23.12.1944 343rd Fighter Squadron P-51D Mustang 44-13643 ‘Sweet Patooty’, 1st Lt. John E. McDonnell
Operation: Bomber support (Mission #757), Germany
Date: 23rd December 1944 (Saturday)
Unit No: 343rd Fighter Squadron, 55th Fighter Group, 66th Fighter Wing, 8th Air Force
Type: P-51D Sweet Patooty
Base: Wormingford (Station #159), Essex, England
Location: Oberraden, about 1¼ km (¾ mls) north of Niederraden, Germany
Pilot: 1st Lt. John Edward McDonnell O-710726 AAF Age 21. Murdered
REASON FOR LOSS:
After mission statement by 1st Lt. Brooks J. Liles, O-744720
“On the 23rd of December, 1944 I was flying Program Red Three. Red Leader aborted and told me to take the flight. I became separated from the Squadron when I made a bounce. I stayed in the target area for about one hour. Hearing ‘Windsor’ being vectored Northeast, I drove Northeast of Cologne. At 10000 ft. I thought I saw some targets on the deck and went down on them. Light flak began to burst around us so I broke left and started climbing. Tudor Red Two - Lt. McDONNELL, called and said he thought he had been hit. He was still climbing with me when I looked around. About one minute later he called and said he was setting course for home. It was rather hazy and I did not see him leave the formation and could not find him or contact him on the R/T again. My Number 3 man and I drove Southwest for awhile and then came home. I last heard him at approx. 13:30. There were no E/A in the area”.
Note: ‘Windsor’ was the 55 Fighter Group call-sign and ‘Tudor’ was the call-sign for the 343rd Fighter Squadron.
German documents recorded that 1st Lt. McDonnell was killed when his Mustang forced landed near Oberraden, by virtue of the fact that the aircraft had been 70% destroyed by fire.
Oberraden is some 13km (8 mls) NNE of Neuwied.
The circumstances leading to the death of 1st Lt. McDonnell were determined in the 3rd of three trials convened in Hamburg between the 25th and 30th June 1947.
Six German nationals where charged in three trials (cases):
SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lt Col) Wilhelm Wiebens who was the head of the SD detachment at Straßenhaus;
SD-Hauptsturmführer (Capt) Hermann Kagel;
SD-Obersturmführer (1st Lt) Otto Bauhofer;
SD-Obersturmführer (1st Lt) Hans Werner Pausebach;
SD-Unterscharführer (L/Cpl) Cornelius Kayser;
SD-Oberscharführer (Sgt) Heinrich Fritz Herzog.
SD= Sicherheitsdienst was the Security service for the SS = Schutzstaffel.
In the 3rd Case Charge 1, Wiebens, Bauhofer and Kagel were charged in that they in the neighbourhood of Rengsdorf, Germany, on or about 22nd December 1944 in violation of the laws and usages of war, were concerned in the killing of an Allied airman PoW believed to be John E. McDonell [sic], USAAF.
In the 3rd Case Charge 2, Wiebens and Bauhofer were charged in that they in the neighbourhood of Rengsdorf, Germany, on or about 31st January 1945 in violation of then laws and usages of war, were concerned in the killing of an Allied airman PoW believed to be Flt Lt. J.K. Livingstone RAF.
In the 2nd Case, Kayser and Pausebach were charged in that they in the neighbourhood of Rengsdorf, Germany, on or about 31st January 1945 in violation of the laws and usages of war, were concerned in the killing of an Allied airman PoW believed to be Flt Lt. J.K. Livingstone RAF.
In the 1st Case, Herzog was charged in that he in the neighbourhood of Rengsdorf, Germany, on or about 15th February 1945 in violation of the laws and usages of war, was concerned in the killing of an Allied airman, PoW believed to be 2nd Lt. C.W. Heline USAAF.
