30.05.1944 No. 306 Squadron (P) Mustang III FX979 UZ-A F/O. Oberdak
Operation: Ramrod 947
Date: 30th May 1944 (Tuesday)
Unit: No. 306 (P) Squadron
Type: Mustang III
Base: RAF Coolham, Sussex (ALG - Advanced Landing Ground)
Location: Zwolle, Netherlands
Pilot: F/O. Czesław Oberdak P-2224/793214 PAF Age 22. Evaded - PoW - murdered
REASON FOR LOSS:
Details submitted by Richard Schuurman, May 2016:
Born in Kraków, Czesław Oberdak had barely turned 18 and joined a flying course in Kielçe, when war broke out. He evaded Poland along with thousands of countrymen to Romania, where he was kept in a camp for about six months. He escaped through Yugoslavia and Italy and reached Lyon in France to join the Polish Air Force in exile.
Without having seen an aircraft inside he again had to run from Hitler’s armies. Through Saint Jean de Luz in southern France he was on board a troopship and arrived in Liverpool on June 27th 1940.
It took months before his training course started in earnest in Blackpool. At first, it seemed he was trained to join one of the Polish bomber squadrons, but Czesław wanted to be a fighter pilot. He earned his wings in January 1942 and successfully continued an officer's course, before joining 306 squadron in December 1943.
Oberdak flew his first mission on January 14th 1944, escorting bombers over western France on their missions to destroy unidentified sites which appeared to be V1 launch pads. After the squadron changed from Spitfires Vb to Mustang P-51b in April he escorted US bombers deep into Germany.
On May 30th 1944 Flying Officer Oberdak flew his 26th and final mission. After escorting bombers to the Junkers factory in Halberstadt, his Mustang hit trouble on the way back. Czesław had to make a forced landing in the eastern part of The Netherlands.
The local resistance immediately was on hand to help him and provided shelter in a house in Ommen, where already three Americans were there, including navigator Franklin D. Coslett.
In months to come Oberdak moved to other hiding places in Dalfsen, near Hasselt, Harderwijk and even Amsterdam, literally around the corner of the Sicherheitsdienst HQ. On December 6th it was deemed better that he, Coslett and a few others would go to the central part of the country again, possibly to cross the river Rhine into liberated area.
On the morning of December 24th their shelter in the woods at Hoenderloo purely by chance were discovered by German troops, walking the woods after their truck got a puncture. Five men inside the shelter were arrested, but three successfully escaped. Not so Oberdak and Coslett, who were taken to SD quarters in Velp and in contradiction to German procedures at the time had to appear before an SD court. Both were convicted to death for terrorism and espionage and transferred to De Kruisberg prison in Doetinchem, where as Todeskandidaten they could be chosen at random for execution as the Germans seemed fit.
Czesław Oberdak had to face this ordeal on March 8th 1945. In revenge to a failed attack two days before on the highest SS police officer in The Netherlands, Obergruppenführer Hanns Rauter, the Germans murdered 117 men on the spot at a locality called Woeste Hoeve, near Apeldoorn. Elsewhere 146 more were shot.
Right: "On the trace to Woeste Hoeve" the full story of his loss and that of the other murders carried out by the German, written by Richard Schuurman.
All victims were buried in a mass grave, but as Dutch police opened the grave in April 1945 they were unable to identify two of the victims.
Purely by chance Oberdak’s sister Ludmiła Kaczmarska in 1991 discovered a Polish book that told her about her brother’s forced landing in The Netherlands. She decided to look for him and contacted the newspaper in Zwolle in the area Oberdak had landed.
Journalist Richard Schuurman took up the search and tried to reconstruct the whereabouts of Oberdak. He linked his missing to the executions at Woeste Hoeve, but even after digging up the remains of this ‘Unknown Dutchman’ in 1995 this person couldn’t be identified as Oberdak.
In 2005 the search was renewed, this time by a Polish institute that investigated war crimes against fellow countrymen. Dutch Police and National Army continued the search. In November 2008 thanks to DNA of Ludmiła Kaczmarska it was finally possible to positively identify the unknown man as Czesław Oberdak. On December 10th 2009 he was reburied in his family grave in Kraków with full military honour.
Richard Schuurman wrote a book about the search for Czesław Oberdak and the executions at Woeste Hoeve in 2012, which so far only has appeared in Dutch as ‘Spoor naar Woeste Hoeve’ (On the Trace to Woeste Hoeve).
F/O. Czesław Oberdak. Initially at Woeste Hoeve, near Apeldoorn - unidentified. Later Rakowicki Cemetery, Krakow, Poland. Born 20th July 1921 - next of kin details not fully known.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to Richard Schuurman, researcher and author of the Netherlands. Other sources as quoted below: