MILS JULY 19TH 1944Written and compiled by Keith M. Bullock, Mils bei Imst, Tirol, Austria.
Ref. Texu 2233 dated July 23rd 1999
MILS BEI IMST (pele). One does not always think back with pleasure to WWII occurances, but in Mils bei Imst a certain incident is the talk of the village at the present time, the incident being when a B17 Flying Fortress Bomber of the U.S. American Air Force landed in this Upper Inntal Community.
Bürgermeister Gebhard Moser received this historical picture and relates, “I received this photo from a one-time American soldier by name of Gerald Furlow, who told me that he was given the photo in May, 1945 whilst stationed in Kufstein. Without any shadow of doubt this is part of our Parish.
A question for all readers, “Do you know the young lady in the foreground of the picture shown below, who
obviously posed to have it taken? We reckon that she must be between 70 and 80 years old now-a-days. If anyone thinks that they know the young lady we would be most pleased if they would get in touch with us at the Parish Council Office of Mils bei Imst, Tirol.
Wer war dieses Mädchen?Mit Hilfe des ehemaligen Bezirksgendarmeriekommandanten Karl Raggl aus Imst, konnte die Dame auf dem Foto gefunden werden. Ein Gespräch mit Herrn Pangraz aus Gunglgrün - damals Schüler - erkannte sofort die Dame als seine ehemalige Lehrerin, auf dem Foto. Alma Lutz entstammte einer Südtiroler Familie und war im Jahr 1944 Volksschullehrerin in Imst. Aus Sicherheitsgründen wurde teilweise der Unterricht nach Gunglgrün - einem Ortsteil von Imst - verlegt. Pangraz erinnerte sich, dass Schüler und Lehrerin am Vormittag des 19. Juli 1944 ein sinkendes Flugzeug mit viel Lärm und Getöse beobachteten. Bald darauf rannten alle in Richtung "Milser Gstoag" und sahen das Flugzeug im Milser-Äuli. Als sie beim Flugzeug ankamen, waren bereits einige Leute und ein Fotograf vor Ort.
Einige Jahre nach dem Krieg zog es Alma Lutz wieder nach Eppan in Südtirol, wo sie dann auch ihren Lebensabend in einem Altenwohnheim verbrachte. Dem amerikanischen Kriegsteilnehmer Gerald Furlow konnte leider nur noch berichtet werden, dass die Dame mit 91 Jahren verstorben war.
THE MIRACLE OF THE MILSER ÄULE (47°12.50´N. 10°42.25´E). WRITTEN AND COMPILED BY KEITH M. BULLOCK FROM INFORMATION GIVEN TO HIM BY MANY EYE-WITNESSES.This is the story of one particular aircraft, a B17G. Flying Fortress of the 547th Bomber Squadron, 384th Bomber Group (H) of the 8th Air Force, I am sure that this will be no surprise to the reader, having reached this far.
2nd Lt. James M. Bodker and his eight man crew were awakened around 3.30 a.m. on a dewy morning in the heart of Northamptonshire, England, it looked as if it might be a nice day, but it is most unlikely that this thought at 3.30 a.m. occured to them. Still rubbing sleep from their eyes they made their way to the Mess Hall for a breakfast of bacon and eggs, washed down by coffee, after which they ‘trundled’ along to the Briefing Halls were, the officers received separate briefing from the enlisted men, but, whether officer or an enlisted man the same cry went up when they learned of the destination of this, their third mission to be, and the cry, “Oh! no, not that long and dangerous haul!” The particular target for the 384th on this day was a Chemical Works at Höllriegelskreuth some 10 km. south west of the City of Munich.
The Bodker crew had only been in England since 8 July, 1944 and had absolved just two raids, one on the 17th and one on the 18th and this 19th of July was to see them on one of the longest possible for a Fortress and one that would see them in the air for something like 8 hours and 30 minutes, at least, with most of this time being on oxygen, necessary at the height they would be flying, IF all went according to plan.
By 0515h. all 36 aircraft forming the attack as part of the 384th Bomber Group where assembled in the air above the English countryside and had started the first phase of their journey to the Munich area, a journey from which some would never return. In all, over 1,100 heavy bombers of the 8th Air Force, operating in 5 forces, assembled and then headed for Augsburg/Munich, deep in the heart of the German Third Reich, where targets included, 2 plants producing hydrogen peroxide (which is an ingredient used in V-weapon fuels), a chemical plant, 2 aircraft factories, 4 ball bearing plants, 6 marshalling yards, 4 airfields and a river dam, but we are only really concerned with just 36 of this great armada, namely, the 36 aircraft flying under the colours of the 384th Bombardment Group of which two returned to base before they had crossed the North Sea and a further three, never to return, in which 8 young men were to make the surpreme sacrifice, killed in action (KIA).
384th crossed the Dutch coastline on time, without any problem, Aachen
reached with no sign of enemy attack by flak batteries or fighters,
Strassbourg reached all was calm and tranquill, except for the roar of
136 engines, only counting those of the 384th, but by now, many hearts
were beating faster, eyes were straining for a fighter attack, the
nervous tension was beginning to mount and the nearer they came to the
target so this tension increased, they were now bearing to the left,
the Initial Point (the point at which the bomb run would start), but
where were the fighters, spitting death with their 20mm. cannons, the
fighter airfield bases must now be close, Kaufbeuren, Schongau, to name
but two. The I.P. now reached with every member of every crew in their
respective positions in the aircraft, all waiting, waiting for the flak
to be hurled up at them that they all knew would come, for now they
were approaching the ‘bomb run’ and here was no deviation, to the left,
to the right, up or down, this was now their course for the next 5 to 7
minutes, they knew it as did the flak batteries on the ground and as
expected those harmless looking little puffs of smoke suddenly started
to appear, with an intensity and accuracy that was frightening to
behold, also they seemed to be concentrating on leading ships in the
‘Lead Group’. With the prevailing weather conditions, officially, clear
and vision unlimited, the target could be seen, visual bombing was
ordered and a straight run was made onto the target, during this time
flak continued to pound the heavy bombers and although some of them
were undoubtedly receiving hits, none were brought down. After what
seemed like an eternity, those magic words were heard, “Bombs away”. At
long last evasive action could be taken and a course set for home, but
it was then that the “Lead Group” was hit by fighters of the German Air
Force who came in out of the sun to down two aircraft from the “Lead
Group”, Lt. Bodker, who was to land in field near the village of Mils
bei Imst in the Austrian Tirol and Lt. Mount who was to make it safely
to the land at Dübendorf in Switzerland. In the same attack the “Low
Group” was also to lose one of their machines, that piloted by Lt.
