28.05.1944 703rd Bombardment Squadron (H) B-24H 42-50346 ‘Sho-Sho Baby’ 1st Lt. John Wallace Campbell
Operation: Merseburg (Mission #376), Germany
Date: 28th May 1944 (Sunday)
Unit No: 703rd Bombardment Squadron (H), 445th Bombardment Group (H), 2nd Air Division, 8th Air Force
Type: B-24H Sho-Sho Baby
Serial No: 42-50346
Location: 1 km (½ ml) SW of Stößen, 10 km (6 mls) SW of Weißenfels, Germany
Base: Tibenham airfield (Station #124), Norfolk, England
Pilot: 1st Lt. John Wallace Campbell O-742061 AAF Age 20. PoW *
Co-Pilot: 2nd Lt. Roger Thomas Marlin O-811111 AAF Age 24. PoW **
Navigator: 1st Lt. Bernard Edward Wholeben O-748120 AAF Age 25. PoW *
Bombardier: 1st Lt. Daniel Joseph Matheu O-752882 AAF Age 21. PoW **
Radio Op: T/Sgt. William Modie Robinson 18217813 AAF Age 21. PoW ***
Engineer: S/Sgt. Harold Bennett 35686620 AAF Age 22. PoW ***
Ball Turret: S/Sgt. Cophlin Williams 18217813 AAF Age 23. PoW ***
Right Waist Gnr: S/Sgt. Royce Eugene Ball AAF 18216066 Age 20. PoW *** (1)
Left Waist Gnr: Sgt. Roy Millard Wampler 13122404 AAF Age 29. Murdered (2)
Tail Gnr: S/Sgt. Leo Gerard Vallette 38381202 AAF Age 19. PoW ***
Originally the B-24 had 10 crew positions. Crew complements evolved during the war and generally comprised 9 personnel who were typically, but not always, Pilot, Co-Pilot, Bombardier, Navigator, Flight Engineer/Top Turret Gunner, Radio Operator/Waist Gunner, Nose Gunner, Ball Turret Gunner, Waist Gunner, Tail Gunner.
* Stalag Luft 7, Bankau near Kreuzberg, Silesia, Germany. (Now Bąków, Opole Voivodeship, Poland).
** Unknown Camp.
*** Stalag Luft 4 Gross-Tychow, Pomerania, Prussia now Tychowo, Poland (Moved from Stalag Luft 6 Heydekrug. Moved to Wöbbelin near Ludwigslust and then to Usedom near Swinemünde).
REASON FOR LOSS:
The Sho-Sho Baby took off from Tibenham on the 25th May 1944 as part of the 445th Bombardment Group mission to bomb the Leuna works at Merseburg, Germany. The flak over the target was moderate to intense. The aircraft was hit by flak over the target just after having dropped its bombs and immediately dropped out of formation. Ten parachutes were seen to exit the aircraft.
Aboard the aircraft S/Sgt. Bennett, in his role as engineer, made his way to the bomb bays and reported that there was severe damage with torn fuel lines and tanks. 1st Lt. Campbell ordered the crew to bail out and everyone vacated the aircraft within 5 mins.
German documents reported that the aircraft crashed at 14:30 hrs 1 km (½ ml) SW of Stößen, 10 km (6¼ mls) SW of Weißenfels, Germany.
From the various Individual Casualty Questionnaires (ICQ) it appears that S/Sgt. Bennett struck the back of his head and was knocked out as he bailed out of the bomb bay. Although he had no recollection of pulling his parachute’s rip cord evidently he did. Upon landing he suffered a dislocated hip, internal and back injuries. He revived when he was in custody of the Germans but had no recollection of anything that had transpired nor anything about the mission.
Nine of the crew were captured near Weißenfels and held together in the same jail in Leipzig. Of the nine, 2nd Lt. Marlin, 1st Lt. Wholeben, S/Sgt. Bennett and S/Sgt. Williams were wounded. The seriousness of the injuries suffered by 2nd Lt. Marlin and Sgt Bennett resulted in them being admitted to the garrison hospital (PoW) previously located at Pittlerstraße 33 in Leipzig-Wahren, Germany.
German documents record that 2nd Lt. Marlin had suffered an injury to his left ankle (sprained ankle) and Sgt Bennett had suffered an injury to the back of his head and an injury to his left hip. The treatment for their injuries was expected to last 4 to 6 weeks. They were transferred to Dulag Luft, Wetzlar on the 16th June 1944.
