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Archive Report: US Forces
1941 - 1945

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.

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15th Air Force
25.07.1944 767th Bombardment Squadron (H) B-24H 42-52451, 1st Lt. John J. Kane

Operation: Linz (Mission #116), Austria

Date: 25th July 1944 (Wednesday)

Unit: 461st Bombardment Group (H), 767th Bombardment Squadron (H), 49th Bomb Wing, 15th Air Force

Type: B-24H

Serial No: 42-52451

Code: 66

Location: Großer Buchberg, about 9 km SE of Molln, Austria

Base: Torretta airfield, Italy

Pilot: 1st Lt. John J. Kane O-681434 AAF Age 23. PoW *

Co Pilot: 1st Lt. Paavo Arthur Koistinen O-755362 AAF Age 24. PoW * (1)

Navigator: 1st Lt. Milton Radovsky O-691800 AAF Age 26. PoW *

Bombardier: 2nd Lt. Anthony Michael Catana O-695801 AAF Age 21. PoW *

Radio/Op: S/Sgt. Abraham Fedrau 39404271 AAF Age 22. PoW **

Engineer: T/Sgt. Bryan Jennings Wells Jr. 17175058 AAF Age 21. PoW **

Ball Turret Gnr: S/Sgt. Earl Ray Roberts 17034118 AAF Age 25. Killed

Right Waist Gnr: S/Sgt. Frank George Rogan 15323643 AAF Age 20. Survived/died (2)

Left Waist Gnr: T/Sgt. Clifford James Lavery Jr. DFC, 12199162 AAF Age 21. Killed

Tail Gnr: S/Sgt. Harold Franklin Williamson 34611595 AAF Age 30. Killed

The B-24 had 10 crew positions. Crew complements evolved during the war and generally comprised 9 personnel who were typically, but not always, Pilot, Co-Pilot, Bombardier, Navigator, Engineer/Top Turret Gunner, Radar Operator, Radio Operator/Waist Gunner, Nose Gunner, Ball Turret Gunner, Waist Gunner, Tail Gunner.

* Stalag Luft 1 Barth-Vogelsang, today situated in the state 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:

B-24H 42-52451 took off from Torretta airfield, Italy and joined four groups of B-24s from the 49th Bomb Wing on a mission to bomb the Hermann Goering Tank Works located SSE of the centre of Linz in Austria.

B-24H 42-52451 was last seen at 11:05 hrs between Unterweißenbach and Linz in Austria

Unterweißenbach is some 40 km ENE of Linz and was the Initial Point (IP) for the bomb run.

The circumstances leading to the loss of B-24H 42-52451 were described by four after-mission reports:

S/Sgt. Richard C. Brady 33496193, Tail Gunner, 767th Bombardment Squadron (BS)

When we started out to bomb the Herman [sic] Goering tank works at Linz, Austria 25 July 1944 there were twenty-one (21) bombers in the group formation. At the IP seventy-five (75) to eighty (80) fighters came up and encountered our P-38 escort. Me410s and Me210s shot large numbers of rockets into the formation, which then broke up and scattered all over the sky. Then between forty (40) and fifty (50) Fw190s and Me109s came in abreast from 6:00 o’clock. From then on I couldn’t see what bombers went down; I saw at least two (2), or three (3) explode and five (5) or six (6) burning or going down as I tracked fighters. Some could have been the same ones; I just didn’t have time to count or look at anything. I saw twenty-five (25) or thirty (30) chutes over the target; but that’s just a rough guess. I have no idea whether or not any came from our ships.

We never reached the target, and our bombs were scattered all over the area. What was left of the formation tried to rally left, then went right, dodged in and out of flak to get away from the fighters, and finally got lost. Even when we ducked into the flak the fighters followed us. When we started to pull the formation together, as we started home, there were four (4) or five (5) fighters around. Five minutes before three (3) cripples were shot down by Fw190s, but I was unable to identify any of them. Only eight ships were left in the formation when the action stopped. There was only one ship with red cowlings, and that was Lt. Luebke. I definitely did not see ship #66 (flown by Lt. Kane) at any time after we left the target.

1st Lt. Robert E. Arbuthnot, Pilot, O-690028, 765th BS

I saw plane number 66, which was flying at one o’clock and high from my position in Group formation, when it was hit in the bomb-bays or near in-board engines. Plane was burning and fell out of formation, down to the right. Plane appeared still under control as it went out of my sight to right and rear of formation.