Gerard Heim who was to blow up in midair and crash near to the junction
where the River Isar and Loisach join, just a very short distance south
of the target itself.
This part of July 19th 1944, is really centred on just one aircraft of the 384th Bombarment Group, namely, the B17G Flying Fortress flown by pilot, 1st Lt. James M. Bodker, now leaves, what might be termed the shortened official version of the raid on Höllriegelskreuth, taken from details and documents (MACR # 7261) held at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, moves over to the version as seen through eyes and by the pen, in this case, computer and typewriter, of four of the crew themselves, 1st Lt. George Gray Brandon, 1st Lt. Albert L. Steindam, (dec.), navigator, S/Sgt. Carlyle O. Telford, togglier and Sgt. Joda D. Evans Jr., waist gunner. But first, a few words about the crew itself, recorded by myself over the years that I have been researching downed aircraft of the USAAF., that is, from May, 1993 until the present date, September, 1999.
1st Lt. James M. Bodker, pilot, who lived in
Tacoma, Washington. I was only able to get through to James with help
of George Gray Brandon, for, when I came on the scene (1993) he was
already a very sick man and unable to write himself, could, in fact
understand everything said to him but was only able to answer with a
‘yes’ or ‘no’. James died in December, 1995. I am very grateful to know
that James did, at least know of the research that I was making on his
one time Fortress and that he very much appreciated the book that the
Parish Council of Mils bei Imst, Tirol sent him, as with other members
of the crew, the book of the history of their village, called, “Mils
bei Imst 1991”
1st Lt. George Gray Brandon, co-pilot, who lives at Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Gray, as he likes to be known to his friends, was my very first contact with any member of the crew and has fed me with a virtual mountain of information, and we have, over these last six years become the greatest of friends, to date we have never met, but who knows, perhaps one day we will. Gray tells me that he was the ‘old man’ of the crew, 27 years and 5 months at the time of the emergency landing.
1st Lt. Albert L. Steindam, navigator, who lived in Dallas, Texas, also kept me well informed with happenings of July 19th 1944, and again, as with Gray I like to think that we became good friends. After a longish illness Al died in August, 1998.
S/Sgt. Carlyle O. Telford, togglier, who lives in Arizona City, AZ, Carlyle was a replacement to the crew which had trained together in the States and had flown the Atlantic, their regular bombardier, 2nd Lt. Albin Kucinski, upon reaching England became ill and did not fly at all with the Bodker crew. Carlyle was the last member of the crew that I was able to track down, which was done with the help of Veterans Affairs in Chicago, who have helped me on many, many occasions. Carlyle, phoned me once, faxed me once and wrote me once, but then it all stopped with him leaving me very, very curious of how he managed to escape, just before WW II ended to join the ranks of the British Army, I always have the hope that he will write me again one day.
S/Sgt. Cyrus C. Gullekson, engineer, eventually my letter dated of February 24th 1994 found its way to Mrs. June Gullekson, Cyrus’s widow, who lives in Newbury Park, CA., and who, despite the loss of her husband wrote me, informing me that Cyrus had died of cancer on December 17th 1992, she also kindly wrote me a few words that she could remember Cyrus relating about the raid which will be reported on later, but it would appear that Cyrus had not spoken much about his war time experiences. Coincidences have played a very big part in the research that I am doing and here is one I think worthy of mention which is an extract taken from the family history of the 384th Bombardment Group “As Briefed”, and I quote, “The were other things that we had a right to be proud about. We were proud of a new fellow, 2nd Lt. Leslie C. Gullekson. When he arrived and was assigned to a squadron he thought that he was pretty lucky. Long before he got here he had been addressing mail to his brother, Cyrus, a staff sergeant and the address was “384th Bomb Group, A.P.O. 557”. Now here was Leslie, assigned to the same Group and even to the same squadron. Upon arriving Lt. Gullekson sought the squadron orderly room to find out where his brother bunked. “You haven’t heard anything about your brother lately?” asked the clerk. “No!” replied Leslie. “Well I hate to tell you this, but--about two weeks ago over Munich--”, Lt. Gullekson said, “Thanks”, and walked out. And now here he was flying from the same station his brother used to fly from before going down somewhere over Germany.” unquote.
S/Sgt. Max M. Hostetler, radio operator, who lives at Canton, OH., unfortunately I have never been able to ‘persuade’ Max to write me his experiences, but I do have the satisfaction of knowing that he is fully aware of my researching, for Gray Brandon writes that he had a surprise visit from Max in April, 1996, they hadn’t seen each other for almost 52 years and consequently had a lot to talk about.
Sgt. Joda D. Evans Jr., who lives in Havana, FL.,. Joda was the youngest member of the crew, just 20 at the time of the landing. He has written me his experiences which will be reported on.
Sgt. Henry W. Chandler, ball turret gunner, tragic story, Henry survived the war only to be killed on July 1st 1947 when a two-seater Fairchild-PT19 that he himself was piloting crashed upon take-off from Cumberland Airfield. Henry left a widow and a daughter, but I have not been able to get in contact with them, however, once more ‘coincidence’ played a part. According to a newspaper report on Henry’s crash he was buried at the Baptist Church in Smyrna, TN. One day, whilst reading one of Ken Decker’s “Memories Publications” I came across the name of Hal Murray of Smyrna, which of course prompted me to write to him and Hal, not only replied but informed me that Henry was buried just outside Smyrna and he went along to the cemetery and took photographs of the headstone of the grave.
Sgt. Warren R. Robinson, rear gunner, who lived at Cadillac, MI. Warren was the most badly injured of the crew, injuries that meant a life time of being an invalid, although he never wrote me I know that he too was fully aware of my researching, he died in January, 1995.
