03.02.1944 369th Bomb Squadron (H) B-17G 42-31056, 2nd Lt. Richard S. Wong
Operation: Wilhelmshaven (Mission #206), Germany
Date: 3rd February 1944 (Thursday)
Unit: 306th Bombardment Group (H), 369th Bombardment Squadron (H), 1st Air Division, 8th Air Force
Serial No: 42-31056
Location: Between Bensersiel and Langeoog Island, Germany
Base: Thurleigh (Station #111), Bedfordshire, England
Pilot: 2nd Lt. Richard Sau-Fat Wong O-745990 AAF Age 24. PoW *
Co Pilot: 2nd Lt. Walter Perry McBroom O-750914 AAF Age 27. PoW *
Navigator: 2nd Lt. John William Rodgers O-808145 AAF Age 20. PoW *
Bombardier: 1st Lt. Curtis Leroy Dunlap O-735291 AAF Age 26. PoW *
Radio Op: Cpl. George Dallas Collins 38131475 AAF Age 24. PoW **
Engineer: S/Sgt. George Baxter Walker, BSM, 34147240 AAF Age 26. PoW/Killed *** (1)
Ball Turret: Sgt. Charles Lloyd Whetstone 38387739 AAF Age 20. PoW **
Left Waist Gnr: Sgt. Armand Adel Cournoyer 11071298 AAF Age 23. PoW **
Right Waist Gnr: Sgt. Robert E. Sykes 39032659 AAF Age 22. Killed
Tail Gnr: Sgt. Walter E. Kells 32535142 AAF Age 23. Killed
* 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 on 28th May 1944. Moved to Wöbbelin near Ludwigslust and then to Usedom near Swinemünde).
*** Stalag Luft 6, Heydekrug, Memelland (now Šilutė in Lithuania).
REASON FOR LOSS:
On the morning of 3rd February 1944 B-17G 42-31056 took off from Thurleigh to join 553 other B-17s to bomb the Kriegsmarinewerft (KMW) U-Boat Naval facilities at Wilhelmshaven, Germany.
Approximately 30 miles SW of the target #4 engine ran-away, #2 engine was knocked out by flak and #3 engine blew a cylinder head causing the aircraft to drop out of formation. They turned onto heading towards the coast and jettisoned their bombs. 2nd Lt. Wong gave the order to bail out before the aircraft reached the coast line.
All of the crew baled out at about 18,000 ft over the German coast between the mainland and Langeoog Island. The wind carried several parachutes out over the North Sea.
Sgt. Sykes was the first to bail out and it was speculated that he was blown further out to sea than the others. Sgt Kells was seen crawling from the tail gun position when the aircraft was about 3 miles off-shore but was not seen to actually leave the aircraft. 2nd Lt. McBroom was the last to leave and could not see anyone in the rear of the aircraft before he bailed out.
2nd Lt. Wong, 1st Lt. Dunlap and Cpl. Collins landed in the water just off the coast. 1st Lt. Dunlap was captured at about 13:00 hrs, Sgt. Whetstone at about 14:00 hrs near Carolinensiel and Cpl. Collins was picked up by the Germans after spending 4 hrs in the Wadden Sea near Neuharlingersiel. 2nd Lt. McBroom, 2nd Lt. Rodgers, 2nd Lt. McBroom, S/Sgt. Walker and Sgt. Cournoyer were captured at about 12:30 hrs at Neuharlingersiel.
After the crew was captured they were gathered together in a farm house except for Sgt. Skyes and Sgt. Kells. Everyone reported that they were being fired upon while descending so it is possible that the two missing crew members either drowned, were killed by gunfire or that their parachutes failed to open.
The aircraft crashed at about 12:05 hrs on the Ruteplate (Wetland) halfway between Bensersiel and Langeoog Island.
(1) The following is an eye witness account of the murder of T/Sgt. George Walker. The incident took place on the 28th April 1944 at Stalag Luft 6, Heydekrug, East Prussia in Germany.
“On April 27th, 1944, T/Sgt. George Walker and myself, T/Sgt. Edgard A. Jurist ASN 39279382 (PoW #2678), escaped from the American prisoner lager by means known only to the escape committee and ourselves. We were equipped with a crude set of wire cutters, detail maps and a small supply of food and cigarettes. We made our way out of the American lager, through the British lager and Canadian lager and reached the Vorlager. The Vorlager is the outer section of the camp area which houses food storage buildings, laundry buildings, and in a far off corner, the prison hospital.
