20.03.1945 488th Bombardment Squadron (M) B-25J 43-27537, 2nd Lt. James E. Jacobs
Operation: Campo, Italy
Date: 20th March 1945 (Tuesday)
Unit No: 448th Bombardment Squadron (M), 340th Bombardment Group (M), 12th Air Force
Serial No: 43-27537
Location: 8 km (5 mls) south of Malè, Italy
Base: Alesan Airfield, Corsica
Pilot: 2nd Lt. James E. Jacobs O-830442 AAF Age? PoW *
Co Pilot: 2nd Lt. Hardy Donnell Narron O-831770 AAF Age 23. Murdered (1)
Bombardier: 1st Lt. George Willis Hammond Jr. O-412940 AAF Age 28. Murdered (1)
Radio Op/Gunner: S/Sgt Jack B. Willingham 35714813 AAF Age? PoW *
Turret Gunner: S/Sgt. Medard R. Montejano Tafoya 39404870 AAF Age 25. Murdered (1)
Tail Gunner: S/Sgt Melvin Ernest Kelly 16018478 AAF Age 23. PoW *
* Stalag 7a Moosburg, Bavaria (Work Camp 3324-46 Krumbachstrasse and Work Camp 3368 Munich)
REASON FOR LOSS:
On the 20th March 1945 43-27537 was part of a three aircraft flight tasked with suppressing the flak gun positions protecting the Campo rail bridges in Italy.
An after action report described that as the flight was leaving the target area they were hit by three or four heavy bursts of flak and 43-27537 and was seen to fall behind. A radio message was heard from the aircraft that they were feathering an engine. 43-27537 was last seen at 10:38 hrs heading in SW direction. It was later established that the aircraft crashed about 8 km (5 mls) south of Malè, Italy.
2nd Lt. Jacobs’ Individual Casualty Questionnaire confirmed that all six of the crew bailed out of the aircraft and were captured. He last saw 2nd Lt. Narron, 1st Lt. Hammond Jr. and S/Sgt. Tafoya on the 24th March 1945 probably at the Belzona concentration camp where he believed that they were murdered.
(1) The fate of 2nd Lt. Narron, 1st Lt. Hammond Jr. and S/Sgt. Tafoya was unknown until a Military Commission was convened in Naples, Italy during the period of the 9th to 15th January 1946.
Three German nationals were charged (Specification 3 of 3) that they, acting jointly, and in pursuance of a common intent, did, at or near Bolzano, Italy, on or about the 27th March 1945, wrongfully, and contrary to the law of war kill summarily First Lieutenant George W. Hammond, Second Lieutenant Hardy D. Narron, both officers, and Staff Sergeant Medard R. Tafoya, a non-commissioned officer, each of whom was a member of the Army of the United States, and each of whom had recently been captured and were PoWs, by causing each of them to be shot to death with a gun.
Those charged were August Schiffer, who was a former SS (Schutzstaffel)-Sturmbannführer (Equates to a Maj) and the Chief of Abteilung IV (Gestapo Section) under the Sicherheitspolizei (Security police) and SD (Sicherheitsdienst=Security service of the SS) Command of Bolzano; Albert Storz who was a former SS-Oberscharführer (Equates to Sgt) and attached to Abteilung IV under Schiffer whose duties were chiefly in connection with Gestapo prisoners and Heinrich ‘Heinz’ Andergassen who was a former SS-Untersturmführer (Equates to 2nd Lt) and also attached to Abteilung IV under Schiffer with similar duties as Storz. All three were members of the Nazi party.
The court heard that the six crew members were held in the city jail at Malè before being transferred to Bolzano in Italy on the 25th March. 2nd Lt. Jacobs, S/Sgt. Willingham and S/Sgt. Kelly remained there until the 9th April before being transferred to Stalag 7a, Moosburg.
From the interrogation of the airmen Schiffer found that 1st Lt. Hammond, 2nd.Lt. Narron and S/Sgt. Tafoya had each been on at least 40 missions. It appeared that Schiffer did not like American airmen because of the damage the Allied air forces were inflicting on Germany and decided that they would be shot whilst trying to escape, a typical tactic of the Gestapo in an attempt to cover up murder.
