17.02.1945 561st Bomb Squadron (H) B-17G 43-38623, 'Easy Does it’, 2nd.Lt. Robert B. Taylor
Operation: Frankfurt (Mission #834), marshalling yards, Germany
Date: 17th February 1945 (Saturday)
Unit: 388th Bombardment Group (H), 561st Bombardment Squadron (H), 3rd Air Division, 8th Air Force
Type: B-17G Easy Does it
Serial No: 43-38623
Location: Hanau, Germany
Base: Knettishall (Station #136), Suffolk, England
Pilot: 2nd.Lt. Robert Benson Taylor O-827835 AAF Age 22. Killed
Co-Pilot: 2nd.Lt. Robert Nelson Mount O-2057373 AAF Age 20. Killed
Navigator: 2nd.Lt. William Joseph Tallant O-2065650 AAF Age 21. Killed
Bombardier: 2nd.Lt. Thomas John Walsh O-2008873 AAF Age? Killed
Radio/Op: T/Sgt. Carl Kindelt 19070162 AAF Age 29. Killed
Eng/Top Turret Gnr: S/Sgt. Warren George Hammond 31386392 AAF Age 19. Survived (1)
Ball Turret Gnr: S/Sgt. William Henry Hartley 42012840 AAF Age 28. Killed
Waist Gnr: S/Sgt. Wayne Lentz Logan 33515649 AAF Age 19. Killed
Tail Gnr: S/Sgt. Bryce Gordon Grant 36899272 AAF Age 20. Killed
Photographer: T/Sgt. William Duncan Olson 19176756 AAF Age 22. Killed
One of the two Waist Gunners were removed from crew complements starting on the 7th June 1944 and then both from 23rd February 1945.
REASON FOR LOSS:
B-17G Easy Does it took off during the morning of the 17th February 1945 from Knettishall in Suffolk on a mission to bomb the marshalling yards at Frankfurt in Germany.
The aircraft was last seen flying at 25,000ft at a position of 50 12N, 08 40E, which is some 6 miles due north of Frankfurt.
An after mission report recorded that the aircraft was seen to have received a direct hit from flak in the port wing and probably in the aft part of the waist section. The port wing caught fire and shortly thereafter it exploded. The aircraft then entered a tight spin and the tail section broke away and floated earthwards. Another crew report witnessed three parachutes in the air which were possibly from this aircraft.
S/Sgt. William A. Pitts from B-17G 44-8437 in his Individual Casualty Questionnaire (ICQ) saw B-17G Easy Does it, which was flying at the #2 position in the formation, receive a direct hit from flak. The aircraft exploded and in his words “I didn’t see but one chute leave the plane”.
German documentation recorded that the wreckage of the aircraft fell in the region of Hafenstraße, close to the harbour area in Hanau, at about 1230 hours local. The documentation also recorded that seven dead airmen were apparently recovered from the aircraft wreckage and it was presumed that three of the crew escaped. Of the seven that were reported to have perished only four were explicitly named. No further information regarding the other six of the crew which included the three airmen that were presumed to have escaped was included in this document.
However, a police report provided by a Thomas Rost, a researcher from Hamburg, recorded that ten bodies had been recovered from the Easy Does it crash site. Those explicitly named were 2nd.Lt. Mount, 2nd.Lt. Walsh, S/Sgt. Hammond, S/Sgt. Hartley, S/Sgt. Logan, S/Sgt. Grant and T/Sgt. Olson. There was one ‘unknown’ listed which may have been either 2nd.Lt. Taylor, 2nd.Lt. Tallant or T/Sgt. Kindelt leaving two of the three not recorded.
Of the ten, two airmen were from B-17G 44-8437 which crashed onto what was the Güterbahnhof (freight station) in Hanau.
(1) The circumstances of S/Sgt. Hammond’s death was not known until a General Military Government Court was convened at Ludwigsburg, Germany on the 29th November and the 1st to the 8th December 1945.
