Operation: Merseburg oil installation (Mission #503), Germany
Date: 29th July 1944 (Saturday)
Unit No: 350th Bombardment Squadron (H), 100th Bombardment Group (H), 3rd Air Division, 8th Air Force
Type: B-17G Randie Lou aka Buffalo Gal
Serial No: 42-31537
Location: Bad Kösen, about 950 m (½ ml) east of Punschrau, Germany
Base: Thorpe Abbotts (Station #139), Norfolk, England
Pilot: 1st Lt. William Thomas ‘Buzz’ Fitzroy DFC, O-755538 AAF Age 24. PoW *
Co Pilot: 1st Lt. Robert ‘Bob’ Dykeman DFC, O-755534 AAF Age 24. Murdered (1)
Navigator: 2nd.Lt. Floyd F. Hartman O-808050 AAF Age 26. PoW *
Togglier: T/Sgt. Floyd Oscar Douglas 32383566 AAF Age 23. KiA (2)
Radio/Op: T/Sgt. Carmine V. Roberto 15322527 AAF Age 23. KiA
Engineer: T/Sgt. Ira Lawrence Arnold 38338409 AAF Age 22. KiA (2)
Ball Turret Gnr: S/Sgt. Bernard Lefler Spragg 33301833 AAF Age 27. PoW **
Waist Gnr: Sgt. Frank William ‘Bud’ Buschmeier 35683437 AAF Age 21. PoW **
Tail Gnr: Sgt. Joseph P. O’Donnell 12085105 AAF Age? PoW **
One of the two Waist Gunners were removed from crew complements starting on the 7th June 1944 and then both from 23rd February 1945.
* Stalag Luft 1 Barth-Vogelsang, today part of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany.
** 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:
(Courtesy of American Air Museum Roger Freeman collection)
On the morning of the 29th July 1944, for the second day in a row, the 100th BG took off from Thorpe Abbotts to bomb the Merseburg oil installation in Germany. Randie Lou was in #3 position in the high box. The formation flew on a southerly course towards Merseburg and was hit in a barrage of extremely heavy flak. Over the next few minutes, the low squadron of the 100th BG was hard hit, losing 5 of its 6 aircraft. Returning crews believed that German fighters were radioing the formation’s altitude whilst flying though their own flak. The entire low squadron of the 100th BG failed to return.
Randie Lou was last sighted at about 10:21 hrs at Lat/Long 51 07N, 11 42E which is some 2½ km (1½ mls) SW of Bad Kösen.
The assistant adjutant for the squadron reported that:
“No specific information concerning the loss of this a/c is available. The leader of this Squadron suffered flak damage before the target and jettisoned his bombs. The formation broke up and all a/c became stragglers. All were lost, presumably to e/a after passing over the target of opportunity.”
From the MACR it can be established that the Randie Lou was damaged by flak over the target and then finished off by German fighters. The aircraft blew up in mid-air and the wreckage crashed near Bad Kösen, about 950 m (½ ml) east of Punschrau, about 32 km (20 mls) SW of Merseburg.
The location of Punschrau and Naumburg is within the Jägermeldenetz map (Fighter network reporting grid) location of 15 Ost/ Box S/MD.
The OKL fighter claims for the Reich, West & Südfront on the 29th July 1944, lists a number of unconfirmed B-17 claims at the above Jägermeldenetz location with all but one to the east and north of Naumburg. Although it has not been possible to positively associate a claim for shooting down the ‘Randie Lou’ there was one probable but unconfirmed claim by Oberfeldwebel (Ofw) Ernst Haase, his 8th and final Abschuss, from 1./JG 302 at 10:20 hrs in (box) 15 Ost S/MD at 7000 m in the vicinity of Naumburg.
Haase crashed his Bf-109 whilst landing at Stade, Germany and was injured. He was reported to have been killed in unknown circumstances on the 25th February 1945.
T/Sgt. Douglas was hit in the neck and killed by a 20mm cannon shell during the first pass of the German fighters. It was later established that six of the crew managed to bail out of the aircraft. German reports recorded that T/Sgt. Douglas, T/Sgt. Roberto and T/Sgt. Arnold were recovered from the aircraft wreckage.
Sgt. Buschmeier was wounded in the leg during the fighter attacks and after landing was captured by the Landwacht (Home Guard) and was assisted by S/Sgt. Spragg because of his leg injury.
(1) The circumstance of the death 1st Lt. Dykeman were determined by an American General Military Court which was convened at Ludwigsburg, Germany on the 19th March 1946.
Ernst Müller, a German national, was charged in that he did, at or near Altenburg, on or about the 30th August 1944 [sic], wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid, abet and participate in the killing of 1st.Lt. Dykeman, a member of the United States Army, then an unarmed, surrendered PoW in the custody of the then German Reich, by shooting him with a gun.
Müller was a former Meister of Gendarmerie (Warrant Officer (WO) in the state rural police) and a member of the Nazi party.
