02.03.1945 1st Pathfinder Squadron (Provisional) (M) B-26B Marauder 42-95933 Capt. Paul H. Jones
Operation: Gießen, Germany
Date: 2nd March 1945 (Friday)
Unit No: 1st Pathfinder Squadron (Provisional) (M), 9th Air Force
Serial No: 42-95933
Location: Dutenhofen, 6 km (3¾ mls) WSW of Gießen, Germany
Base: Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) A-72, Péronne, France
Pilot: Capt. Paul Henry Jones O-791213 AAF Age 27. PoW *
Co-Pilot: 2nd Lt. Robert Luffingwell Richmond O-772500 AAF Age 23. PoW *
Navigator: 1st Lt. John M.J. Le Boeuf O-707943 AAF Age? KiA
Bombardier: 2nd Lt. Wendell Lorance Hoenshel DFC O-708928 AAF Age 24. Murdered (1)
Engineer/Gunner: S/Sgt. William D. DeCew 39310469 AAF Age 31. PoW *
Radio Operator: T/Sgt. Henry Morris ‘Hank’ Isenberg 31204716 AAF Age 24. Murdered (1)
Tail Gunner: T/Sgt. Robert Hilton 'Buck' Folsom 7001301 AAF Age 28. Murdered (1)
* Unknown camp
The 1st Pathfinder Sqn of the 9th Air Force was located at Station A-72, Péronne, France. The location of Station A-72 Péronne is some 70km SW of the Belgian border in northern France. (Station A-72 is now the Aérodrome de Péronne/Saint-Quentin.) The Sqn was a provisional unit that did not exist except on paper but was attached to the 322nd Bombardment Group (M) and provided bad weather leads to all 9th Air Force Groups. The Sqn flew B-26 Marauders that were equipped with the British “Oboe” radar bombing system. The system with screens and ancillary equipment was located in the navigators compartment and provided the capability to lead missions where the targets were obscured by bad weather.
Capt. Jones and his crew. Left to Right: Capt. Jones, 2nd Lt. Richmond, 1st Lt. Lebeof, S/Sgt. De Crew, T/Sgt. Isenberg, S.Sgt. Folsom. (Credit of Ralph Peeters)
REASON FOR LOSS:
At approximately 17:20 hrs while over the target, 42-95933 was attacked from the front by two Fw-190s. Capt. Jones’ crew was able to return fire and hit one of the German fighters.
The German fighter that was hit was Fw-190D-9 ‘Dora’ (Werk #500393) flown by Oberfähnrich (Senior Officer cadet) Werner Stempel from 1./JG2. He bailed out but parachuted into the Lahn River. The river was especially high and fast moving and as a result he drowned. Stempel was buried in the cemetery at Stockhausen, 13 km (8 mls) west of Wetzlar, Germany.
It is not clear if Stempel was shot down by Capt. Jones’ return of fire or by the escorting P-38 fighters.
The following post mission information was received from Capt. Gerald W. Shirey, the S-3 officer of the 394th Bombardment Group (M):
“Several crew of this Group reported that the Pathfinder aircraft was attacked by enemy aircraft in the vicinity of the primary target (Gießen). The left engine of the Pathfinder aircraft was on fire after the attack but the fire was believed to have gone out although the engine continued to smoke.”
“Three crews believe the Pathfinder aircraft was escorted by two P-38s to the bomb line when last seen. Another crew reports that the Pathfinder aircraft was losing altitude rapidly and was very low when last seen. This crew also reports that the Pathfinder aircraft was still in enemy territory when last seen.”
“One of this Groups aircraft was escorted to the bomb line so it is possible that crews of this Group may have confused the Pathfinder aircraft with the Group aircraft.”
T/Sgt. Isenberg was reported to have been the first to bail out of the aircraft and S/Sgt. DeCew had to push T/Sgt. Folsom out of the aircraft before he himself bailed out.
2nd Lt. Richmond only knew of Capt. Jones and S/Sgt. DeCew other than himself who had bailed out of the aircraft. During his descent he counted four other parachutes beside his own but had no knowledge of who they were. He was later told that seven parachutes (the entire crew) were counted as having come from the aircraft. A German document records the names of the seven crew members and lists Capt. Jones, 2nd Lt. Richmond and S/Sgt. DeCew as having been captured and held at Dulag Luft Wetzlar.
The aircraft crashed at Dutenhofen, 6 km (3¾ mls) WSW of Gießen, Germany.
The circumstances leading to the death of 1st Lt. Le Boeuf are unknown.
