World War II prisoner of war camp - Stalag Luft I


World War II - Prisoners of War - Stalag Luft I 

A collection of stories, photos, art and information on Stalag Luft I


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Eyewitness Accounts of My Dad's Plane Crash

      John Meurs of Switzerland was a nine year old schoolboy living in Apeldoorn, in Nazi-occupied Holland when a B-17 crashed a couple of hundred meters behind his home. Two crew-members who had bailed out of the plane at very low altitude were killed by German soldiers when they were still dangling under their white chutes. They landed in the center of his village. The tailgunner managed to escape from the hospital in Apeldoorn two months later with the assistance of the Dutch resistance.  He stayed, until he was liberated by the Canadians in April 1945, with a family living on the same street as John .

     Last year John started to do some research on this crash that had made such a big impression on him.   He posted a message on the 8th AF message board and the following day he received a reply from a gentleman in Ede (Netherlands) who gave him the first details of "his" B-17.  It belonged to the 381st BG, had been on a mission to the railway viaduct in Altenbeken in Germany on November 26, 1944. Since then he has made contact with two of the surviving members of the crew. 

     As he wanted to have a wider picture, he extended his research to the whole mission
of the 8th Air Force on November 26, 1944.  In doing so he contacted me, as my Dad's plane had gone down on this date.  Since then he has found 2 eyewitnesses to my Dad's plane crash and has provided me with their accounts of that day.  Their letters to him as well as the sketch and map of Dad's crash site follow below.



Flying B-17G   # 42-97740  on November 26, 1944

Capt. Gene Douglas Pilot, CA Washington, DC
1st Lt. Charles Zimmer Co-Pilot Flushing, NY
Capt. Harry Nelson Lead Navigator Milwaukee, WI
1st. Lt. Randy Anderson Check Navigator Worcester, MA
1st Lt. Norman Kottke Lead Bombardier Stewart, MN
2nd Lt. Aaron Kuptsow Radar Navigator  (Mickey) Philadelphia, PA
Tech/Sgt. Opher Rumney Engineer Manchester Depot, VT
Tech/Sgt. Jim Strafford Radio Operator Portsmouth, OH
Staff/Sgt. Dick Williams Waist Gunner Eufaula, AL
Staff/Sgt. Phern Stout Tail Gunner Lockwood, MO


Dear Mr. Meurs,
About the parachute landing I can give you the following information.
Around noon on November 26, 1944 I saw a parachute coming down not far from our house. As they had told us in school that bombs could be attached to parachutes I cried out: "Take care! There may be a bomb attached."
I saw from the window that a parachute came down near a wood nearby. The aviator detached the parachute and stretched his legs. He did not run away but approached with his hands in the air the people who came running from the village. Among them was the burgomaster: a fervent Nazi. I was told that others kept him back to prevent the worse. Especially Ernst Dürer, a sergeant on home leave, protected the American, who was brought during the same day to Detmold. 
We are of course quite willing to show you or Mrs. Mary Smith the site when you would happen to come and visit us. I would be very glad to meet you.
with greetings to you and Mrs. Smith.
W. Haussmann (signed)



Translation by John Meurs


 Dear Mr. Meurs, 

I refer to your correspondance with Mr. Zoremba of Blomberg and Mr. Wilfried Hausmann in Brüntrup, who  contacted me concerning an aircraft crash on November 26. 1944 and inform you about the following: 

On that particular day, I was almost 12 years old, I was near the house of my parents in the village Brüntrup (I did not quite recall the date), the sky was covered with low hanging clouds or perhaps a mist bank. 

I'm not quite sure if I had perhaps already heard the sound of an aircraft when all of a sudden an enormous plane dived with screaming engines straight through through the clouds and seemed to head directly for the village. 

The plane arrived at a height of about 300 - 500 meters when it pulled up again and disappeared in the clouds again. As far as I remember she made a curve to the left after which she crashed coming from the east or south-east. I don't recall the sound of the crash but I am of the opinion that I saw to the south-west a cloud of dust. 

