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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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15th Air Force
25.07.1944 764th Bombardment Squadron (H) B-24H 42-52459 ‘Winona Belle’, 2nd Lt. Wray M. Stitch

Operation: Linz (Mission #116), Austria

Date: 25th July 1944 (Wednesday)

Unit No: 764th Bombardment Squadron (H), 461st Bombardment Group (H), 49th Bomb Wing, 15th Air Force

Type: B-24H Winona Belle

Serial No: 42-52459

Code: 8

Location: Between Erdleiten and Riegl in Austria

Base: Torretta airfield, Italy

Pilot: 2nd Lt. Wray Mathew Stitch O-700565 AAF Age 22. PoW *

Co-Pilot: 1st Lt. James E. ‘Jim’ Harris O-747402 AAF Age? KiA

Nav: 2nd Lt. Melvin Arnold ‘Mel’ Adelman O-723255 AAF Age 19. PoW *

Bombardier: FO. William Marion Albright T-125542 AAF Age 21. Survived/Killed (1)

Top Turret Gnr: Cpl. Leroy Samuel McCulloch 18199621 AAF Age 22. PoW **

Nose Turret Gnr: Cpl. Kenneth Knauber 39691590 AAF Age 21. PoW **

Ball Turret Gnr: Cpl. Julian Ricci Ducray 39126069 AAF Age 20. KiA

Right Waist Gnr: Sgt. Gene C. Dahlke 16029479 AAF Age 19. KiA

Left Waist Gnr: Sgt. Joseph Remi Dalbec 11118294 AAF Age 34. KiA

Tail Turret Gnr: Cpl. Laurence George Feiler Jr. 36884529 AAF Age 19. PoW ***

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

* Stalag Luft 1 Barth-Vogelsang, today situated in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany.

** Unknown PoW Camp

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

Above 2nd Lt. Stitch from his Identity Card

REASON FOR LOSS:

B-24H 42-52459 Winona Belle took off from Torretta airfield, Italy and joined the four Bombardment Groups from the 49th Bomb Wing on a mission to bomb the Hermann Goering Tank Works located SSE of the centre of Linz in Austria.

The circumstances leading to the loss of the B-24H 42-52459 were described by three after-mission reports:

2nd Lt. Douglas A. Herrin O-820747, Pilot:

As I was flying No.5 position in ‘C’ flight, I saw the 3 ships ahead of me go down. The fighters came from behind, apparently on our level and slightly above. When one Fw190 came about 10 feet above my left wing, he hit no. 4 ship flown by Lt. Stitch and forced him out of the formation with 2 and 3 engines on fire, in a spiral.

Lt. Freeman’s ship, flying in no. 2 position was then hit from behind and a fire started in the bomb bay. He dropped out of formation and I saw one (1) man parachute out opening his chute immediately upon leaving the plane.

Lt. Mitchell’s ship, flying in no. 3 position dropped out with one engine on fire and I did not see him anymore. The no.1 ship of our formation was forced out with one engine on fire and I did not see him anymore. However, he got back to the home field.

I then took up No 6 position in A flight with one engine feathered. The above happened within a period of approximately 1½ to 2 minutes, the fighters attacking just before we reached the flak and we were still in flak when I got in no. 6 position in A flight.

The fighters were so numerous and the flak was so heavy, and being engaged in trying to get in formation with ‘A’ Flight, I did not see the planes after they left the formation.

1st Lt. Douglas A. Herrin, DFC, Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster) O-820747, was KiA on the 4th October 1944.

2nd Lt. James H. Cain O-1703166, Pilot:

Flying position 5 on bomb run, tail gunner called “Fighters coming in at 6:00 o’clock.” Four FW-190’s made a pass at us, pulled up, sprayed no. 2 ship, flown by Lt. Freeman and no. 4 ship flown by Lt. Stitch, then pulled up to the left. Fires started in these B-24’s in forward bomb bays of each. Another pass by fighters and large pieces began breaking off Lt. Freeman’s ship and it went down and to the right. I saw no chutes.

Fighters came in again hitting Lt. Stitch’s ship and it went out of my view. A 190 hit #3 ship, flown by Lt. Mitchell, setting his #3 engine afire. Lt. Mitchell, presumably out of control, did a wingover to the left, then went into a nose-dive out of sight. I saw no chutes.

2nd Lt. James H. Cain O-1703166, was KiA on the 12th August 1944.