(1) The circumstances leading to the deaths of 2nd Lt. Hoenshel, T/Sgt. Isenberg and T/Sgt. Folsom were determined by an American General Military Court which was convened at Dachau, Germany, during the period 5-6th and 9-13th December 1946.
Seven German nationals were charged on two counts that they did, at or near Lang-Göns, Germany, on or about the 2nd March 1945, wilfully, deliberately, and wrongfully encourage, aid, abet, and participate on the second count of committing assaults against and on the first count the killing of three members of the United States Army, believed to be Robert H. Folsom, W.L. Hoenshel and Henry M. Isenberg, who were then unarmed, surrendered PoWs in the custody of the then German Reich.
Those charged were:
Wilhelm Lang who was a former district Hilfspolizei Wachtmeister (Sgt. in the Auxiliary police);
Albert August Weil who was the former Bürgermeister (Mayor) of Lang-Göns, served in the Wehrmacht and was a member of the Nazi party;
Carl Müller who was the former acting Bürgermeister of Lang-Göns and a member of the Nazi party;
Ludwig Müller who was a former Unteroffizier in the Panzer force (Sgt. in the Tank Corps);
Otto Pflüger who was a town Night Watchman and a member of the Nazi party;
Otto Lechens who was a former member of an Alert Group of the Sturmabteilung (SA) (Paramilitary arm of the Nazi party);
Heinrich Dern was served but not tried by the court.
The reason for Dern not being tried by the court is unknown.
The court heard that in the late afternoon on the 2nd March 1944, three American airmen parachuted to safety in the vicinity of Lang-Göns, Germany. Two of the airmen landed in a field to the left of the road leading to Niederkleen, which is some 4 km (2½ mls) SE of Lang-Göns, and the third landed in the vicinity of the airport located some distance from Lang-Göns.
This may have been the Kirchgöns airbase, 1 km (½ ml) NW of Kirch-Göns and some 2½ km (1½ mls) south of Lang-Göns.
One of the airmen who had landed in the field was brought to Niederkleen Straße where he was assaulted, beaten and abused by Pflüger and Ludwig Müller who also tried to incite the crowd who had gathered to kill the airman. Among those present were Weil, Lechens and Lang. A Gendarme (Local policeman) named Engel and a man named Köster, who was member of the Volkssturm (Home guard), were also present.
Evidence was presented that made it clear that Pflüger assaulted, abused, and beat one airman and made highly inflammatory remarks for the purpose of inciting the crowd to kill or lynch the airman. Pflüger also went with the group to round up other airmen, which when considered together with his remarks indicated that he intended to ensure that the airmen were killed. Although Engel killed the three airmen he received direct encouragement from Pflüger as to the killing of at least one of the airmen. In the case of Ludwig Müller the evidence was clear that he assaulted one airman and also vigorously attempted to incite the crowd to kill the airman.
Weil arrived at the scene near Niederkleen Straße on his bicycle. There he saw an airman in the middle of a crowd along with two unknown German officers. One of the officers ordered a soldier to take the airman to the airport. Weil claimed that he did not notice any mistreatment of the airman. After seeing Engel, Lang, Köster and some soldiers accompany the airman along the road towards the airport he returned to his office. Between 18:30 and 19:00 hrs Köster arrived at Weil’s office and informed him that Engel wanted a cart sent to pick up the dead bodies of two airmen. Köster told Weil that Engel had shot the two airmen when they allegedly had tried to escape.
Carl Müller, Pflüger, Lechens and Lang, among others, were present when Engel killed the airman who had landed in the vicinity of the airport. One of the airmen was apparently killed by Engel half-way between the airport and Lang-Göns. Later that same evening, Lang was present when the other airman was killed by Engel.
Carl Müller arrived in his car just before Engel, Köster and Lang took the airmen along Niederkleen Straße in the direction of the airport. He continued to drive in the same direction and at the road leading to the airport Engel and Köster got into his car. He then drove to the area of the airport where he saw an airman accompanied by soldiers about 300 m (980 ft) away. Engel and Köster alighted and set off in the direction of the airman. He then drove his car closer to the crowd, stopped and walked towards the scene where he heard that Engel had shot the airman. At Köster's request he drove him toward the Bürgermeister’s office and dropped him off in the vicinity, at about 17:30 hrs, after which he went home.
Although Lechens was present when the second airman was captured he left the scene and was observed passing a house in the village from the direction of Niederkleen Straße between 16:00 and 17:00 hrs. There was no evidence that he encouraged or participated in the assault or the killing of this second airman nor was he present at the killing of the airman at the airport.
