Operation: Gaggenau (Mission #619), Germany
Date: 10th September 1944 (Sunday)
Unit No: 749th Bombardment Squadron (H), 457th Bombardment Group (H), 1st Air Division, 8th Air Force
Type: B-17G You Never Know
Serial No: 42-32086
Location: Between villages of Senan, Neuilly and Champlay, France
Base: Glatton (Station #130), Huntingdonshire, England
Pilot: 1st Lt. Loren Gilbert Hampton O-750981 AAF Age 24. Returned
Co Pilot: 2nd Lt. Orville Kenneth Hocker O-761739 AAF Age 26. Returned
Navigator: 2nd Lt. Robert E. Mattox O-719988 AAF Age? Returned
Bombardier: 2nd Lt. Andrew Richard Friesen O-769273 AAF Age 25. Returned
Radio/Op: S/Sgt. Russell George Karl 36482202 AAF Age 23. Returned
Engineer: S/Sgt. Maurice Alvin Diehl 36746299 AAF Age 22. Returned
Ball Turret: Sgt. Thomas V. Farrell 32856644 AAF Age 19. Returned
Waist Gunner: Sgt. Michael Pipock 16176838 AAF Age 19.Murdered (1)
Tail Gunne: Sgt. Glen Eldon Seeber 17166374 AAF Age 19. KiA (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.
Cpl. Charles W. Lusk, ground crew member, washing down the Boeing B-17G 'You Never Know' at an airbase somewhere in England.(Credit-Fold3)
REASON FOR LOSS:
You Never Know took off from Glatton, Huntingdonshire on the morning of 10th September 1944 on a mission to bomb the Daimler-Benz motor transport plant at Gaggenau, Germany.
Various eye witness accounts described that about 1½ mins before reaching the target the aircraft was hit by three bursts of flak but was able to stay in formation long enough to drop its bombs. Just after this #4 engine stopped working but it could not be ‘feathered’ which caused the aircraft to drop out of formation. The flak also knocked out the aircraft’s ‘inter-phone’ and as the Pilot could not hear the Navigator he turned the aircraft onto a heading of 270 degrees, knowing that they were almost due east of Paris and friendly territory. Because of the ‘wind milling’ propeller the aircraft was steadily losing height despite the other three engines being at maximum boost.
Over Strasbourg at about 21,900 feet they ran into more flak. Whilst taking evasive action the aircraft was hit another five or six times and lost height descending to about 17,000 feet. It was during this encounter that 2nd Lt. Mattox suffered a flak splinter injury to his leg.
Approaching Nancy at about 12:15 hrs, flying at an altitude of between 4000 to 6000 feet and some 65 km (40 mls) south of Nancy the aircraft was hit by small caliber fire. Sgt Seeber was in the waist at the time, ready to bail out through the waist door, and was hit in the leg by exploding flak splinters. Sgt. Pipock who was in the same place, said to him, "Come on Glen, let's go", and both men bailed out.
Sgt. Pipock was arrested in the forest near Donon, on the 10th September 1944 and transferred to Saales, and from there to the Sicherungslager (Security Camp) Schirmeck La Broque, Alsace. His name was in an American Red Cross (ARC) letter stating that he had been seen and spoken to by an ARC representative at the Sicherungslager Schirmeck La Broque on the 8th November 1944. (Local researchers and “The Nazi Hunters”, page 219 - Damien Lewis). The circumstances of Sgt. Seeber death are unknown as no German reports or eyewitness accounts have been found.
1st Lt. Hampton leveled the aircraft out at 3000 feet and decided to look for a suitable place to put the aircraft down. 2nd Lt. Friesen was acting as the Navigator but could not pinpoint their location so they flew on. With fuel running low and #2 engine on fire 2nd Lt. Friesen finally located their position as being near Joigny.
1st Lt. Hampton performed a wheels-up landing in a field between the villages of Senan, Neuilly and Champlay, some 6½ km (4 mls) south of Joigny, and some 160 km (100 mls) SE of Paris. Within 45 mins 2nd Lt. Mattox was in a local French hospital having his leg treated.
French civilians inspect the crashed B-17G 42-32086 ‘You Never Know’ of the 457th Bomb Group. Handwritten caption on reverse: “10/9/44 France”. (Credit: American Air Museum in Britain)
The remainder of the crew were uninjured and were treated to French wine and German canned rations which the French résistance had liberated from the retreating Germans. That evening 1st Lt. Hampton was taken to a US Army unit where he reported the emergency landing. The next morning the crew were transported to Paris and from there flown back to the UK.
