16.04.1945 343rd Fighter Squadron P-51D Mustang 44-15608 ‘Cape Cod Express’, Capt. Chester E. Coggeshall Jr. DFC.
Operation: Bomber support (Mission #954) and Freelance
Date: 16th April 1945 (Monday)
Unit No: 343rd Fighter Squadron, 55th Fighter Group, 66th Fighter Wing, 8th Air Force
Type: P-51D Cape Cod Express
Base: Wormingford (Station #159), Essex, England
Location: Sillersdorf, Germany
Pilot: Capt. Chester Elmer Coggeshall Jr. DFC, O-754471 AAF Age 24. Murdered
Above: Capt. Coggeshall Jr., standing in front of the 'Cape Cod Express' along with the ground crew (Credit: Michel Becker - Aircrew Remembered)
Above: Capt. Chester E. Coggeshall Jr., standing in front of the 'Cape Cod Express' (Credit Michel Becker - Aircrew Remembered)
REASON FOR LOSS:
An after mission witness statement by 1st Lt. Walter Strauch O-743125 described the loss of Capt. Coggeshall Jr. and his aircraft:
“I was flying Tudor Red Three on April 16, 1945, on an escort and strafing mission. We drove down to strafe an airfield west of Salzburg and when we pulled up to about 1000 ft I noticed Red Leader Capt. Coggeshall, making a very gentle turn to the left and losing altitude. I immediately started over to him and noticed his airplane was covered in oil, and about this time he made a fast belly landing, dug a wing in and cartwheeled. I went back to investigate and saw the plane had hit a small brick building. There was no fire but the airplane was completely demolished”.
A second after mission witness statement by 2nd Lt. Jack A. Bevington O-808217 described the loss of Capt. Coggeshall Jr. and his aircraft:
“On 16 April, 1945, I was flying Tudor Red Four, the flight being led by Capt. Coggeshall. We went down to strafe an airdrome just west of Salzburg. I was last man across the airfield and after pulling up I noticed Capt. Coggeshall’s ship smoking. He started to pull up, then went into a slow turn, losing altitude. Just before hitting the ground he straightened the ship up and attempted to belly land at high speed. His right wing dug in, after sliding three quarters of the way across an open field, and he cart-wheeled through a small building at the opposite end of the field. Although the ship did not burn it was completely demolished”.
It is probable that the airfield being strafed was Salzburg-Maxglan which was 3¼ km SSW of Salzburg. One German Fw190 was claimed by 55th Fighter Group. Capt. Coggeshall’s Mustang was seen to crash at 14:30 hrs to the west of the airfield.
The fate of Capt. Coggeshall was determined by a General Military Court which was convened at Ludwigsburg, Germany on the 13th and 14th November 1945.
One German national was charged in that he did, at or near Freilassing in Germany, on or about the 16th April 1945, wrongfully and unlawfully kill an officer of the United States Army, then a PoW of the German Reich, namely Capt. Chester E. Coggeshall.
The accused was August Kobus who was a member of the Nazi party, the former Bürgermeister (Mayor) and Ortsgruppenleiter (Nazi local group leader) of Freilassing in Kreis (District) Laufen in Upper Bavaria, Germany.
The court heard that on the 16th April 1945, an American fighter plane was shot down and crash landed a Sillersdorf, a small village about 5 km WNW of Freilassing. The pilot, Capt. Coggeshall, was slightly wounded. He was almost immediately captured by members of the local gendarmerie (Rural police) and by German military personnel.
At about 15:00 hrs Kobus received a telephone call from the Kreisleiter (Nazi district leader) from Berchtesgaden, a Bernhard Stredele, telling him that an enemy pilot had been shot down in his district and that he should investigate. Upon investigation Kobus was informed that an armoured car from the German armed forces had gone to where the pilot had landed. He returned to his office and waited until the armoured car returned with the captured airman to Freilassing at about 16:00 hrs.
An NCO from the armoured car told Kobus that the captured airman was being taken to the schoolhouse, were his unit was quartered. Korus went to the schoolhouse and informed the German officer in charge that he had received orders from the Kreisleiter to “finish” the airman and asked for the airman to be handed over into his custody.
The German officer ordered that Capt. Coggeshall be taken to the 'Pfarrau' (meadow belonging to the church). Kobus following on his bicycle. Arriving at the place Capt. Coggeshall was taken from the armoured car and then Kobus killed him with two shots to the head.
Capt. Coggeshall was initially buried in the local cemetery at Freilassing. His remains were exhumed by US forces in May 1945.
The autopsy of Capt. Coggeshall by an US Army pathologist disclosed that the cause of death was a perforating wound of the brain, presumably due to a gun shot wound caused by .32 calibre bullet (7.62mm or .308”).
Kobus, in his written confession, in substance, admitted the facts outlined in a similar testimony to the court.
In his defence he claimed that Stredele had ordered that all captured Allied airmen were to be killed, and that on the date in question Stredele had specifically ordered him by telephone to kill the captured airman under the threat of severe disciplinary action. He claimed that he did not have the strength nor the will to resist the orders.
Stredele was brought before a General Military Court convened at Ludwigsburg, Germany between the 25th February and 14th March 1945 and charged on three counts. The first count specifically related to the order for Kobus to kill Capt. Coggeshall (Kobus testified as a prosecution witness despite being told this would not make any difference to his sentence). He was found guilty of all three counts and sentenced to death. Upon review the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment which was later reduced to 35 years. He was paroled in January 1954 on medical grounds which was revoked and he was returned to prison in March 1956. He was finally paroled in April 1957.
The court found Kobus guilty of the charge and sentenced him to death by shooting. Upon confirmation of the verdict the method of execution was changed to hanging. He was executed at Bruchsal prison on the 15th March 1946.
Above: Grave marker (Credit: Glenn - FindAGrave)
Capt. Chester Elmer Coggeshall Jr., DFC (1 Oak Leaf Cluster), Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Repatriated and interred at the Long Island National Cemetery, East Farmingdale, Suffolk County, New York, Section J, Grave 15558. Born on the 30th April 1920 in Fall River, Massachusetts. Son of Chester Elmer and Cora Olive (née Hart) Coggeshall of Braintree, Massachusetts, USA.
Initially researched by Michel Beckers for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this Pilot (Sep 2016). Thanks to Brennan Gauthier, Russ Abbey and Steven Bario for the photographs. Other images from the Michel Beckers collection. Updated by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz with thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’ (Feb 2022).