Operation: Stuttgart (Mission #605), Germany
Date: 5th September 1944 (Tuesday)
Unit No: 562nd Bombardment Squadron (H), 388th Bombardment Group (H), 3rd Air Division, 8th Air Force
Type: B-17G Moonlight Serenade
Serial No: 43-37599
Location: Hohe Stückbäume, about 4 km (2½ mls) due east of Kandern, Germany
Base: Knettishall (Station #136), Suffolk, England
Pilot: 2nd Lt. Raymond Marcus Paaske O-764770 AAF Age 28. PoW *
Co Pilot: 2nd Lt Garis Phillip Jacoby O-556376 AAF Age 22. Murdered (1)
Navigator: 2nd Lt. Anthony Miles Santos O-434926 AAF Age 28. PoW *
Bombardier: 2nd Lt. Eugene Sydlowski O-716811 AAF Age 22. Evaded (2)
Radio/Op: Sgt. John Stephen Wells 39299707 AAF Age 22. Evaded (3)
Engineer: Sgt. William Milton Baker 14101126 AAF Age 22. Evaded (4)
Ball Turret: Sgt. Earnest Ray Haygood 38344487 AAF Age 19. Evaded (5)
Waist Gunner: Sgt. Sam Edward George Jr., 35732496 AAF Age 19. PoW **
Tail Gunner: Sgt. Henry Jackson Mays 19085053 AAF Age 22. PoW Unknown Camp
One of the two Waist Gunners were removed from crew complements starting on the 7th June 1944 and then both from 23rd February 1945.
* Stalag Luft 1 Barth-Vogelsang, today part of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany.
** Stalag Luft 4 Gross-Tychow, Pomerania, Prussia now Poland (Moved from Stalag Luft 6 Heydekrug. Moved to Wöbbelin near Ludwigslust and then to Usedom near Swinemünde).
Above: Capt. Leon H. Robbins , the Executive Officer for the 560th Bomber Squadron, shaking the hand of Glenn Miller, on the right and in front of B-17G 43-37599 'Moonlight Serenade'. (Credit: 388th Bomb Group Association)
REASON FOR LOSS:
The Moonlight Serenade took off at 05:00 hours from Knettishall in Suffolk on the 5th September 1944 on a mission to bomb targets in Stuttgart, Germany.
Three or four minutes after bombing the target the aircraft was hit by flak and was seen to leave the formation with two engines ‘feathered’. The aircraft was heard to call for fighter escort and was last seen over the Vosges mountains, west of Strasbourg, with an escort of five P-51 Mustangs. Radio conversations reported that the aircraft may have been trying to reach an emergency airfield in Allied occupied France. The Escape and Evasion (EE) report for 2nd Lt. Sydlowski described how they flew on until a third engine was lost and they had to abandon the aircraft. All of the crew successfully bailed out of the aircraft and landed in dispersed locations.
The circumstances surrounding the capture of 2nd Lt. Paaske, 2nd Lt Jacoby, 2nd Lt. Santos, Sgt. George Jr. and Sgt. Mays are not known. However, 2nd Lt Jacoby’s name was in an American Red Cross (ARC) letter stating that he had been seen and spoken to by an ARC representative at Schirmeck La Broque on the 8th November 1944. This would indicate that on this date, at the latest, he was a PoW (“The Nazi Hunters”, page 219 - Damien Lewis)
The last reported position of the aircraft was at Lat/Long 48 20N, 07 30E, which is near to Epfig. German records reported that the aircraft crashed in the region of Malsburg-Marzell which is about 4 km (2½ mls) NE of Kandern in Germany.
In an article (Reference 1), provided by Andreas Charvat, the author claimed that the Moonlight Serenade crashed a few feet below the summit of Hohe Stückbäume, (3080 ft, 939 m) which is about 4 km (2½ mls) due east of Kandern and some 70 km (43½ mls) SSE of the reported last known position.