(1) After S/Sgt. Ball was liberated on the 10th May 1945 an investigation was carried out into the assault upon him by a German civilian.
S/Sgt. Ball described that he had baled out at about 15:20 hrs and landed in an open field some 5 km (3 mls) north of Merseburg and about 2 km (1¼ mls) north of a small hamlet in a suburb of Merseburg. In the landing he had suffered an injured leg and a broken foot and was examining his foot when the first person arrived some 3 or 4 mins later.
This individual was dressed in a uniform and S/Sgt. Ball believed that he was either a military or civilian photographer. This individual searched him and began to set his broken foot as best he could. A farmer and his family then arrived at the scene but were not threatening and just stood around looking him over.
Whilst sitting on the ground he opened his escape kit and was eating a chocolate bar when a man, who had approached him from behind unseen, starting kicking him in the back.
S/Sgt. Bell described his assailant as about 5’ 7” in height, of medium build and about 60 years of age. He was of the mind that the man was wearing a black and red station-master’s uniform and had on black hob-nailed boots . This man continued to kick and stomp him, aiming for his face which S/Sgt. Bell guarded with his hands, until another man stopped the attack. S/Sgt. Bell described this man as wearing a grey-green uniform and a Nazi arm-band and surmised that he was a Gestapo agent. The assault left S/Sgt. Bell with three broken ribs and a bloodied face.
It has not been possible to pinpoint the hamlet described by S/Sgt. Ball with any degree of certainty.
S/Sgt. Ball’s description of the attire of both his assailant and his rescuer do not very well match the known uniforms of the time. While a station-master did in fact wear a red peaked cap, his uniform was not black but dark blue. Also Gestapo agents wore civilian clothes without an armband. It has not been possible so far to identify any organisation wearing grey-green uniforms combined with a Nazi armband.
The investigation revealed that he was taken to Stalag Luft 4 at Groß-Tychow on the 6th June, where he remained until the 1st February 1945 when he was transferred to Stalag Luft 3 at Sagan-Silesia, arriving there on the 8th February. He remained there until the 14th April 1945 when the PoWs were moved to Stalag Luft 7a at Moosburg arriving there on the 16th April 1945. He remained there until he was liberated on the 10th May 1945.
No evidence has been found beyond an investigation file provided by Herr Bernd Schmidt that there was any further action taken regarding the assault.
(2) Those of the crew who saw Sgt. Wampler aboard the aircraft stated that he was not injured and was seen making his way to the waist escape hatch. A number of the crew saw Sgt. Wampler’s body and his flying clothing, however, their recollections of what they saw differ other than he was dead. The recollection that is the most plausible came from S/Sgt. Vallette who reported that he saw Sgt. Wampler’s body in a barn covered in hay and that he was only wearing his woollen underclothing. He also saw that Sgt. Wampler had suffered what appeared to be a gunshot wound to the chest.
A German document reported that Sgt. Wampler was shot by the Gendarmerie (State rural police) officer Köhler from Unterkaka, which is some 12 km (7¼ mls) south of Weißenfels, allegedly while the airman was attempting to escape.
In February 2023, research among the senior citizens of Unterkaka found that local oral tradition tells the following: Police officer Köhler and several eyewitnesses and forced labourers were present when the plane landed. After unbuckling the parachute, the airman came towards the group with his hands raised. He was immediately shot by policeman Köhler. The mayor was present at the funeral.
While no documents have been discovered recording any proceedings against Köhler, the local tale says that he was taken away about six weeks after the arrival of American troops in the region and never returned.
Sgt. Wampler was initially buried in the Kistritz cemetery, some 11 km (6¾ mls) south of Weißenfels, in grave No. 131.
(Credit: Pittsburgh Sun Telegraph, dated Tuesday July 18th, 1944 and Des Philippet - FindAGrave )
Sgt. Roy Millard Wampler. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Recovered and reinterred on the 3rd June 1945 at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Block F, Row 21, Grave 10. Relocated to Block DD, Row 6, Grave 141. Born on the 11th December 1915 in Irwin, Westmoreland, Pennsylvania. Son of Samuel Randell and Magdalene M. (née Pfaller) Wampler and husband to Virginia Pearl (née Poe) Wampler from Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, 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’ Thanks to Herr Bernd Schmidt for providing the investigation file for the assault on S/Sgt. Ball. (Jan 2023). Thanks to Herr Bernd Schmidt for the updated information about Police officer Köhler (Feb 2023).