T/Sgt. Thomas J. Sullivan, 11107832, Radio Operator/Gunner, 767th BS

While leaving the radio table to work on the right waist gun I saw about three ships going down on fire. However, because of the excitement and confusion, and attacks of enemy fighters, I was unable to see just what ships went down. However, after things cooled of a bit and our pilot (Lt. Henry) got the remaining ships together, I did look for ship #66, flown by Lt. Kane, and I could not find it. I was watching for it particularly carefully because Lt. Kane was a good friend of mine, and I was hoping he had come through it. I looked out of the waist windows from 3 o’clock to about 5.30 o’clock and from 9 o’clock to 6.30 or 7.00 [o’clock] and he was was nowhere to be seen. We were the lead ship at the time, having moved up from #2 position when the lead ship went down.

Sgt. Edward W. Scherr, 12221108, Gunner, 767th BS

I was flying in the top turret of Lt. Henry’s ship when then fighters attacked. I saw ship #66 flown by Lt. Kane, in the formation when the fighters hit us, but that was the last time I saw him. He was said to have been flying along with four good engines when four chutes were seen from her. She never did re-join our formation. We lead the rest back home and we never saw #66 after we left the target.

The 461st Bombardment Group (BG) lost 12 Liberators and the bombers claimed fifty-four fighters, mostly by the 461st BG.

Aboard B-24H 42-52451 S/Sgt. Williamson reported that his guns wouldn’t fire before being killed in his turret by German fighter gun fire. An officer shot down during this mission, believed to be Lt. Drew who was the Bombardier on Lt. Olsen’s crew, saw the rear turret being literally blown apart by multiple 20mm cannon shells when attacked by enemy fighters. T/Sgt. Lavery Jr. was killed at his position in the radio room during the German fighter attacks.

Note: 2nd Lt. Roland Thomas Olson’s B-24 42-95257, from the 767th BS was shot down on this mission. He and his crew of eleven successfully bailed out and became PoWs. All survived their captivity and returned to the United States after being liberated.

A German combat report from Flak Battery Lahrdorf claimed to have shot down B-24H 42-52451 at 11:55 hrs. The report described that the Battery’s five 88 mm guns opened fire at the formation at the edge of their effective area. The middle aircraft in the formation caught fire after it had been hit and parts were seen to fall off. An aircraft engine was later found some 2½ km south of Flak Battery Aschach. The combat report recorded that eight men parachuted from the aircraft with six being captured, two died from parachute failure and two were found dead in the aircraft wreckage. The aircraft crashed near the mountain peak of Großer Buchberg, about 9 km SE of Molln, Austria.

2nd Lt. Catana and S/Sgt. Fedrau were captured near Molln. 1st Lts. Kane, Koistinen and Radovsky were captured at Breitenau near Molln. It is not known when and where T/Sgt. Wells was captured.

S/Sgt. Roberts’ body, riddled with bullet wounds, was found by 1st Lt. Koistinen hanging from his parachute in a tree. 2nd Lt. Catana speculated that he may have been machine gunned by the German fighters which had made several passes on him and others whilst they were descending on their parachutes.

S/Sgt. Rogan, who was badly injured and barely alive, was last seen in the truck transporting S/Sgt. Roberts’ body along with 1st Lts. Kane, Radovsky and Koistinen to the jail in Molln. 1st Lt. Kane reported that he had spoken with him shortly before he succumbed from his injuries and believed that his death was due to the lack of treatment and delay in transporting him to medical facilities.

(1) Paavo Arthur Koistinen retired from the USAAF as a Maj. and became a pilot for the Vant Sant Coal Company. On the 10th April 1958 the Clearfield Pennsylvania Coal firm’s twin-engine Piper PA-23 Apache, which he was piloting, crashed into forest below the crest of a mountain near Galax, Grayson County, Virginia. (19th June 1920 - 10th April 1958)

Courtesy of the Richmond Times Dispatch, dated Saturday April 12th, 1958

(2) The circumstances leading to the death S/Sgt. Rogan were determined by a Military Commission convened at Salzburg, Austria on the 25th February 1947.

An Austrian national was charged that he did, on or about the 26th July 1944, at or near Molln, Austria, wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid and abet and participate in the denial of proper medical attention to Frank G. Rogan, a member of the United States Army, who was then an unarmed, wounded, surrendered PoW in the custody of the then German Reich.

The accused was a Dr. Alois Grisl, the former Health Commissioner for Kreis (District) Kirchdorf, a public official and physician.

The court heard that at about 11:30 hrs, on or about the 26th July 1944, an American bomber was shot down over Großer Buchberg near Molln, Kreis Kirchdorf, Austria and several airmen, including Frank G. Rogan parachuted from the aircraft before it crashed.

Not far from the place where S/Sgt. Roberts was found S/Sgt. Rogan was also caught in the branches of a tree. He was found by a Josef Müller badly injured and semi-conscious and aided by two other men Müller freed him from his parachute and lowered him to the ground. He noticed a large and heavily bleeding wound to his thigh and what appeared to be a pelvic injury. He administered rough emergency first aid, and carried him a short distance to the road and informed the next Gendarme (Rural police) he saw. (Ref. 1 pp. 250-252)

The chief of the Gendarmerie, a Johann Poscher, requested Grisl who was at the Jaidhaus about providing medical assistance to the airman. According to Poscher Grisl responded with words to the effect "That is out of the question, the dog should perish or die."