Of those that bailed out and evaded capture the nearest to the crash location landed to the west of Colmar which is some 45 km (28 mls) NNW of the crash site. The author speculated that for the Moonlight Serenade to have flown that distance before crashing it may been under the control of the autopilot.
(1) The fate of 2nd Lt Jacoby was unknown until a British Military Court was convened in Wuppertal, Germany, between the 6th and 10th May 1946.
Eleven German nationals were charged with committing a war crime in that they, at the Rotenfels Security Camp, Gaggenau, Germany, on the 25th November 1944, in violation of the laws and usages of war, were concerned in the killing of ten PoWs; four American, six British and four French nationals. Since there were French nationals among the victims, a French Air Force Captain (Capt) was a member of the court, sitting with one Brigadier (Brig) four Majors (Maj) and a Judge Advocate.
The accused were Karl Buck, SS-Hauptsturmführer (Capt) and commander of the Sicherungslagers Schirmeck La Broque and Rotenfels/Gaggenau, Robert Wünsch, SS-Untersturmführer (2nd Lt) and administrative officer at the Gaggenau camp, Karl Nussberger, Oberleutnant (1st Lt) in the Police and Commanding Officer (CO) of the police unit responsible for the security at the Gaggenau camp, one Karl Zimmermann, SS-Sturmscharführer (Sgt Maj) and several police Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) of varying rank, Erwin Ostertag, Josef Muth, Bernhard Josef Ulrich, Heinrich Neuschwanger, Karl Wilhelm Dinkel, Helmut Korb, and Franz Xaver Vetter.
The court heard that during November 1944 at Schirmeck La Broque, prisoners of various categories were held, some of them in the “Block“ (a prison within a prison). When the Allied forces approached, orders were given to move the “Block“ prisoners from Schirmeck La Broque further to the east. The victims named in the charge were transported to Rotenfels/Gaggenau, which was also under Buck's orders.
On the morning of 24th or 25th November 1944, Buck came to Rotenfels/Gaggenau and issued orders to Wünsch that certain prisoners were to be killed. Wünsch related this order to Nussberger who in turn conferred with his subordinates who then started to make the preparations they thought necessary. At 14:00 hrs on the 25th November 1944, a van appeared at the camp gate to take the prisoners and their escort, comprising the accused policemen, except for Nussberger, plus four Russian prisoners who had picks and shovels with them.
The lorry drove to a place outside Gaggenau called Erlichwald (Erlich woods). There the accused made the prisoners, in four groups of three and one group of two, dismount from the lorry and walk some distance into the wood where they were shot dead from behind, their bodies falling into a bomb crater. The individuals who did the shooting were Neuschwanger, Ulrich and Ostertag. The bodies were stripped of their clothes and personal effects. The bomb crater was then filled in and the clothes and effects burned on the spot, although in their haste they left several vital clues which later assisted in identifying the victims.
When French troops reached Gaggenau at the end of April 1945, word of the atrocities reached them fairly quickly, and they ordered the exhumation of the bodies from the bomb crater, using local Nazis as the workforce. Identification was only partly successful, and the victims were reburied in individual graves in the local cemetery on 13th May 1945. On 10th June, Maj. Eric ‘Bill’ Barkworth of the 2nd Special Air Service (SAS) Regiment arrived and ordered a fresh exhumation. Careful examination of the bodies and graves, together with investigations at the bomb crater site, established the identities of the victims as named in the charge. Maj. Barkworth, in his evidence in court, said he found 2nd Lt. Jacoby's dog tags when sifting the soil at the crime scene.
The court found all accused, with the exception of Muth, guilty of the charge and rejected their defense of Superior Orders (in this case: Hitler’s Commando Order of 18th October 1942). Buck, Neuschwanger, Nussberger, Ostertag and Ulrich were sentenced to death by shooting. Wünsch was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment, Dinkel 8 years, Korb 3 years, Vetter 2 years and Zimmermann 10 years. The sentences were confirmed by the Commander in Chief of the British Army of the Rhine on 6th July 1946, but not all of them were promulgated and executed.
