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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
16.11.1944 763rd Bombardment Squadron (H) B-24J 42-52011 Capt. Clifford W. Stone DFC

Operation: München (Munich), Germany

Date: 16th November 1944 (Thursday)

Unit: 763rd Bombardment Squadron (H), 460th Bombardment Group (H), 55th Bomb Wing, 15th Air Force

Type: B-24J

Serial No: 42-52011

Code: L

Location: Between Lamprechtshausen and Seeham, Austria

Base: Spinazzola airfield, Italy

Pilot: Capt. Clifford William Stone O-803893 DFC AAF Age 26. PoW *

Co Pilot: 1st Lt. Samuel Marlin Hamilton O-827804 AAF Age 22. PoW *

Navigator: 1st Lt. Morris Caust O-723579 AAF Age 20. Survived/Killed (1 & 2)

Navigator: 1st Lt. John Marshall Alcorn O-722969 AAF Age 21. PoW *

Navigator/Radar: 1st Lt. Robert David Kuhne O-706318 AAF Age 22. PoW *

Bombardier: 1st Lt. Arthur Raymond Godar O-772165 AAF Age 20. PoW *

Engineer: Sgt. Harold Franklin Adams 19175959 AAF Age 25. PoW **

Radio Operator: Sgt. Otto Ernest Mattiza 38461152 AAF Age 20. PoW **

Air Gunner: Sgt. Richard Lee Weber 35216570 AAF Age 20. PoW ***

Air Gunner: Sgt. Robert Sherman Seidel 15343907 AAF Age 19. PoW **

Air Gunner: Sgt. John Ewing Bills Jr. 14200293 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, Flight 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

** Stalag Luft 4 Gross-Tychow, Pomerania, Prussia now Tychowo, Poland (Moved from Stalag Luft 6 Heydekrug. Moved to Wöbbelin near Ludwigslust and then to Usedom near Swinemünde)

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

REASON FOR LOSS:

On the morning of the 16th November 1944 all the bomb wings of the 15th Air Force were detailed to bomb the west marshalling yards at Munich, Germany. B-24J 42-52011 took off from the Spinazzola airfield in Italy as the lead aircraft in the second wave of the attack.

42-52011 was last sighted at 13:35 hrs at Lat/Long 47 30N, 13 00E, which is about 1¼ km south of the Obersee in Germany and 3½ km east of the German/Austrian border.

The circumstances leading to the loss of B-24J 42-52011 were described by three after-mission reports:

1st Lt. Edward S. Shemanski O-771815;

Captain Stone led the second attack all the way to the IP [Initial Point] in White “L for Love”. Down the bomb run his ship kept going from one side to another, evidently making corrections. Just before bombs away, his ship seemed to lurch to the left and at that instant bombs went away. The flak was moderate at that time with a few bursts down low. White L then slowed up considerably in airspeed which made ships scatter in all directions. He himself probably stalled out also. But after a while he lowered his nose and started to lose altitude, mushing through the air at about 135 mph. We dropped from 26,000 to 20,000 ft, everybody trying frantically to stay with him.

Then his nose wheel door opened and flak suits, helmets, and everything loose in the ship were thrown out. I sensed his predicament and switched to VHF, trying to contact him on the radio. That was to no avail. He kept dropping until about 15,000ft, just 2 or 3,000 ft above the undercast, when I heard him transmitting, “Any ship in the Yellow Squadron, this is White L, please acknowledge". I immediately said I was in Yellow D flying his left wing and to "go ahead". He then said, "I have two engines out, can't hold altitude and am going down but want to get as far as possible”.

At that time we were at 13,000 ft on a heading of 180o. I gave my ship the gun after acknowledging his message, and jumped out in front of the Yellow Squadron. I had my crew tell me where the other ships in our box were, and they informed me that 3 ships were falling in formation on me.

About 2 minutes later I called my tail gunner to get a report on White L, his position, and such. He told me White L was about to go into the clouds and at the same time, making a right turn. We immediately drew the conclusion that Captain Stone was trying to reach Switzerland.