S/Sgt. Edward D. Rose 12205996, Tail Gunner:

Tail gunner in the lead ship of C Flight, which consisted of five ships. Saw three ships from our flight destroyed by enemy fighters and flak. I saw approximately seven ships destroyed from four of our flights.

All 3 ships destroyed from C flight were on fire and the ships flown by Lt. Freeman and Lt. Stitch blew up. Lt. Mitchell’s ship burned until it hit the ground. There were at least five parachutes from that aircraft. The other two planes from C flight, flown by Lt. Freeman and Lt. Stitch, had at least two or three chutes come from them before they blew up.

I could fairly say an average of three chutes left each ship. Due to the fact that we were under constant attack, I couldn’t see anymore. It is very possible more airmen escaped than I saw.

The aircraft was last sighted at a Lat/Long of 48 17N, 14 17E at 11:03 hrs. This position is about 1km SW of the Linz railway station.

From the various Individual Casualty Questionnaires (ICQ) for the crew it has been determined that six German fighters came in for a nose attack then four more came in from the rear. The aircraft was hit in the bomb bay and waist areas by 20mm cannon fire which started a fierce fire.

Cpl. Ducray was last seen in the ball turret and it was assumed that he was killed or trapped in his turret when the cannon fire hit the bomb bay and waist areas. Sgt. Dalbec had been killed in the fighter attacks confirmed by Cpl. Knauber who saw him saw him under his waist gun dead. Sgt. Dahlke was last seen in the waist of the aircraft on the floor. He was helped up by Cpl. McCulloch who clipped on his parachute.

1st Lt. Harris was at the aircraft controls because 2nd Lt. Stitch’s controls were inoperative. He opened the top hatch and 1st Lt. Harris told him to bail out whilst he held the aircraft steady. This was the last he saw of him.

German documents record that this aircraft exploded at 11:30 hrs and its wreckage fell to earth near to the St. Georgen an der Gusen concentration camp, about 12km due east of the last sighted position, with the wreckage spread over a 4km area. However, later events and eyewitness accounts place the crash site between the villages of Erdleiten and Riegl some 17½ km NE of St. Georgen an der Gusen.

St. Georgen an der Gusen (also known as Gusen II) and Gusen I were sub-camps of the Mauthausen concentration camp complex.

2nd Lt. Stitch and 2nd Lt. Adelman were reported to have been captured in the vicinity of Mauthausen, which is debatable given the eyewitness accounts of the crash location. Cpl. McCulloch and Cpl. Knauber were reported to have been captured near Perg. There is no information as to where Cpl. Feiler was captured.

(1) The circumstances leading to the death of FO. Albright have been determined with some degree of certainty:

Cpl. Knauber stated that FO. Albright was not in the nose of the aircraft when he himself bailed out and that the nose wheel door was open so he presumed that he had left the aircraft from there;

Cpl. McCulloch stated that he saw a person taking off across a field whom he believed to be FO. Albright at the same time he had landed nearby. However, Cpl. McCulloch was captured on the day of the crash near Perg which is some 11km south of Bad Zell where eyewitnesses place FO. Albright at the time of his death;

The Air Base Command at Hörsching sent a communication (KSU-1711), dated 27th July 1944, to Dulag Luft, Wetzlar informing them that no information could be provided about the whereabouts of 1st Lt. Harris and FO. Albright as only some of their personal details could be determined from their identity tags. It was presumed that they were burnt in the crash;

KSU = Reports of US bomber crashes in central Europe

A third airman in the communication was misidentified. It cited a Lt. Charles Nelson with an Army Serial Number (ASN) of O-709456. However, the ASN relates to a 2nd Lt. Charles P. Walton who was the Navigator aboard B-17G 44-6276 from the 463 BG, 772 BS which was lost on the same mission. He became a PoW at Stalag Luft 1. No record of a Lt. Charles Nelson has been found that relates to this mission.

In Georg Hoffmann’s research (Ref 1 p. 248 and citing Ref 2 p.238) he determined that FO. Albright landed near Markt (marketplace) Zell and fled into the nearby forest. He was pursued by Nazis from Bad Zell surrounded and then shot.

Georg Hoffmann has determined that a number of other airmen who had bailed out of their stricken bombers during this mission were likely killed by the SS personnel indiscriminately opening fire on them as they were parachuting to earth or by hostile events on the ground.

