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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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15th Air Force
01.03.1945 716 Bomb Squadron (H) B-24J 44-41218, 1st Lt. William R. Farrington

Operation: Moosbierbaum oil refinery, (Mission #216), Austria

Date: 1st March 1945 (Thursday)

Unit: 449th Bombardment Group (H), 716th Bombardment Squadron (H), 47th Bombardment Wing, 15th Air Force

Type: B-24J

Serial No: 44-41218

Code: 71

Location: Near Aka, Hungary

Base: Grottaglie Field, southern Italy

Pilot: 1st Lt. William Robert Farrington O-684508 AAF Age 25. Missing in Action (1)

Co Pilot: 2nd Lt. John Philip Knox O-830618 AAF Age 25. Missing in Action (1)

Navigator: 2nd Lt. Warren F. Ames O-2063326 AAF Age 20. Missing in Action (1)

Bombardier: 1st Lt. Floyd Bicksler Bremermann Jr. O-2056687 AAF Age 22. PoW * (2)

Engineer: T/Sgt. Felix Dominick Kozekowski 32916625 AAF Age 26. Murdered (3)

Radio Op: T/Sgt. Donald P. Brown 12080949 AAF Age 22. Murdered (3)

Nose Gnr: S/Sgt. Preston Joseph Hill 33249495 AAF Age 23. Murdered (3)

Waist Gnr: S/Sgt. Kenneth Clyde Rost 37668121 AAF Age 21. Killed in Action

Ball Turret: S/Sgt. Hubert Ray Burnette 15066343 AAF Age 24. Murdered (3)

Tail Gnr: S/Sgt. James Francis Bradley 12177129 AAF Age 22. Killed (4)

* Stalag Luft 7a, Moosburg, Southern Bavaria, Germany.

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.

REASON FOR LOSS:

All bomb wings of the 15th Air Force were launched on a mission to bomb the Moosbierbaum oil refinery near Vienna, Austria. One quarter of the Liberators did not drop their bombs, but the Fortresses and Liberators that did destroyed gasholders and damaged a cracking unit, the fertilizer plant, distillation units, and tank cars.

2nd Lt. Frank H. Elser Jr., O-2056784 the Bombardier on 719 Sqn B-24J 44-40321 ‘Old Sack/For Men Only’ reported:

"On the bomb run, approaching the target of Moosbierbaum, Austria, on 1st March 1945, aircraft #44-41218, which was piloted by Lt. William R. Farrington, had been lagging behind, but was nevertheless staying with the box. About seven minutes before bombs away, he turned off to the right and left the formation. This was the last I saw of the aircraft".

Maj. Howard T. Van De Car, O-418184, the Group Leader of Blue Force reported later that at 13:40 hrs a message from #44-41218 was received which read as follows:

"We ran into a lot of flak north of Lake Balaton and lost two more engines. One of our men is dead and we are going to bail out. We are south of Lake Balaton".

The aircraft had lost an engine due to mechanical failure en route to the target.

S/Sgt. Kenneth Clyde Rost was reported to be the airman killed aboard the aircraft.

The remaining nine crew all bailed out with eight landing about 4½ km from Súr where the SS-Kampfgruppe Ney were stationed.

The SS-Kampfgruppe Ney was composed of Hungarian volunteers (2,000-4,000 men) who were originally to be assigned to the 22nd Freiwilligen-Kavallerie Division der SS Maria Theresa, but the division was surrounded in Budapest. The men also swore allegiance to Adolf Hitler. It was assigned to IV.SS Panzerkorps and fought with it in an attempt to break the encirclement of Budapest. After the fighting in Hungary, they retreated to Germany in March 1945. The soldiers were sent to I.SS Panzerkorps Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler and III. Panzerkorps. The first battalion was used to form SS-Kampfgruppe Schweitzer and the rest were assigned to other Hungarian units. Part of SS-Kampfgruppe Ney fought at Vienna and most of the men surrendered to the Americans. 800 men were killed in the fighting.

The aircraft crashed near Aka, Hungary at around 14:00 hrs.

(1) 1st Lt. Farrington, 2nd Lt. Knox and 2nd Lt. Ames were delivered to the IV.SS-Panzerkorps HQ at Inota and handed over to an SS-Hauptsturmführer (Capt) Grund. That was the last information to be found regarding the whereabouts and the circumstances leading to the disappearance of the three officers. They were recorded as ‘missing in action’ by the US authorities and on the 2nd March 1946 the three were officially declared dead.