But now let us return to the 384th’s mission to Höllriegelskreuth and see it through eyes of four members of Lt. James Bodker’s crew, starting with 2nd Lt. George Gray Brandon, as he was on July 19th 1944, who reports as follows, at certain times I will write in my own comments and these, on each occasion, will be written in italics.
2nd Lt. George Gray Brandon (who was upgraded to 1st Lt. on July 31st 1944) reports:
19th 1944 and our third mission, the previous two on the 17th and 18th
had not been all that successful, but at least the 384th had not lost
any aircraft. We arose at 3.30 a.m., dawn just ready to break, the air
heavy with the dew of an English summer. Slowly we made our way to the
mess hall for breakfast after which to the briefing huts, officers to
their briefing and the enlisted men to theirs, where we quickly learnt
that Munich was to be our mission for the day, or rather a target with
the tongue twisting name of “Höllriegelskreuth”, a Chemical Works some
6 miles (10km.) south west of the City. An important Chemical Works
which was producing hydrogen peroxide a fuel being used for the
V-weapons and for U-boats. A long haul for a B17, which upon returning
to base would not have all that much fuel left, a mission of, at the
very least, 8 hours 30 minutes there and back to Grafton Underwood.
Briefing finished and then out to our waiting Fortress with the serial # 42-97449, each man, from pilot to rear gunner had his alloted checking to do, which was all done with the efficiency expected from officer or enlisted man alike. Engines started and once warmed up, order given to taxi to start position, 34 machines in all, plus two from Chelveston, 144 1,200 h.p. Wright Cyclone nine cylinder air-cooled radial engines breaking the silence of the English countryside and this going on from the many other Air Bases surrounding us.
Airbourne at around 0500h. we then sort and found our assembly aircraft the “Spotted Cow”, a war weary B17 that eventually got us all lined up in formation (see page 55) and heading in the correct direction of Felixstowe, Suffolk and across the North Sea to the coast of Holland. Dawn had now broken and it was not long before the Dutch coast came into view, the roar of the engines filled our ears and the tension increased the nearer we approached our objective. IP reached at the appointed time AP in sight we were now on the bomb run and tense and accurate flak started to pound up at us, bomb doors open and the cry, “Bombs away”. But at this moment we were hit, hit heavily and lost two engines completely and the turbo on a third, we were now virtually down to one good engine for an engine at our then altitude was almost useless without a turbo. We then reported out damage to “Lead” and at the same time requested permission to head for Switzerland, which was given, Al Steindam, our navigator quickly supplied the necessary vector and we headed for that neutral land. I learnt later that we were in fact hit by some 10 to 15 ME109s and FW190s who had swooped down out of the sun, made one pass on the Wing and cut out three planes. Escorting Thunderbolts and Mustangs immediately dropped their belly tanks and took after the enemy fighters and, as the 384th closed up the gaps left by their fallen comrades we had the pleasure of seeing some of the German fighters go down under the guns of our escorts. Both Jim and I were aware that our speed was just under 100 m.p.h. (160 kmh) and that the stalling speed of a Fortress was 96 m.p.h. (153.6 kmh), although now heading in the more or less correct direction we where, however loosing height and rapidly, but, with no fire on board, we plodded on, wishing to get as near to Switzerland as we possibly could. After some 40 or so minutes we ran into some clouds and when we came out we were struck in the rear by a lonely FW 190, at this particular time I had just turned the controls over to Jim and had kicked my feet off the rudder pedals when a 13mm. bullet hit me directly in the heel of my right foot, it felt as if my foot had been hit hard by a baseball bat. I could no longer use the rudder pedals but was able to help holding the nose down, which was doing its best to go up, by placing my knees against the control column in an attempt to keep the aircraft from stalling, an added problem then faced us due to loss of altitude, for we then flew into a blind valley and were suddenly confronted by a mountain peak which we had not the slightest chance of getting over, there was nothing for it but to attempt the impossible and make a tight 180° turn on one and bit engines, a turn that is just not on as any pilot will tell you as the plane will immediately fall into a spin, but we did it, and flew slowly back the way that we had just come from. At this time, as I was to learn later, Al Steindam and Carlyle Telford left the nose of the ship and went back into the fuselage to attend to the wounded, this was most fortunte for them for when we hit the ground a few minutes later the whole of the nose disintergrated, we were still loosing height when the third engine quit. Now on just one engine that was itself red-lined and looking as if it would blow at any minute, no, second. On board we were equipped with an IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) box which held a small explosive charge for, shall we say, self-destruction and there were two buttons on the instrument panel to fire this off, it was my duty to do set this charge off should the need arise, I decided that the need had arisen and pressed the two buttons, poor Max Hostetler was sitting on the box at this moment and recieved, one might say, a hard kick in the pants.
We were now less than 200ft. (60m.) above the ground when we spotted a green field ahead and I reached over and pulled back the throttles and let the aircraft settle in and on the third bounce we came to a sudden stop. Most of the crew went out throught the side door but I was later told that they had to pull Warren Robinson out from all the dirt that had been scooped up through the open bomb-bay doors. It had not been possible to retract the ball turret either but members of the crew had manage to hand rotate it and get Henry Chandler out before we landed. As my own window appeared to be blocked I had to get out of the left hand side one, that is, the pilot’s window, which I did and then crawled on my hands and knees to join the rest of the crew at the tail of the plane.
We were at once surounded by local people, which included some uniforms. Al told me later that one of those uniformed demanded his gun, Al must have been the only one armed at the time for most of us did not carry a side-arm for we were loathe to carry a gun in the belief that one would more likely stand a chance of being killed if armed, however the local people did not bother us in any way, seemingly content to play the part of a spectator. Al then wanted to remove my shoe but I uttered a very firm, NO! for I could see that the foot and the shoe seemed to be in a very bad state and I wanted that the foot should be held together until I received medical attention. I was told later that Al gave me a shot of morphine which must have been true for the next thing that I remember I was on a table with two doctors looking me over. By this time I had come to the conlusion that I must have been in a local hospital or Lazarette, but I certainly do not remember getting there. With the doctors ‘towering’ over me it was obvious that they were about to do something to relieve my predicament and now I had a bit of a problem not being able to speak German, first, I had a partial upper dental plate and secondly I had not urinated since 4 that morning and if they were going to put me to sleep then I thought that they should be aware of these two points. They finally got the messsage, put me to sleep and attended to my wounds. The next thing I knew I awoke in a room with other members of the crew.
