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Archive Report: US Forces
1941 - 1945

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.

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8th Air Force
22.02.1945 754th Bombardment Squadron (H) B-24J 44-10491 ‘The Iron Duke’, 2nd Lt. William A. 'Billy’ Duke

Operation: Nienburg (Mission #847), Germany

Date: 22nd February 1945 (Thursday)

Unit No: 754th Bombardment Squadron (H), 458th Bombardment Group (H), 2nd Air Division, 8th Air Force

Type: B-24J The Iron Duke

Serial No: 44-10491

Code: Z5: I

Location: Near to Hainhausen, SE of Frankfurt, Germany

Base: Horsham St. Faith (Station #123), Norfolk, England

Pilot: 2nd Lt. William A. 'Billy’ Duke O-825602 AAF Age 20. Murdered (1)(2)

Co Pilot: 2nd Lt. Archibald B. Monroe Jr. O-834852 AAF Age 22. Murdered (1)(3)

Navigator: FO Richard Martin Eselgroth T-132898 AAF Age 24. PoW *

Bombardier: FO Albert Edward Miller T-7059 AAF Age 23. PoW *

Radio/Op: Sgt. Albert Marcus Lucas 39700845 AAF Age 38. PoW Unknown camp

Engineer: Sgt. Baldamore Garcia 39289589 AAF Age 26. Died (4)

Ball Turret: Sgt. Charles Frazer Jr. 18232071 AAF Age 21. Murdered (5)

Right Waist Gnr: Sgt. Carl Lewis Johnson 16174596 AAF Age 35. PoW **

Left Waist Gnr: Sgt. Charles Eugene Gretz Jr. 13190224 AAF Age 19. PoW Unknown Camp

Tail Gnr: Sgt. Alessandro Dominic Panarese 11122931 AAF Age 19. PoW Unknown Camp

* Stalag Luft 3 Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria)

** Stalag Luft 4 Gross-Tychow, Pomerania, Prussia now Poland (Moved from Stalag Luft 6 Heydekrug. Moved to Wöbbelin near Ludwigslust and then to Usedom near Swinemünde)

Back L to R: Sgt. Garcia, Sgt. Lucas, Sgt. Gretz, Sgt. Johnson, Sgt. Frazer, Sgt. Panarese. Front L to R: 2nd Lt. Duke, 2nd Lt. Monroe. (Credit: Fold3). (Not included in this image are FO Eselgroth and FO Miller).

Above: FO Eselgroth in flight gear - believed to be taken at Horsham in Jun 1945 (Credit: American Air Museum)


The Iron Duke took off at 09:00 hrs from Horsham St. Faith to join a large bomber force on a low level (10,000 ft) mission to bomb the railroad marshalling yards at Peine and Hildesheim in Germany. The Iron Duke was part of a 14 aircraft element (two aircraft had turned back with mechanical issues) that had been retargeted to the rail head at Nienburg, Germany.

Before reaching the Initial Point (IP) at Eisenach the aircraft was hit by flak which knocked off the starboard aileron and port rudder. 2nd Lt. Duke gave the order to salvo the bombs which was done immediately. The aircraft then turned in a SW direction to head for the nearest Allied lines. Approximately 2/3rd of the way back to Allied lines the aircraft was hit again by railroad mounted flak batteries located at the town of Gelnhausen, Germany. 2nd Lt. Duke gave the order to bail out.

Sgt. Panarese, who had suffered a shrapnel wound to the shoulder, Sgt. Lucas, Sgt. Johnson, Sgt. Gretz and Flight Officer (FO) Miller were captured near Mühlheim am Main and Bieber. Anecdotally there were brought together and held at the railway station close to the flak battery that had shot down The Iron Duke. They were then transferred to a jail in Wächtersbach, around 15 km (9¼ mls) NE of Gelnhausen, and the next day boarded a train for onward travel to Oberursel. 2nd Lt. Duke, 2nd Lt. Monroe Jr. and Sgt. Frazer Jr. were not seen again by the surviving crew.

German documents reported that the aircraft crashed at 13:00 hrs about ½ km (¼ ml) west of Hainhausen and about 7 km (4¼ mls) west of Seligenstadt.

(1) The fate of 2nd Lt. Duke and 2nd Lt. Monroe Jr. was unknown until a General Military Court was convened at Dachau, Germany during the period 10th January to 21st March 1947.

For each of two cases eight German nationals were charged (Charge No. 7 & 8 of 10) that they did, on the 22nd February 1945, at or near Bieber and Offenbach, willfully, deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid, abet and participate in the killing of two members of the United States army, believed to be William A. Duke, 2nd Lt., Air Corps AUS (Army US) ASN O-823602, and Archibald B. Monroe Jr., 2nd Lt., Air Corps ASN O-834832, who were then and there surrendered and unarmed PoWs in the custody of the then German Reich.