Two German nationals were charged that they did, at or near Hanau, Germany, on or about the 17th February 1945, wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid, abet, and participate in the killing of Charles B. Goldstein, a member of the United States army, who was then unarmed, surrendered PoW in the custody of the then German Reich.
The accused were Adolf Weger, who was a former Kriminalkommissar (Capt.) in the Gestapo and a member of the Nazi party; Julius Schulze, who was a former Kriminalsekretär (2nd.Lt.) in the Gestapo and Karl Neuber* who was a former Gestapo Driver and file clerk in Weger’s office.
* Neuber was named in the charge narrative but he was not before the court as he was sick in hospital. He was later brought before a General Military Government Court which was convened at Ludwigsburg, Germany on the 17th May 1946 and was charged with the same offence as were Weger and Schulze.
The court heard that during a raid on the city of Hanau *, Germany, which occurred in the late morning hours on the 17th February 1945, three American airmen were forced to parachute from their disabled plane in the vicinity of the harbour area of Hanau **. The three were taken into custody and turned over to the Sicherheitspolizei (Security police).
* The mission was the marshalling yards in Frankfurt and the aircraft crashed in Hanau.
** This description is difficult to reconcile given that two airmen are now known to be from B-17G 44-8437 and one from B-17G 43-38623 'Easy Does it’.
During the early part of the afternoon that day a police vehicle from the Kriminalpolizei (Criminal Police) Headquarters (HQ) of Hanau collected the three airmen from the Sicherheitspolizei HQ. On arrival at the Kriminalpolizei HQ they were seen by Weger, They were then turned over to the Kriminalpolizei and held in separate rooms.
Later in the afternoon Kriminaldirektor (Maj.) Hermann Fehrle called an interpreter, named Oelschläger, and proceeded to interrogate each of the airmen separately in Weger’s office. Also present were Weger, Schulze and Guggenberger, a Sicherheitspolizei Commissar. During the interrogation it was discovered that one of the airmen was T/Sgt. Goldstein* and another was S/Sgt. Warren Hammond. The identity of the third airman was not recorded. However, information provided by Thomas Rost has enabled our research to conclude with some degree of certainty that the unnamed airman was S/Sgt. Prokop*.
* T/Sgt. Charles Bernard Goldstein and S/Sgt. Joseph Eugene Prokop who were respectively the Radio Operator and Waist Gunner from B-17G 44-8437 (563BS,388BG).
During the interrogation of the airmen Fehrle was abusive towards them calling them gangsters and murderers whilst brandishing his pistol in a threatening manner. When he discovered that T/Sgt. Goldstein was Jewish he flew into a rage, cursing and shouting, and he slapped the airman, calling him a murderer. After completing the interrogations Fehrle called for the police doctor, a Fritz Hochapfel, to attend to one of the airmen who had been wounded before he had been taken into custody.
Fehrle then went to Weger’s office and told him to have the airmen shot or to shoot them himself. Weger went to the guard room where he told Neuber and Schulze that the airmen were to be shot. It was decided that the shooting would take place in the rear court yard of the Kriminalpolizei HQ. Neuber suggested that the airmen should be transferred to the Luftwaffe airbase at Langendiebach. Guggenberger who was also present shouted at him and told him to keep his mouth shut.
Weger, Schulze, Guggenberger and Neuber then proceeded to the court yard at the rear of the Kriminalpolizei HQ. Weger instructed Neuber and Schulze to bring the first airman to the court yard. As he was brought in Weger shot the airman in the back of his head. This was repeated for the second airman except this time Weger told Schulze it was his turn to shoot the airman. Schulze’s pistol jammed so Weger handed him his pistol which Schulze used to shoot the airman. Guggenberger, Schulze and Neuber then proceeded to fetch the third airman. It was suggested that Guggenberger who was walking behind the airman fired the fatal shot.
The bodies of the three airmen were then loaded into a police van by Guggenberger, Weger and Schulze. Schulze, Guggenberger and Neuber got into the van and directed the driver to take the bodies to the place in the harbour area of Hanau where an American aircraft had crashed. This aircraft has been identified as B-17G 43-38623 Easy Does it. Here they left the bodies with several other American airmen who had died in the crash.