The Jaidhaus is believed to be Jagdhaus which is a hunting lodge.

One by one the entire crew including S/Sgt. Rogan was brought to the Jaidhaus. At about 15:00 hrs that afternoon S/Sgt. Rogan, the other arrested airmen and the remains of S/Sgt. Roberts were loaded onto a truck and driven to the village of Molln. The severely injured man was cared for 2nd Lt. Koistinen who tried to keep him conscious.

The truck arrived at an Armenhaus (poorhouse) at about 16:00 hrs. The uninjured airmen were unloaded and handed over to the Gendarmerie. S/Sgt. Rogan was by now in a serious condition and was seen by a local physician, a Dr. Blaha, who administered an injection of morphine and dressed the wound with some sterile gauze.

An Armenhaus (poorhouse) is a public establishment that provided relief to the poor and destitute.

He then asked the chief of the Gendarmerie, a man named Anton Köhler, to telephone Grisl. According to Blaha, after Köhler had spoken with Grisl, an ambulance would not be sent for the airman and that the affair did not concern Grisl. However, Köhler testified that Blaha himself had spoken with someone at the Jaidhaus, whom he understood to be Grisl, and was told in effect that no medical care was to be given to the airman. A witness at the Jaidhaus believed that there was a telephone conversation between Grisl and Blaha.

Blaha did not have the necessary facilities to treat the airman and was of the opinion that he needed a blood transfusion which required an ambulance to take him to hospital. There was a hospital with such facilities at Kirchdorf but only Grisl had the authority to direct the use of an ambulance. When asked whether timely medical or surgical assistance would have saved the life of the airman he replied "maybe". At 18:00 hrs that evening the airman succumbed to his injuries. An Austrian priest, Father Alois Flieher from MOLLN, had previously performed the last rites on him before being pronounced dead by Blaha.

Grisl in his testimony denied having spoken with Blaha and at no time gave instructions to anyone that medical treatment was to be denied to the airman. He also testified that as he was the public health officer in Kirchdorf he did not engage in general practice or surgery and that on the day in question he was directed by the Landrat (Nazi county administrator) to assist in the search and capture of airmen that had been shot down. When asked why he had changed his plea from not guilty to guilty he replied. "Because I see now that I should have gone to the wounded airman."

The commission deemed that Grisl’s testimony was inconsistent with his changed plea of guilty and based its judgment on a not guilty plea.

Grisl was found guilty of the charge and sentenced to prison for the term of his natural life. Upon review this was reduced to 15 years confinement with hard labour in the custody of the Austrian authorities.

In 1951, eleven of the convicted war criminals were still in jail (seven of them in Garsten, among whom Grisl is named). In 1953 the sentences were reduced considerably, and in 1954 ten prisoners were set free. The last one, Fritz Thaler, was released in 1957 which means that Grisl must have been among the ten released in 1954. (Ref 1. p.369)

Burial Details:

S/Sgt. Earl Ray Roberts. Air Medal (3 Oak Leaf Clusters). Repatriated to Memorial Park Cemetery Section D North, Columbia, Boone County, Missouri. Born on the 9th November 1918 in Columbia, Missouri. Son of George Leslie Roberts of Columbia, Missouri, USA.

S/Sgt. Frank George Rogan. Air Medal (3 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Lorraine American Cemetery, Plot J, Row 37, Grave 39. Born on the 9th April 1924 in Youngstown, Mahoning County, Ohio. Son of August and Glodie Rogan of Youngstown, Mahoning County, Ohio, USA.

Above: T/Sgt. Lavery Jr. grave marker (Courtesy T H - FindAGrave)

T/Sgt. Clifford James Lavery Jr. DFC, Air Medal (3 Oak Leaf Clusters). Repatriated to Saints Peter and Paul Cemetery and Mausoleum, Williamsville, Erie County, New York. Born on the 15th November 1922 in Buffalo, New York. Son of Alice Lavery of Cheetawago, New York, USA.

S/Sgt. Harold Franklin Williamson. Air Medal (3 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Lorraine American Cemetery, Plot E, Row 12, Grave 37. Born on the 24th July 1914 in McLain, Greene County, Mississippi. Son of John Robert (his father predeceased him in 1934) and Gladys Mozel (née Lovern) Williamson. Husband to Sarah R. Williamson of Greenville, Mississippi, 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.

Reference:

1. Fliegerlynchjustiz (Fallstudie XV: Der Fall Alois Grisl — Molln (25. Juli 1944)) - Georg Hoffmann (ISBN: 978-3506781376)





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