plot O, Row 9, Grave 212. Repatriated and reinterred at the Saint Rose Cemetery, Schulenburg, Texas. Born on the 15th January 1922 in Fayette County, Texas. Son of Emil Ernst and Marie E. (née Vacek) Tengler of Fayette County, Texas, USA.
Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with additional thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’.
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