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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
20.02.1945 562nd Bomb Squadron (H) B-17G 44-8223 ‘Miss Karen K’, Capt. Richard E. Gaspard

Operation: Nürnberg (Mission #836), Germany

Date: 20th February 1945 (Tuesday)

Unit: 388th Bombardment Group (H), 562nd Bombardment Squadron (H), 3rd Air Division, 8th Air Force

Type: B-17G Miss Karen K

Serial No: 44-8223

Code: X

Location: Osterholz about ¾ km west of Ludwigsburg, Germany

Base: Knettishall (Station #136), Suffolk, England

Cmd Pilot: Capt. Richard Eddy Gaspard O-024727 AAF Age 27. PoW *

Pilot: Capt. Ivan Paul Woodburn O-761688 AAF Age 28. PoW *

Co Pilot: 1st Lt. Adam John Imthurn Jr. O-762538 AAF Age 23. Killed (1)

Navigator: 2nd Lt. Edwin Kabcenell O-1997850 AAF Age? PoW/Killed

Bombardier: 1st Lt. Robert Frank Nelson O-757911 AAF Age 25. PoW *

Mickey Op: 1st Lt. Joseph Jacob Zaic O-443759 AAF Age 23. Killed (1)

Radio Op: T/Sgt. Robert Lionel Hill 16081656 AAF Age 25. PoW *

Engineer: T/Sgt. Norman Joseph Lynn 31310212 AAF Age 29. PoW *

Waist Gunner: T/Sgt. Fletcher Henry Sauls 39919514 AAF Age 24. Killed (2)

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

REASON FOR LOSS:

The 388th BG detailed 38 aircraft including 4 Pathfinder Force (PFF) aircraft, one being Miss Karen K, on this mission and were airborne by 09:00 hrs on the 20th February 1945. The target at Nürnberg (Nuremberg) was the southern marshalling yards, which was attacked by squadrons using PFF methods.

Pathfinder Force (PFF) - PFF B-17s were equipped with an H2X ground mapping radar with the scanner housed in a semi-retractable Radome in place of the Ball Turret and the instrumentation in the aircraft radio room.

At 12:00 hrs Miss Karen K was on its bomb run and approximately 30 to 45 seconds before “Bombs Away” the aircraft was hit by flak which holed the starboard wing and set #3 and #4 engines ablaze. 1st Lt. Imthurn Jr., 1st Lt. Zaic, T/Sgt. Hill, T/Sgt. Lynn and T/Sgt. Sauls who were stationed to the rear of the cockpit saw the flames and bailed out.

Immediately after they bailed out Capt. Woodburn put the aircraft in a steep power dive and the flames were extinguished at about 12,000 ft. As speed and altitude were lost due to the loss of the two engines all removable equipment was thrown out in an attempt to reach friendly territory. However, while flying at about 2,500 ft some 13 km north of Stuttgart a flak battery opened fire and hit #1 engine, damaging the nose and horizontal stabilizer. The aircraft became uncontrollable and at about 800 ft the remainder of the crew bailed out.

The aircraft crashed at Osterholz about ¾ km west of Ludwigsburg which is some 12 km north of Stuttgart.

Capt. Gaspard, Capt. Woodburn, 1st Lt. Kabenall, and 1st Lt. Nelson landed within 1 km of Ludwigsburg, Germany. They were captured by German civilians who assaulted them before they were transferred to Gestapo control in Stuttgart. From there they were transported to Dulag Luft Oberursel for interrogation.

1st Lt. Nelson reported that it was at Dulag Luft he was made aware of some unsubstantiated information regarding the crew members that bailed out near Nürnberg. While being interrogated by a Hauptmann (Capt) he was informed that it was regrettable that three of his crew members would not be able to join him as they had run into difficulty with civilians. When 1st Lt. Nelson pressed the Hauptmann for further information, he said, "You answer my questions and I will answer yours". 1st Lt. Nelson chose to remain silent.