Another thing that I remember about this Lazarette, which I now know to have been one at Zams/Landeck, Tirol is that a young doctor evidently had a hidden radio and gave us a daily bulletin on the progress that was being made by the Allies. He also informed us that several hundred gallons (liters) of 100 octane petrol had been drained out of the tanks of the Fortress and used in local low octane cars with the resulting disatrous consequence for the engine of the car. (This particular doctor was (and is) Dr. Richard Schönherr Sr. of Zams and Gray Brandon has now, after so many years, been able to thank him for what he, Dr. Schönherr once did for a handful of Americans. Joda Evans has also written his thanks to Dr. Richard).
After a few days at the Lazarette in Zams we were then taken to Innsbruck, but do I not recall the trip in the slightest, evidentally still under medification. However, I do remember getting on a train, it must have been in Innsbruck where the seats were wooden slats as on a park bench and there, in the train, seeing a man eating his lunch in a way completely new way to me. He had a loaf of bread under his arm with the end cut off, he then spread some sort of butter on it and then cut off a slice for eating, ate, and then repeated the procedure. The train journey from Innsbruck ended at Rosenheim in Bavaria where we spent the night. The next day we were put on truck that was driven by gas produced by burning wood. There were times on the journey to the Lazarette at Oberföhring near Munich that we thought that the more able bodied men among us would have to get out and push.
As an added note, when I saw the photographs of our crash landed Fortress that Keith Bullock sent us I realised why Jim Bodker and I had so much difficulty in keeping it in the air, the right stabilizer and elevator had been shot away and I remembered that Warren Robinson, our tail gunner, had once told me that he had seen them go by his tail turret and thought that it had been part of the wing. There was absolutely no reason why that aircraft should have kept on flying, can also remember that the one good engine was red-lined, that is, overstressed, BUT IT KEPT GOING. One old-time pilot, on hearing our story, said, and I quote, “That was a damned good landing”. (And it was, I go by the spot where the Flying Fortress once landed, many times a week and never cease to marvel in the fact that they were able to get it down in such a short space, the first bounce must have almost been in the Inn itself, as can be seen in the aerial photo shown on page 14, and they still had another 50 meters to go before they reached the wooded area. In the picture under, to the left, taken a few days after the landing, one can just see the Fortress around the middle of the photo, just above and to the right of the hay-hut. Between the time of the landing and the taking of the photograph the roof of the hut, which had been removed by the landing Fortress, had been repaired).
2nd Lt. Albert Ludwig Steindam (deceased August 3rd 1998), navigator, like co-pilot 2nd Lt. George Gray Brandon, upgraded to 1st Lt. on July 31st 1944 sent me his report on what happened on July 19th 1944 together with many letters that we had in correspondence, all of which I have edited and compiled as follows:
On July 19th 1944, our target was a hydrogen peroxide plant on the
south side of Munich, Germany. I was late getting to the plane due to a
long briefing for the navigators. The pilots started the engines as
soon as I had closed the hatch in the nose and we went out onto the
taxi strip but were immediately brought to a stop, one of the B17s in
front of us had run off the strip and was stuck in the mud, a tractor
pulled us backward around the field so that we were able to take off.
We joined the formation at the last turning point of air assembly and
headed out over the North Sea. The flight to the south of Munich was
uneventful but as we turned on the final approach to the target the
German flak batteries below seemed to throw up everything they could
lay their hands on, the nearer the target and the more intensive the
flak, and then, surpisingly we were hit by German fighters, 7 of them
in all. The Lead aircraft dropped its bombs which was our indication to
do likewise, our togglier attempted to do this but it was several
seconds, despite his flipping of the switches before our bomb load was
delivered, during this time we were badly hit by the fighters and were
reduced to one engine and also, I noticed that there was a hole in the
left wing large enough for a man to jump through and not get scratched.
The aileron and flaps on the left wing were also gone and jagged pieces
of metal were flying off. There were several flak holes around nose
area of the plane and the right side of the chin turret had also been
bashed in, so we must have been hit by flak as well as fighters. My
fluxgate compass and radio compass were both knocked out as also my air
speed guage and the altimeter indicated that we were loosing altitude
rapidly, which I judged to be 1,000 ft. (300m.) per minute.
I brushed the pieces of plexiglass and other debris from the map of the area and determined a heading of 250 degrees should get us to Switzerland, that’s if we were able to stay in the air long enough. After writing the heading on a piece of paper from my pad I then gave it to the pilot and he, Lt. Bodker, turned to the heading according to his gyro compass, it was then that we noticed that the magnetic compass showed that we were heading south on 180°, we were now uncertain which reading was correct. At that time our flight engineer, S/Sgt. Cyrus Gullekson tapped me on the shoulder and said that he was going to the back of the plane as he thought that some the crew there had been injured. With that, I informed Lt. Bodker that I too, was going with Gullekson and he nodded his agreement.