(1) The fate of Sgt. Pipock was unknown until a British Military Court was convened in Wuppertal, Germany, between the 6th and 10th May 1946.
Eleven German nationals were charged with committing a war crime in that they, at Rotenfels Security Camp, Gaggenau, Germany, on the 25th November 1944, in violation of the laws and usages of war, were concerned in the killing of ten PoWs; four American, six British and four French nationals. Since there were French nationals among the victims, a French Air Force Captain (Capt) was a member of the court, sitting with one Brigadier (Brig) four Majors (Maj) and a Judge Advocate.
The accused were Karl Buck, SS-Hauptsturmführer (Capt) and commander of the Sicherungslagers Schirmeck La Broque and Rotenfels/Gaggenau, Robert Wünsch, SS-Untersturmführer (2nd Lt) and administrative officer at the Gaggenau camp, Karl Nussberger, Oberleutnant (1st Lt) in the Police and Commanding Officer (CO) of the police unit responsible for the security at the Gaggenau camp, one Karl Zimmermann, SS-Sturmscharführer (Sgt Maj) and several police Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) of varying rank, Erwin Ostertag, Josef Muth, Bernhard Josef Ulrich, Heinrich Neuschwanger, Karl Wilhelm Dinkel, Helmut Korb, and Franz Xaver Vetter.
The court heard that during November 1944 at Schirmeck La Broque, prisoners of various categories were held, some of them in the “Block“ (a prison within a prison). When the Allied forces approached, orders were given to move the “Block“ prisoners from Schirmeck La Broque further to the east. The victims named in the charge were transported to Rotenfels/Gaggenau, which was also under Buck's orders.
On the morning of 24th or 25th November 1944, Buck came to Rotenfels/Gaggenau and issued orders to Wünsch that certain prisoners were to be killed. Wünsch related this order to Nussberger who in turn conferred with his subordinates who then started to make the preparations they thought necessary. At 14:00 hrs on the 25th November 1944, a van appeared at the camp gate to take the prisoners and their escort, comprising the accused policemen, except for Nussberger, plus four Russian prisoners who had picks and shovels with them.
The lorry drove to a place outside Gaggenau called Erlichwald (Erlich woods). There the accused made the prisoners, in four groups of three and one group of two, dismount from the lorry and walk some distance into the wood where they were shot dead from behind, their bodies falling into a bomb crater. The individuals who did the shooting were Neuschwanger, Ulrich and Ostertag. The bodies were stripped of their clothes and personal effects. The bomb crater was then filled in and the clothes and effects burned on the spot, although in their haste they left several vital clues which later assisted in identifying the victims.
When French troops reached Gaggenau at the end of April 1945, word of the atrocities reached them fairly quickly, and they ordered the exhumation of the bodies from the bomb crater using local Nazis as the workforce. Identification was only partly successful, and the victims were reburied in individual graves in the local cemetery on 13th May 1945. On 10th June, Maj. Eric ‘Bill’ Barkworth of the 2nd Special Air Service (SAS) Regiment arrived and ordered a fresh exhumation. Careful examination of the bodies and graves, together with investigations at the bomb crater site, established the identities of the victims as named in the charge. Maj. Barkworth, in his evidence in court, said he found Sgt. Pipock’s dog tags on one of the bodies exhumed from the Gaggenau cemetery.
The court found all of the accused, with the exception of Muth, guilty of the charge and rejected their defense of “Superior Orders” (in this case: Hitler’s Commando Order of 18th October 1942). Buck, Neuschwanger, Nussberger, Ostertag and Ulrich were sentenced to death by shooting. Wünsch was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment, Dinkel 8 years, Korb 3 years, Vetter 2 years and Zimmermann 10 years. The sentences were confirmed by the Commander in Chief of the British Army of the Rhine on 6th July 1946, but not all of them were promulgated and executed.
The French authorities wanted to try some of the accused in this case for other, similar crimes and demanded their extradition. It is not clear why Neuschwanger was the only one to pay with his life for the murders of 25th November 1944. He was executed at the shooting range located adjacent to Neheimer Straße in Werl, Germany, by a British firing party on 26th September 1946 at 08:00 hrs. It is speculated that he may not have been named on the extradition list.
Buck, Nussberger, Ostertag, Ulrich and Wünsch, and also the acquitted Muth were extradited to the authorities in the French Zone of Occupation and stood trial before the Tribunal Général at Rastatt, Germany, from 20th February to 18th March 1947.
