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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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8th Air Force
13.08.1944 525th Bombardment Squadron (H) B-17G 42-107175, 2nd Lt. Marshall B. Miller

Operation: Battle Area Support (Mission #548), France

Date: 13th August 1944 (Sunday)

Unit No: 525th Bomber Squadron (H), 379th Bombardment Group (H), 1st Air Division, 8th Air Force

Type: B-17G

Serial No: 42-107175

Code: FR:Z

Location: 14½ km (9 mls) east of Vire, France.

Base: Kimbolton (Station #117), Huntingdonshire, England

Pilot: 2nd Lt. Marshall Blinn Miller Jr. O-764070 AAF Age 26. KiA

Co Pilot: 2nd Lt. Russell Benjamin Dey O-822394 AAF Age 21. KiA

Navigator: 2nd Lt. Donald James Ramage O-717694 AAF Age 21. KiA

Bombardier: 2nd Lt. George M. Mikels O-757899 AAF Age 24. PoW/Evader (1)

Radio Op: S/Sgt. Anthony T. Albach 17075891 AAF Age 22. KiA

Engineer: S/Sgt. John F. Hatfield 31239576 AAF Age? KiA

Ball Turret: S/Sgt. Edward Joseph Preno 36674547 AAF Age 28. KiA

Waist Gunner: Sgt. George E. Richardson 39190723 AAF Age 22. KiA

Tail Gunner: Sgt. John Frederick Lynch 17079620 AAF Age 20. PoW *

One of the two Waist Gunners were removed from crew complements starting on the 7th June 1944 and then both from 23rd February 1945.

* Obermaßfeld Hospital #1249 (Served Stalag 9c Mühlhausen near Bad Sulza), Obermaßfeld, Thuringia, Germany.


B-17G 42-107175 took off from Kimbolton on the morning of the 13th August 1944 on a overall mission to bomb coastal batteries and transportation choke points between Le Havre and Paris. The 379th Bombardment Group (BG) was assigned to attack a railway cutting in the Rouen area of France.

A few km south of Caen and before reaching the target the aircraft was struck by a direct flak burst between #2 engine and the bomb bay. Fires immediately broke out and the bomb bay area was in flames due to broken fuel lines.

An after mission statement reported that two aircraft, 42-107175 and 42-31927, from the BG were missing on this operation. Both were lost to flak in the area of Falaise. Two parachutes were seen from 42-107175 and seven from 42-31927.

The second parachute was that of Sgt. Lynch.

2nd Lt. Ramage hesitated in bailing out and sensing impending extreme danger 2nd Lt. Mikels jumped first at about 22,000 ft. He did not see any other crew members as he cleared down to less than 10,000 ft before opening his parachute.

After the first men bailed out the aircraft exploded in mid-air and the wreckage fell to the ground some 14½ km (9 mls) east of Vire in the vicinity of Vassy, France.

(1) 2nd Lt. Mikels was captured after parachuting into the camp of an SS Infantry unit. Here he met a WO1. Griffin ‘Griff’ James Young R85855 RCAF, a Spitfire pilot who was also shot down on the same day. They were interrogated and then held in a farmhouse where they met with a S/Sgt. Norman E. Thielan 14057011 US AAF, whose B-26B had been shot down on the 13th August.

The three were moved back from the advancing front lines by car until they arrived at the temporary PoW camp at Les Hogues, located SE of Rouen, France.

The following has been extracted from a Court of Enquiry which was held at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) on the 25th August 1945:

At the end of July or early August 1944, a German PoW unit, Supply Company K.612, set up the camp at Les Hogues, a Feldwebel (Sgt) Wenzel being in charge. The camp housed many black South African nationals, French Colonial Arabs and Turks who were being used as slave labour.

