28.09.1944 360th Bombardment Squadron (H) B-17G 42-97805, 1st Lt. James T. Hahn DFC
Operation: Magdeburg (Mission #652), Germany
Date: 28th September 1944 (Thursday)
Unit No: 360th Bombardment Squadron (H), 303rd Bombardment Group (H), 1st Air Division, 8th Air Force
Serial No: 42-97805
Location: Halchter, about ¼ km (1½ mls) SSE of Wolfenbüttel
Base: Molesworth (Station #107), Huntingdonshire, England
Pilot: 1st Lt. James T. Hahn DFC. O-758448 AAF Age 23. Murdered (1)
Co-pilot: 2nd Lt. James Orrin Fulks O-705016 AAF Age 22. PoW *
Navigator: 2nd Lt. Charles Floyd Olson O-719136 AAF Age? PoW *
Bombardier: 1st Lt. Jack Harry Benford O-7760021 AAF Age 29. Killed
Radio Op: T/Sgt. John Richard Conkling DFC. 15113754 AAF Age 22. Killed (2)
Engineer: T/Sgt. Pete Matthew Kalasky 13037676 AAF Age 22. PoW **
Ball Turret: S/Sgt. Andrew Anthony Dabrowski DFC. 16119255 AAF Age 21. Killed
Waist Gunner: S/Sgt. Robert D. Proctor 11097311 AAF Age 21. Killed (2)
Tail Gunner: S/Sgt. Hans Howald DFC. 19149506 AAF Age 21. KiA
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:
The 303rd BG detailed 28 aircraft plus two borrowed PFF B-17 aircraft on a mission to bomb the Krupp Grusonwerke AG at Magdeburg, Germany. The secondary target, to be bombed if PFF means were used, was the Magdeburg railroad marshalling yards. Last resort targets were airfields at Gardelegen, Quedlinburg and Gießen.
Gardelegen airfield was 47 km (29 mls) NNW of Magdeburg and about 3 km (2 mls) ENE of Gardelegen;
Quedlinburg airfield was 58 km (36 mls) SSW of Magdeburg in Anhalt and 4½ km (3 mls) south of Quedlinburg;
Gießen airfield was 50 km 31 (mls) north of Frankfurt am Main and 3½ km (2¼ mls) ENE of the town centre.
The aircraft from the BG took off from Molesworth on the morning of the 28th September 1944 between 07:35 and 07:59 hrs. .
About 20 mins before reaching the target the formation was subjected to severe and intense fighter attacks and it was reported that the fuel tank behind #4 engine of 42-97805 was hit and caught fire. As the aircraft dropped out of formation there was an explosion and fire enveloped the entire starboard wing. The aircraft appeared to be under control and no parachutes were seen.
The aircraft exploded in mid-air with the wreckage falling to earth in the vicinity of Halchter about 2¼ km (1½ mls) SSE of Wolfenbüttel. It was reported that 1st Lt. Benford and S/Sgt. Howald perished in the aircraft, T/Sgt. Conkling and S/Sgt. Proctor bailed out but perished because their parachutes had been damaged and failed to open.
The OKL fighter claims for the Reich, West & Südfront on the 28th September 1944, lists three confirmed B-17 victories in the vicinity of Wolfenbüttel, however, it has not been possible to positively associate any of the claims for shooting down B-17G 42-97805.
Reports submitted by 2nd Lt. Fulks and 2nd Lt. Olson described the events aboard the aircraft.
2nd Lt. Fulks’ statement:
“On 28 September 1944 we were enroute to Magdeburg, Germany. Near Brunswick we encountered heavy fighter attacks and the controls of our ship were shot out and a large hole shot in the right wing. After repeated attempts to regain control of the ship proved futile, we were ordered by the pilot to bail-out. T/Sgt. Kalasky, Engineer, was the first to parachute, and I was the second man out of the ship. A short while after I had landed on the ground and taken prisoner by the Germans, I was shown two parachutes which were bloodstained and full of holes. I was also shown dogtags bearing the names of S/Sgt. Proctor and T/Sgt. Conkling, and was told by the Germans that these two men had been killed. I did not see their bodies. Later on I met Lt. Olson in a POW Camp and was told that the ship exploded a few seconds after I had parachuted, Lt. Olson being blown clear of the ship by the explosion. I know nothing further concerning the fate of other crew members other than Lt. Olson and T/Sgt. Kalasky. We three, Olson, Kalasky and myself, were together at Camp Lucky Strike, France, in the early part of June 1945, and submitted complete reports concerning this action to the Intelligence Officer at Camp Lucky Strike."
