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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
25.02.1945 341st Bombardment Squadron (H) B-17G 44-8730, 1st Lt. Donald E. Koerwitz

Operation: Linz, Austria

Date: 25th February 1945 (Sunday)

Unit No: 341st Bombardment Squadron (H), 97th Bombardment Group (H), 5th Bomb Wing, 15th Air Force

Type: B-17G

Serial No: 44-8730

Code: ?

Location: In the vicinity of the target

Base: Amendola Air Base, Foggia, Italy

Pilot: 1st Lt. Donald Edwin Koerwitz DFC, O-823637 AAF Age 22. KiA

Co Pilot: 2nd Lt. John Graham Murray DFC, O-830890 AAF Age 27. KiA

Navigator: 1st Lt. Halsey Sanford Nisula O-2065604 AAF Age 23. Murdered (1)

Bombardier: 1st Lt. Le Roy Teschendorf Silver Star, O-762835 AAF Age 21. Murdered (1)

Mikki: 2nd Lt. James William Evans Jr. O-777456 AAF Age 25. PoW *

Radio/Op: T/Sgt. Eugene Troutman 15097894 AAF Age 23. PoW *

Engineer: T/Sgt. Hanley Johnston 36306853 AAF Age 27. PoW *

Waist Gunner: S/Sgt Harold E. King 14184761 AAF Age 20. PoW *

Waist Gunner: S/Sgt. Stanley Francis Pytko, Bronze Star 36656528 AAF Age 20. PoW *

Tail Gunner: S/Sgt. Nassea Hodge 42020815 AAF Age 20. PoW **

* Unknown PoW Camp

** Stalag 398 Pupping-Wels, near Linz, Austria

Note: ‘Mikki’ or ‘Mickey’ was the adopted name for the US development of the British H2S airborne ground-scanning and navigational radar system.

REASON FOR LOSS:

On the 25th February 1945 B-17G 44-8730 took off from Amendola Air Base in Italy to join 138 Fortresses from the 5th Bomb Wing on a mission to bomb the main marshalling yards in Linz, Austria. The raid blocked all the main lines, extensively damaging tracks and sidings, and destroyed or damaged more than 400 rail cars.

The mission cost eight bombers but only B-17G 44-8730 was lost from the 5th Bomb Wing. Its loss was described in after mission statements by the following two witnesses:

T/Sgt. Calvin D. Wessell 38578300, 340 BS

"I was flying top turret position in #543, which was in the rear of #730 on the mission of 25 February 1945. Just before bombs away, the aircraft started to smoke from one of the engines and peeled off. That was all I saw, but I heard the ball turret gunner call off on the inter-phone system that the ship #730 was losing altitude rapidly and almost afterwards that the aircraft was breaking up into several pieces. I didn’t see anyone leave the ship and didn’t see any parachutes open”.

S/Sgt. Francis C. Neelson 89217317, 341 BS

"Just before bombs away that day, aircraft #730 peeled off with smoke coming from one engine. The aircraft was losing altitude rapidly, and immediately afterwards started to break into pieces. As I kept watching the aircraft, I saw 6 to 8 chutes come off and open up, that is all I saw".

Over the R/T crews aboard aircraft in the formation heard the radio operator, S/Sgt. Troutman, yell that the plane was rapidly losing altitude and losing parts. Shortly thereafter, the plane broke up in mid-air.

2nd Lt. Evans stated in his Individual Casualty Questionnaire (ICQ) that neither 1st Lt. Koerwitz nor 2nd Lt. Murray were injured but believed that they did not have time to bail out prior to the aircraft breaking up in mid-air.

S/Sgt. Hodge was reported to have been seriously wounded and hospitalised probably at the Reserve Lazarett (hospital) attached to Stalag 398 Pupping-Wels, near Linz, Austria.

The circumstances leading to the capture of the remainder of the crew other than 1st Lt. Nisula and 1st Lt. Teschendorf are not known.

The aircraft wreckage crashed in the vicinity of the target in Linz, Austria.

(1) The circumstances leading to the deaths of 1st Lt. Nisula and 1st Lt. Teschendorf were determined during a General Military Government Court convened at Dachau, Germany over the period of the 29th March 1946 to the 13th May 1946.

Before the court were 61 German nationals or persons acting with German nationals who were charged in a common design to subject persons to killings, beatings, torture, starvation, abuses and indignities at or in the vicinity of the Mauthausen concentration camp, at Castle Hartheim, and the sub-camps of the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, during the period 1st January 1942 and 15th May 1945.

One of those named in the charge was an August Eigruber, who was the former Gauleiter (Regional Leader) of Upper Austria, also an Honorary Obergruppenführer (Lt Gen) in the SS and SA.

Two witnesses testified that Eigruber was present on the night of the 5th April 1945 [sic] when two Americans, one Englishman and nine others were executed by being shot in the neck. One of the witnesses testified that Eigruber recited a sentence of death in the name of Himmler.