2nd Lt. Harvey L. Caswell O-675414;

White L was leading our Squadron over the target. Just before bombs away the ship lost airspeed and some altitude, the formation tried to stay with him but scattered quite a bit. We stayed with White L on his left wing from 26,000 down to about 20,000 when he called any ship in the yellow squadron. My co-pilot acknowledged and he reported White L with two engines and couldn't maintain altitude but had the ship under control and was going as far as he could. In the meantime they were throwing everything out to lighten the load. We followed him a bit further then gave our ship the gun and was the leader of a formation of 4 planes. Our tail gunner reported White L as going into the undercast about 15,000 and turning slightly to the right from a course of 180o.

2nd Lt. Charles C. Hamilton O-2065211;

Our position in the formation was #7, over the target the formation seemed to get pretty well mixed up, our formation trying to stay with "L" which was evidently in trouble of some kind, the airspeed was very low about 140 or 135. Then we saw the nose wheel door was opened, they were throwing flak suits and other loose equipment out of the ship. We were on a heading of about 180o when “L” contacted our co-pilot and said he was leaving the formation. Our altitude was about 13,000 ft. He turned off to the right, the tail gunner reported him going into the undercast, still turning toward the right. I got a DR [Direct Reckoning] position which is on my log, but which I was not too sure of due to my watch being 20 minutes slow when we returned to base and I am not sure of the time element. We assumed that "L" was taking a course for Switzerland.

The entire crew of eleven safely bailed out of the aircraft which crashed between Lamprechtshausen and Seeham in Austria, some 16 km north of Salzburg. The crew parachuted into a swamp area named Maxdorf-Wildmann where they were soon discovered and captured.

(1) On the 20th October 1944 1st Lt. Caust was the navigator aboard B-24J 44-41014 which was involved in a mid-air collision with B-24J 44-41111 over the Gulf of Venice. Three of the crew from 1st Lt. Caust’s aircraft bailed out whilst the pilot and co-pilot were fighting to regain control the aircraft. After successfully levelling off they circled the area of the sea where the three crew had bailed out and reported the position. The aircraft then recovered safely to base. Tragically all ten of the crew from B-24J 44-41111 were posted MiA as were the three airmen who bailed out of 1st Lt. Caust’s aircraft.

(2) The circumstances leading to the death of 1st Lt. Caust were determined by a General Military Court convened at Dachau, Germany, on 17th and 18th October 1945.

An Austrian national was charged that he did, at or near Lamprechtshausen, Austria, on or about the 16th November 1944, wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully kill Morris Caust, a member of the United States Army, who was then an unarmed PoW and in the act of surrendering, by shooting him with a rifle.

The enemy national was a Josef Hangöbl, who was a former member of the SA-Gauwehrmannschaft, (District defence team), which was later redesignated as the Volkssturm (Militia or Home Guard).

The court heard that shortly after midday on the 16th November 1944 1st Lt. Morris Caust, a member of the United States Army Air Forces, bailed out of his plane over Innerfurth, Austria. 1st Lt. John M. Alcorn and two enlisted men, all of whom were also members of the crew, likewise bailed out. 1st Lt. Caust landed safely in a field near the farm house of a witness.

Hangöbl was notified by a child that an airman had parachuted in the vicinity of the village of Innerfurth. He grabbed his hunting rifle and headed toward the field where the airman had landed. Hangöbl claimed in his testimony that he had approached the airman and from about 70 metres shouted in German five times for him to raise his hands. He claimed that the airman did not respond and when he saw him raising a hand to his chest he shot at him. He then claimed that the airman started to run away so he fired a second time. The airman fell to the ground face first but he did not dare to approach the fallen airman in case he had a weapon and left the scene seeking help.

From witness statements it was established that a man named Peter Niedermüller and some farmers, who had finished harvesting on one of the farms owned by a man named Niederreiter, had gone into his house to eat at about 14:00 hrs. Shortly thereafter they noticed some commotion on the street and went outside to investigate. Niedermüller saw Hangöbl 200 to 250 metres away walking toward the swamp. The nearest house in that direction was some 2 km away.