(2) 1st Lt. Bremermann Jr. was the ninth crew member that bailed out but he was not captured by personnel from the SS-Kampfgruppe Ney and became a PoW and was liberated on the 29th April 1945.

After the war, he returned home to become an Air Traffic Controller for the FAA until his retirement in 1976. Floyd (Bix) Bremermann, 85, passed away on Monday, December 21, 2009, at the Chula Vista Veterans Home due to lung cancer. A longtime resident of Pacific Beach, he is survived by his wife, Margaret, sons, Leonard, Brian, and Gary, daughter Gloria, and four grandchildren. A Memorial Service will be held at the Chula Vista Veterans Home, Monday, January 25th, 10:00 hrs in Building F. His ashes will be interred at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. (Published in the San Diego Union-Tribune on January 22, 2010).

Floyd Bicksler Bremermann Jr. (5th April 1924 - 21st December 2009)

(3) The circumstances leading to the deaths of the four named airmen, one unidentified American airman and the initial fate of 1st Lt. Farrington, 2nd Lt. Knox and 2nd Lt. Ames was determined by a US Military Commission which was convened in Salzburg, Austria between 22nd May and the 7th June 1946.

Six Hungarian Nationals were charged that they did, on or about the 1st March 1945, at or in the vicinity of Súr, Hungary, wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid, abet, and participate in the killing of Donald P. Brown, Hubert R. Burnette, Felix Kozekowski, Preston J. Hill, members of the United States Army, and an unknown member of the United States Army, all of whom were surrendered, unarmed PoW in the custody of the German Reich.

The six accused were:

Dr. Károly Ney who was a former SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lt Col) and the Commanding Officer (CO) of the SS-Kampfgruppe Ney;

Ferenc Károlyi who was the former Executive Officer of SS-Kampfgruppe Ney;

Miklós Bakos who was a SS-Hauptsturmführer (Capt) and the CO of the Hungarian Gendarmerie;

István Csihas who was a former SS-Untersturmführer (2nd Lt) in the Hungarian Gendarmerie;

István Lengyel who was a former SS-Unterscharführer (Sgt) in the Hungarian Gendarmerie;

István Erös who was a former SS-Unterscharführer (Sgt) in the Hungarian Gendarmerie.

The accused were all former members of the Hungarian Waffen-SS.

The court heard that on the fifth day [sic] of March 1945 an American bomber passed over Súr and three officers and five enlisted men of the crew bailed out and parachuted safely to the ground although two of the enlisted men were injured.

They were captured by different groups and taken to the headquarters (HQ) of the SS-Kampfgruppe Ney. On the orders of the IV.SS-Panzerkorps HQ at Inota or on the sole initiative of SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lt Col) Ney an attempt was made to deliver the airmen to the HQ at Inota on the evening of the day of their capture. However, because of the road conditions they were returned to the HQ of the SS-Kampfgruppe Ney.

Inota is some 21½ km SE of Súr.

The next day, on the 2nd March, the three officers were taken again to the IV.SS-Panzerkorps HQ by Károlyi and a SS-Untersturmführer (2nd Lt) Schmidt and this time handed over to an SS-Hauptsturmführer (Capt) Grund from whom a receipt for their delivery was obtained.

The reason given for the failure to deliver all the airmen was due to a passenger car instead of a truck being provided. Károlyi inquired of Grund as to the disposition of the five enlisted men remaining at Súr. He was ordered to deliver them to the IV.SS-Panzerkorps HQ or to the 4.Kavallerie-Division at Aka.

Aka is some 5 km NE of Súr.

During the discussion Grund gave the impression that the execution of the airmen was desirable to the SS HQ, although no direct order was communicated to Károlyi to that effect. Whilst having their discussion Schmidt was not in the room but it would not have been impossible for him to overhear what was implied.

Károlyi and Schmidt returned to their unit where Károlyi reported to Ney, who at that time was ill with a high fever, and informed him that the three officers that been delivered to the IV.SS-Panzerkorps HQ.

Before the subject of what Károlyi believed was to become of the five enlisted airmen was discussed he requested that the other officers present be ordered from the room. He then told Ney that he had been given the impression that the three officers he had delivered were to be executed and that the same fate was to befall the five enlisted airmen.