The court heard that on the 27th August 1944 [sic] there was a meeting of the Gendarmerie in Weißenfeld where it was claimed that a high ranking officer of the Gendarmerie instructed the meeting that all Allied airmen were to turned over to civilians to be killed. During the meeting this officer pointed out a case in which a member of the Gendarmerie who had not carried out such orders had “been taken care of”.
On the day in question Müller reported to his post in Altenburg and then proceeded to Niedermöllern on his motorcycle. There, on a bend of the road he saw a civilian, named Neideman, emerging from a ditch with an airman in custody. Müller spoke to the airman in German and asked him why he was bombing German women and children. He claimed that the airman laughed and it was then that Müller responded by shooting him and inflicting a flesh wound to the left side of the airman’s torso. As the airman stepped forward to stop a second shot, Müller pushed him away and fired again this time hitting him in the left chest area. The prosecution claimed that Müller’s intention was to kill the airman with his second shot.
At this point Neideman told Müller that there was a second airman nearby so Müller set off to capture him telling Neideman to remain with the injured airman. Müller went to a restaurant about 1km away, where a number of captured airmen were being held. Whilst there his section leader arrived on the scene and ordered him to search the nearby woods for more parachuted airmen.
Finally, Müller returned to the scene where he had shot the airman. He claimed that Neideman was not there and an unnamed German civilian told him that an unnamed solider had come along and shot the airman through the head, killing him.
Müller checked the nationality and name of the airman from his papers and identified him as an American named Lt. Dykemann. He arranged the removal of the body from the field to be buried a couple of days later in the cemetery at Altenburg.
It his defence Müller claimed that he had shot the airman because one of his comrades, a man named Schubart, had ended up in a concentration camp for not following the order to hand over captured airmen to civilians to be killed. Müller also did not believe that the airman had died as a result of his shots and that examination of the remains would certainly prove that he had died from a gunshot wound to the head.
The court considered the evidence that all witnesses to the events were located in the Russian Zone of occupation and that the body of the victim was also in that location, and had not been exhumed at the time of the trial. However, the court considered that there was sufficient evidence presented to find Müller guilty of the charge and sentenced him to death. He was hanged on the 10th June 1947 at Landsberg.
(2) 1st Lt. Fitzroy claimed that he saw 12 Americans hanged and shot by the Germans on the 29th July 1944, among them 1st Lt. Dykeman, T/Sgt. Arnold and T/Sgt. Douglas. (Information from the 100 BG Association web site).
During a video interview with Sgt. Buschmeier for the Veterans History Project - Cincinnati & Hamilton County Library he mentioned that he had been told by 1st Lt. Fitzroy that T/Sgt. Arnold had been killed by German civilians.
However, a German document recorded that T/Sgt. Arnold’s burned body had been recovered from the aircraft wreckage. No information has been found that indicates that T/Sgt. Douglas died as a result of hostile action on the ground.
German records documented that 1st Lt. Dykeman was initially buried in the Altenburg Cemetery. T/Sgt. Douglas, T/Sgt. Roberto and T/Sgt. Arnold were buried at the Hassenhausen Cemetery on the 30th July at 11:00hrs.
Above 1st.Lt. Dykeman (Courtesy of Jax - FindAGrave)
1st Lt. Robert ‘Bob’ Dykeman. DFC, Air Medal (3 Oak Leaf Clusters). Reinterred in the American Ardennes Cemetery Plot HH, Row 5, Grave 113. Repatriated and interred at the Glen Haven Memorial Park, San Fernando, California. Born on the 1st June 1921 in Santa Clara, California. Son of Percy and Martha Ayers Dykeman of Canoga, California, USA.
T/Sgt. Floyd Oscar Douglas. Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster), Purple Heart. Reinterred in the American Netherlands Cemetery Plot DD, Row 6, Grave 120. Repatriated on the 5th October 1948, and interred at the McGraw Cemetery, McGraw, New York. Born on the 23rd August 1921 in Oklahoma. Son of Jessie M. Douglas from Syracuse, New York, USA.
Above Cutting - Courtesy of The Akron Beacon Journal, October 14, 1944; Right: Marker - Courtesy of Grafton National cemetery)
T/Sgt. Carmine V. Roberto. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters). Reinterred in the American Lorraine Cemetery. Repatriated on the 15th December 1948 and interred at the Grafton National Cemetery, Plot B, Grave 1738, Grafton, West Virginia. Born on the 18th November 1920 in Ohio. Son of Rosa Roberto of Ravenna, Ohio, USA.
T/Sgt. Ira Lawrence Arnold. Air Medal (3 Oak Leaf Clusters). Reinterred in the American Lorraine Cemetery. Repatriated on the 30th March 1950 and interred at the Fort Bliss National Cemetery, Plot E, Grave 9632, El Paso, Texas. Born on the 7th March 1922 in Kent, Texas. Son of James Ernest and Katherine (née Taylor) Arnold of Baileyboro, Texas, USA.
Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’.
RS & TV 22.01.2021 - Correction to Stalag Luft 1 details.
RS & TV 29.09.2020 - Initial upload
RS & TV 22.01.2021 - Correction to Stalag Luft 1 details.
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