17.02.1945 563rd Bomb Squadron (H) B-17G 44-8437, Capt. Robert Gladstone
Operation: Frankfurt (Mission #834), marshalling yards, Germany
Date: 17th February 1945 (Saturday)
Unit: 388th Bombardment Group (H), 563rd Bombardment Squadron (H), 3rd Air Division, 8th Air Force
Serial No: 44-8437
Location: Hanau, Germany
Base: Knettishall (Station #136), Suffolk, England
Pilot: Capt. Robert Gladstone O-817660 AAF Age 22. Killed
Co-Pilot: 1st.Lt. Robert Edward Murphy O-556059 AAF Age 22. Killed
Navigator: 1st.Lt. John Kennedy Gardner O-718282 AAF Age 20. Killed
Bombardier: 1st.Lt. Paul Gocht Ballard O-1323227 AAF Age 25. Killed
Radio/Op: T/Sgt. Charles Bernard Goldstein 32820275 AAF Age 29. Survived (1)
Eng/Top Turret Gnr: T/Sgt. Clayton E. Hamilton 18165637 AAF Age 24. Killed
Ball Turret Gnr: S/Sgt. John Edward Grady 37632091 AAF Age 19. Killed
Waist Gnr: S/Sgt. Joseph Eugene Prokop 6997287 AAF Age 22. Killed
Tail Gnr: S/Sgt. William Alvin Pitts 34358930 AAF Age 24. PoW *
§ RCM: Sgt. Kenneth Lewellyn Hausladen 39541485 AAF Age 22. Killed
One of the two Waist Gunners were removed from crew complements starting on the 7th June 1944 and then both from 23rd February 1945.
* Dulag Luft hospital at Hohemark, moved to transit camp at Wetzlar, moved to Stalag Luft 3 Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria). He was liberated whilst at Stalag Luft 7a, Moosburg, Bavaria, Germany.
§ RCM = Radio Counter Measures operator.
REASON FOR LOSS:
B-17G 44-8437 took off during the morning of the 17th February 1945 from Knettishall in Suffolk on a mission to bomb the marshalling yards at Frankfurt in Germany.
There are conflicting reports regarding the location where B-17G 44-8437 was shot down. An analysis of the available documentation has concluded that the after mission report for the incident should be discounted as it gives a position some 95 miles due west of Hanau. Additionally, the description of the loss of the aircraft is at odds with the description provided by S/Sgt Pitts’ Individual Casualty Questionnaire (ICQ). Furthermore, German documentation recorded that the aircraft wreckage fell onto what was the Güterbahnhof (freight station) in Hanau at 1220 hours local.
S/Sgt. Pitts’ ICQ recalls that the aircraft was hit by flak about two minutes after dropping its bombs on the target in Frankfurt. From the available documentation it can be deduced that the formation’s track after bombing the target took the aircraft towards Hanau.
S/Sgt. Pitts believed that the flak shot away the aircraft controls. He described that the aircraft entered a steep dive, rolled over on its back and started spinning down. He made for the escape hatch and bailed out but did not see anyone else bail out after he had cleared the aircraft. He had sustained wounds to the right hand, chest and both legs and was captured near to Dörnigheim, which is on the northern bank of the river Main and some 4 miles due west of Hanau. He also mentions that he did not know what happened to T/Sgt. Goldstein or the other crew from the aircraft.
No German documents have been found that provide any information regarding this crew. However, a police report provided by a Thomas Rost, a researcher from Hamburg, recorded that seven bodies had been recovered from the B-17G 44-8437 crash site. Those explicitly named were Capt. Gladstone, 1st.Lt. Gardner, 1st.Lt. Ballard, T/Sgt. Hamilton, S/Sgt. Grady and Sgt. Hausladen. There was one unknown on this list which has subsequently been identified as 1st.Lt. Murphy.
(1) The fate of T/Sgt. Goldstein and S/Sgt. Prokop were not known until a General Military Government Court was convened at Ludwigsburg, Germany on the 29th November and the 1st to the 8th December 1945.
Two German nationals were charged that they did, at or near Hanau, Germany, on or about the 17th February 1945, wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid, abet, and participate in the killing of Charles B. Goldstein, a member of the United States army, who was then unarmed, surrendered PoW in the custody of the then German Reich.