Shortly before 16:00 hrs on the 25th August 1944, WO1.Young and the following four PoWs, were sitting in front of a shed in the camp:

Flt Lt. Denis Clark 119758 RAFVR, a Mustang pilot who had been shot down on the 20th August 1944;

Pvt. Gordon Lafayette Bryant 6969514 from the 117th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division, US Army. The circumstances leading to his capture are unknown;

Two British soldiers from the Royal Artillery (RA), one whose identity is unknown and a L/Bdr. Jack Martin 976272 from the 65th (The Norfolk Yeomanry) Anti-Tank Regiment. The circumstances leading to their capture are unknown but L/Bdr. Martin was reported missing on the 21st August 1944.

An SS NCO who had driven up in a car into the camp ordered these five PoWs to come and help to ‘push a car’. There was some speculation as to the purpose for this subterfuge, which was subsequently overtaken by what followed.

The prisoners did not understand and did not move. The SS NCO went away and returned with an SS-Obersturmführer (1st Lt.) and two other SS NCOs. The SS-Obersturmführer asked why the prisoners did not get up, again they did not reply, whereupon he assaulted one of them.

At this point, another of the PoWs began to walk or run towards the gate of the camp and he was shot by one or more of the SS men. The other four PoWs were then shot in turn, each making varying efforts to get away, with one succeeding in getting out of the gate and down the road outside before he was shot.

The bodies of all five men were collected and buried in the camp. All money and valuables were removed from the bodies and a receipt was given to Feldwebel Wenzel. This paper was stamped "SS Panzer Corps Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, Second Company" and signed "Gutemann". The paper was not presented as an exhibit to the court but was seen on several occasions by one of the witnesses.

The camp guards took no part in the murders and appeared to keep out of the way. Seven witnesses were called before the court. Most reiterated the events as told to them by Feldwebel Wenzel and the camp guards. However, three of the witnesses saw the PoW on the road outside the camp gate being shot and killed.

The court attached no importance that the five deceased were planning to escape together with other fellow prisoners, as this was not known to the SS men. The pathologist’s findings documented that all five victims suffered one or more gunshot wounds either to the head, neck or chest which were inflicted from the front or side. One body exhibited a gunshot wound from behind and may have been the victim who was running on the road.

In the view of the court, the evidence presented was sufficient to establish, in the minds of reasonable men, a case of murder by SS-Obersturmführer Gutemann and two of his three associates, the third apparently took no direct part.

An SS-Obersturmführer Eugen Gutemann was captured on the 28th April 1945 in Italy and was held as a PoW by the USA. American record cards have been found that a case number had been allocated in relation to a war crime committed against Pvt. Bryant but nothing further has been found.

No records have been found to indicate that Gutemann had been brought before a court to answer for his role in the deaths of the five PoWs.

2nd Lt. Mikels was lying on the ground without his shirt on in the midst of several Arabs. He was given a Fez and a French overcoat by some French colonials and with these he disguised himself. Sgt Norman Thielan was at another part of the camp and was not approached. The regular Oberfeldwebel (Sgt) in charge of the camp told him to lie low until the SS left. Knowing that the Germans would not want the atrocity to get out 2nd Lt. Mikels planned to escape as soon as the opportunity presented itself.

The day after the shootings the camp was moved towards Amiens and on the second night early in the morning they reached Rumigny (Somme) where they stopped in a patch of woods. Here he pretended to suffer diarrhoea and went to the brush several times. At 13:00 hrs he went out again and this time hid in the brush. It was not for several hours that he was missed but was not found by the searching Germans.

He remained hidden all afternoon until the camp moved on at 21:00 hrs. Two French boys named Pierre and Gérard found him and took him to the Chef de Brigade de Gendarmerie (Chief of Police) of Saint-Sauflieu which is about 3 km (1¾ mls) from Rumigny. He was given a change of clothes and was hidden. Four days later on the 30th August British forces entered the town.

Saint-Sauflieu is a commune in the Somme department in Hauts-de-France in northern France.