They were charged for war crimes under the Control Council Law No. 10, for the ill-treatment and the murder of Allied nationals in Security and Work Camps. Buck, Muth, Nussberger, Ostertag and Ulrich were found guilty and were sentenced to death whilst Wünsch received a sentence of one year imprisonment.
Upon appeal, the (French) death sentences of Buck and Nussberger were commuted to life imprisonment with hard labour. The sentences of Muth and Ostertag were both commuted to fifteen years imprisonment with hard labour. Ulrich’s (French) death sentence was carried out by shooting on 26th August 1947 at 07:00 hrs in a gravel pit to the southwest of Sandweier (today part of Baden-Baden), and he was buried in Plittersdorf. It is not quite clear when the British decided to reprieve Buck, Nussberger and Ostertag, and to commute their sentences to prison terms, seeing that (a) the French would not hand the prisoners back and (b) that it would be very much against British tradition anyway to enact a death sentence many years after the actual sentencing.
Buck and Nussberger stood trial again in Metz during January 1953, as did Robert Wünsch, who was tried in absentia. All three of them were sentenced to death. Once again Buck and Nussberger were reprieved and their sentences were commuted to twenty years imprisonment. Both were released from the British prison at Werl on the 9th September 1955 after having been returned to British custody.
According to archival records, Ostertag was still in prison in 1954. Otherwise, the final disposition of the sentences for Muth, Ostertag, Wünsch, Dinkel, Zimmermann and Korb is unknown.
In addition to Sgt. Michael Pipock those murdered and identified were:
2nd Lt. Garis Phillip Jacoby ASN O-556376 AAF, co-pilot from B-17G 443-37599 ‘Moonlight Serenade’; S/Sgt. Curtis E. Hodges ASN 37623179 AAF, tail gunner and T/Sgt. Maynard A. Latten 6917758 AAF, radio operator from B-24J 42-50511;
From the 2nd SAS Regiment: Maj. Anthony R. Whately-Smith, 113612; Maj. Denis Bingham Reynolds, 130586; Lt. David Gordon Dill, 265704; Gnr. Christopher Ashe, 847426; Pvt. Maurice Arthur Griffin, 873123;
Capt. Victor Albert Gough, 148884 of the team Jacob of Operation Jedburgh, which was part of Operation Loyton, Special Operations Executive (SOE);
French nationals: Abbé (Priest) Joseph Alphonse Roth, Abbé Jean Justin Pennerath, Abbé Joseph Claude and Werner Jakob.
Operation Jedburgh was a clandestine operation during World War II, in which personnel of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the Free French Bureau Central de Renseignements et d'Action (Central Bureau of Intelligence and Operations) and the Dutch and Belgian Armies were dropped by parachute into occupied France, the Netherlands and Belgium to conduct sabotage and guerrilla warfare, and to lead the local resistance forces in actions against the Germans.
(2) No German records or eye witness accounts have been found that records the circumstances surrounding the death of Sgt. Seeber. The only information available declared him MiA on the 10th September 1944 and was later changed to KiA in a report dated 25th March 1945. There is no mention of him in the Graves Registration archives except for a notation that he was buried in the Epinal American Military Cemetery, and in 1948 was returned to the USA and buried in Great Bend, Kansas. (Reference: Togetherweserved.com).
At the end of April 1945, the French authorities exhumed the victims from the bomb craters and had them reburied in the Gaggenau Cemetery on the 13th May 1945.
The image is captioned: “Heinrich Focken* (right) attending the burial of prisoners of war murdered in the Erlichwald, 13th May 1945." (Courtesy: Kreisarchiv Rastatt)
* From May 1945 till 1946, Heinrich Focken, a victim of Nazi persecution himself, was the Mayor of Gaggenau, installed in his office by the French Occupation Force.
This memorial commemorates the execution of 26 men and one woman, prisoners of Rotenfels camp in the forest near Erlich (Credit: Frank C. Müller)
In the year 1944 26 men and one woman who had fought for freedom,
democracy and peace were murdered in this place. Visitor, remember them
Sgt. Michael Pipock. Purple Heart. Reinterred in the Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, Plot E, Row 13, Grave 16. Born in 1925. Son to Mrs. Helen Sophie (née Marte) Pipock of Detroit, Michigan, USA.
Sgt. Glen Eldon Seeber. Purple Heart. Repatriated and buried at the Great Bend Cemetery, Barton County, Kansas. Born on the 6th March 1924. Son to Clarence Frank and Anna Clara (née Geil) Seeber of Great Bend, Barton County, Kansas, 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 11.08.2019 - Original upload
RS & TV 11.08.2019 - Original upload
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