The French authorities wanted to try some of the accused in this case for other, similar crimes and demanded their extradition. It is not clear why Neuschwanger was the only one to pay with his life for the murders of 25th November 1944. He was executed at the shooting range located adjacent to Neheimer Straße in Werl, Germany, by a British firing party on 26th September 1946 at 08:00 hrs. It is speculated that he may not have been named on the extradition list.
Buck, Nussberger, Ostertag, Ulrich and Wünsch, and also the acquitted Muth were extradited to the authorities in the French Zone of Occupation and stood trial before the Tribunal Général at Rastatt, Germany, from 20th February to 18th March 1947.
They were charged for war crimes under the Control Council Law No. 10, for the ill-treatment and the murder of Allied nationals in Security and Work Camps. Buck, Muth, Nussberger, Ostertag and Ulrich were found guilty and were sentenced to death whilst Wünsch received a sentence of one year imprisonment.
Upon appeal, the (French) death sentences of Buck and Nussberger were commuted to life imprisonment with hard labour. The sentences of Muth and Ostertag were both commuted to fifteen years imprisonment with hard labour. Ulrich’s (French) death sentence was carried out by shooting on 26th August 1947 at 07:00 hrs in a gravel pit to the southwest of Sandweier (today part of Baden-Baden), and he was buried in Plittersdorf. It is not quite clear when the British decided to reprieve Buck, Nussberger and Ostertag, and to commute their sentences to prison terms, seeing that (a) the French would not hand the prisoners back and (b) that it would be very much against British tradition anyway to enact a death sentence many years after the actual sentencing.
Buck and Nussberger stood trial again in Metz during January 1953, as did Robert Wünsch, who was tried in absentia. All three of them were sentenced to death. Once again Buck and Nussberger were reprieved and their sentences were commuted to twenty years imprisonment . Both were released from the British prison at Werl on the 9th September 1955 after having been returned to British custody.
According to archival records, Ostertag was still in prison in 1954. Otherwise, the final disposition of the sentences for Muth, Ostertag, Wünsch, Dinkel, Zimmermann and Korb is unknown.
In addition to 2nd Lt. Jacoby those murdered and identified were:
Sgt. Michael Pipock, ASN 16176838 AAF, waist gunner from B-17G 42-32086 ‘You Never Know’; S/Sgt. Curtis E. Hodges ASN 37623179 AAF, tail gunner and T/Sgt. Maynard A. Latten ASN 6917758 AAF, radio operator from B-24J 42-50511;
From the 2nd SAS Regiment: Maj. Anthony R. Whately-Smith, 113612; Maj. Denis Bingham Reynolds, 130586; Lt. David Gordon Dill, 265704; Gnr. Christopher Ashe, 847426; Pvt. Maurice Arthur Griffin, 873123;
Capt. Victor Albert Gough, 148884 of the team Jacob of Operation Jedburgh, which was part of Operation Loyton, Special Operations Executive (SOE);
French nationals: Abbé (Priest) Joseph Alphonse Roth, Abbé Jean Justin Pennerath, Abbé Joseph Claude and Werner Jakob.
Operation Jedburgh was a clandestine operation during World War II, in which personnel of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the Free French Bureau Central de Renseignements et d'Action (Central Bureau of Intelligence and Operations) and the Dutch and Belgian Armies were dropped by parachute into occupied France, the Netherlands and Belgium to conduct sabotage and guerrilla warfare, and to lead the local resistance forces in actions against the Germans.