At the same time my father and I saw various parachutes float down between Brüntrup and the village Cappel. My father, frightened by the screaming engines, had come running out of the house. As far as I recall I saw six or seven chutes but according to you it must have been nine.  

The parachutes with the clearly visible airmen drifted off in the direction of the hill "Mossenberger Himmel" and disappeared behind the woods. I did not see them landing but they came down between the wood and the village Mossenberg, at about 1.5 - 2 kilometers (1 - 1.3  miles  - John Meurs) as the crow flies from were I was standing. 

A little bit later a single parachute jumper could be seen coming from the west. He drifted in the direction of the village and came down immediately afterwards at the edge of the village on a field behind a barn near a farm. I could not see him landing as he was hidden by the high roof of the barn and some big oak trees. Mr. Wilfried Hausmann saw this landing from another perspective.  

When the last parachute had landed my father took his bicycle to go to the site. Distance was about  600 - 800 meters (200 - 250 feet, JM), from where I was standing and as the crow flies about 40 - 450 meters: 

When he returned ( he had forbidden me to go there also) I learned that some men and women were already there and that the airman had already been arrested on the farm near by, waiting for the military that had been summoned from Detmold. I have no more details in my own memory. I only learned that the other airmen had been captured near the village Mossenberg and had been transported, together with the airman who had landed in Brüntrub, to the air base Detmold (about 10 - 12 km.) (about 6 - 8 miles, JM

Now about the crash of the aircraft: 

As I already mentioned I assumed the crash site to be situated in western direction. Quikly it became known that the aircraft had crashed in Oberschönhagen. Oberschönhagen consisted only of a few farms and fields (with a few hundred meters between them) on the left side of the road to Fissenknick/Bad Meinberg. 

The next day my friend (same age as me) and I tried to get near the crash site but were turned away by German soldiers guarding the wreck. Distance between where we lived and the crash site was about 3 kilometers (2 miles - J M) over fields and through woods. Distance, as the crow flies, between Brüntrup and the site about 2,2 to 2,5 kilometers. During the following days we could get near the no longer guarded wreck that we could thoroughly study.  

The aircraft had come down on a steep meadow between two farms with about 800 meters (2400 feet - JM) between these two farms. She had made a 1.2 - 1.5 ( 4 to 5 feet - JM) deep gully in the slope. Only small fragments could be found between the gully and an small stream that ran in the valley. The fuselage, the wings (the tail was broken off), the engines and, nearer to the road, the big wheels were lying behind the stream on a plowed field that went again slightly up. Smaller fragments could be found between these parts. 

As all boys in our age did we took cartridges, a oxygen mask and a strong magnet of about 8 kilos home. 

Some weeks later we visited we visited the site again. All parts of the wreck had been collected (presumably by the German military) and the whole field had been plowed again. For years the gully the plane had made was still visible from the road. Later this gully seems to have been filled by the owner of the meadow. When I visited the site about 8 days ago I could easily (and within a couple of meters exactly) find the meadow, the stream, the field and the crash site, but the gully has disappeared. 

Dear Mr. Meurs. 

I have read with much interest your correspondance and the accounts of the various crew members, that an American lady, Mrs. Horen who lives here, was so kind to translate for me.  

For completeness sake I add a drawing of the crash site as well as a copy of a map 1:50.000, with the pencilled in crash site and the approximate landind sites of the airmen.

Mr. Zoremba (the town archivist - JM) and Mr. Hausmann (the other eye witness - JM) receive copy of this letter. 

Please excuse my handwriting. I hope you can decipher same. 

With kind regards

Friedhelm Dux


Sketch of Dad's B-17 crash site in Germany



Crash site sketch by Freidhelm Dux

Translation of items on sketch and map.

Translation from German to English of items referenced on sketch and map

Map of Dad's B-17 crash site in Germany


Map of crash site with plane and crew member landing marked.


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