14.02.1945 557th Bombardment Squadron (M) B-26B 41-31710 ‘General Sherman’, 2nd Lt. Peter Gregorchuk
Operation: Enger, Germany
Date: 14th February 1945 (Wednesday)
Unit No: 557th Bombardment Squadron (M), 387th Bombardment Group (M), 9th Air Force
Type: B-26B General Sherman
Serial No: 41-31710
Location: Sayn near Koblenz, Germany
Base: Clastres (ALG A-71), France
Pilot: 2nd Lt. Peter Gregorchuk O-721708 AAF Age 31. PoW *
Co Pilot: 2nd Lt. Carl Wilfred Heline O-721070 AAF Age 22. Murdered (1)
Togglier: T/Sgt. Philip Philander Griffee 16044004 AAF Age 26. PoW *
Radio Op/Gunner: Sgt. Dominic DiBlasio 32240791 AAF Age 28. PoW *
Engineer/Gunner: Sgt. William Braxton Harbour 34637214 AAF Age 19. PoW *
Gunner: Sgt. Howard L. Nelson 37233648 AAF Age? PoW *
* Unknown PoW Camp
Togglier. When it was required for all aircraft in a Squadron formation to drop their bombs simultaneously, the designated Bombardier was on the lead aircraft. The task of the Bombardiers in the rest of the formation was to drop their bombs when the lead aircraft dropped theirs. The role of Togglier was usually carried out by an enlisted crew member.
REASON FOR LOSS:
The General Sherman took off from Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) A-71 and joined a mission to bomb Enger in Germany.
Above: B-26B 41-31710 General Sherman (Credit of Stan D. Bishop - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces - Volume 6)
The after mission statements submitted by the crew members from three aircraft in the formation describes what they witnessed in the loss of the General Sherman:
I, S/Sgt. Pat H. Fitzgerald, ASN 38165402, was flying as engineer gunner in ship #41-31720, which was flying number two (2) position. I saw ship #41-31710 leave the formation with its left engine burning. It went into a dive and when it came out the fire was out and it looked well under control. I lost sight of it then. I did see four parachutes open and possibly a fifth.
I, S/Sgt. Olus E. Price, ASN 6292825, was flying as engineer gunner on ship #41-35248, which was flying in number four (4) position. I saw the ship when it was hit by flak and when it left the formation it was burning. I saw five parachutes open. I saw it flying along low until it hit in an open field.
I, S/Sgt. Hilbert G. Swanson, ASN 16078375, was flying as radio operator in ship #41-31716, which was flying in number six (6) position. I didn't see the ship until it had left the formation. The ship was still burning and I saw four chutes open. I lost sight of it when our ship went into a bank.
The aircraft crashed at 16:45 hrs near Sayn, 9½ km (6 mls) north of Koblenz, Germany. German documents recorded that one of the crew from this aircraft, whose remains could not be identified, was buried in the Cemetery in Mülhofen in grave number 1 on the 15th February 1945. This record cannot be correct because the images of ‘dog tags’ appended to the German record are those for 2nd Lt. Heline.
Note: The airman buried in the Mülhofen cemetery grave 1 has yet to be identified.
Exhumation documents record that 2nd Lt. Heline had been buried at the Rengsdorf Cemetery in grave number 3.
Mülhofen is some 10 km (6¼ mls) SE of Rengsdorf.
(1) 2nd Lt. Heline was seen to bail out of the bomb bay by 2nd Lt. Gregorchuk and T/Sgt. Griffee and was uninjured .
The circumstances leading to the death of 2nd Lt. Heline was to have been determined in the 1st of three trials convened in Hamburg between the 25th and 30th June 1947.
Six German nationals where charged in three trials (cases):
SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lt Col) Wilhelm Wiebens who was the head of the SD detachment at Straßenhaus;
SD-Hauptsturmführer (Capt) Hermann Kagel;
SD-Obersturmführer (1st Lt) Otto Bauhofer;
SD-Obersturmführer (1st Lt) Hans Werner Pausebach;
SD-Unterscharführer (L/Cpl) Cornelius Kayser;
SD-Oberscharführer (Sgt) Heinrich Fritz Herzog.