The dead from both crash sites were initially buried at the Hauptfriedhof (Main Cemetery) Hanau. On the 31st July and 1st August 1945 ten bodies were exhumed from this cemetery. A pathologist found that two of the bodies showed evidence of bullet wounds to their necks and a third a bullet wound to the left temple.
Weger was sentenced to death by shooting. The Review and Recommendation (R&R) board commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment, which was later reduced to 30 years and then to 27 years and he was paroled in October 1954. Schulze was sentenced to life imprisonment which was reduced to 25 years by the R&R board and he was paroled in December 1953. Neuber was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment for his involvement in the murders. He was paroled in August 1950.
Clearly Fehrle and Guggenberger were implicated in the murders of the three airmen. Research conducted by Thomas Rost Et Al has determined that Fehrle had committed suicide in July 1945 whilst in custody. It is not known why Guggenberger was not before the court for his involvement.
On 17th February 2020 Hanau marked the 75th anniversary of the killings of S/Sgt. Joseph Eugene Prokop, T/Sgt. Charles Bernard Goldstein and T/Sgt. Warren George Hammond by erecting a memorial plaque with their names at the site of their executions.
2nd.Lt. Robert Benson Taylor. Repatriated and buried at the Clarion cemetery, Clarion County, Pennsylvania Section 5, Grave 15. Born on the 17th January 1923. Son to Vernon Frank and Ruth Hallock (née Campbell) Taylor of Clarion County, Pennsylvania, USA.
2nd.Lt. Robert Nelson Mount. Repatriated and buried at the Rose Hill Cemetery, Warren County, Ohio. Born in 1924. Son to Dorothy (née Price) Mount of Hamilton, Ohio, USA.
2nd.Lt. William Joseph Tallant. Repatriated and buried at the Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Mateo County, California, Plot F, Grave 102. Co-located with T/Sgt. Carl Kindelt. Born on the 27th August 1924. Son to Anna Gerard (née Hopkins) Tallant of New Orleans. Los Angeles, USA.
2nd.Lt. Thomas John Walsh. Repatriated. Son of Thomas Walsh of New York, New York, USA. No further information has been found.
T/Sgt. Carl Kindelt. Repatriated and buried at the Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Mateo County, California, Plot F, Grave 102. Co-located with 2nd.Lt. William Joseph Tallant. Born on the 12th January 1916. Husband to Bernice L. (née Shontz) Kindelt of Sacramento, California and son to Carl and Louise (née Wood) Kindelt of Grafton, Yolo, California, USA.
S/Sgt. Warren George Hammond. Purple Heart. Repatriated and buried at the Alice Hunt Cemetery, Essex County, Vermont on the 8th December 1948. Born on the 31st May 1925. Son to Horace L. and Alice Elizabeth (née Lee) of Colebrook, Coos, New Hampshire, USA.
S/Sgt. William Henry Hartley. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, Block W, Row 8, Grave 3264. Relocated to Plot E, Row 34, Grave 38. New Jersey. Born in 1917. Husband to Agnes Hartley of North Arlington, New Jersey, USA.
S/Sgt. Wayne Lentz Logan. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters). Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, Plot C, Row 12, Grave 34. Born on the 29th July 1925. Son to Herbert Ralph and Kathryn Elizabeth (née Lentz) Logan of Derry, Dauphin, Pennsylvania, USA.
S/Sgt. Bryce Gordon Grant. Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster). Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, Block W, Row 8, Grave 3262. Relocated to Plot D, Row 43, Grave 25. Born in 1925. Son to Allyn L. and Marian (née Cutler) Grant of Lake Odessa, Michigan, USA.
T/Sgt. William Duncan Olson. Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster). Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, Block C, Row 28, Grave 22. Relocated to Plot C, Row 28, Grave 22. Born in 1923. Son to August G. Olson of Long Beach, California, 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 Thomas Rost from Hamburg for providing the information that assisted in identifying the third murder victim.