As I stepped out onto the catwalk across the bomb-bay I saw that the doors were stuck in the open position. Cautiously I crossed, seeing the ground below, and stepped into the radio room, where the waist gunner, Sgt. Joda Evans sat, he had his left sleeve pulled up to this elbow and in the lower part of his arm I saw an ugly looking wound with a peice of metal sticking out of it. Someone had opened a first aid kit and had laid it out on the radio man’s table beside him. I asked if he had been given a shot of morphine and he indicated that he had not, forthwith I proceeded to do so. Since his wound was no longer bleeding I told him that I was going to have a look at the men in the waist. My intention was to get back to Evans and put some sulphur powder on the wound. As I walked to the waist of the plane I looked round me and saw that the walls were covered in blood, it looked as if someone had taken some half full cups of blood and poured them several times against the side of the aircraft. I then saw the radio man, S/Sgt. Max Hostetler lying on the floor with head and shoulders against the side of the plane, he was out cold, but breathing and I began to look him over because he was the one that I thought had lost all that blood that had been spilled against the sides of the ship. However, I could find no serious wounds but I noticed a small tuft of lining sticking out of the upper sleeve of his fleeced lined jacket. After trying, without success, to slip the jacket off I cut the sleeve and saw a bullet wound which had passed through his upper left arm, but was no longer bleeding, so I cut open a first aid kit (no handy red tab to pull as shown us in ‘first-aid’ classes), put sulphur powder on a bandage and tied it around his arm, then I gave him a shot of morphine. While I was working on Hostetler several interruptions occured. One being that I could hear another engine running and my first thought was that the pilots had gotten another of the engines going, but then, quickly I knew that this was not the case as bullets began ripping through the aircraft. Fortunately no one seemed to have been hit in the waist of the plane, then Gullekson came up to me and said that Warren Robinson, the tail gunner, was stuck between the tail wheel and the side of the aircraft, it was a very tight fit. I asked if Robinson was still alive and Gullekson replied that he could not really tell, so I told him to go and pull the man clear of the tail wheel, to which he reminded me that we are not supposed to move a wounded man, I said to him that we could certainly not help Robinson where he was and to go and pull him clear and this he did. About that time something caught my eye as I looked out of the waist window and saw a FW190 framed in the 9 o’clock position. The .50 caliber machine gun was right there beside me so I immediately got the German fighter in my sights and squeezed the trigger, but nothing happened, the safety catch was still on, I flicked it off and with the fighter still in my sights, fired a burst. Most likely the pilot of the FW190 had seen the barrel of the .50 move as he stood this plane on its tail and the plane fell off out of my sight. Just as he disappeared under our ship a P51 Mustang appeared in from the 7 o’clock position hot after the FW190 and we were not bothered again, in probability we owed our lives to that Mustang pilot for, without him, we would have really been a ‘sitting duck’.
At this time I took another quick glanze out of the left waist window and was amazed to see the long pointed spire of a church steeple go by and remembered thinking to myself, “My God, we’re low!” and then I then went back to Hostetler, to finish tying him up, after which to Robinson in the rear of the waist who was lying on his back with his head toward the tail of the plane. He was breathing heavily and had a gaping wound in the upper part of his left thigh, by now it had stopped bleeding for the most part but I could see splinters of bone showing through, so I cut away his flight suit around the injury and put sulphur powder into it. When he regained consciousness I knew that he would at once appreciate a shot of morphine so I gave him one in his hip. After locating the largest bandage that I could find I tried to tie it around his leg but the tabs were too short, I then took a large bandage from another kit and put it under his leg and tied one side. At that moment there was a thump (the first bounce of their landing) and as I looked out of the window in the waist door I saw the heads of grain flashing by. With that I put my right arm around the ammunition box on the right side of the plane, and my left hand on Robbie’s chest, by doing this I thought that we were braced for a rough landing. At the first hit and bounce, Robinson went tumbling head over heels toward the front of the plane, and on the second bounce, Gulleckson tumbled forward and the ammunition box began to break up, at which I let go of it and on the third bounce I too, tumbled forward and lost consciousness, when I came to I was half sitting on my heels half on my side. As I sat up I realised that I was sitting in loose black earth about a foot (36cm.) deep. The ball turret, and its supporting frame had broken loose and had crashed against the radio room. Gullekson sat opposite me and I asked him if he was O.K.,. He said that he thought so and asked how I was, to which I replied that I was the same.
Most of the crew then ran passed us heading for the waist door, I looked around and asked if anyone had seen Robinson for he was nowhere in sight. A thought suddenly occured to me and Gullekson and I started digging with our hands into the earth, and there he was, completely buried in the thick black soil. We brushed his face more or less clean and could see and hear that he was still breathing at which we completed brushing him free of the earth clinging to him. We then noticed that the gasoline fumes were stifling and I said, “Let’s get him, and us, out of here before this thing blows up”. So Gullekson stepped between Robinson’s legs and held them up and I held him under his shoulders. We then ploughed ourselves through the dirt and made our way to the waist door, passing through control cables hanging down like a jungle of vines, we just lowered our heads and kept going until we came to the door. Once outside we then layed Robinson down about 100 yards (90m) to the right of the wrecked aircraft, when we realised that someone was shouting in a most unfriendly way, “Schweinhunde, Schweinhunde!”. It was one of the locals, a farmer most likely, who came running toward us brandishing a pitchfork, however he stopped some 25 meters short of where we were grouped. Remember thinking to myself, “Wonder what his problem is?”. And then I saw, a short distance away behind the plane, a tall narrow building with part of the roof knocked off, presumeably by our landing. However, the man did not come very close to us if I remember correctly. My attention then turned back to Robinson who still needed the other side of his bandage tied, so I knelt down beside him to do just that. Of course, being shocked and more than a little dazed from the crash landing I was all thumbs and was having difficulty in trying to do the tying. At that moment a man walked up to us, he was dressed in short pants, stockings to his knees, a short jacket and a peaked cap with a feather in it. I remembered seeing pictures of men in the Alpine regions wearing clothes like those, so I asked if this was Switzerland and the man answered, “Switzerland, nein, this is Germany”. To which I replied with a couple of choice words. The man then took out a small note book from the pocket of his jacket and then a pencil and asked me for my name. I cannot remember whether or not I gave it to him for I was more concerned in getting Robinson properly tied up and said to him, “Say, could you finish tying this guy up?”. He looked down at Robinson, carefully closed his notebook and put it back, with the pencil, into the pocket of his jacket, and then stooped down and tied the bandage. I then realised that Jim Bodker was standing beside me and asked how in the world had he got out of the plane to which he replied that he had crawled out of the window beside his pilot’s seat. I told him that I didn’t see how that was possible with the window being so small, and Jim said that it is surprising what one can do when you have to. We then saw Gray Brandon, the co-pilot, crawling on his hands and knees around the tail of the Fortress and asked if his shoe could be taken off his right foot, but we then quickly decided against this, but with the pain being intense I did loosen the laces and then saw that the foot was too swollen to remove the shoe. There was a neat round hole in the back of the shoe where a bullet had gone in.
