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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
12.12.1944 700th Bombardment Squadron (H) B-24J 44-10493 2nd Lt. William A. Thompson

Operation: Hanau marshalling yards (Mission #748), Germany

Date: 12th December 1944 (Tuesday)

Unit No: 700th Bombardment Squadron (H), 445th Bombardment Group (H), 2nd Air Division, 8th Air Force

Type: B-24J

Serial No: 44-10493

Code: RN:?

Location: Hanau, Germany

Base: Tibenham (Station #124), Norfolk, England

Pilot: 2nd Lt. William A Thompson O-827839 AAF Age 22. KiA

Co-Pilot: 2nd Lt. Thaddeus J. Krajewski O-829230 AAF Age? KiA

Navigator: FO. Seymour B. Cohen T-129118 AAF Age? KiA

Bombardier: 2nd Lt. Keil G. Holland O-723976 AAF Age 20. KiA

Radio/Op: T/Sgt. Donald Ley Hein 33563157 AAF Age 25. Murdered (1)

Engineer: T/Sgt. Edward W. Bald 36483972 AAF Age 21. KiA

Right Waist: Sgt. Francis D. Picarelli 42090135 AAF Age 19. KiA

Left Waist: Sgt. Arnold (Arno) Christian Riedel 35900510 AAF Age 27. KiA

Tail: Sgt. Silvio E. Celani 33898207 AAF Age 19. KiA

CarROP: T/Sgt. Ernest Russel Fletcher 33718905 AAF Age 21. KiA

Originally 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, Radio Operator/Waist Gunner, Nose Gunner, Ball Turret Gunner, Waist Gunner, Tail Gunner.

The Ball Turret was being removed from July 1944 as an operational decision to reduce weight and the improve manoeuvrability of the aircraft.

CarROP = Carpet Radio Operator. The code name ‘Carpet’ was given to an electronic system that scanned for German radar frequencies and transmitted a noise signal on the same frequency as that detected, effectively swamping the German radar receiver.


B-24J 44-10493 took off from Tibenham on the morning of the 12th December 1944 on a mission to bomb the Hanau marshalling yards in Germany.

1st Lt. Wilbert G. Kautz’s (Pilot from the 703rd Bomb Squadron) eye witness statement reported that, before reaching the target, the aircraft received a direct hit from flak between #3 and #4 engines. The starboard wing broke away and the aircraft entered a flat spin. He witnessed one parachute in the air.

Photograph of a painting depicting the moment B-24J 44-10493 was hit by flak (Credit of Stuart Alan Nerzig)

The wreckage fell to earth, at about 12:00 hrs, some 300 m (900 ft) north of the rifle range of the Hutier barracks, housing the Grenadier-Regiment 80, which was then about 2½ km (1½ mls) NNE of Hanau/Main. Wreckage found near to a search light battery was identified as belonging to B-24J 44-10493.

German documents reported that nine dead, seven of whom were identified, were buried in the Langendiebach Cemetery, which is about 4 km (2½ mls) NNE of the then Hutier barracks. The names of Flight Officer (FO) Cohen and T/Sgt. Bald were not recorded.

German records for the crash of B-24J 42-50662 Patsy (389BG/564BS) recorded that T/Sgt. Hein was initially buried in the Langenselbold Cemetery, some 8 km (5 mls) ENE from the then Hutier barracks, along with six of the ten crew who died when this aircraft was shot down by flak.

(1) The circumstances of T/Sgt. Hein’s death were unknown until a Military Commission was convened at Freising, Germany on the 15th July 1945.

Two German nationals were charged that they, on or about the 12th December 1944, did at Langenselbold, Kreis (District) Hanau, Germany, wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid, abet, and participate in the killing of T/Sgt. Donald L. Hein, ASN 33563157, a member of the United States army, who was then an unarmed, surrendered PoW in the custody of the then German Reich.

Those charged were: Albert (aka Alfred) Bury, a former Polizeimeister (M/Sgt) of the Ordnungspolizei (Regular police) in Langenselbold and Wilhelm Häfner, a former Polizeiwachtmeister der Reserve (Sgt) in the Ordnungspolizei based in Langenselbold;

Additionally the following were mentioned in the particulars of the charge: Karl Henkel and Wilhelm Plitt who were former members of the Ordnungspolizei based in Langenselbold; Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Löser, the former Landrat (Head administrator) of Kreis Hanau; Georg Heinrich Kalte, a former Oberleutnant der Polizei (1st Lt) of Kreis Hanau.

The court heard that during the air attack on Hanau on the 12th December 1944 an American airman, by the name of T/Sgt. Donald L. Hein parachuted from his crashing aircraft. He was captured by German civilians and taken to Bury’s office in Langenselbold.