(2) 2nd Lt. Sydlowski recalled that he delayed opening his parachute until around 500 feet above the ground and landed some 50 yards from a lake in the vicinity of Fraize in the Alsace Vosges mountains. He concealed his parachute and ‘Mae West' and looked for a good hiding place. 15 minutes later he watched a German soldier approaching his location, followed 10 minutes later by a further five with two hounds. After searching the bushes and the edge of the lake they all left. However, four more German soldiers, one NCO and two armed with rifles, came across the lake in a boat. After landing on the nearby shore the NCO and the two armed men started a search leaving the fourth soldier with the boat.
Whilst 2nd Lt. Sydlowski was busying himself with destroying documents, the German soldier guarding the boat spotted him. As there was no alternative he stood up and raised his hands in surrender and waited for the soldier to approach. It was then that he realised that the soldier was unarmed and as his companions were returning he swiftly kicked the approaching soldier in the groin who collapsed to the ground. 2nd Lt. Sydlowski then grabbed a good sized stick and struck the fallen soldier about the head with couple of solid blows knocking him out.
He then took off up the mountain running for his life with the other three soldiers hot on his heels until it turned dark when they turned back. 2nd Lt. Sydlowski fainted from exhaustion and after recovering he started walking in a westerly direction and lived like a scared rabbit for two nights and days.
Near Le Rudlin, some 7¼ km (4½ mls) SE of Fraize, he came across a small house and when he saw there were no Germans inside he knocked on the door. He was sheltered and fed before being taken by a man, who could speak English, to his cousin’s house who was a retired Navy Captain.
One night, a number of days later, 2nd Lt. Sydlowski was taken to an orphanage in Le Rudlin where he met up with Sgt. Baker. They were provided with civilian cloths and identity cards and on the 10th September moved a couple of miles into the woods on the other side of Le Rudlin. They remained at this location, living in a “lean to” fabricated from canvas and poles. From the 12th October until the 1st December they moved around to avoid German searches. On the 28th October they were joined by Sgt. Haygood. They were rescued on or about the 4th December 1944 by troops from US Army units that had arrived in the area.
(3) S/Sgt. Wells bailed out at a altitude of 4000 to 5000 ft and landed about 20 km (12½ mls) ESE of Gérardmer. He delayed opening his parachute to avoid being seen which almost proved to be fatal as he misjudged the height but landed safely in a tree.
He initially headed in a northerly direction to throw off any German searchers before turning west. He walked for about 3 hrs before stopping some 12 km (7½ mls) from Gérardmer to sleep. The next morning he continued heading west along a road as he figured he was in France and therefore made no attempt to avoid being seen. When cars approached he jumped into nearby ditches as he was still dressed in his flying suit. A little later he met a girl riding a bicycle who indicated to him that there were many Germans in the area. She took him to a farm house in the woods about 9½ km (6 mls) from Gérardmer. He was fed by the family whilst he hid in some nearby woods for two nights.
On the 8th September he was moved to another safe house where he was provided with civilian clothes. The next day when Germans approached the house he had to leave and hide in the nearby woods but in his haste he left behind his entire escape kit except for the compass. He continued to head west and circled around Gérardmer and on the 11th September reached Bruyères, some 19½ km (12 mls) NW of Gérardmer. On leaving the town he was stopped by a group of Germans felling trees. He pretended to be deaf and dumb and in searching him they missed his navigator’s watch and dog tags. They would not let him pass so he turned back and walked until he was out of sight before cutting into the woods again.
He came across a man herding cows and approached him. He was Monsieur Alfred Gerard who sheltered him for four weeks during which time Germans came to his house on a number of occasions to requisition food, horses and cattle. On the 14th October the Allied front was about one mile from Bruyères. S/Sgt. Wells together with Alfred’s sons, Paul and George, decided to try and reach the front lines. Paul walked ahead with George and S/Sgt. Wells following a distance behind and headed through Bruyères. They passed a number of Germans and a German outpost but were not stopped or questioned. When they reached the Allied lines S/Sgt. Wells identified himself using his dog-tags. From there he was transported 4¾ km (3 mls) behind the lines to be interrogated before being flown from Lyon to the UK on the 22nd October 1944.