SD= Sicherheitsdienst was the Security service for the SS = Schutzstaffel.
In the 1st Case, Herzog was originally charged in that he in the neighbourhood of Rengsdorf, Germany, on or about 15th February 1945 in violation of the laws and usages of war, was concerned in the killing of an Allied airman PoW believed to be 2nd Lt. C.W. Heline USAAF.
In the 3rd Case Charge 1, Wiebens, Bauhofer and Kagel were charged in that they in the neighbourhood of Rengsdorf, Germany, on or about 22nd December 1944 in violation of the laws and usages of war, were concerned in the killing of an Allied airman PoW believed to be 1st Lt. John E. McDonell, [sic] USAAF.
In the 3rd Case Charge 2, Wiebens and Bauhofer were charged in that they in the neighbourhood of Rengsdorf, Germany, on or about 31st January 1945 in violation of then laws and usages of war, were concerned in the killing of an Allied airman PoW believed to be Flt Lt. J.K. Livingstone RAF.
In the 2nd Case, Kayser and Pausebach were charged in that they in the neighbourhood of Rengsdorf, Germany, on or about 31st January 1945 in violation of the laws and usages of war, were concerned in the killing of an Allied airman PoW believed to be Flt Lt. J.K. Livingstone RAF.
The original charging documents listed Wiebens, Herzog and an SD-Hauptscharführer (T/Sgt) Karl Kaiser as suspects in the death of 2nd Lt. Heline.
However, the charge against Wiebens and Herzog were not proceeded by the court. Kaiser was not before the court because he had not been found.
The Gendarmeriemeister (Rural police Warrant Officer (WO)) of Rengsdorf, a Ludwig Neuendoerfer, described in a sworn statement that about 8 days after the death of Flt Lt Livingstone at midday [actually on about the 14th February 1945] he was told by a Frau Runkel, a local resident, that she had found a dead or wounded American, whilst she was gathering firewood in the forest. [in the vicinity of Oberraden and Straßenhaus].
Neuendoerfer took her on his motorcycle to the location and found the body of an American airman. The dead airman was kneeling forward with his hands on the ground in front of him with his head on the ground. Upon examining the body he found a considerable amount of blood on his chest but none noticeable on his head. He could not see any bullet wounds.
He recognised the uniform the airman was wearing as American. He was bare headed and wearing only one boot. He still had his ‘dog tags’ but he could find no papers on the body and neither could he find a parachute in the vicinity.
When he returned to Rengsdorf he was informed that a person from the SD detachment had delivered the dead man’s papers. He then arranged for the body to be collected and buried in the Rengsdorf Cemetery. A day or two later he met Kaiser and asked him where the body had come from. Kaiser told him that he had brought the airman from Neuwied which is some 7½ km (4½ mls) to the south of Rengsdorf.
The statement made by Neuendoerfer strongly suggests that SD-Hauptscharführer (T/Sgt) Karl Kaiser was in some capacity involved in the suspicious death of 2nd Lt. Heline.
2nd Lt. Heline was initially interred at the Rengsdorf Cemetery in grave number 3.
Above Grave marker for 2nd Lt. Heline (Courtesy of Des Philippet – FindAGrave)
2nd Lt. Carl Wilfred Heline. Purple Heart. Reinterred at the Netherlands American Cemetery, Plot YY, Row 5, Grave 122 as X-2334 on the 14th February 1946. Relocated to Plot J, Row 2, Grave 16. Born on the 8th April 1922 in Marcus, Cherokee, Iowa. Son of Oscar Emanuel and Mary Mabel (née Magee) Heline of Amherst, Cherokee, Iowa, USA.
Researched by Traugott Vitz and Ralph Snape for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew. Thanks also to Traugott Vitz for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’.