He found that these events, which occurred over several days, led to the fact that in addition to the thirty-seven crew members who had lost their lives in the fighter attacks, by flak or in the crashes of their aircraft, four were definitely murdered and the mortal remains of ten Americans have not been found to this day of which eight were cremated in the Mauthausen concentration camp.

The second murder victim identified by Georg Hoffmann was S/Sgt. Lynwood C. Harrell 13032979, a Gunner from B-24H 42-95383 (461 BG, 764 BS);

The third and fourth murder victims have yet to be identified.

No formal evidence has been found that identifies anyone directly responsible for the death of FO. Albright. However, after the war the Austrian authorities (Ref 2, pp 241-242) identified and investigated a suspect for the killing but he was not brought before a court as the evidence was circumstantial and there were no eyewitnesses who could testify.

However, two other SS personnel who had been cited as perpetrators and/or responsible for the deaths of an unknown number of American airmen and other atrocities were:

SS-Hauptsturmführer Fritz Seidler, who was responsible for numerous crimes mainly in the Gusen I concentration camp committed suicide on the 3rd May 1945 (Ref 1 p. 248);

SS-Standartenführer (Col) Franz Ziereis, who was the commandant of the Mauthausen concentration camp, went into hiding but was spotted by some former prisoners of the Mauthausen concentration camp. On the evening of the 23rd May 1945 US soldiers were lead to where he was hiding. In an exchange of gunfire Ziereis was wounded in the arm and then in the back as he twisted away. He was taken to the 131st US evacuation hospital ironically situated at Gusen and was cared for by a doctor who was a former prisoner at the camp. Ziereis died of his injuries at 07:30 hrs on the 24th May.

Burial Details:

Above: Grave marker for 1st Lt. Harris (Courtesy of Dominique Potier - FindAGrave)

1st Lt. James E. ‘Jim’ Harris. Air Medal (4 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Ardennes American Cemetery Plot C, Row 9, Grave 37. Son of Mr and Mrs Robert E. ‘Ted’ Harris. Husband to Mabel E. (née Nelson) Harris of Red Cloud, Nebraska, USA.

Above: Grave marker for FO. Albright (Courtesy: Randy Watkins – FindAGrave)

FO. William Marion Albright. Air Medal. Repatriated and interred at the Oak Hill Cemetery, Talladega, Alabama. Born on the 17th September 1922 in Talladega, Alabama. Son of Mrs Arthur Albright of Talladega, Alabama, USA.

Above: Joint grave marker for S/Sgt. Ducray, S/Sgt. Dahlke and S/Sgt. Dalbec. (Courtesy: Randy Watkins – FindAGrave)

S/Sgt. Herbert Ellis Jr. 31301450, Sgt. Edward F. Farrell 33192948, 2nd Lt. Arne P. Hanson O-704629, S/Sgt. Norbert L. Moreau 30462011 and S/Sgt. Robert Peo 35092604 were from 461BG, 767BS B-24H 42-94732 shot down on the 25th July 1944

S/Sgt. Julian Ricci Ducray. Repatriated and interred on the 17th May 1950 at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Section 84, Site 111-113 (Joint Grave),Lemay, Missouri. Born on the 29th January 1924 in San Francisco, California. Son of Julian August and Laura Marian (née Ricci) Ducray of San Francisco and Redwood City, California, USA.

S/Sgt. Gene C. Dahlke. Air Medal. Repatriated and interred on the 17th May 1950 at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Section 84, Site 111-113 (Joint Grave),Lemay, Missouri. Born during 1925 in Michigan. Son of William Albert and Dorothy M. (née Brant) Dahlke of Bridgeman, Michigan, USA.

S/Sgt. Joseph Remi Dalbec. Air Medal. Repatriated and interred on the 17th May 1950 at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Section 84, Site 111-113 (Joint Grave),Lemay, Missouri. Born on the 20th December 1909 in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Son of Arthur Lawrence and Anna Ouimet Dalbec (his mother predeceased him in 1938) of New Bedford, Massachusetts, 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.

References:

1. Fliegerlynchjustiz (Fallstudie XIV: Die »Fliegermorde« von St. Georgen an der Gusen (25. Juli 1944) ) (German Edition) - Georg Hoffmann (ISBN: 978-3506781376).

2. Bomben auf Oberdonau: Luftkrieg und Lynchmorde an alliierten Fliegern im "Heimatgau des Führers" (Oberösterreich in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus) (Austrian) - Gerwin Strobl (ISBN 978-3902801159).

RS & TV 20.06.2022 - 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', 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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