Three of those charged in both cases were: Jürgen Stroop, the former Higher SS (Schutzstaffel) and Police Leader in the SS main district of Rhein-Westmark and former SS Generalleutnant (Maj Gen) of the Waffen SS; Hans Trummler who was a former SS Oberführer (Notionally the same level as a Brigadier General), an Oberst (Col) in the police and commander of the Security Police and the SD (Security Service of the SS) in the district of Rhein-Westmark; Otto Somann who had been Trummler’s predecessor.

Stroop and Trummler were found not guilty on these two charges but were found guilty of charge 4, charge 5 and charge 6. Stroop was additionally found guilty of charge 9.

Somann was found not guilty on this charge but was found guilty of 2 of the 10 charges and sentenced to 4 years imprisonment commencing on the 30th May 1945. He was released in May 1949.

Two others who were also charged in both cases were Hans Eichel, the former Police Director at Offenbach with the rank of Oberstleutnant der Polizei (Lt Col) and an Oberst in the SA (Sturmabteilung = Storm detachment of the Nazi party) and Josef Johann Kiwitt who was a former Hauptmann der Polizei (Capt) in the Ordnungspolizei (Regular police) in Offenbach and a member of the Nazi party.

Eichel and Kiwitt were found guilty on both charges and sentenced to death by hanging. Eichel was executed on the 3rd December 1948 and Kiwitt on the 15th October 1948, both in Landsberg/Lech, Bavaria.

(2) In respect to charge 7 those additionally cited were; Wilhelm Albrecht who was a former Oberleutnant der Polizei (1st Lt) in the Ordnungspolizei and Chief of Police in Bieber and also a member of the Nazi party; Hermann Möller who was a former Clerk and Hauptwachtmeister (M/Sgt) in the Ordnungspolizei in Bieber and a member of the Nazi party and a Wilhelm Friedrich Goehrendt, also a member of the Ordnungspolizei, who was acquitted of the charge.

The court heard conflicting testimony as to what had transpired, however, the following narrative is a reflection of what the court believed to have occurred.

On or about the 22nd February 1945, a captured American airman was brought to the police station in Bieber, Germany. An ID card found on the airman identified him as William Duke. While the airman was being interrogated by Albrecht and other unnamed individuals, Eichel and Kiwitt entered the police station. Eichel tore the scarf from the airman’s neck and knocked the cigarette, which he had been permitted to smoke, out of his mouth. Albrecht and the others present were reprimanded by Eichel and Kiwitt for showing consideration to the airman.

In Albrecht’s office Eichel gave him an order to shoot the airman. He refused to comply with the order, whereupon Eichel ordered Möller to kill the airman. Eichel directed that the airman be brought before the crowd outside the police station. Outside both Eichel and Kiwitt had incited the crowd by making inflammatory remarks about the airman. Möller, accompanied by Albrecht left the police station with the airman. Goehrendt and Como, another member of the Ordnungspolize, were ordered by Albrecht to follow them. They walked the airman to a forest near Bieber where Möller shot the airman twice, killing him.

The court found Möller guilty and he was sentenced to death by hanging. On review his sentence was commuted to 30 years which was further reduced to 27 years. He was paroled in October 1954. Albrecht was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment commencing on the 29th May 1945. He was paroled in December 1953.

(3) In respect to charge 8 those additionally cited were; Paul Nahrgang who was a former Hauptwachtmeister in the Feuerschutzpolizei (Fire protection police) in Offenbach; Philipp Hammann who was a former Wachtmeister (Sgt) in the Luftschutzpolizei (Air raid police) in Offenbach and Bernhard Fay who was a former driver and machinist with the Luftschutzpolizei in Offenbach.

The court heard conflicting testimony as to what had transpired, however, the following narrative is a reflection of what the court believed to have occurred.

On the 22 February 1945, Goehrendt turned over a captured American airman to two Polizisten (policemen), named Michel and Schneider, at the police station in Bieber, with instructions to deliver him to the police headquarters in Offenbach.

After arriving at the headquarters the policemen reported to Kiwitt who ordered them to kill the airman. On the return trip to Bieber an air raid warning sounded and the policemen with the airman took cover in an air raid shelter on Bierbrauerweg. The site comprised an open area with an underground shelter at one end. This was used as a command post by Eichel who was present at that time. With the exception of the main gate the only other exit from the area was on Bierbrauerweg. Near the main gate one of the policemen told Nahrgang that they had an airman who was to be shot.

Nahrgang, Hammann and Fay engaged in a whispering conversation and Fay was heard to say that “this was an easy matter”. Thereupon, Fay shoved and pushed the airman toward the stairway accompanied by Nahrgang and one of the policemen. In the meantime another policeman had given Fay his pistol. Suddenly, Fay fired the pistol into the air and shouted that an airman was escaping. Startled, the airman ran down the stairway towards the secondary exit. Hammann, who had remained behind, ran to the main gate and took a carbine from the guard who was standing there. He then ran down Bierbrauerweg to head off the airman who could only come out of the secondary exit. As the airman came out of the exit Hammann fired three shots, killing him.