Upon reaching the Vorlager we hid behind some empty boxes stacked against the Red Cross shack and waited for night, it being our intention to cut our way through the double barbed wire fence of the outer lager and thus gaining our freedom. The spot selected for our escape through the fence was very heavily guarded by patrols and postern boxes equipped with searchlights and machine guns. However, in addition to this, the German guards had their barracks close to the place where we intended to go through. Psychologically it was a reasonable spot to attempt an escape.
At approximately 23:00 hrs we altered our plans somewhat, in that I was to lead the way instead of Walker, with Walker following closely behind. We crawled out slowly on our stomachs and inched our way directly ahead parallel with the fence until we reached a spot where the stationary lights cast a sort of shadow. It seemed that the guards had been doubled. They were not walking according to the manner in which we had them timed. The searchlights from the watch towers piked us up several times, but we froze each time and they passed over us. We decided to change our plans and try another route.
We inched our way back to the boxes, waited a while and then started out on a wider angle away from the fence. Progress was very slow due to the passing of the guards outside the fence and the frequency with which the searchlights swung about. It was approximately 02:30 hrs [before] we had finally edged our way to within 5 feet of a deep ditch which bordered the inside perimeter of the fence. By then we had no more grass covering to hide ourselves. I had to scoop sand away from in front of me to pile it up slightly on both sides and then drag myself forward. Walker was doing the same thing directly behind me,
Suddenly a passing guard stopped, peered through the fence towards us but didn’t seem sure of what he saw. We had frozen to the ground. The guard walked a few steps more, turned back again, then resumed his course. Finally he hesitated, walked back to the spot he had first suspected something in and peered for about one minute in our direction. A searchlight passed over us and apparently he finally made out our forms lying on the ground.
He began yelling aloud in German. Searchlights began sweeping over the ground trying to pick us up. Guards started running out of the barracks. I whispered back to Walker that the jig was up. It was no use. We rose to our knees and were spotted by the lights. The guard who had discovered us raised his gun and fired. We ducked and rose again with our hands up. The guard fired again and we hit the deck. Neither of us had been hit yet. Walker started burying the wire cutters and I started tearing up the maps. By then the whole camp was in an uproar. Finally the main gates opened and we saw two dog guards with their dogs unleashed running through the gate toward us. I told Walker to play dead and not move. He sank on my legs and I dug my face half into the sand.
The two dogs reached us first and started tearing at our bodies. A moment later the two guards came running up. We were still playing dead. I had my face partly turned towards the guards. The guards came up and started kicking both of us. I felt Walker stand up and heard him pleading not to shoot. I couldn’t see him but I could see one of the guards with a shiny pistol in his hand. The dogs were still jumping around and growling. I heard and saw one of the guards shoot. For a moment I thought he was shooting at the dogs because they seem to have gone crazy. Then I heard a groan and felt Walker topple over on my legs groaning. I don’t know what made me lie still but I though it would be better if I did. I thought also that Walker had been injured but not killed.
By that time about a dozen more guards had arrived and were all talking excitedly. I heard a man say “Don’t shoot” in English. Later I found out that he was the German interpreter . The guard who had killed Walker came and kicked me as I lay on the ground. I thought it was safe to stand up and did. When I did, the guards looked as though they had seen a ghost. I believe they thought I had been killed by the shots from outside the fence.
They took me to the main gate and questioned me. They didn’t believe me when I told them I was an American from the American lager. They took me then to the solitary cells, stripped me, searched me and began questioning me as to how we had come through the other lagers into the Vorlager. I asked them to send a doctor to me as I was pretty badly beaten up. I didn’t see a doctor until I was released from solitary and sent to the hospital where I remained for about 30 days.
From the English doctor I found out that the Germans had not permitted anyone to come near Walker’s body. He remained on the ground where he had been shot until 07:00 hrs the next morning. Walker was sewed up in a blanket and buried soon after [Sgt. Cournoyer assisted in the burial of Sgt. Walker]. The Germans would not permit me to attend his funeral but took me out alone about a week later.
The next day they took me to headquarters and questioned me again. It was then I learned Walker had died. They wanted me to sign statements saying that Walker had attacked the guard. I wouldn’t sign any statements but they tricked me into placing a sample copy of my signature on a small scrap of paper. I don’t know whether they used that signature or not. I usually write my name without crossing the “t” in Jurist. After I had written my name on the paper, the German officer thought I had made a mistake and crossed the “t” himself. I never cross my “t’s” when they appear at the end of a word.
