21.07.1944 365th Bombardment Squadron (H) B-17G 42-97350, 2nd Lt. Leonard Aaron Kornblau
Operation: Schweinfurt (Mission #486), Germany
Date: 21st July 1944 (Friday)
Unit No: 365th Bombardment Squadron (H), 305th Bombardment Group (H), 1st Air Division, 8th Air Force
Serial No: 42-97350
Location: Epfenhofen 2 km (1¼ mls) NE from Fützen, Germany.
Base: Chelveston (Station #105), Northamptonshire, England
Pilot: 2nd Lt. Leonard Aaron Kornblau O-813721 AAF Age 23. Murdered (1)
Co Pilot: 2nd Lt. Bernard E. Radomski O-818745 AAF Age 23. Murdered (1)
Navigator: 2nd Lt. Charles Elbert Woolf O-710359 AAF Age 28. Murdered (1)
Bombardier: 2nd.Lt. William Edward Boyd O-706791 AAF Age 21. PoW *
Radio Operator: T/Sgt. Roger Charles Hubert Gagnon 33586853 AAF Age 21. PoW **
Engineer/Gunner: T/Sgt. Edward Alfred Theed 34544025 AAF Age 20. PoW ***
Ball Turret: S/Sgt. Meredith McDonald Mills Jr. 14084813 AAF Age 21. Murdered (1)
Waist Gunner: S/Sgt. Irvin Elwood Hughes 33501841 AAF Age 20. PoW ***
Tail Gunner: S/Sgt. Frank L. Misiak DFC, 36365096 AAF Age 37. Murdered (1)
One of the two Waist Gunners were removed from crew complements starting on the 7th June 1944 and then both from 23rd February 1945.
* Unknown Camp.
** Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).
*** 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:
On the morning of the 21th July 1944 42-97350 took off from Chelveston on a mission to bomb the KugelFischer ball bearing plant at Schweinfurt in Germany. An extract from an Intelligence Interrogation Report described that the aircraft was last seen peeling off from the formation, probably as a result of being hit by flak. It appeared to be under control and also that the crew were able to bail out.
German documents reported that the aircraft crashed at 13:10 hrs near Epfenhofen, 2 km (1¼ mls) NE from Fützen and some 15½ km (9½ mls) south of Donaueschingen and was 94% destroyed.
T/Sgt. Theed recorded in his Casualty Interrogation forms that the aircraft was approximately 9½ km (6 mls) from the Swiss border and some 96 km (60 mls) SE of Freiburg, Germany when they sustained 3 direct flak hits, which resulted in 2nd Lt. Kornblau giving the order to bail out. None of the crew were injured at this time and all successfully bailed out. He saw 2nd Lt. Kornblau, 2nd Lt. Radomski, 2nd Lt. Woolf, S/Sgt. Mills Jr. and S/Sgt. Misiak descending under their parachutes but that was the last he saw of them.
T/Sgt. Theed, together with T/Sgt. Gagnon and S/Sgt. Hughes were captured at Linach, Kreis Donaueschingen, some 34 km NW of the crash site, at 12:30 hrs the same day. 2nd Lt. Boyd was captured the next day at 09:00 hrs near Neukirch Kreis Donaueschingen, some 34 km (21 mls) NW of the crash site.
Upon his return to the United States T/Sgt. Theed was sent a newspaper clipping and a War Department release by a friend. He read that 2nd Lt. Kornblau, 2nd Lt. Radomski, 2nd Lt. Woolf, S/Sgt. Mills Jr. and S/Sgt. Misiak had been captured and later shot by Germans, and that the perpetrators were being hunted to stand trial for War Crimes.
According to Rose Radomski, the wife of 2nd Lt. Radomski, her husband and the four other airmen were reported to have been shot in the back close to the area in which they had been captured. This information was from a supposed German news report she had listened to which was broadcasted by a Paris radio station in September 1945.
(1) The circumstances leading to the deaths of the five airmen were determined when a General Military Government Court was convened at Dachau, Germany between the 21st and the 25th April 1947.
Seven German nationals were charged in that they did, at or near Schollach, Germany, on or about the 21st July 1944, wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid, abet and participate in the killing of five members of the United States Army, believed to be 2nd Lt. Charles E. Woolf, S/Sgt. Frank L. Misiak, S/Sgt. Meredith M. Mills Jr., 1st Lt. Leonard A. Kornblau and 2nd Lt. Bernard E. Radomski who were then unarmed, surrendered PoWs in the custody of the then German Reich.
The seven German nationals were:
Friedrich Gottlieb Werner who was a former Ortsgruppenleiter (Regional Nazi office leader);
Max Matthes who was a former SA-Obertruppführer (M/Sgt) and a member of the Nazi party;
Sturmabteilung (SA) = Paramilitary arm of the Nazi party.
Heinrich Birnbreier (alternative spelling: Birnbräuer) who was a former Kreispersonalamtsleiter (District personal department leader) and member of the Nazi party;
Josef Eisele who was a former member of the Sturmabteilung (SA) and a member of the Nazi party;
Arthur Faller who was a former reservist in the Gendarmerie (Rural police);
Fritz Kuner, the son of Benedikt Kuner who was the Kreisleiter (District leader) of Neustadt. It was reported that Fritz Kuner was killed on the Western Front where he was a Wehrmacht soldier;
Friedrich Heim was acquitted.