2nd Lt. Kabcenell and 1st Lt. Nelson were then sent to the Dulag at Wetzlar by train and were confined in a box car, forty men and three guards to a car. At Frankfurt railway station the train halted because of a bombing raid but they remained locked in the car. After the raid the train continued on to Wetzlar and was some 8 km to 11½ km north of Bad Homburg when it was strafed by US AAF P-51 Mustangs. A .50 calibre bullet grazed the shoulder of 1st Lt. Nelson and then killed 2nd Lt. Kabcenell. He was buried near a bridge.

8 km to 11½ km north of Bad Homburg is in the general area of Neu-Anspach and Wehrheim.

At Wetzlar 1st Lt. Nelson met T/Sgt. Hill, who was one of the crew that bailed out near Nürnberg, who told him that he had not seen or heard any of the crew that bailed out at the same time. Later at Stalag Luft 3 while talking to other American and British PoWs 1st Lt. Nelson found out that they had seen his B-17 start down in flames and witnessed several parachutes in the air.

Rumours were abound that some work Kommandos in Nürnberg had heard that on the 20th February three American airmen had been lynched by enraged German civilians. The Stalag German guards reinforced the impression that some American airmen had been lynched in Nürnberg and advised that it would not be wise to try and escape.

Upon liberation on the 29th April 1945 1st Lt. Nelson, on behalf of the crew, sent a report to the War Crimes Commission that outlined what he had heard. It is not known what investigation, if any, had been conducted or what became of 1st Lt. Nelson’s report.

(1) German cemetery records document that 1st Lt. Zaic and 1st Lt. Imthurn Jr., were found in the Hahnenschlag forest section in the Municipality of Veitsweiler, Germany on the 20th and 21st February 1945, respectively. No information regarding the circumstances of their deaths was recorded. They were buried in a cemetery in the Veitsweiler community. Both were recovered by US forces on the 7th February 1946.

Note: Veitsweiler is some 66 km SW of Nürnberg so the claim that they bailed out over the city and may have been been lynched by the local populace cannot be correct.

(2) Information regarding the location and circumstances of the death of T/Sgt. Sauls has not been found.

Burial Details:

1st Lt. Adam John Imthurn Jr. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Recovered and interred at the Lorraine American Cemetery, Plot 3T, Row 7, Grave 76. Repatriated and interred at the Forest Lawn Cemetery, Gresham, Multnomah County, Oregon. Born on the 20th December 1921. Son of Adam John Imthurn and Elsie (née Zirm) of Gresham, Oregon, USA.

2nd Lt. Edwin Kabcenell. Recovered and interred at the Lorraine American Cemetery, Plot 3R, Row 11, Grave 1340. Repatriated to New Jersey. Son of Louis Kabcenell of Jamaica, Queens, New York, USA.

Above: Grave marker for 1st Lt. Zaic. (credit: of the late Steve Edquist FindAGrave)

1st Lt. Joseph Jacob Zaic. Recovered and interred at the Lorraine American Cemetery, Plot 3T, Row 7, Grave 75. Repatriated to Fort Snelling National Cemetery Plot C, Row 24, Grave 14060, South Minneapolis. Minnesota. Born on the 9th December 1921 in Yugoslavia. Son of Joseph and Laura Zaic of Ely, St. Louis, Minnesota, USA.

Above: T/Sgt. Sauls picture and grave marker. (credit: patootie - FindAGrave and Randy Watkins - FindAGrave)

T/Sgt. Fletcher Henry Sauls. Recovered and interred at the Lorraine American Cemetery, Plot C, Row 24, Grave 14060. Repatriated to the Valhalla Gardens of Memory and Mausoleum, Belleville, St. Clair County, Illinois. Born on the 16th June 1920 in Georgia. Son of Albert Fletcher and Iva Viola (née Klusmeyer) Sauls of St. Clair, Illinois, 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’.

RS & TV 05.11.2021 - Initial upload

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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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