The German soldiers now arrived on the scene so I told Gray that he would soon be receiving some medical attention, he then asked for a ciragette which I took out of his shirt pocket and lit it for him and he said that he had not had a shot of morphine, at that moment a German soldier tapped me on the shoulder and asked for my pistol, but I told him that I hadn’t the faintest idea where it was, at which he started yelling in German, and demanded the pistol once more, pointing toward the plane. I didn’t really relish the idea of getting back into the aircraft but as I walked toward it I saw that the plexiglass nose had popped off and all my nagivation gear was strung out for about 100 ft. (30m) in front of the B17, so I then dug into my duffel bag and got the pistol and escape kit, putting the kit under my shirt. I then looked for a first aid kit to get out the morphine for Brandon and sulphur powder for Evans, but none was in sight. As I looked back at the crew and soldiers I saw an ambulance had pulled up and the wounded were being put into it. That eliminated the need for the first aid kit I thought. I also thought of putting up some sort of resistance, but since I was well and truly outgunned I forgot it. Upon my returning to the group the soldier grabbed my pistol and dropped it into his pocket. Looking around I saw that a young German woman was there by then and was making notes on a pad of paper. I assumed she was a local reporter for a newspaper. A male photographer was there also and the young lady seemed to be directing him to take shots that she wanted taken. She was small, had dark hair and very sharp dark brown eyes, she wore a white blouse and a dark skirt. The wounded were loaded into the ambulance and the remainder of the crew were ordered into a truck, I sat on the floor as all the seats along the sides were taken, then I happened to notice Evans was also sitting there and I asked him why he had not been taken off in ambulance with the other wounded to which he shrugged his shoulders and said that he didn’t know, it was at this time that I realised that Evans had been the man who had lost all that blood I had seen on the inside walls of the plane.
We were taken to a fort, or castle that had high stone walls around it, the walls were made of very rough dark grey rock, and we were taken to an upper floor of one of the buildings along the wall. After awhile I looked out of the window and saw an ambulance backing up to a door on the ground floor, there was a German sergeant in the room with us and after a little coaxing on my part I got him to take a look at Evans’ arm with the piece of metal STILL sticking out of it. He motioned for Evans to follow him, they left the room and by the time I got back to my view from the window the ambulance was gone, since I did not see Joda Evans again I assumed that the sergeant had arranged for him to be taken to the Lazarette by the ambulance.
After a couple of days or so, we were moved to Oberursel, the interrogation centre, via Munich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt and the Rhine River Valley. At Oberursel Jim Bodker and I were kept in solitary confinement for five days and then sent to Stalag Luft I at Barth on the Baltic Sea coast in Northern Germany where we were liberated on May 1st 1945 by the Russians and then flown to Riems, France about the middle of May. Max Hostetler tells me (1995) that he too ended up at Barth in the same prison camp that Jim Bodker, Warren Robinson and I were, he must have been in the South Compound for he said that there were some English were he was, Jim and I were also in the South Compound for a few weeks and then we were moved to the North II Compound, Warren Robinson was in the North I. Max was most surprised when we told him that we were in the same compound as he was, but it is not surprising that we never met as there must have been about 8000 prisoners there.
Übersetzung des Berichtes von 2nd Lt. Albert Ludwig Steindam:Am 19.Juli 1944 war unser Ziel eine „hydrogen peroxide plant“ im Süden von München, Deutschland. Mit Verspätung kam ich zum Flugzeug wegen einer langen Einsatzbesprechung der Navigatoren. Sobald ich die Lukentüre des Flugzeugs geschlossen hatte warfen die Piloten den Motor des Flugzeuges an und rollten auf die Fahrbahn, aber unser Start wurde sofort unterbrochen, weil eine B 17 direkt vor uns von der Start und Landebahn abkam und im Schlamm feststeckte. Ein Traktor zog die B 17 sogleich aus dem Schlamm heraus und wir konnten starten bzw. abheben.
Der Flug nach München war ereignislos, aber als wir uns unserem Ziel
näherten wurden wir von den Deutschen beschossen und man meinte, dass
sie alles was sie zum schießen hatten in die Luft schossen und
schließlich wurden wir von den Deutschen getroffen. Das führende
Flugzeug warf alle Bomben ab, zu welchem wir uns dann auch entschieden
hatten unsere Bomben abzulassen, aber es dauerte einige Sekunden bevor
sie von uns abgeworfen werden konnten und in dieser Zeit wurden wir
beschossen und dabei schwer getroffen. Wir konnten nur mehr mit einem
Motor fliegen und ich bemerkte dass da ein großes Loch am rechten
Flügel war. Das Querruder und die Klappe am linken Flügel waren
ebenfalls verschwunden und Blechteile wurden weggerissen. Da waren auch
noch einige andere Löcher an der Flugzeugnase und der rechten Seite der
Flugzeugkanzel. Ich verlor meine Kompasse.
Der Höhenmeter zeigte uns an dass wir schnell an Höhe verloren.
Ich wischte die Stücke des Plexiglases von meiner Landkarte und meinte überzeugt, dass uns die Richtung von 250 Grad in die Schweiz bringen sollte, wenn wir lang genug in der Luft bleiben konnten. Ich schrieb das auf ein Blatt Papier und reichte es dem Piloten, Lt. Bodker. Der Metall Kompass des Flugzeuges zeigte uns aber eine Richtung von 180 Grad und nun waren wir verunsichert welche Aufzeichnung wohl korrekt war. Zu diesem Zeitpunkt tippte der Flugtechniker, S/Sgt. Cyrus Gullekson, an meiner Schulter und sagte, dass er zur Hinterseite des Flugzeuges gehen werde, weil er glaubte, dass einige Crew Mitglieder verwundet wären. Ich teilte Lt. Bodker mit, dass ich ebenfalls mit Gullekson an die Hinterseite des Flugzeuges gehen werde und er stimmte dem mit einem Nicken zu.