Niedermüller heard someone calling for help in English and together with a man named Johann Spitzhauer went to investigate. They saw an American airman lying on the ground and came to within 20 metres of him before Niedermüller asked him in English to raise his hands to which the airman responded that he was wounded and could not do so. The two then approached and found him lying on his half-opened parachute.

They carried him using the parachute to Niederreiter's house, which was only about 70 to 80 metres away. It was about 14:15 hrs at the time. Niedermüller cut away the airman’s left sleeve and extracted a bullet from his left shoulder after which he bandaged an injury on his right upper leg at the hip. 1st Lt. Caust indicated that he had pains in his abdomen and chest and Niedermüller bandaged a wound in that area and in his back.

At about 15:30 hrs 1st Lt. Alcorn and and two other crew members who had bailed out with 1st Lt. Caust were brought to Niederreiter's house. There 1st Lt. Alcorn spoke with 1st Lt. Caust and asked him whether he had been shot in the air or after he had landed. He told him that he was on the ground taking off his parachute when he was shot but did not know who had shot him.

Arrangements were made to transport 1st Lt. Caust by private car, as no ambulance was available, to a doctor Huber in Lamprechtshausen some 3½ km away. After they arrived the doctor administered some emergency treatment then ordered that the American be taken immediately to the hospital at Oberndorf. Here 1st Lt. Caust was examined by a doctor Wendt who found a gunshot wound to the airman’s elbow and a large gunshot wound on the left side of his stomach and on the right side of his back, the bullet having passed through this part of the body.

Doctor Wendt realized that an operation was necessary and phoned the hospital at Laufen to make the necessary preparations. Doctor Wendt accompanied the patient to Laufen where a doctor Ortbauer operated on the airman’s injuries. However, 1st Lt. Caust died immediately after the operation because of internal bleeding.

In the opinion of the two doctors 1st Lt. Caust was shot while standing with his left arm raised to the height of his chin and that the second bullet had entered the abdominal region whilst he was still standing.

1st Lt. Caust’s body was returned to the hospital at Oberndorf and he was buried at 09:00 hrs on the 20th November at the Oberndorf cemetery Field D, Row 602.

The court found that it was satisfactorily shown that it was while 1st Lt. Caust was unfastening the harness to his parachute when he was shot in the left arm below his elbow and the bullet lodged in his shoulder. It appears that this shot spun him round and the second shot entered his back and came out directly below his ribs. Thereupon hefell face downward onto his parachute.

1st Lt. Caust had never seen or heard Hangöbl and the accused's contention that the airman saw and heard him call "Halt, Hände hoch" is uncorroborated. His testimony that the airman ran 10 metres after the first shot is tenuous in view of the fact that 1st Lt. Caust was found lying on his open parachute which had been completely unharnessed.

Furthermore it was not reasonable for Hangöbl to seek aid elsewhere given Niederreiter's house was only about 70 metres away. Hangöbl’s excuse that Niedermüller was busy working at the time was absurd. The credibility of the accused's testimony was deemed extremely doubtful.

The court was of the opinion that 1st Lt. Caust had put up no resistance and neither he nor his fellow crew members had carried guns. He had not been warned, was far behind enemy lines, and was certain to be captured. Given these circumstances Hangöbl’s actions were considered to be unwarranted.

The court found Hangöbl guilty of the charge and sentenced him to life imprisonment. Upon review his sentence was reduced to 10 years imprisonment. The final disposition of his sentence is unknown.

Burial Details:

1st Lt. Morris Caust. Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster). Repatriated and buried at the Montefiore Cemetery, Springfield Gardens, Queens County, New York. Born on the 18th January 1924 in Manhattan, New York. Son of Samuel (predeceased him in 1928) and Bella Caust of the Bronx, New York, 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 24.05.2020 - 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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