The accused were Adolf Weger, who was a former Kriminalkommissar (Capt.) in the Gestapo and a member of the Nazi party; Julius Schulze, who was a former Kriminalsekretär (2nd.Lt.) in the Gestapo and *Karl Neuber who was a former Gestapo Driver and file clerk in Weger’s office.
* Neuber was named in the charge narrative but he was not before the court as he was sick in hospital. He was later brought before a General Military Government Court which was convened at Ludwigsburg, Germany on the 17th May 1946 and was charged with the same offence as were Weger and Schulze.
The court heard that during a raid on the city of Hanau*, Germany, which occurred in the late morning hours on the 17th February 1945, three American airmen were forced to parachute from their disabled plane in the vicinity of the harbour area of Hanau **. The three were taken into custody and turned over to the Sicherheitspolizei (Security police).
* The mission was the marshalling yards in Frankfurt and the aircraft crashed in Hanau.
** This description is difficult to reconcile given that two are now known to be from B-17G 44-8437 and one from B-17G 43-38623 'Easy Does it’.
During the early part of the afternoon that day a police vehicle from the Kriminalpolizei (Criminal Police) Headquarters (HQ) of Hanau collected the three airmen from the Sicherheitspolizei HQ. On arrival at the Kriminalpolizei HQ they were seen by Weger, They were then turned over to the Kriminalpolizei and held in separate rooms.
Later in the afternoon Kriminaldirektor (Maj.) Hermann Fehrle called an interpreter, named Oelschläger, and proceeded to interrogate each of the airmen separately in Weger’s office. Also present were Weger, Schulze and Guggenberger, a Sicherheitspolizei Kommissar. During the interrogation it was discovered that one of the airmen was T/Sgt. Goldstein and another was S/Sgt. Warren Hammond*. The identity of the third airman was not recorded. However, information provided by Thomas Rost has enabled our research to conclude with some degree of certainty that the unnamed airman was S/Sgt. Prokop.
* This was S/Sgt. Warren George Hammond, the Engineer from B-17G 43-38623 'Easy Does it’ (561BS,388BG).
During the interrogation of the airmen Fehrle was abusive towards them calling them gangsters and murderers whilst brandishing his pistol in a threatening manner. When he discovered that T/Sgt. Goldstein was Jewish he flew into a rage, cursing and shouting, and he slapped the airman, calling him a murderer. After completing the interrogations Fehrle called for the police doctor, a Fritz Hochapfel, to attend to one of the airmen who had been wounded before he had been taken into custody.
Fehrle then went to Weger’s office and told him to have the airmen shot or to shoot them himself. Weger went to the guard room where he told Neuber and Schulze that the airmen were to be shot. It was decided that the shooting would take place in the rear court yard of the Kriminalpolizei HQ. Neuber suggested that the airmen should be transferred to the Luftwaffe airbase at Langendiebach. Guggenberger who was also present shouted at him and told him to keep his mouth shut.
Weger, Schulze, Guggenberger and Neuber then proceeded to the court yard at the rear of the Kriminalpolizei HQ. Weger instructed Neuber and Schulze to bring the first airman to the court yard. As he was brought in Weger shot the airman in the back of his head. This was repeated for the second airman except this time Weger told Schulze it was his turn to shoot the airman. Schulze’s pistol jammed so Weger handed him his pistol which Schulze used to shoot the airman. Guggenberger, Schulze and Neuber then proceeded to fetch the third airman. It was suggested that Guggenberger who was walking behind the airman fired the fatal shot.
The bodies of the three airmen were then loaded into a police van by Guggenberger, Weger and Schulze. Schulze, Guggenberger and Neuber got into the van and directed the driver to take the bodies to the place in the harbour area of Hanau where an American aircraft had crashed. This aircraft has been identified as B-17G 43-38623 Easy Does it. Here they left the bodies with several other American airmen who had died in the crash.
The dead from both crash sites were initially buried at the Hauptfriedhof (Main Cemetery) Hanau. On the 31st July and 1st August 1945 ten bodies were exhumed from this cemetery. A pathologist found that two of the bodies showed evidence of bullet wounds to their necks and a third a bullet wound to the left temple.
