26.12.1944 506th Fighter Squadron P-47D Thunderbolt, 42-28933 1st Lt. Robert G. Fenstermacher
Operation: Armoured reconnaissance mission to Houffalize, Belgium
Date: 26th December 1944 (Tuesday)
Unit: 404th Fighter Group, 506th Fighter Squadron, 9th Air Force
Type: P-47D Thunderbolt
Base: St. Trond (ALG-92), Belgium
Location: Petergensfeld, Holland near Roetgen, Germany
Pilot: 1st Lt. Robert George Fenstermacher O-818531 AAF Age 23. Killed
Above 1st Lt. Robert G. Fenstermacher (Credit: Michel Beckers)
REASON FOR LOSS:
1st Lt. Fenstermacher took off as the lead of a flight of four P-47s from St. Trond (ALG-92) (Sint-Truiden), Belgium on the morning of the 26th December 1944 tasked with an armoured reconnaissance mission to Houffalize, Belgium, which is about 16 km north of Bastogne.
ALG = Advanced Landing Ground.
The following is the after mission statement from 1st Lt. Kenneth K. Cobb:
“About 1300 hours on the 26 Dec 1944 I was flying on an armed reconnaissance mission with the squadron in Germany with the 506th Fighter Squadron when our flight led by Lt Fenstermacher spotted some enemy vehicles. Our flight made one pass at the vehicles and after re-joining I noticed that Lt Fenstermacher still had all three of his bombs. I still had my belly bomb. Lt Fenstermacher called and said he was going down on the target again. I never saw him start his pass for just as he called I broke away for another target. I didn’t see his again.”
Later that day Capt. John B. O’Rouke, Jr. of the Operations section for the 404th Fighter Group received a telephone call from the Combat Operations Section of XXIX TAC. They reported that effects found on the bodies of two pilots recovered from crashed aircraft in the vicinity of their advanced command post had enabled them to identify them as Robert G. Fenstermacher, 1st Lt. AC, O-818531 and Clinton Winters Jr., 1st Lt. AC, O-751514.
1st Lt. Clinton Winters Jr., was with a second flight of four P-47s from the 506th Fighter Squadron also on an armoured reconnaissance mission to Houffalize, Belgium. He was killed when his P-47D crashed in the Gulpen/Heerlen area, Holland.
A 2nd Lt. Carroll M. Ross from the 552nd AAA Auto Wpns BN (Mb1) witnessed the crash of a P-47 aircraft in the vicinity of Petergensfeld, Holland near Roetgen, Germany. The aircraft violently exploded on impact which scattered wreckage over a two acres area. It appeared that a bomb that was still on the aircraft exploded upon impact and not only destroyed the aircraft but also partially demolished a house.
The 552nd was a mobile AAA (Anti-Air Artillery) battalion which was attached to the US 78th Infantry Division and were dug-in in the Ardennes forest near Roetgen, Germany, primarily to engage V1 “Buzz bombs”.
2nd Lt. Ross watched the aircraft from the time it started to dive until it crashed and did not see the pilot bale out. He went to the scene of the crash and whilst searching in the burning wreckage he found one ‘Dog Tag’ bearing the name Robert G. Fenstermacher O-818531 and also a small piece of officers’ forest green shirt. He also saw some remains of the pilot amidst the glowing embers and was of the opinion that the pilot’s remains were completely consumed by the fire.
It has been reported that the enemy target 1st Lt. Fenstermacher and his flight were tasked to attack was in fact in Allied hands and that he had been shot down by friendly fire.
1st Lt. Fenstermacher’s elder brother Richard, who had served with ground forces during the Battle of the Bulge, had tried for years to find out if any trace of his brother had been found. In 2012 volunteers from the History Flight and a group of local historians began excavating the front garden of a private house at Petergensfeld in Belgium and recovered aircraft wreckage and human remains. The wreckage was identified as parts of a P-47D Thunderbolt. The human remains were turned over to the Joint PoW/MiA Accounting Command (JPAC) and were identified as those of 1st Lt. Fenstermacher.
Above: 1st Lt. Robert G. Fenstermacher inscribed on Tablets of the Missing (Credit: Michel Beckers)
1st Lt. Robert George Fenstermacher. Air Medal (8 Oak Leaf Clusters (=1 Silver and 2 Bronze), Purple Heart. Memorialised on the Tablets of the Missing at the Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten. Born on the 12th December 1921 in Scranton, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania. Son of Robert George and Mae (née Richards) Fenstermacher from Scranton, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania. Husband to Edna (née Williams) Fenstermacher also from Scranton, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania, USA.
A rosette has been added alongside his name on the Tablets of the Missing to mark that he now has a known gravesite.
Above: Memorial marker (Credit: Cathy and Tim Sheffler - FindAGrave)
He is also remembered at the Abington Hills Cemetery in Lackawanna, Pennsylvania, USA.
The family had suffered an earlier tragedy when Robert’s father, a superintendent of the Atlantic & Pacific Tea (A&P) Company in Scranton, who had been a victim of a holdup in March 1930, passed away in April 1932. Family members believed that he had never fully recovered from the treatment inflicted upon him during the robbery and when he fell seriously ill he did not recover.
The remains of 1st Lt. Fenstermacher were repatriated and interred with Military Honours at the Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia in Plot 60/10353 on the 18th October 2013.
Researched by Ralph Snape for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this Pilot.