10.03.1945 428th Bomb Squadron (M) B-25J 43-27529 ‘Silver Slipper, 1st.Lt. Jordan E. Keister
Operation: Ora, northern Italy
Date: 10th March 1945 (Saturday)
Unit: 310th Bombardment Group (M), 428th Bombardment (M) Squadron, 12th Air Force
Type: B-25J Silver Slipper
Serial No: 43-27529
Location: About 16 km SE of Ora, northern Italy
Base: Ghisonaccia, Corsica
Pilot: 1st.Lt. Jordan Ellsworth Keister O-1012805 Silver Star, AAF Age 24. Killed (1)
Co Pilot: 2nd.Lt. Edward Adam Martiniak O-7777203 AAF Age 21. Killed (1 & 2)
Bombardier: S/Sgt. Dale L. Gross 37675322 AAF Age 20. Killed
Radio Op/Gunner: S/Sgt. Richard Howard Palmer 35559378 AAF Age 22. Killed (1 & 2)
Turret Gunner: S/Sgt. Donald Otis Griffith 35093428 AAF Age 21. Killed (1 & 2)
Tail Gunner: S/Sgt. Roscoe William Harvey 32784217 AAF Age 22. Survived (2)
REASON FOR LOSS:
The Silver Slipper took off from Ghisonaccia, Corsica tasked on a bombing mission to Ora, northern Italy, 15 km south of the city of Bolzano.
The following eye witness accounts from crew members of the 428th Bomb Sqn (M) describe the loss of the Silver Slipper:
Sgt. Howard F. Litzsinger, 37616801 - “I saw Aircraft 43-27529 with its right engine on fire over the target. The ship stayed behind the formation for several minutes and then went down, losing altitude quite fast. The landing gear was down all the time. Three chutes appeared at different intervals over the mountains Southeast of Ora. The plane then went into a dive and then into a spin right after that, but I did not see the plane hit the ground because of a mountain which was in the way. I did notice that the right engine was on fire all the way down.”
S/Sgt. Kenneth F. Raser, 32798567 - “Over the target I saw a ship, believed to be Lt. Keister’s, with its right engine on fire. It flew level. I then saw two (2) parachutes leave the ship. It then made a series of four (4) or five (5) spins, then it levelled into a glide headed South. I could not ascertain whether the ship crash landed or not. It was shut off from view by a snow peaked mountain.”
Sgt. William A. Cummings, 31333356 - “I noticed that Aircraft 43-27529 was hit immediately after bombs away. The right engine was burning badly. The ship’s landing gear had drooped down and had apparently locked. The ship had lost quite a bit of altitude and was flying down a valley. It was in level flight for about five minutes after it was hit. I saw three chutes leave the aircraft. The right wing dropped off and the ship spun into the ground and burned. It crashed at 12:10 hrs.”
(1) It was reported by the Sandpoint News Bulletin, dated Thursday, November 8, 1945 that Margaret Keister had received a letter from the US State Department which stated that her husband, 1st.Lt. Keister, was killed on the 24th March 1945 after the train on which he was being transported to Germany had been bombed.
It should be noted that the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) records his death as being on the 10th March 1945, the day of the loss of the aircraft, and he was interred in the Florence American Cemetery in Italy.
The newspaper article also reported that two others from the crew suffered the same fate as 1st.Lt. Keister, one other had died of his wounds on the 6th April 1945, and one had died of his wounds on an earlier date. The date of death reported for 2nd.Lt. Martiniak, S/Sgt. Palmer and S/Sgt. Griffith was the 24th March 1945. None of the official reported dates of death for the remaining crew was recorded as the 6th April 1945.
However the events and information, provided in the article, regarding the fate of the crew of the Silver Slipper is at odds with the results of the research undertaken to determine the fate of Sgt. Harvey.
(2) The circumstances leading to the death of Sgt. Harvey were determined by a General Military Government Court convened in Dachau, Germany during the period 1st to 6th May 1947.
A German national was charged on three counts in that he did at or near Neckarsulm, Germany, on or about the 22nd March 1945, on the first count wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid, abet and participate in the killing of, and on the second count deny proper and adequate medical aid and attention to, a member of the United States Army, believed to be Sgt. Roscoe Harvey, who was then and there a surrendered and unarmed PoW in the custody of the then German Reich.
On the second count he was charged that he did, at or near Dürrenzimmern, 19 km SW of Neckarsulm, Germany on or about the 24th March 1945, wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid, abet and participate in the killing of a member of the United States Army, believed to Capt. S.K. Anderson who was then and there a surrendered and unarmed PoW in the custody of the then German Reich.