The next afternoon he got a ride to Hébécourt, 3 km (1¾ mls) north of Saint-Sauflieu, where he met a Major in the American Army Medical Corps. From here the British took him along with several other Americans to the 16th Fighter Group at Beauvais where they were given new uniforms. They were then transported to Civil Affairs at Pontoise who arranged transport to Paris. In Paris he reported to a Major Mays from G2 (Army Military Intelligence) who arranged transportation and gave him orders to report to 63 Brook Street in London on the 6th September 1944.

63 Brook Street was the location of a US Special Reception Centre where evaders were interrogated.

Burial Details:

Initial burial locations are unknown

2nd Lt. Marshall Blinn Miller Jr. Purple Heart. Recovered and interred at the US Military Cemetery Marigny near Saint-Lô, Plot R, Row 4, Grave 62. Reburied at the Brittany American Cemetery, Plot C, Row 4, Grave 4. Born on the 28th November 1917 in King County, Washington. Son to Frederick Monroe Kendrick. Husband to Natalie R. (née Row) Miller from Oakgrove, Oregon, USA.

Above newspaper clipping for 2nd Lt. Dey, from The Central New Jersey Home News, dated Tuesday September 14th, 1948

2nd Lt. Russell Benjamin Dey. Recovered and interred at the US Military Cemetery Marigny near Saint-Lô, Plot R, Row 4, Grave 70. Repatriated and interred at the Brainerd Cemetery, Cranbury, New Jersey on the 17th September 1948. Born on the 8th July 1923 in Brooklyn, New York. Son of Walter Wood and Olive May (née Magee) Dey from Brooklyn, Kings, New York, USA.

2nd Lt. Donald James Ramage. Recovered and interred at the US Military Cemetery Marigny near Saint-Lô, Plot R, Row 4, Grave 64. Repatriated on the 25th August 1949 to Long Island National Cemetery, Plot J, Grave 14685, Farmingdale, New York. Born on the 30th August 1922 in Providence, Rhode Island. Husband to Evelyn Marie (née Paulhus) Ramage from Providence, Rhode Island, USA.

S/Sgt. Anthony T. Albach. Recovered and interred at the US Military Cemetery Marigny near Saint-Lô, Plot R, Row 4, Grave 67. Repatriated on the 2nd October 1948 to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Plot 81, Grave 21, St Louis, Missouri. Born on the 6th August 1922 in Hungary. Son of Martin Albach from St Louis, Missouri, USA.

Above newspaper clipping for S/Sgt. Hatfield from The Boston Globe, dated Monday August 13th, 1945

S/Sgt. John F. Hatfield. Purple Heart. Recovered and interred at the US Military Cemetery Marigny near Saint-Lô, Plot R, Row 4, Grave 69. Reburied at the Brittany American Cemetery, Plot C, Row 2, Grave 4. Son of Marie Hatfield from Dorchester, Massachusetts, USA.

S/Sgt. Edward Joseph Preno. Recovered and interred at the US Military Cemetery Marigny near Saint-Lô, Plot R, Row 4, Grave 68. Repatriated to the New Calveny Cemetery, Carlinville, Illinois. Born on the 17th November 1913 in Standard, Putnam County, Illinois. Son of Joseph Edward and Lucille Madeline (née Columbatto) Preno. Husband to Virginia (née Breno) Preno from Carlinville, Macoupin, Illinois, USA.

Sgt. George E. Richardson. Recovered and interred at the Ardennes American Cemetery in Plot II, Row 2, Grave 29 as X-7428 on the 11th May 1948. Repatriated to the Evergreen-Washelli Memorial Park, Seattle, Washington. Born on the 22nd November 1921. Son of Fred O. Richardson from Snohomish, Seattle, Washington, USA.

Researched by Ralph Snape for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew (Sep 2021). Update to the story leading to the murders of the five PoWs. (Jan 2024).

Other sources listed below:

RS 20.01.2024 - Update to the story leading to the murders of the five PoWs

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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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