Weger was sentenced to death by shooting. The Review and Recommendation (R&R) board commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment, which was later reduced to 30 years and then to 27 years and he was paroled in October 1954. Schulze was sentenced to life imprisonment which was reduced to 25 years by the R&R board and he was paroled in December 1953. Neuber was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment for his involvement in the murders. He was paroled in August 1950.
Clearly Fehrle and Guggenberger were implicated in the murders of the three airmen. Research conducted by Thomas Rost Et Al has determined that Fehrle had committed suicide in July 1945 whilst in custody. It is not known why Guggenberger was not before the court for his involvement.
After the bodies were exhumed they where reinterred at the Lorraine American Cemetery. Only S/Sgt. Grady and Sgt. Hausladen were positively identified from their ‘dog tags’ at the time the MACR for this aircraft was compiled. When or if the positive identification of the remaining airmen was carried out is unknown.
On 17th February 2020 Hanau marked the 75th anniversary of the killings of S/Sgt. Joseph Eugene Prokop, T/Sgt. Charles Bernard Goldstein and T/Sgt. Warren George Hammond by erecting a memorial plaque with their names at the site of their executions.
Capt. Robert Gladstone. Air Medal (4 Oak Leaf Clusters). Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, X-525, Plot W, Row 8, Grave 3261. Relocated to Plot F, Row 7, Grave 33. Born in 1923. Son of Max Joseph and Sadie (née Sheffer) Gladstone of Revere, Suffolk, Massachusetts, USA.
1st.Lt. Robert Edward Murphy. Air Medal (4 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Lorraine American Cemetery, Plot W, Row 6, Grave 3231. Relocated to Plot B, Row 21, Grave 41. Born in 1922. Son of Harold James and Ardis Emma (née Lawrence) Murphy, of Gouverneur, St. Lawrence, New York, USA.
1st.Lt. John Kennedy Gardner. Air Medal (4 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, X-518, Plot W, Row 8, Grave 3230. Relocated to Plot D, Row 33, Grave 25. Born in 1924. Son to Pauline W. Gardner, Jamesburg, New Jersey, USA.
1st.Lt. Paul Gocht Ballard. Air Medal (4 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, X-520, Plot W, Row 8, Grave 3233. Relocated to Plot E, Row 31, Grave 38. Born on the 27th February 1919. Husband to Margaret (née Burnham) od Brookhaven, Suffolk, New York. Son to Harold Mead and Ella Anna (née Gocht) Ballard of Brookhaven, Suffolk, New York, USA.
T/Sgt. Charles Bernard Goldstein. Air Medal (4 Oak Leaf Clusters). Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, X-529, Plot W, Row 10, Grave 3278. Relocated to Plot B, Row 35, Grave 27. Born on the 8th May 1915. Son to Harry Goldstein of New York, New York, USA.
T/Sgt. Clayton E. Hamilton. Air Medal (4 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, X-526, Plot W, Row 8, Grave 3263. Relocated to Plot F, Row 3, Grave 26. Born in 1921. Son to William A. and Cordelia Ruth (née Thomas) Hamilton of North Little Rock, Pulaski, Arkansas, USA.
S/Sgt. John Edward Grady. Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, Plot W, Row 6, Grave 3235. Repatriated and buried in the Cardwell Cemetery, Dunklin County, Missouri. Born on the 22nd September 1925. Son to William E. and Sarethna E. (née Newsom) Grady of Cardwell, Dunklin, Missouri, USA.
S/Sgt. Joseph Eugene Prokop. Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, X-522, Plot W, Row 6, Grave 3236. Repatriated and buried at the Cathedral Cemetery, Scranton, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania. Born on the 21st October 1922. Son to John Michael and Anna (née Heiner) Prokop of Lackawanna, Pennsylvania, USA.
Sgt. Kenneth Lewellyn Hausladen. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, Plot W, Row 6, Grave 3232. Relocated to Plot F, Row 10, Grave 11. Born on the 2nd April 1922. Son to Charles Carl and Mabel Marie (née Hornig) of Vista, San Diego, California, 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’. Thank also to Thomas Rost from Hamburg for providing the information that assisted in identifying the third murder victim.