Capt. S.K. Anderson is believed to be Capt. Sheldon Keith Anderson, DSC who was the pilot of P-51D 44-15378 ‘Honey Jo’, from the 319th Fighter Squadron which crashed in Austria, on the 13th March 1945.
The accused was Karl Otto, a former Oberstleutnant (Lt. Col.) in the Heer (German Army) and the Commanding Officer of the military post and Kaserne (Barracks) at Neckarsulm, Germany. He was also a former member of the Nazi party.
From three separate trial cases it was established that on the afternoon of the 21st March 1945, six PoWs, who were American airmen, arrived by bus in the town of Neckarsulm, Germany. They were in the custody of three armed Wehrmacht NCOs, who were escorting them to Frankfurt for onward transfer to Dulag Luft, Oberursel. The guards and PoWs alighted from the bus on the corner of Neckarstraße and Urbanstraße, some 260 metres NE of the Bahnhof (Railway station) at about 16:45 hrs. Two of the guards appeared to have left the group, as only one guard figures in what transpired. The airmen were standing in a line along Neckarstraße with the remaining guard.
In the section entitled Silver Slipper (March 21, 1945) (Ref. 1, p.191-p.199, p.204).
Note #51 describes how criminal investigators believed that four of the airmen were likely to be from the Silver Slipper; 2nd.Lt. Edward Adam Martiniak, S/Sgt. Roscoe William Harvey, S/Sgt. Donald Otis Griffith, S/Sgt. Richard Howard Palmer and a fifth was Capt. Sheldon Keith Anderson.
Shortly thereafter a man named Clemens Funder, the Ortsgruppenleiter (Nazi party local group leader) of Neckarsulm and his deputy Heinz Endress left the local Nazi headquarters on Salinenstraße across from a small park next to where the airmen were standing.
Endress saw the airmen and called out words to effect that they should be shot and moved towards the group. He closed to about 2 or 3 metres and drew his pistol but the guard warned him off. Endress stepped back and momentarily holstered his pistol only to draw it again, advance towards the airmen and fire twice.
The airmen immediately raised their hands above their heads and some tried to hide behind nearby trees. The 2nd airman from the right of Endress fell to the ground grimacing in pain. The airman immediately to this man’s right, the 3rd in the line, tried to save himself only to be shot in the back by Endress. Witnesses testified that Funder also attempted to fire his pistol but it jammed. A third airman ran and hid behind a German civilian standing nearby. Endress ordered the man to move as he aimed his pistol and in fear the civilian bent over and stepped forward, then Endress shot the airman who then turned away and collapsed. Funder then walked over to this airman, who was still alive, and shot him.
A fourth airman started to run from the scene west along Neckarstraße and as he was out of pistol range, Endress called to the guard to shoot him with his rifle who then fired twice and the running airman fell to the ground. As the two approached this airmen they passed the first airman that Endress had shot, who was still alive, and each fired a shot into his body.
When Endress attempted to shoot one of the two remaining airmen, he was prevented from doing so by the guard. Endress and Funder then returned the Nazi headquarters.
An American pathologist identified four exhumed bodies as American airmen but confirmation of their names at the time of writing of this report remain unknown.
In the section entitled Silver Slipper (March 21, 1945) (Ref. 1, p.191-p.199, p.204).
Note #54 describes how analysis of investigation files indicated that three of the four airmen were likely to be; 2nd.Lt. Edward Adam Martiniak, S/Sgt. Donald Otis Griffith and S/Sgt. Richard Howard Palmer.
Endress was found guilty at his trial, held at Dachau on the 13th November 1945, for the killing of the four unidentified airman and sentenced to death by decapitation. Upon review the sentence was upheld but the method of execution was changed to hanging. Funder was not tried for his part in the killings as it was reported that he had allegedly committed suicide. (Ref. 1, p.197).
Decapitation was at the time the prescribed punishment in German penal law for common murder.
Endress was executed at the War Criminal Prison No.1 at Landsberg, Germany on the 4th December 1946.
The two survivors, who were believed to be S/Sgt. Roscoe Harvey and Capt. S.K. Anderson were taken to the Kaserne commanded by Otto. Otto was informed by the Oberfeldwebel (T/Sgt.) in charge of the detail that the two PoWs would recommence their travel at 05:00 hours the following morning.
Shortly after 05:00 hrs on the 22nd March 1945 while the two PoWs were being marched to catch the train which was to take them to Frankfurt, they were fired upon by Endress and Funder. Both the airmen were wounded but Capt. Anderson made good his escape. S/Sgt. Harvey was taken back to the Kaserne guardroom.