The court heard that on the 21st July 1944, five American airmen parachuted from their disabled four engine aircraft and came to earth safely in the vicinity of Urach and Schollach, Germany. In Urach, three of the airmen were taken prisoner and incarcerated in a building occupied by Catholic Sisters and in which the local Gendarmerie (Rural police) maintained a post. The other two airmen were taken into custody and placed under guard in a building which served as both a Rathaus (City hall) and schoolhouse in Schollach.
On that day Werner, Matthes and Fritz Kuner, who had been ordered by Benedikt Kuner to kill the airmen, travelled to some woods through which the airmen held at Urach would be marched.
When the airmen and the three escorting Gendarmes approached, Werner ordered the Gendarmes off to the left and immediately fired three shots from his pistol, one at each of the airman. It was presented to the court that Matthes and Fritz Kuner may also have fired simultaneously at the airmen. At the suggestion of Werner either Matthes or Fritz Kuner shot two of the airmen as they lay on the ground. The three airmen were left in the woods.
Various sources suggest that the three airmen were 2nd Lt. Woolf, S/Sgt. Misiak and S/Sgt. Mills Jr.
Faller was ordered by Benedikt Kuner to escort the two airmen, who had been held at the city hall in Schollach, one at a time about 45 mins apart, to the woods locally known as Winterwald. Birnbreier and Eisele, who had been ordered by Benedikt Kuner to kill the airmen, had according to prior arranged plans, stationed themselves in the woods. When the first airman arrived Birnbreier ordered him to raise his hands and searched him for weapons and found a knife. Birnbreier then motioned for the airman to lower his hands and then shot him from a distance of about 2 or 3 m (6 or 10 ft). Eisele then fired a shot into the airman’s head, which he claimed to be a “mercy shot”, to ensure that the airman was dead. When second airman arrived he suffered the same fate at the hands of Birnbreier and Eisele.
Various sources suggest that the two airmen were 1st Lt. Kornblau and 2nd.Lt. Radomski.
Faller claimed that he was ordered to just escort the two airmen separately to the woods and was shocked when the first airman was shot. Each of the accused claimed that they had no option but to obey the orders given by Kreisleiter Kuner to kill the airmen.
The court rejected the defence presented of “superior orders” for Werner, Matthes, Birnbreier and Eisele. Also that of Faller as he willingly escorted the second airman to his death.
The court found the accused:
Werner & Birnbreier guilty and sentenced them to death by hanging. Both were executed at War Criminal Prison No.1 at Landsberg, Germany. Werner on the 4th December 1947 at 13:00 hrs and Birnbreier on the 5th December 1947;
Matthes and Eisele guilty and were each sentenced to life imprisonment. Matthes was paroled in February 1954 and Eisele in October the same year;
Faller guilty and sentenced him to 20 years imprisonment commencing on the 5th July 1946. His sentence was later reduced to 15 years and he was paroled in February 1954.
Benedikt Kuner was not before the court to answer for his involvement in the killings because he had committed suicide near Altglashütten, Germany on the 14th May 1945 whilst fleeing from American forces.
Late on the evening of the 21st July 1944 orders were issued to bury the airmen in the forest at Winterberg-Urishof, without markings. During a night in February 1945 the Bürgermeister (Mayor) and Pastor of Schollach recovered their remains and buried them in the cemetery at Schollach. In August 1945 the remains of the five airmen were recovered and reinterred at the Lorraine American Cemetery.
2nd Lt. Leonard Aaron Kornblau. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters). Repatriated and interred at the Mount Lebanon Cemetery, Glendale, Queens County, New York. Born on the 21st September 1921 in Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Son of Maurice and Bessie Kornblau from Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, USA.
2nd Lt. Bernard E. Radomski. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Repatriated and interred at the Mount Calvary Cemetery, Cheektowaga, New York. Born on the 18th May 1921 in Buffalo, Erie, New York. Son of Bernard Roman and Victoria (née Luczak) Radomski and husband to Rose M. (née Wonsowki) Radomski from Buffalo, Erie, New York, USA.
2nd Lt. Charles Elbert Woolf. Repatriated and interred at the Lawrence memorial Park Cemetery, Lawrence, Kansas. Born on the 10th March 1916 in Lebo, Coffey County, Kansas, Son of Charles Elbert and Leona Mae (née Johnson) Woolf (his father predeceased him in 1933) and husband to Margaret May Woolf from Lawrence, Kansas, USA.
S/Sgt. Meredith McDonald Mills Jr. Repatriated and buried at the St. Augustine National Cemetery, Section D, Grave 120, St. Augustine, Florida. Born on the 21st April 1923 in DeLand, Florida. Son of Meredith M. Mills Sr. from St. Augustine, Florida, USA.
S/Sgt. Frank L. Misiak, DFC, Air Medal (5 Oak Leaf Clusters). Lorraine American Cemetery, Plot E, Row 13, Grave 22. Born in 1907. Son of Mary Misiak, who was a widow, from Cicero, Illinois, USA.
Memorial plaque for Leonard Kornblau and Bernard Radomski from the 305th Bomb Group marking the site where they were shot and killed by the Germans on 21 July 1944, near Shollach, Germany (Courtesy of the American Air Museum).
Here, on 21 July 1944
the American airmen
L. Kornblau and B. Radomski
were murdered by the Nazis
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’.