(4) Sgt. Baker jumped from the bomb-bay of the aircraft at about 10,000 ft and delayed opening his parachute until he was 500 ft above the ground. He landed in the top of a large pine tree some 8 km (5 mls) west of Colmar. He left his parachute hanging in the tree after he climbed down and headed away from the location in a south westerly direction.
He narrowly avoided being captured on a number of occasions when crossing roads. He kept walking all afternoon and night and after travelling for about 8 km he came across the village of Le Rudlin. It was here that he was assisted by members of the French résistance and was taken to the orphanage in Le Rudlin where he was reunited with 2nd Lt. Sydlowski. They were provided with civilian clothes and identity cards and on the 10th September moved a couple of miles into the woods on the other side of Le Rudlin.
They remained at this location, living in a “lean to” fabricated from canvas and poles. However, from the 12th October until the 1st December they had to move around to avoid German searches. On the 28th October they were joined by Sgt. Haygood. They were rescued on or about the 4th December 1944 by troops from US Army units that had arrived in the area.
(5) Sgt. Haygood bailed out and made a good delayed landing near a small town named Le Bonhomme, which is about 21 km (13 mls) WNW of Colmar. After hiding his parachute he ran up to higher ground for about ¾ km (½ ml) where he rested until dark. He then started walking in westerly direction until he became exhausted and stopped to sleep in the woods.
The next morning, shortly after daybreak, he started walking again. Later that morning he made contact with some French civilians who took him to a friend’s house near the town of Fraize. He stayed with this French family from the 6th September until the 28th October. Whilst there he was provided with an Identification (ID) card on which it was stated that he was deaf and dumb. His ID card came to good use on one occasion when a German officer stopped him.
Late in October the town was beginning to fill with Germans and Sgt. Haygood decided it was time to move. He had heard that 2nd Lt. Sydlowski and Sgt. Baker were hiding in the nearby mountains so he asked the French take him to join them. They were rescued on or about the 4th December 1944 by troops from US Army units that had arrived in the area.
At the end of April 1945, the French authorities exhumed the victims from the bomb craters and had them reburied in the Gaggenau Cemetery on the 13th May 1945.
The image is captioned: “Heinrich Focken (right) attending the burial of prisoners of war murdered in the Erlichwald, 13th May 1945." (Credit Kreisarchiv Rastatt)
From May 1945 till 1946, Heinrich Focken, a victim of Nazi persecution himself, was the Mayor of Gaggenau, installed in his office by the French Occupation Force.
This memorial commemorates the execution of 26 men and one woman, prisoners of Rotenfels camp in the forest near Erlich (Credit Frank C. Müller)
In the year 1944 26 men and one woman who had fought for freedom,
Democracy and peace were murdered in this place.
Visitor, remember them
2nd Lt. Garis Phillip Jacoby. Reinterred in the Ardennes American Cemetery before repatriation to Saint John’s Lutheran Cemetery in Dumont, Traverse County, Minnesota. Born on the 30th December 1919. Son to Michael Philip and Gertrude Elizabeth (née Peickert) Jacoby of Dumont, Minnesota, USA.
Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with additional thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’. Thanks also to Andreas Charvat, a local Historian from Kreis Rastatt for his contributions to this report.
1. Schatz, Rolf H. (2004): Absturz einer "Fliegenden Festung", Flying Fortress II, Boeing 17G, auf Gemarkung Malsburg am 5. September 1944. In: Das Markgräflerland. Beiträge zu seiner Geschichte und Kultur (2), S. 63–73.
RS & TV 25.02.2021 - Correction to Stalag Luft 1 location
RS & TV 08.08.2019 - Initial upload
RS & TV 18.08.2019 - Update to crash location
RS & TV 25.02.2021 - Correction to Stalag Luft 1 location
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