Bury then ordered Häfner, Henkel and Plitt to kill T/Sgt. Hein. The three took the airman to a secluded spot in some nearby woods where Häfner shot and killed T/Sgt. Hein with his service sidearm. Henkel and Plitt stood by and did nothing to prevent the airman from being killed.

The prosecution asserted that Löser and Kalte had issued orders that each and every Allied airman who landed within the territory of their jurisdiction was to be shot. The defence maintained that Bury and Häfner were following those orders.

The court rejected the defence of “superior orders” and found Bury and Häfner guilty of the charge and sentenced them both to death. Bury and Häfner were hanged at Landsberg on the 19th November 1945 by the German executioner Johann Reichhart.

This research has not been able to find a court sentence against Henkel, Plitt, Löser and Kalte.

Löser was brought before an Intermediate Military Government Court on the 19th May 1947 and charged with the assault of four US paratroopers who had been recaptured after they had escaped. The court believed his version of events and he was acquitted of the charge. Löser was finally sentenced in 1948 by a German court to 5 years Zuchthaus (=prison with hard labour and coupled with the loss of certain civil rights) for extracting statements from prisoners by the use of violence.

Burial details:

2nd Lt. William A. Thompson. Air Medal. Reinterred at the Lorraine American Cemetery in Plot PP, Row 6, Grave 61. Repatriated and buried at the St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Manchester, New Hampshire. Born on the 24th May 1922. Son to Mrs. Helen M. Thompson of Manchester, new Hampshire, USA.

2nd Lt. Thaddeus J. Krajewski. Air Medal. Reinterred at the Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold in Plot PP, Row 6, Grave 62. Repatriated and buried in Massachusetts. Brother to Irene Krajewski from Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Photograph of FO. Cohen and of the memorabilia remembering his sacrifice (Credit of Stuart Alan Nerzig)

FO. Seymour B. Cohen. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Reinterred at the Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold in Plot PP, Row 4, Grave 47. Relocated to Plot K, Row 29, Grave 10. Son to Hyman and Tillie Cohen of Brooklyn, New York, USA.

2nd Lt. Keil G. Holland. Reinterred at the Lorraine American Cemetery in Plot PP, Row 4, Grave 48. Repatriated and buried at the Sylvan Heights Cemetery, Oliver, Pennsylvania. Born on the 21st August 1924. Son to William A. and Ida may (née Wismer) Holland of Somerset, Maryland. Husband to Margaret Eleanor (née Sanner) Holland of Oliver, Pennsylvania, USA.

T/Sgt. Donald Ley Hein. Air Medal. Reinterred at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Plot 30, Row 9, Grave 233. Repatriated and buried at the Parkwood Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland. Born on the 14th January 1919. Son to George Frederick and Luella M. (née Ley) Hein of Baltimore, Maryland. Husband to Melva (née Wright) Hein of Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

T/Sgt. Edward W. Bald. Air Medal. Reinterred at the Ardennes American Cemetery, Neupré in Plot G, Row 9, Grave 201. Repatriated and buried at the Nokomis Cemetery, Nokomis, Illinois. Born on the 16th January 1923. Son to William Fred and Kate Cornelia (née Hubbard) Bald of Nokomis, Illinois, USA.

Above: Sgt. Picarelli (Credit: Dominique Potier).

Sgt. Francis D. Picarelli. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Reinterred at the Ardennes American Cemetery, Neupré in Plot G, Row 8, Grave 198. Relocated to Plot B, Row 31, Grave 18. Born in 1925. Son of Louis and Mary L. (née Gallo) Picarelli of Watertown, New York, USA.

Sgt. Arnold (Arno) Christian Riedel. Air Medal. Reinterred at the Ardennes American Cemetery, Neupré in Plot G, Row 9, Grave 204. Repatriated and buried at the Lindenwood Cemetery Plot 6, Grave 6, Fort Wayne, Indiana. Born on the 7th June 1917. Son of Christian H. and Anna Elizabeth (née Zolinger) Riedel of Allen, Indiana, USA.

Sgt. Silvio E. Celani. Air Medal. Reinterred at the Ardennes American Cemetery, Neupré in Plot G, Row 8, Grave 195. Repatriated and buried at the Chestnut Ridge Cemetery, Washington County, Pennsylvania. Born on the 22nd June 1925. Son to Emidio and Maria (née Filesi) Celani of Salem, Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, USA.

T/Sgt. Ernest Russel Fletcher. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters). Reinterred at the Ardennes American Cemetery, Neupré in Plot G, Row 8, Grave 197. Repatriated and buried at the Antietam National Cemetery, Plot WW, Grave 4448, Sharpsburg, Maryland. Born on the 27th November 1923. Son to Russell C. and Verda Margaret (née Price) of Allegany, Maryland, 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 to Stuart Alan Nerzig for the images relating to his uncle FO. Seymour B. Cohen.

RS & TV 10.08.2020 - Addition of images for FO Cohen

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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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