The extent of Lang’s involvement in the mistreatment and/or the killing of the three airmen was not documented. However, records suggest that Lang was found guilty of both charges and sentenced to life imprisonment. He died on the 6th March 1947 from natural causes at the Post Hospital, Dachau, Germany.
It was clear from the evidence presented to the court that Engel was the primary suspect in the killing of the three airmen. However, he was not before the court as it was alleged that he had been beaten to death by Polish and Russian slave labourers shortly after American forces captured Lang-Göns on the 29th March 1945.
A death certificate has been found for a Heinrich Engel which recorded that he was a Meister der Gendarmerie (Warrant officer (WO)) in the local police). His death was as result of severe head and internal injuries on the 1st April 1945 at 18:00 hrs in Lang-Göns. Although Engel’s first name was not recorded in the trial records the probability is that this death certificate relates to him.
The extent of Köster’s involvement in the mistreatment and/or the killing of the three airmen could not be established as he committed suicide whilst in custody at Wiesbaden.
A death certificate has been found for an Otto Köster with an unknown occupation which records that he hanged himself. The notification of the death was provided via a written notice from the Police President, Crime Department, Wiesbaden on the 17th October 1945. Although Köster’s first name was not recorded in the trial records it is believed with a high degree of certainty that this death certificate relates to him.
The court found Pflüger and Ludwig Müller guilty on both charges and they were sentenced to 20 years and 15 years imprisonment respectively, commencing on the 13th December 1946. The final disposition of their sentences is unknown.
The court found Weil and Lechens guilty on both charges and sentenced them to 25 years and to 10 year imprisonment respectively. Carl Müller was found guilty on the first charge and was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. The sentences for all three was to commence on the 13th December 1946. However, the Review and Recommendation (R&R) board determined that:
In the case of Weil the evidence did not satisfactorily establish that he encouraged or participated in committing assaults upon or the killing of the three members of the United States Army. His mere presence at the scene of the crime was not sufficient for the findings of guilty. Additionally, there was no evidence that he violated any of the laws of war;
In the case of Lechens there was no evidence that he encouraged or participated in committing assaults upon or the killing of the three members of the United States Army. The only evidence produced by the prosecution was that he was temporarily present during some mistreatment of one airman. His mere temporary presence near the scene of the mistreatment was not sufficient to warrant the findings of guilty;
In the case of Carl Müller the fact that he drove the killer Engel to the scene of the crime was not in itself sufficient to warrant the findings of guilty. There was no evidence that he knew what was going to happen or what was likely to happen. Nor was there any evidence that he knowingly, encouraged or aided in the killings. His presence near the scene of the crime was not alone sufficient for the findings of guilty.
The R&R board recommended that the findings and sentences for Weil, Lechens and Carl Müller be disapproved.
Above: 1st Lt. Boeuf (Credit Dominique Potier - FindAGrave).
1st Lt. John M.J. Le Boeuf. Air Medal (6 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Ardennes American Cemetery, Block C, Row 7, Grave 151. Relocated to Plot B, Row 31, Grave 6. Son of Oscar J. Le Boeuf of Gary, Indiana, USA.
2nd Lt. Wendell Lorance Hoenshel. DFC. Repatriated and interred at the Maple Hill Cemetery, Birmingham, Iowa. Born 26th February 1921, Birmingham, Van Buren County, Iowa. Son of Wendell Holmes and Ada Belle (née Harness) Hoenshel of Birmingham, Iowa, USA.
Above: T/Sgt. Isenberg (Credit of The Boston Globe - 9th December 1945)
T/Sgt. Henry Morris 'Hank' Isenberg. Air Medal (3 Oak Leaf Clusters). Believed to have been repatriated in 1948 and interred at the Levine Memorial Chapel. Born 16th September 1920 in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts. Son of Isaac and Rosalie G. (née Lyman) Isenberg of Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, USA.
Above S/Sgt. Folsom: Credit of The Miami Herald - 30th March 1945)
Above Memorial to S/Sgt. Folsom (Credit of Ralph Peeters)
T/Sgt. Robert Hilton 'Buck' Folsom. Air Medal (3 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Interred at the Netherlands American cemetery, Margraten in Block PP, Row 4, Grave 100, Relocated to Plot A, Row 15, Grave 30. Born 6th March 1916 in Ellenton, Colquitt County, Georgia. Son of Randall Gordon and Sarah Elizabeth (née Ricks) Folsom and husband of Edna (née Henderson) Folsom of Lake Harbor, Florida, USA.
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’. Our thanks to Ralph Peeters for the use of his images and who has a memorial to T/Sgt. Folsom on his “Stories Beyond the Graves” website. Thanks to Kurt Spence for the link to his Memorial Page on Fold3.