Two German soldiers escorted me the half-mile or so back to camp. Halfway there they stopped and motioned with their heads for me to run off into the woods on our left. I thought they were trying to trick me into taking off so they could have a chance to get rid of me. Some Russian and French prisoners were working on a sandpile nearby. I refused to move and the German started yelling. They attracted the attention of the other prisoners and became aware they couldn’t do anything to me in front of them. I was taken back to solitary confinement.
A similar statement to the one attached herewith [above], was given to T/Sgt. Frank S. Paules, the American Camp Leader [The Man of Confidence (MOC)]. That statement was supposed to be sent to Geneva, Switzerland and I know that it was because Paules showed me confirmation of Protecting Powers receipt of the statement.
The British Camp Leader who has the information as to the name and number of the German guard who shot Walker is “Dixie” Dean. This information was given to him by another Englishman named, “Tiny” Bushell. I had given Bushell a complete description of the German during the time I was in the Hospital.
I believe however, that the person who has the most accurate description of Walker’s killer would naturally be the German camp commandant whose name was Col. Von Horman. Any officer of that prison camp would have that information necessary.
I sincerely hope that everything possible is done to apprehend the murderer of George Walker. If I can be of any further assistance in the matter, please don’t hesitate to write or call me. I can’t forget the manner in which my friend died and it hurts me even more to know that Walker’s parents know nothing of the circumstances under which Walker was killed”.
T/Sgt. Edgar A. Jurist was the Radio Operator from B-17G 42-32002 ‘Berlin First’.
T/Sgt. Francis Samuel Paules ASN 10601393, PoW #778. Francis Paules served with the RCAF as a Flt Sgt. Bomb Aimer (R106185) from 22nd May 1941 until 1st September 1943. He transferred to the US AAF on the 2nd September 1944 and continued flying with 419 (Moose) Sqn, RCAF. He was shot down over Berlin on the night of the 20th/21st January 1944. All the crew of Halifax II DT731 VR:M survived and became PoWs.
“Dixie” Dean was Sgt. James Alexander Graham “Dixie” Dean 580114, RAFVR, PoW #271. His Whitley V P5062 was shot down on the 10th September 1940 on a mission to Bremen. He and his crew survived and became PoWs. He was promoted to Warrant Officer (WO) as a PoW.
“Tiny” Bushell was Sqn Ldr. Roger Joyce Bushell, MiD. His Spitfire was shot down on the 23rd May 1940.
Col. von Horman was Oberst (Col.) Hörmann von Hörbach.
It is not known if the German soldier had ever been identified or if the shooting of S/Sgt. Walker had been investigated by either the German military or the US authorities.
Prior to the shooting of S/Sgt. Walker a large number of shooting incidents allegedly took place at the camp. Most of these occurred when PoWs were fired upon for going beyond the warning fence to recover footballs etc., but no one was injured on these occasions. The guards appeared only too keen to try out their marksmanship skills on the PoWs and required little excuse to open fire. On occasion the indiscriminate shooting put others in the barracks in danger and many had narrow escapes from inadvertently being shot.
It had not been possible to locate the grave for T/Sgt. Walker after hostilities had ceased and consequently he is commemorated on the Wall of the Missing (WOM) at the Netherlands American Cemetery.
S/Sgt. Walker was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal (BSM) (Credit: The State, dated Tuesday September 24th, 1946)
Above S/Sgt. Walker: Credit Andy Anderson (FindAGrave) and Michel Beckers (FindAGrave).
S/Sgt. George Baxter Walker. Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster). Commemorated on the Wall of the Missing (WOM), Netherlands American Cemetery. Born on the 22nd September 1918 in Harris, Rutherford, North Carolina. Son of Emmett Lee and Ollie Jane (née Hawkins). Husband to Mittie Itura (née Mattox) Walker from Valley Falls Mill, Spartanburg, South Carolina, USA.
Sgt. Robert E. Sykes. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Commemorated on the Wall of the Missing, Cambridge American Cemetery. Born on the 11th December 1921 in California. Son of Cedric Millard and Clara (née Kaster) Sykes from Oakland, Almeda, California, USA.
His father predeceased him in January 1930.
Sgt. Walter E. Kells. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Commemorated on the Wall of the Missing, Netherlands American Cemetery. Born in about 1921 in New York. Son of Edward W. and Rose M. (née Leddy) Kells from New York, Kings, USA. His mother predeceased him in 1928. His notified Next of Kin was his sister, Mrs. Genevieve K. Knopp from Basking Ridge, New York, USA.
Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz and for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew. Thanks to Traugott Vitz for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’.