The Gendarmeriemeister (Rural police Warrant Officer (WO)) of Rengsdorf, a Ludwig Neuendoerfer, described in a sworn statement that whilst on his way to Niederraden on a motor cycle he had heard of the crash of an aircraft near Oberraden from passers-by. He made his way to the location and found that some boys had taken charge of an airman who had a bad wound to the side of his head and was covered in blood.
He told the boys to take the airman to Bürgermeister (Mayor) Philipp Bierbrauer’s house in Niederraden. A little later Neuendoerfer himself went to the house where he and Bierbrauer bandaged the airman’s head wound as best they could.
Niederraden is some 1¼ km (1 ml) south of Oberraden
Witnesses stated that the airman’s physical condition was very weak through loss of blood and that his head wound was still bleeding through the bandages. The pilot refused the offer of food, he was sick and also collapsed whilst waiting to be taken to hospital.
Bierbrauer tried repeatedly but unsuccessfully to have the military hospital in Rengsdorf send someone to collect the wounded airman. He then called the SD headquarters (HQ) located at the ‘Zur Post’ hotel in Straßenhaus and asked them to transport the airman to hospital.
Rengsdorf is some 8 km (5 mls) by road to the south of Niederraden and Straßenhaus is some 1¼ km (1 ml) west of Niederraden.
The call arrived whilst the SD members were celebrating some form of Christmas party at the hotel. Wiebens, having been informed of the call, gave orders to Bauhofer, Kagel and a man named Kaiser to collect the airman. They were told that he should not be handed over to the proper authorities but should be killed. Wiebens in his affidavit denied that he ordered, gave permission or agreed to the shooting of Allied airmen.
SD-Hauptscharführer (T/Sgt) Karl Kaiser was not before the court because he had not been found.
1st Lt. McDonnell was collected by the three accused from Niederraden at about 18:00 hrs. En route to Rengsdorf and about 1½ km from the town Kaiser stopped the car before the road emerged from the cover of some woods ostensibly because of Allied aircraft activity.
The defence claimed that the airman, after being berated and attacked by Kaiser, jumped out of the car and ran into the woods in an attempt to escape. Kaiser chased after him and after disappearing from sight Bauhofer and Kagel heard at least four shots. When the two eventually caught up with Kaiser they found him standing over the dead airman. Kaiser claimed that the airman had tried to strangle him and that his pistol had a stoppage.
Witness statements describing the airman’s injuries and that he was very weak whilst at the Bürgermeister’s house made the story of the escape attempt concocted by Bauhofer and Kagel implausible. This coupled by their efforts to shift the blame of the murder onto Kaiser was dismissed by the court.
In the opinion of the court they had no alternative but to find Wiebens, Bauhofer and Kagel guilty of the charge.
Wiebens and Kagel were sentenced to 15 years and 12 years imprisonment respectively. Both were imprisoned at the Allied prison at Werl. Wiebens was released on the 7th May 1955 and Kagel on the 12th April 1954.
Note: Wiebens’ sentence was also for his his role in the death of Flt Lt. J.K. Livingstone RAF.
Bauhofer was sentenced to death on this charge and that of the murder of Flt Lt. J.K. Livingstone RAF. He was executed by firing squad at Hamburg on the 23rd October 1947 at 07:00 hrs.
1st Lt. McDonnell was initially interred at the Rengsdorf Cemetery in grave number 1.
Above: Grave marker for 1st Lt. McDonnell (Courtesy of Michel Beckers)
1st Lt. John Edward McDonnell. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Reinterred at the Netherlands American Cemetery, Plot ZZ, Row 12, Grave 277 as X-2335 on the 14th February 1946. Relocated to Plot M, Row 15, Grave 6. Born on the 25th January 1923 in Duluth, St. Louis County, Minnesota. Son of James Godfrey (deceased in November 1931) and Dadie (née Chartrand) McDonnell of Duluth, St. Louis County, Minnesota, USA.
Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to Traugott Vitz for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’.