Operation: Escort on a Ramrod* mission to Halle (Mission #628), Germany
Date: 13th September 1944 (Wednesday)
Unit: 357th Fighter Group, 364th Fighter Squadron, 8th Air Force
Type: P-51D Shady Lady
Base: Leiston (Station #373), Suffolk, England
Location: 3 km west of Uder, Germany
Pilot: 1st Lt. Kirby Monette Brown O-700830 AAF Age 20. Survived/Murdered
* ‘Ramrod’ was the codeword for a short range (medium) bomber mission against ground targets.
REASON FOR LOSS:
On the morning of the 13th September 1944 the 357th Fighter Group (FG) was tasked with as bomber escorts followed by a fighter sweep mission.
An after mission report by 1st Lt. Merle F. Allen Jr., O-445996 described the events leading up to the loss of 1st Lt. Brown’s Mustang.
“I was flying Greenhouse Blue three with Lt. Brown on my wing when we encountered forty plus Me 109's and Fw 190’s. They came head-on at us and continued toward the direction of the bombers. There was one straggler, a Me 109, and I jumped him, Lt. Brown covering me. We followed the E/A to 9,000 ft. where I destroyed the Me 109. Lt. Brown was on my wing and followed me most of the way down; however, when I finished the Me 109 I couldn't see Lt. Brown. I called him on the R/T and he answered saying he was OK, but he had lost me. I orbited back up to 30,000 ft but didn’t see him and didn't try to contact him again as there was quite a bit of talk on the R/T”.
Note: “Greenhouse” was the Squadron (Group A) callsign.
1st Lt. Brown’s aircraft was last seen in the vicinity of Bad Frankenhausen some 62 km due west of Halle.
The Shady Lady was one of five Mustangs lost from the 357 FG, two others as a result of this encounter and two on the escort mission to Lützkendorf (3 KiA, 1 Evd, 1 Rtd).
Accounts as to the reason for the loss of the Shady Lady was either shot down by light flak or a German fighter. A Dulag Luft document has been found for 1st Lt. Brown which records that he had been shot down by a German fighter.
The aircraft crashed at 12:30 hrs in an old sandstone quarry at Eberstein some 3 km west of Uder and was completely burnt out.
Uder is some 70 km due west of Bad Frankenhausen.
Research conducted by Michel Beckers has determined that 1st Lt. Brown bailed out of his aircraft and he drifted towards the town of Burgwalde. He landed behind Schönau where he was arrested by two German nationals from Burgwalde and took him to the office of the Bürgermeister (Mayor) in Schönau.
A short time later a military car arrived from Heiligenstadt picked him up to take him to a PoW Collecting point. En route, between Burgwalde and Schönau the car was stopped by a Karl Gebhard who was on a motorcycle, and who was the Sturmabteilung (SA = Paramilitary arm of the Nazi party) head of a nearby Reich training camp.
He ordered 1st Lt. Brown out of the vehicle and then instructed the driver of the car to drive away, and also told the gathering spectators to leave. After the spectators had left a shot was heard by them and when they returned to the scene an found the airman lying dead in the roadside ditch.
Gebhard returned to his office and instructed his secretary to write up a report stating all that had occurred, and also exclaiming "I have now avenged my fallen brothers and I shot the pilot."
1st Lt. Brown’s body was taken to the hospital in Burgwalde to certify his death. A funeral was held by the townspeople on the 16th September and he was initially buried in the Heiligenstadt cemetery in Grave XVII/110.
Above: German Death Certificate for 1st Lt. Kirby M. Brown
Eyewitnesses to the shooting, death and burial of 1st Lt. Brown related their stories to two officers of the American Graves Registration Commission (AGRC) in August of 1945. 1st Lt. Brown’s remains were exhumed, identified and cause of death established. He was then reinterred in the American Mausoleum at Griesheim.
The identity of the killer was known and there is evidence that the case was investigated but no evidence has been found that the individual was arrested or brought before a court to answer for the shooting of 1st Lt. Brown.
1st Lt. Kirby Monette Brown. Left: Credit: American Air Museum. Roll of Honour produced by the Friends of Leiston Airfield to commemorate the pilots lost flying from that airfield. Right: Credit: Sharon Ray (retired graver) - FindAGrave.
1st Lt. Kirby Monette Brown. Purple Heart. Repatriated and buried in the Riverside Cemetery, Monroe, Louisiana on 6th December 1951. Born on the 30th March 1924 in Clarks, Louisiana. Son of Venice Monette and Stella Estelle (née Broussard) Brown. Husband to Dorothy Sue (née Christopher) Brown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA.
Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this Pilot. Thanks also to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’. Thanks also to Michel Beckers for his research information.