Károlyi was then ordered by Ney to have Bakos report to him. Either Károlyi or Ney ordered Bakos to have the five enlisted airmen taken to the 4.Kavallerie-Division at Aka the next morning by escort in charge of an officer. The order was given at around 17:00 hrs after which Bakos departed.

Károlyi remained with Ney until 23:00 hrs before retiring to his quarters. He left early the next day on official business with a General Winkelman [sic]. He returned to his own HQ four days later.

Believed to be SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS (Lt Gen) Otto Winkelmann. He was the Higher SS and Police Leader (HSSPF) in Hungary in the Holocaust against the Hungarian Jews and was temporarily city commander of Budapest when the Red Army approached. After the war he was imprisoned in Hungary for three years as a witness in the Nazi trials. After his return to Germany, no proceedings were opened against him.

According to Bakos shortly after having returned to his quarters he received a phone call from an SS-Hauptsturmführer (Capt) Peter, Ney’s adjutant, to return to the HQ to receive important orders. Arriving at Peter’s office, and in the presence of Schmidt, he was told by Peter that Schmidt had brought new orders from IV.SS-Panzerkorps HQ to the effect that the five enlisted airmen were to be executed before noon the next day.

Bakos claimed that he told Peter that this was contrary to the orders he had received from Károlyi. Peter responded that the orders from IV.SS-Panzerkorps HQ had to be carried out and that Bakos could not speak with Ney. Bakos tried to contact Ney by phone but was not successful.

At about 22:00 hrs Csihas returned to their shared quarters where Bakos told him that the five enlisted airmen were to be executed the next day and that he was to command the execution platoon.

The next morning, Csihas received detailed orders from Bakos and was told to summon four men for the detail. Two of the four enlisted men were Lengyel and Erös. Instructions were given that after the execution the uniforms and other identification were to be removed from the airmen and brought back to the HQ.

Shortly thereafter a wagon arrived and Csihas with the detail of men started off with the airmen, the two injured riding on the wagon and the other three walking. When they arrived at the place where the executions were to be carried out the men on the wagon were ordered down.

The airmen realised that they were to be killed and asked for permission to pray which was granted. They knelt in the road and prayed for 15 or 20 minutes after which they were taken further into the forest and lined up with their backs to their executioners. One of the men held a rosary and the others held hands.

Csihas, Lengyel, Erös and the two unnamed executioners lined up behind the airmen, Csihas armed with a pistol and the others with machine pistols opened fire. The airmen fell to the ground. One airman still moved and and was shot again by a member of the squad not on trial.

The bodies were stripped of their clothing, except for undergarments, all personal effects and their ‘dog tags’ which were subsequently turned over to Bakos who distributed the personal effects amongst the execution squad and kept a wrist watch for himself. Bakos instructed a burial detail shortly after the executions.

The ‘dog tags’ taken from the airmen eventually came into the possession of a Ferenc Albitz who buried them under a shed in Altmark instead of destroying them as instructed.

The execution was reported through various individuals culminating in IV.SS-Panzerkorps HQ being informed.

On the 30th and 31st October 1945 five bodies were disinterred from a wooded area near Súr in Hungary. All clothing was missing except for their underwear. The autopsies revealed that the cause of death was gunshot wounds.

The court found Csihas and Bakos guilty of the charge and sentenced them to death. They were executed at the Landesgericht prison in Salzburg on the 1st October 1946.

Courtesy of the Battle Creek Enquirer, dated Thursday October 3rd, 1946

Károlyi and Ney were also found guilty of the charge and sentenced to death. However, upon review it was considered that because they were not active participants their sentences were commuted to confinement with hard labour for the terms of their respective natural lives. Erös and Lengyel were sentenced to confinement with hard labour for the terms of their respective natural lives.

Ney was of considerable value to the US secret service due to his good contacts in Hungary which is why his punishment was first reduced to life imprisonment and then waived altogether shortly thereafter. He was active for the CIA and other secret services until he died in 1985. He was buried under the name of ‘Karl Ney’ in the Vienna Central Cemetery.(Ref 1 , p.262, note 597);

Ney and Ferenc Károlyi were released in 1948, after which both were of interest to the CIA. After Károlyi was released from prison he and his family emigrated to the USA. (Ref 1., p.368 and p.262, note 597).