On the same day as 2nd Lt. Jacobs, S/Sgt. Willingham and S/Sgt. Kelly were transferred, Schiffer contacted Storz and Andergassen and ordered them to kill the remaining three airmen. A car was sent to pick them up on the pretence that they were to be transported to a PoW camp at the Luftwaffe airfield at Bozen (aka Bolzano, Giovanni Sabelli).
They contrived a vehicle break-down en route to the airbase, which they had done on a previous occasion in the murders of four other Allied personnel. They made the three airmen exit the car and walk in front of them. It was then that Storz and Andergassen opened fire with their Italian machine pistols. 1st Lt. Hammond, 2nd Lt. Narron and S/Sgt.Tafoya fell to the ground. Andergassen then stepped up and shot each of the airmen with his service pistol. Storz remained with the bodies whilst Andergassen went to the nearby airfield to arrange for the disposal of the bodies.
Capt. Roderick Stephen Goodspeed Hall, an American in the 2677 OSS Regiment; Maj. Ross Ruger Littlejohn and Cpl. Joseph P. Crawley from the 2nd SAS Regiment; and 2nd Lt. Charles C. Parker the pilot from B-25J 43-27489.
About 10 minutes later S/Sgt.Tafoya sprang up and disappeared from the scene and ran into undergrowth and off into the darkness. Storz immediately reported to the airfield guardroom and informed Andergassen what had transpired. Whilst there a Luftwaffe Unteroffizier (Cpl) arrived, with an interpreter and S/Sgt.Tafoya.
They loaded the wounded airman into their car and transported him back to the Gestapo headquarters located at Corpo d’Armata and locked him in a cell. He received no medical attention for his gunshot wounds. Storz and Andergassen then reported to Schiffer at his Villa for instructions. They waited until the next morning in the hope that S/Sgt.Tafoya had died from his wounds. However, they found that he was still alive upon which they evacuated the occupants of the neighboring cells and shot S/Sgt.Tafoya in the back and left him to die. The following morning, on the 26th March, they found that he was still alive and killed him with a shot to the back of the head.
S/Sgt.Tafoya’s body was taken to the Cemetery of the Resurrection at Bolzano where the bodies of 1st Lt. Hammond and 2nd Lt. Narron were lying. They were later buried in individual graves with markers.
The court found Schiffer, Storz and Andergassen guilty of the charge and sentenced them to be hanged by the neck until dead. The sentences were carried out at Livorno on the 26th July 1946.
Above: 2nd Lt Narron (Credit: Warbirds of Glory Museum and Deborah - FindAGrave)
2nd Lt. Hardy Donnell Narron. Air Medal (4 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Initially interred at the Florence American Cemetery, Impruneta, Italy in Block F, Row 18, Grave 790. Relocated to Plot B, Row 9, Grave 2. Memorial marker at the Mizpah Presbyterian Church Cemetery at Kenly, Johnston County, North Carolina. Born on the 10th May 1922. Son to Newsome and Lomia (née Johnson) Narron of Wilson County, North Carolina, USA.
Above: 1st Lt. Hammond Jr. (Credit: Kenneth Mooney - FindAGrave)
1st Lt. George Willis Hammond Jr. Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster). Repatriated and buried at the Oak Hill Cemetery, Sec 28, Row 1, Plot 47, Coweta County, Georgia. Born on the 15th August 1917. Son to George Willis and Ida Ruth (née Smith) Hammond of Coweta County, Georgia, USA.
Above: S/Sgt. Tafoya (Credit: Sue - FindAGrave)
S/Sgt. Medard R. Montejano Tafoya. Air Medal (6 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Repatriated on the 15th December 1949 and buried at the Golden Gate National Cemetery, Section N, Site 2295, San Bruno, California. Born on the 20th January 1920. Son to Raymond Tafoya of Yale, California, 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’. Thanks to Ron Asman the Historian from the Warbirds of Glory Museum for 2nd Lt. Narron’s grave marker.