2nd Lt. Olson’s statement:
"The mission that I flew with S/Sgt. Robert N. Proctor, was the first time that I had flown with that particular crew. I was the replacement navigator. I was blown out of the aircraft when it exploded. The only two individuals whom I saw subsequent to the explosion were 2nd Lt. James O. Fulks, O-705016, and T/Sgt. Pete M. Kalasky, 13137676, at Brunswick, Germany, prior to interrogation at Frankfurt. Both Lt. Fulks and T/Sgt. Kalasky had bailed out of the aircraft prior to its explosion.”
In summary T/Sgt. Kalasky’s Individual Casualty Questionnaire described that the aircraft was attacked by German Fw 190s with a heavy concentration of 20mm cannon fire in the tail section which at same time hit his position in the top turret jamming the mechanism and blowing out all the plexi-glass. He saw one German fighter going down in flames and a second smoking.
After his turret was put out of action he immediately clipped on his parachute and then assisted the pilot and co-pilot in keeping the aircraft in level flight, which proved to be impossible due to the aileron controls being shot away. He saw the control column jammed to the extreme left causing the aircraft to spin. 1st Lt. Hahn had tried in vain to bring it back to neutral and then motioned for him to bailout. 2nd.Lt. Olson was the third man out from the nose hatch and he saw 1st Lt. Hahn clipping on his chest parachute prior to the aircraft exploding but he did not believe that he had bailed out.
He believed that S/Sgt Howald and S/Sgt. Dabrowski were either killed during the attack or when the aircraft exploded and last saw 1st Lt. Benford at his station preparing to bail out but he did not know why he failed to do so. 2nd Lt. Fulks told him that he saw two parachutes on the ground with holes in them and that the Germans showed him the ‘Dog tags’ for T/Sgt. Conkling and S/Sgt. Proctor but did not see their bodies.
After he had bailed out he saw pieces of plane floating down and heard a terrific explosion which nearly collapsed his parachute. After he had been captured he saw the tail assembly laying along side the road near Brunswick.
(1) The circumstances of the death of 1st Lt. James T. Hahn were determined by an American General Military Government court which was convened at Dachau, Germany between the 7th and 13th November 1946.
One German national, a Wilhelm Bock who was a former Wachtmeister (Sgt) of the Gendarmerie (Rural police), was charged on two counts that he did, at or near Halchter, Germany on or about the 28th September 1944, wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully kill two members of the United States Army. On the first count the individual was unnamed and on the second count the airman was named as James T. Hahn, both of whom were then surrendered and unnamed PoWs in the custody of the then German Reich, by shooting them with a gun.
The court heard that on or about the day in question two American airmen parachuted to safety in the vicinity of Halchter, Germany, surrendered, and were taken to the Rathaus (city hall). After searching the airmen Bock, armed with a pistol and a carbine left the Rathaus with the airmen. Shortly thereafter both airmen were shot by him near a gravel pit on the road to a nearby unknown Luftwaffe installation. One of the airmen was killed and the other suffered a gunshot wound to the chest but unbeknown to Bock was still alive. This airman was later was found by an Italian labourer and taken to Halchter.
On arrival in town the labourer was intercepted by Bock and was ordered to take the wounded airman to the barn of one of the local citizens. The airman walked from the vehicle to the barn where a local Red Cross nurse made him comfortable, talked with him and found that his name was James Hahn. Bock arrived and with his pistol drawn ordered the nurse, together with other the other present citizens, to leave.
Bock and the Bürgermeister (Mayor) of Halchter remained with the airman and shortly thereafter a shot was heard by three witnesses who testified at the trial. One of these witnesses saw Bock and the Bürgermeister leave and then entered the barn where he saw the dead body of the airman with a bullet wound to the head. The two airmen were buried in a common grave with four other airmen killed in the aircraft crash near Halchter on the same day.