It is not known why SS-Hauptsturmführer Aladár Peter and SS-Untersturmführer (2nd Lt) Schmidt were not before the court or whether the two unnamed individuals of the execution squad were identified or traced. Neither is it known why SS-Hauptsturmführer Grund was not before the court to determine the circumstances of the disappearance of the three officers delivered into his custody.

(4) S/Sgt. Bradley was recorded to have bailed out of the aircraft. It was stated in the trial narrative, above at serial 3, that five enlisted men were captured at the same time from which it could be inferred that the unknown member of the United States Army was from the same crew. As it is known that S/Sgt. Rost died aboard the aircraft the logical assumption is that S/Sgt. Bradley was the unknown member of the United States Army.

However, research is being conducted to determine the fate of the crews from other aircraft lost during this mission in the vicinity of Súr and the surrounding area. For the moment S/Sgt. Bradley’s death is unexplained but the suspicion remains that he was the fifth murder victim.

Burial Details:

1st Lt. William Robert Farrington. Florence American Cemetery, Tablets of the Missing. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters). Born on the 3rd October 1920 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Son of William Sidney and Amelia C. (née Steenberg) Farrington of Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, USA.

Courtesy of The Boston Globe, dated Sunday March 10, 1946

2nd Lt. John Philip Knox. Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, Tablets of the Missing. Air Medal. Purple Heart. Born on the 18th January 1921 in Boston, Massachusetts. Son of Philip Joseph and Rose Anne (née Staunton) Knox of Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA.

Courtesy of The Boston Globe dated Wednesday March 13th, 1946

2nd Lt. Warren F. Ames. Florence American Cemetery, Tablets of the Missing. Born on the 20th October 1924 in Boston, Massachusetts. Son of Harry F. Donovan and Margaret (née McLaughlin) Ames of Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Courtesy of The Central New Jersey Home News, dated Thursday March 22, 1945

T/Sgt. Felix Dominick Kozekowski. Lorraine American Cemetery, Plot K, Row 20, Grave 13. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Born on the 12th July 1918 in Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan. Son of Stanley Michael and Pauline (née Organek) Kozekowski. Husband to Florence Marcine (née Maciorowski) Kozekowski of New Brunswick, Middlesex County, New Jersey, USA.

Florence gave birth to a son, named after his father, Felix Dominick, on the 5th April 1945.

Courtesy of The Post Standard dated, Saturday January, 15th 1949.

T/Sgt. Donald P. Brown. Repatriated to Saint Mary’s Cemetery, DeWitt, Onondaga County, Near York. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Born during 1923 in New York. Son of Leon C. and Marie Brown of Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York, USA.

Above: Grave maker for S/Sgt. Hill (Credit: Tricia - FindAGrave)

S/Sgt. Preston Joseph Hill. Repatriated to Lloyd Cemetery, Plot 3-6, Ebensburg, Pennsylvania. Born on the 5th September 1921 in Colver, Cambria County, Pennsylvania. Son of John Simon and Della Malinda (née Gardner) Hill of Cambria, Cambria County, Pennsylvania, USA.

Courtesy of the Sioux City Journal, dated Tuesday March 12th, 1946

S/Sgt. Kenneth Clyde Rost. Lorraine American Cemetery, Plot K, Row 30, Grave 29. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Born 18th July 1923 in Hartley, O’Brien County, Iowa. Son of Clyde William and Mabel Marie (née Welch) Rost of Hartley, O’Brien County, Iowa, USA.

Above: Grave maker for S/Sgt. Burnette (Credit: Thea Neace - FindAGrave)

S/Sgt. Hubert Ray Burnette. Repatriated to the Johnny Haddix Cemetery, Haddix County. Born on the 15th November 1920 in Breathitt County, Kentucky. Son of Ezra C. And Millie Belle (née Gillum) Burnette of Breathitt County, Kentucky, USA.

S/Sgt. James Francis Bradley Repatriated to Long Island National Cemetery Plot J, 14942, New York. Born on the 18th October 1922 in Brooklyn, New York. Son of John J. and Elizabeth (née Donnelly) Bradley of New York, 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 Mark Coffee, the 449th Bomb Group Association Historian, for the PoW information for 1st Lt. Bremermann Jr.

Reference:

1. Fliegerlynchjustiz (Fallstudie XXIII: Der Fliegermord von Bleiburg) - Georg Hoffmann (ISBN: 978-3506781376)







RS & TV 28.12.2021 - Updated PoW information for 1st Lt. Bremermann Jr.

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Acknowledgments: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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