Als ich entlang des Laufsteges ging bemerkte ich, dass die Türen in
der offenen Position steckten. Vorsichtig durchkreuzte ich das Flugzeug
und kam dann in den Radio Raum, wo waist gunner, Sgt. Joda Evans saß.
Sgt. Evans hatte seinen linken Ärmel hochgekrempelt und am unteren Teil
des Armes sah ich eine hässliche Wunde wo ein Stück Metall
herausschaute. Jemand hatte den Erste Hilfe Koffer geöffnet und hatte
ihn auf dem Tisch des Radio Mannes aufgelegt. Ich fragte ihn ob er
einen Schuss Morphium bekommen hatte und er verneinte dies, so
entschloss ich mich ihm Morphium zu verabreichen. Als seine Wunde
aufhörte zu bluten sagte ich ihm, dass ich nach dem Mann in der Mitte
des Flugzeuges sehen werde. Mein Vorsatz war zu Evans zurückzukehren
und somit gab ich noch Schwefel Puder auf die Wunde. Als ich auf dem
Weg zur Mitte des Flugzeuges war schaute ich um mich und sah dass die
Wände mit Blut voll geschmiert waren. Es sah aus als ob jemand mehrmals
einige Tassen Blut an die Wände geworfen hätte. Dann sah ich den Radio
Mann, S/Sgt. Max Hostetler. Er lag am Boden und fühlte sich kalt an,
aber er atmete. Ich untersuchte ihn, weil ich dachte, dass er derjenige
war der soviel Blut verloren hatte, welches an den Wänden des
Flugzeuges klebte. Wie auch immer, vorerst konnte ich keine ernstere
Wunde finden, aber ich bemerkte bald eine Schusswunde am oberen linken
Arm, die nicht mehr blutete. Ich schnitt den Erste Hilfe Koffer auf und
gab Schwefelpuder auf eine Bandage und verband damit seinen Arm und
dann gab ich ihm ein Schuss Morphium. Während ich Erste Hilfe leistete
kam es immer wieder zu Vorkommnissen bzw. Unterbrechungen.
Schlussendlich stellte ich fest, dass niemand im hinteren Teil des Flugzeuges getroffen wurde.
Gullekson kam zu mir und teilte mir mit, dass Warren Robinson, der Heckschießer, fest eingeklemmt war. Ich fragte ob Robinson noch lebte und Gullekson antwortete, dass er es nicht genau sagen könne.
Auf ein mal stich mir etwas ins Auge – ich schaute aus dem Fenster und sah eine FW190. Das .50 Kaliber Maschinengewehr befand sich direkt neben mir, sodass ich das Deutsche Jagdflugzeug sofort ins Viesier nehemne konnte, aber nichts passierte. Die FW190 drehte ab und ich sah eine P51 Mustang die den Deutschen Flieger verfolgte und somit wurden wir nicht mehr belästigt. Der Mustang Pilot rettete uns wahrscheinlich das Leben.
Ich blickte wiederum aus dem Fenster und sah einen Kirchturm immer näher kommen und dachte „Mein Gott, wir sind tief!“ Ich ging zurück zu Robinson der auf seinem Rücken lag. Er atmete ziemlich schwer und er hatte eine offene Wunde am obersten Teil seines linken Oberschenkels, welche aber aufgehört hatte zu bluten, aber ich konnte die Knochen sehen. Ich schnitt seinen Fliegeranzug im Bereich der Verletzung auf und gab Schwefelpuder darauf. Ich wusste, dass wenn er wieder sein Bewusstsein wiedergewinnt, würde er um Morphium bitten, also gab ich ihm einen Schuss Morphium in die Hüfte. Ich suchte nach der größten Bandage und als ich sie gefunden hatte versuchte ich sie um seinen Oberschenkel zu wickeln aber die Lasche war zu kurz und somit nahm ich eine andere große Bandage aus einem anderen Koffer und legte sie unter sein Bein und befestigte eine Seite. In diesem Moment gab es einen Schlag und als ich aus dem Fenster schaute sah ich ein Getreidefeld vorbeiblinken. Hiermit umklammerte ich mit meinem rechten Arm den Munitionskasten auf der rechten Seite des Flugzeuges und meine linke Hand legte sich auf Robbie’s Brust. Ich tat dies, weil ich befürchtete, dass wir eine raue Landung haben würden.
Beim ersten Aufprall stürzte Robinson kopfüber an die Vorderseite des Flugzeuges und beim zweiten Aufprall stürzte Gulleckson vor und der Munitionskasten brach auf, welchen ich dann los ließ. Beim dritten Aufprall stürzte ich auch vor und verlor mein Bewusstsein. Als ich wieder zu mir kam und mich aufrichtete bemerkte ich dass ich mich in aufgelockerter schwarzer Erde befand in einer Tiefe von ca. 40 cm. Der Ball und Rahmen der Kanzel war zerbrochen und war gegen den Radioraum geprallt. Gullekson saß mir gegenüber und ich fragte ihn ob er Ok sei. Er sagte er denke schon und fragte mich nach meinem Befinden und ich antwortete ihm, dass ich auch Ok sei.