During his interrogation he claimed that all death sentences carried out at Mauthausen were ordered by Himmler, Kaltenbrunner, Pohl or Glücks. Eigruber denied having ordered any executions at Mauthausen.

Heinrich Himmler was the former Reichsführer-SS (Title and head of the SS). After being captured he committed suicide by biting on a cyanide capsule whilst being medically examined;

Ernst Kaltenbrunner. From 1943, following the death of Reinhard Heydrich at the hands of Czech agents, he was the head of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Head of the Reich Security Main Office). He was sentenced to death at the Nuremberg Trials and was executed on the 16th October 1946 at Nuremberg;

Oswald Pohl held the 'nominal’ rank of SS-Obergruppenführer (Lt Gen) and oversaw the organisation of the Concentration camps. He was sentenced to death by an American Military Tribunal and executed on the 7th June 1951 at Landsberg;

Richard Glücks was the former Concentration camps Inspector and held the rank of SS-Gruppenführer (Maj Gen) and Generalleutnant (Maj Gen) of the Waffen-SS. It was believed that he committed suicide by swallowing a cyanide capsule but in the absence of official records there is speculations as to his true fate.

Eigruber attended an execution at Mauthausen about the middle of April, 1945 at 24:00 hrs. Ten persons were executed by shooting. All ten persons were killed by Ziereis personally. Eigruber's adjutant, Schröder, also attended the execution. Eigruber denied having known that two of those executed were Le Roy Teschendorf, O-762835 and Halsey S. Nisula, O-2065604, American Army personnel.

Franz Ziereis was the commandant of Mauthausen Concentration camp who held the rank of SS-Standartenführer (Col). He was discovered and arrested on the 23rd May 1945. He was shot three times whilst trying to escape and taken to a US Military hospital set up at the Gusen I Concentration camp, which ironically was under his pervious jurisdiction, where he died.

The individual named Schröder has not been identified. This name does not appear in any of the cases brought before the US Military tribunals held at Dachau against members of staff at the Mauthausen Concentrations camp.

Note: SS-Oberscharführer (Sgt) Josef Niedermayer stated that Eigruber had spoken to the victims prior to their execution. An eyewitness to the execution stated that the Americans, although naked at the time of execution, still had on their identification tags. This witness handed over these tags to an OSS war crimes representative.

Eigruber and Niedermayer were sentenced to death for their part in the atrocities and both were executed on the 28th May 1947 at Landsberg.

It is believed that the bodies of 1st Lt. Nisula and 1st Lt. Teschendorf were cremated at the Mauthausen Concentration camp.

Burial details:

Above: Grave marker for 1st Lt. Koerwitz (Courtesy of JAZ - FindAGrave)

1st Lt. Donald Edwin Koerwitz. DFC, Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters). Repatriated and interred at the Lake View Memorial Park in Plot Sunset F, Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Born on the 1st January 1923 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Son of Edwin Fredrick and Etta Katherine (née Busse) Koerwitz of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Husband to Mildred Marie ‘Millie’ (née Stacker) Koerwitz of Neenah, Wisconsin, USA.

Above: Grave marker for 2nd Lt. Murray (Courtesy of Dominique Potier - FindAGrave)

2nd Lt. John Graham Murray. DFC, Air Medal, Purple Heart. Ardennes American Cemetery, Plot D, Row 37, Grave 6. Born on the 12th January 1918 in Delaware, Pennsylvania.

Son of James Kendall and Florence Estelle (née Evans) Murray of Frankford, Delaware, Pennsylvania, USA.

Above: Wall of the Missing with 424 names on four separate panels surrounding the Memorial (Courtesy of Dwight Anderson). 1st Lt. Halsey Sanford Nisula and 1st Lt. Le Roy Teschendorf remain Missing in Action (MiA) to this day.

Above: Report on the death of 1st Lt. Nisula (Courtesy of the Fitchburg Sentinel, dated July 31st, 1945).

1st Lt. Halsey Sanford Nisula. Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster). Tablets of the Missing, Epinal American Cemetery. Born on the 28th September 1921 in Gardner, Massachusetts. Son of Oscar Adolph Matinpoika and Alice Edena (née Brown) Nisula of Gardner, Massachusetts, USA. His father predeceased him in June 1937.

His date of death was recorded as the 12th April 1945.

1st Lt. Le Roy Teschendorf. Silver Star, Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Tablets of the Missing, Epinal American Cemetery. Born on the 27th March 1924 in Le Sueur County, Minnesota. Son of Frank Philip Henry and Mildred (née Burdorf) Teschendorf of Plato, Minnesota, USA.

His date of death was recorded as the 21st April 1945.

Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew. Thanks also to Traugott Vitz for his work on the ‘VitzArchive.

RS & TV 17.10.2022 - Initial upload

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Acknowledgments: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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