The court found Hammann and Nahrgang guilty and they were sentenced to 15 years imprisonment commencing on the 12th May 1945 and 5 years imprisonment commencing on the 6th December 1945, respectively. Nahrgang was released in February 1950. Anecdotally Hammann was believed to have died of natural causes a year later.

(4) FO Eselgroth’s Individual Casualty Questionnaire (ICQ) reported that Sgt. Garcia was seen severely injured at a German First Aid station by Sgt. Panarese, where he was being treated for his own shoulder injury. It is believed that the injuries sustained were the result of the parachute jump. Later Sgt. Panarese was led to a German cemetery and was asked to identify Sgt. Garcia’s body.

(5) Testimony from Case 12-2000 recalled that on the 25th February 1945, an American airman approached or bumped into Father Mathias Felder, a Catholic priest at Bieber, who then escorted him to the police station in Bieber. The events leading up to the encounter with the priest are unclear.

An officer of the Schutzpolizei (Protection police) in Offenbach, an Oberleutnant der Polizei (1st Lt) Zager, alerted a police stenographer living in Bieber to come to the station because there was work to be done. The individual, an Elisabeth Blümmel, testified that when she arrived she saw the priest, an American airman and a Luftwaffe Hauptmann (Capt) who wanted to take the airman into custody. Zager resisted handing him over on the pretence that he needed to interrogate him. The Hauptmann then left the police station.

After completing the interrogation of the priest and the airman, Zager left the police station with the airman accompanied by a Karl Blum, who was an officer in the Luftschutzpolizei (Air raid police). Zager was heard to say “I won't be going any further than the stadium. I won't be going any further with him.“ It is believed that the stadium was that of a local football club, “Kickers Offenbach“, located just over ½ km from the Bieber police station.

Local historian Otto Schlander, a youth of 15 at the time, later saw traces of bloodshed in the vicinity of a thick Oak tree standing on the edge of the woods behind the stadium. Local historians concluded that the airman whom Blümmel saw on the 25th February was Sgt. Charles Frazer Jr., who had evaded capture for almost three days, and that he had been killed by either Zager or Blum or both of them. Research has not been able to find evidence of any investigation or criminal proceedings against Zager or Blum. It is believed that the perpetrators disappeared without trace prior to the end of the War.

Bieber town map depicting the routes which the airmen and their guards (taken from witness testimony) took. BLUE and RED routes start at the Bieber Police Station the routes terminate at the approximate position that the three airmen were murdered: RED route taken by Möller, Albrecht, Goehrendt, Como etc. with 2nd Lt. Duke; BLUE route taken by Zager went with Blum and Sgt. Frazer to the woods behind the stadium. GREEN route taken by Schneider and Michel coming back from Offenbach Police headquarters with 2nd Lt. Monroe.

Burial Details:

According to files held by the Offenbach cemetery office, Sgt. Frazer Jr., 2nd Lt. Duke and 2nd Lt. Monroe Jr. were buried in the cemetery on the 1st March 1945.

2nd Lt. William A. 'Billy’ Duke. Repatriated and interred at the Oxford Memorial Cemetery, St. Peter’s, Section 2, Lafayette County, Mississippi. Born on the 7th November 1924. Son to Homer Claude and Octavia Elizabeth (née Kendel) Duke of Lafayette County, Mississippi, USA.

William’s brother, 2nd Lt. Andrew K. Duke O-736157 serving with the 431st Fighter Sqn (475th Fighter Group) flying P-38G 43-2200, died in a training accident at Biboohra, north of Mareeba, Queensland in Australia on the 9th August 1943. Initially interred at the US Cemetery, Grave 296, in Townsville, Queensland before being repatriated to the Oxford Memorial Cemetery, Lafayette County, Mississippi, USA.

Above: 2nd Lt. Monroe Jr. (Credit: Patti Flint-FindAGrave)

2nd Lt. Archibald B. Monroe Jr. Repatriated and interred at the Magnolia Cemetery, Batesville, Panola County, Mississippi. Born on the 2nd February 1923. Son of Archibald Benjamin and Ila (née Rogers) Monroe of Batesville, Panola County, Mississippi, USA.

Above: Sgt. Garcia (Credit: AOsman-FindAGrave)

Sgt. Baldamore Garcia. Purple Heart. Lorraine American Cemetery, St Avold, Block PP, Row 2, Grave 21. Relocated to Plot A, Row 16, Grave 26. Born on the 8th March 1918. Son to Maria Carolina F. (née Ojeda) Garcia of San Marcos, California, USA.

Sgt. Charles Frazer Jr. Repatriated and interred on the 4th February 1949 at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, Section S, Site 45, San Antonio, Texas. Born on the 17th October 1923. Son to Charles and Mary (née Cervantes) Frazer of San Antonio, 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’. Thanks also to Mr. Otto Schlander and the City Archive in Offenbach for their assistance in compiling this report.

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