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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
04.12.1944 66th Bombardment Squadron (H) B-24H 42-95214 'Sand Bomb Special', 2nd Lt. Warren Rogers

Operation: Bebra (Mission #736), Germany

Date: 4th December 1944 (Monday)

Unit No: 66th Bombardment Squadron (H), 44th Bombardment Group (H), 2nd Air Division, 8th Air Force

Type: B-24H Sand Bomb Special

Serial No: 42-95214

Code: QK:P+

Location: 1 km (¾ ml) SE of Ihringen, Germany

Base: Shipdham airfield (Station #115), Norfolk, England

Pilot: 2nd Lt. Warren Rogers O-771541 AAF Age? PoW *

Co Pilot: 2nd Lt. Alexander Burlingame Moir O-2058239 AAF Age 21. PoW **

Navigator: 1st Lt. John McCracken Jr. O-1102377 AAF Age 25. KiA

Bombardier: 2nd Lt. John Stewart Frazier O-6927690 AAF Age 22. PoW ***

Radio Op: S/Sgt. Frank Alphonse Miskiewicz 11073501 AAF Age 23. PoW *

Engineer: T/Sgt. Francis Justin Miller 13114418 AAF Age 23. PoW ****

Nose Gnr: Sgt. Robert James Speir 16063102 AAF Age 22. Murdered (1)

Waist Gnr: S/Sgt. Michael Harkovich 33355758 AAF Age 24. PoW *

Tail Gnr: Sgt. Lewis Dean Spencer 36763796 AAF Age 20. PoW - Unknown camp

The B-24 had 10 crew positions. Crew complements evolved during the war and comprised 9 personnel who were typically, but not always, Pilot, Co-Pilot, Bombardier, Navigator, Flight Engineer/Top Turret gunner, Radio Operator/Waist gunner, Nose gunner, Ball Turret gunner, Waist gunner, Tail gunner.

* Stalag Luft 1 Barth-Vogelsang, today part of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany.

** Stalag 13d, Nuremberg, (Nürnberg Langwasser), Germany. Also known as Oflag 73, Bavaria.

*** Dulag Luft 12 Groß-Tychow Pomerania, Prussia now Tychowo, Poland.

**** Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).


B-24H Sand Bomb Special took off from Shipdham airfield on the morning of the 4th December 1944 to join the 199 aircraft detailed to bomb the railway marshalling yard at Bebra near Kassel, Germany.

This was the first operational mission for all of the crew except for 2nd Lt. Rogers who was on his second.

Between the Initial Point (IP) and the target the aircraft lost engines #1 and #2 due to mechanical failure and subsequently also lost the aircraft flight instruments. The aircraft fell out of formation and turned west and headed back to England under fighter protection. The aircraft was last sighted at about 12:45 hrs in the vicinity of Lat/Long 50 35N, 09 35E (Some 9km NW of Fulda).

Sand Bomb Special flew on for about 2 hrs and at about 16:00 hrs they ran into flak and were attacked by a number of Bf109s over Freiburg. At this moment #3 engine ran away, the nose turret became inoperative, the upper turret failed in azimuth and only one gun in the tail was functioning.

2nd Lt. Rogers then gave the order to bail out over the inter-comm and rang the bail-out bell after which the crew bailed out.

Apparently 1st Lt. McCracken had a habit of leaving his parachute under the flight deck behind the nose compartment passageway. 2nd Lt Rogers asked a German farmer, who had taken him into custody, how many parachutes had he seen. He told him that he saw eight which had opened and one which did not. The Germans claimed that 1st Lt. McCracken was found near to the crash site with his parachute unopened.

The aircraft crashed 1 km (¾ ml) SE of Ihringen, about 5 km (3 mls) east of Breisach on the road from Ihringen to Merdingen, Germany at 14:50 hrs.

Estimated to be on Bürchleweg on modern day maps.

The Sand Bomb Special was the only B-24 lost over Germany on this mission.

(1) The circumstances of the death of Sgt. Speir were determined at a General Military Government Court convened at Dachau on the 8th and 9th April 1947.

Three Germans nationals were charged on two counts in that they did, on or about the 4th December 1944, at or near Freiburg, Germany, wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully, on the first count, encourage, aid, abet, and participate in the killing of, and on the second count, commit an assault against a member of the United States Army, believed to be Sgt. Robert J. Speir, ASN 16063102, who was then and there a surrendered and unarmed PoW in the custody of the then German Reich.

An Erwin (Hugo) Rudmann who was a former Unteroffizier (Cpl) in the Sanitätstruppe (Medical Corps) was charged on both counts and additionally on the first charge a Karl Rudmann and Michael Rudmann solely on the first charge.

Note: Karl Rudmann and Michael Rudmann were not served nor tried.

The court heard that on or about the 4th December 1944 several American airmen bailed out from their disabled aircraft. One of the airmen landed in the railroad freight yard in Freiburg, Germany. This airman was identified as probably being Robert J. Speir, ASN 16063102.

As he was descending on his parachute he was fired upon by machine guns and individuals standing on box cars in the rail yard. He returned fire with his pistol but before landing he threw his weapon away.

While some or all of the airmen were still descending on their parachutes Erwin Rudmann left his home in the vicinity of the railroad freight yard, armed with a bayonet, and went to the location where Sgt. Speir had landed. When he arrived the airman was in a sitting position with his hands in the air in surrender.

Erwin Rudmann then attacked Sgt. Speir with a bayonet striking him about or in the head. Almost immediately after that a member of the Luftwaffe shot Sgt. Speir twice in the head killing him.

The Luftwaffe member, whose rank was variously described as being an Unteroffizier (Cpl), Feldwebel (S/Sgt) or Hauptmann (Capt), was not named and it is not know if he was ever identified and brought before a court to answer for his role in the killing of Sgt. Speir.

Erwin Rudmann admitted that he had assaulted Sgt. Speir with his bayonet in retaliation for the deaths of his wife and two children in an earlier air raid.

The court found Erwin Rudmann not guilty on the first count and guilty on the second count of the charge. He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment commencing on the 16th October 1946. He was released during July 1953.

Burial Details:

1st Lt. John McCracken Jr. Purple Heart. Initially buried in the Ihringen Cemetery. Recovered and reinterred at the Lorraine American Cemetery in Plot 4F, Row 11, Grave 123, Relocated to Plot A, Row 11, Grave 39. Born on the 7th March 1919 in Milford, Worcester County, Massachusetts. Son of John and Florence R. McCracken. Husband to Loretta C. (née Flaherty) McCracken from Oakland, California, USA.

Sgt. Robert James Speir. Initially buried in the Jewish Cemetery in Freiburg on the 6th December 1944. Recovered and reinterred at the Lorraine American Cemetery in Plot 4C, Row 9, Grave 101. Repatriated and interred at the Mount Olivet Cemetery in Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan. Born on the 31st December 1921 in Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan. Son to Bertram and Pearl Helen (née Carney) Speir. Husband to Elizabeth A. Speir from Detroit, Michigan, 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’.

RS & TV 20.09.2021 - Initial upload

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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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