At about 08:30 hours Oberleutnant (1st.Lt.) Denner, a Wehrmacht officer, entered the guardroom and saw a wounded American sitting there. Denner was informed that Otto had given orders for the wounded airman not to be taken to hospital. A Dr. Kasche was requested by Denner to examine the airman which revealed that Sgt. Harvey had suffered gunshot wounds to his stomach and upper thigh.
Dr. Kasche was a qualified physician since 1926 and at the time of the incidents in question was the troop doctor at Neckarsulm.
Upon learning that Denner had taken the wounded airmen to be examined by Dr. Kasche Otto summoned Denner to his apartment and told him he had no right to take the airman to Dr. Kasche. When Denner explained his unwillingness to see a man die of neglect, Otto expressed an inclination to throw Danner into jail for disobedience.
Dr. Kasche called Otto to ascertain why the patient was not allowed to be hospitalised. He was informed by Otto that medical treatment had been forbidden, and that the doctor could wind up in trouble for doing so. He referred the doctor to the local Kreisleiter (District leader), a Richard Drauz. The doctor in the company of a Wehrmacht officer and Otto went to the Kreisleiter’s quarters and found Drauz in the company of a Luftwaffe officer and Endress.
Drauz suggested feeding the patient liquid for his stomach wounds and also recommended poison. Endress offered to shoot the American down in the cellar, whereupon Otto stated he would not have it done in his house. Drauz then told Dr. Kasche that the prisoner would be removed after which he left.
After repeated attempts by Dr. Kasche to have the wounded airman transferred he was finally loaded onto a truck at 19:30 hours from which a medical attendant has been barred by Otto. It was later learned the wounded airman had arrived at the hospital dead, with two bullet wounds to his chest. The prisoner was an American from Brooklyn named Roscoe Harvey.
Those responsible for Sgt. Harvey’s death are unknown, however, it might be considered that the shooting was carried out with the full knowledge of Kreisleiter, Richard Drauz, who had a reputation for brutality. He would be brought before a General Military Government Court for his participation in the killing of Capt. Sheldon Keith Anderson, DSC.
Otto claimed in his defence that he had held back the transfer of Sgt. Harvey to a hospital for treatment because he was concerned that Endress and Funder would be given the opportunity for further violence. He maintained that his violation of the Geneva Conventions was not born out of any malice of forethought.
The court found Otto not guilty on the first and second counts of the charges. On the third count his defence was rejected and he was found guilty and sentenced to 5 years imprisonment commencing on the 27th March 1946. He was released in May 1950.
Above: 1st.Lt. Keister, Silver Star (Credit of the Spokane Chronicle, dated Monday April 1st, 1946)
1st.Lt. Jordan Ellsworth Keister. Silver Star, Air Medal (4 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Florence American Cemetery, Plot H, Row 6, Grave 36. Born on the 5th May 1920 in Valley City, Barnes County, North Dakota. Son to Edward Jordon and Mable Elizabeth (née Lockman) Keister. Husband to Margaret Vivian (née Anderson) Keister from Sandpoint, Bonner County, Idaho, USA.
2nd.Lt. Edward Adam Martiniak. Repatriated and interred at the St. Mary’s Cemetery, Evergreen Park, Illinois. Born on the 19th September 1923 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. Son to Thomas and Josephine Martiniak from Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Above: S/Sgt Gross (Credit of The Courier dated Sunday March 25th, 1945)
S/Sgt. Dale L. Gross. Air Medal (5 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Florence American Cemetery, Plot E, Row 12, Grave 24. Born in 1925 in Iowa. Husband to Marlys K. (née Duschen) Cross from Waterloo, Iowa, USA.
S/Sgt. Richard Howard Palmer. Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster). Lorraine American Cemetery, Plot E, Row 12, Grave 12. Born on the 7th May 1924 in Toledo, Ohio. Son of Howard Clayton and Roselan (née Hixson) Palmer (His mother died during childbirth) from Sylvania, Ohio, USA.
Above: S/Sgt. Griffith (Credit and in memoriam of the late Ryan Holly - FindAGrave)
S/Sgt. Donald Otis Griffith. Repatriated and interred at the Brownsburg Cemetery, Hendricks County, Indiana. Born on the 9th November 1923. Grandson to David E. Scott from Brownsburg, Indiana, USA.
S/Sgt. Roscoe William Harvey. Lorraine American Cemetery, Plot E, Row 13, Grave 39. Born on the 10th July 1922 in Newcastle, Lincoln County, Maine. Son of James W. and Laura Starr (née Allyn) Harvey from Lakeville, Connecticut, 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’.
1. Terror Flyers - The Lynching of American Airmen in Nazi Germany - Kevin T. Hall