Bock claimed that he shot the one of the airmen in self defence and the second because he was trying to escape. When he returned to the scene to collect the bodies and the personal belongings he found one of the airmen missing. He then returned to the Rathaus and the Bürgermeister told him that the airman had been brought to Halchter by an Italian labourer. He then went to the barn where the airmen was being tended and as he bent over to examine the airman his pistol, which he had drawn accidentally fired, the bullet striking 1st Lt. Hahn in the head killing him.
Bock’s version of the events was rejected by the court and he was found guilty on both counts of the charge. He was sentenced to death and was hanged at Landsberg on the 3rd April 1947.
The name of the Bürgermeister of Halchter is unknown as is the reason why he was not before the court to determine his part in the shooting of 1st Lt. Hahn.
(2) It has been speculated that the unnamed airman shot by Bock could have been either T/Sgt. Conkling or S/Sgt. Proctor but no corroborating evidence has been found to support or refute this speculation.
Above: 1st Lt. Hahn: (Courtesy of the Long Beach Independent, Tuesday, August 30th 1949)
1st Lt. James T. Hahn. DFC, Air Medal (3 Oak Leaf Clusters). Recovered and interred at the Netherlands American Cemetery, Plot X, Row 9, Grave 225 and later Plot DD, Row 2, Grave 48 as X-853. Repatriated and buried at the Rose Hills Memorial Park, Whittler, California. Born on the 15th October 1920 in California. Son of Floyd M. and Beatrice Caithness (née MacDonal) Hahn (His father predeceased him in January 1933) of Long Beach, California, USA.
1st Lt. Jack Harry Benford. Air Medal (3 Oak Leaf Clusters). Recovered and interred at the Netherlands American Cemetery, Plot X, Row 9, Grave 224. Repatriated and interred at the Wilhelm’s Portland Memorial Mausoleum, Portland, Oregon. Born on the 17th September 1915 in Pendleton, Oregon. Son to Harry Franklin and Mary Park (née Blue) Benford and husband to Rose Benford of Portland, Oregon, USA.
Above T/Sgt. Conkling (Courtesy Des Philippet - FindAGrave)
T/Sgt. John Richard Conkling. DFC, Air Medal (3 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Recovered and interred at the Netherlands American Cemetery, Plot DD, Row 2, Grave 49. Relocated to Plot M, Row 19, Grave 9. Born on the 2nd December 1922 in Montgomery, Ohio. Son of Raymond Vivian and Madeline Barfield (née Southhard) Conkling and husband to Elsie M. Conkling of Louisville, Kentucky, USA.
S/Sgt. Andrew Anthony Dabrowski. DFC, Air Medal (3 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Recovered and interred at the Netherlands American Cemetery, Plot X, Row 9, Grave ? as X-7973. Born on the 27th July 1922 in Muskegon, Michigan. Repatriated and buried at Saint Mary’s Cemetery Muskegon, Michigan. Son to John and Katherine (née Forrest) Dabrowski from Muskegon, Michigan, USA.
Above S/Sgt. Proctor (Courtesy Des Philippet - FindAGrave)
S/Sgt. Robert D. Proctor. Purple Heart. Recovered and interred at the Netherlands American Cemetery, Plot X, Row 12, Grave 283 and later Plot DD, Row 2, Grave 48. Relocated to Plot M, Row 19, Grave 10. Born during 1923 in Massachusetts. Son to Ralph Wesley and Gladys A. (née Johnson) Proctor and husband to Constance C. (née Cooper) Proctor from Auburn, Maine, USA.
S/Sgt. Hans Howald. DFC, Air Medal (3 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart (Oak Leaf Cluster). Recovered and interred at the Netherlands American Cemetery, Plot X, Row 12, Grave 284. Repatriated and buried at the Woodland Cemetery, Yolo County, California. Born on the 10th May 1923 in Woodland, Yolo, California. Son to Ernest and Emma (née Kardlie) Howald from Woodland, Yolo, California, USA.
S/Sgt. Howald was awarded his first Purple Heart for being wounded in the arm during operations in May 1944.
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’.