Die meisten der Mannschaft rannten an uns vorbei und steuerten auf die Hintertüre zu. Ich schaute mich um und fragte ob jemand Robinson gesehen hatte. Im gleichen Moment hatten Gullekson und ich den selben Gedanken und wir gruben mit unseren Händen in die Erde und gleich hier sahen wir ihn. Er war komplett begraben im dicken schwarzen Erdboden. Wir reinigten sein Gesicht und sahen und hörten, dass er immer noch atmete. Wir befreiten seinen ganzen Körper von der Erde.. Ich sagte: „Lass ihn und uns so schnell als möglich hier herausbringen bevor dieses Ding hier in die Luft geht.“ Gullekson stellte sich zwischen Robinson’s Beine und hielt sie hoch und ich hob ihn bei der Schulte hoch. Wir machten uns so schnell als möglich in Richtung Taillentür. Es hingen überall Kontrollkabel von den Decken; wir zogen unseren Kopf ein und gingen in Richtung Tür und verließen das Flugzeug. Als wir ca.50 m vom Flugzeug entfernt waren, legten wir Robinson auf den Boden nieder und gleichzeitig hörten wir jemanden in einem sehr unfreundlichen Laut sagen „Schweinehunde, Schweinehunde!“ Es war ein Einheimischer, ein Bauer, der mit einer Mistgabel auf uns zu gerannt kam. Er stoppte 25 Meter vor unserer Gruppe. Ich erinnere mich dass ich mit mir selber dachte „Was hat der für ein Problem?“ Dann sah ich hinter dem Flugzeug eine große Hütte, wo ein Teil des Daches fehlte, vermutlich durch unsere Landung. Wie auch immer, wenn ich mich richtig erinnere, kam uns der Mann nicht mehr näher. Meine Aufmerksamkeit richtete ich nun wieder auf Robinson der die Befestigung seiner Bandage nötig hatte und dies versuchte ich dann auch, bemerkte aber, dass mir die Kraft in meinem Daumen fehlte. Ich hatte Schwierigkeiten den Verband zu festigen. In diesem Moment kam ein Mann zu uns, er hatte kurze Hosen an, Strümpfe die bis zu seinem Knie reichten, eine kurze Jacke und einen Hut auf, in dem eine Feder steckte. Ich erinnerte mich Bilder gesehen zu haben, dass Männer in alpinen Regionen solche Kleidungsstücke tragen und somit fragte ich diesen Mann ob wir hier in der Schweiz sind. Der Mann antwortete: “Schwitzerland, nein, this is German“.
Ich antwortete ihm mit einigen ausgesuchten Wörtern. Der Mann zog einen Notizblock und einen Stift aus seiner Jackentasche und fragte mich nach meinem Namen. Ich kann mich nicht mehr erinnern ob ich ihm meinen Namen sagte, denn ich wollte mich weiter um Robinson kümmern und somit fragte ich den Mann: „Sagen Sie, könnten Sie den Mann fertig verbinden?“ Er schaute auf Robinson nieder, vorsichtig verstaute er den Notizblock und den Stift wieder in seine Jackentasche, kniete sich zu Robinson nieder und verband ihn.
Ich bemerkte dann, dass Jim Bodker neben mir stand und ich fragte ihn wie der denn aus dem Flugzeug kam und der antwortete mir, dass er aus dem Fenster neben seinem Pilotensitz heraus gekrochen war. Ich sagte zu ihm, dass ich nicht sah, dass dies möglich war, weil das Fenster so klein wirkte und Jim sagte, dass es so überraschend ist, was man alles tut und kann wenn man es tun muss.
Dann sahen wir Gray Brandon, der Co-Pilot, als er auf den Händen und Knien gekrochen kam und er fragte, ob man ihm seinen Schuh am rechten Fuß abnehmen könnte, aber wir entschieden uns schnell dies nicht zu tun. Aber als der Schmerz bei ihm immer stärker wurde lockerte ich die Schuhschnüren und dann sah ich, dass der Fuß zu geschwollen war um den Schuh abzunehmen. Da war ein sauberes rundes Loch auf der Hinterseite des Schuhes wo ein Kugel durchging.
Nun trafen die Deutschen Soldaten ein und ich sagte zu Gray, dass er bald medizinische Hilfe haben wird. Er fragte dann um eine Zigarette, welche ich aus seinem Hemd entnahm und zündete sie für ihn an. Er meinte er habe keinen Schuss Morphium bekommen. In diesem Moment fragte mich ein Deutscher Soldat um meine Pistole, aber ich sagte ihm, dass ich keine Ahnung hätte wo sie sei. Dann fing er an in Deutsch zu schreien und fragte nochmals nach der Pistole worauf er auf das Flugzeug deutete. Ich habe wirklich nicht daran gedacht nochmals in das Flugzeug zu steigen, aber als ich zum Flugzeug ging, sah ich, dass mein Navigationsgetriebe und Navigationsdinge aufgereiht ca. 30 m vom B17 entfernt lagen. Ich grub in meiner Tasche und fand die Pistole und meine Ausstattung. Ich versteckte meine Pistole unter meinem Hemd. Dann schaute ich mich um wegen einer Erste Hilfe Ausstattung um für Brandon das Morphium zu bringen und Schwefelpulver für Evans, aber nichts war in Sicht. Ich blickte zurück zu meiner Mannschaft und den Soldaten und sah, dass ein Rettungswagen angekommen war und die Verletzten barg. Dies schied nun das Suchen nach einem Erste Hilfe Koffer aus. Als ich zu der Gruppe zurückkam schnappte der Soldat meine Pistole und ließ sie in seine Tasche fallen.
Ich schaute mich um und sah eine junge deutsche Frau, die Notizen
auf einem Papier machte. Ich nahm an, dass sie eine Journalistin einer
lokalen Zeitung war. Es war auch ein männlicher Fotograf vor Ort und es
schien, dass die junge Dame dem Fotografen Anweisungen gab. Sie war
klein, hatte dunkles Haar und sehr scharfe braune Augen. Sie trug eine
weiße Bluse und einen dunklen Rock.
Die Verwundeten wurden in den Rettungswagen geladen und der Rest der Mannschaft wurden beauftragt in einen LKW zu steigen. Ich saß am Boden, denn alle Sitze von der Seite waren aus einander genommen. Ich bemerkte, dass auch Evans hierin saß und fragte ihn warum er nicht mit dem Rettungswagen mitgenommen wurde. Er zuckte fraglich mit der Schulter und sagte, dass er das nicht weiß. Zu diesem Zeitpunkt realisierte ich, dass Evans der Mann war, der soviel Blut verloren hatte, welches ich an den Wänden der Innenseite des Flugzeuges sah.
Wir wurden in ein Kastell oder Schloss gebracht, welches hohe steinige Wände hatte. Die Wände waren mit sehr dunklem grauem Stein gemacht und wir wurden in einen höheren Stock gebracht. Nach einer Weile schaute ich aus dem Fenster und sah einen Rettungswagen; es war ein deutscher Sergeant im Zimmer mit uns und nach einem wenigen Zureden fragte ich ihn ob er einmal einen Blick auf Evans Arm werfen könnte, wo noch immer ein Metallstück herausschaute. Er winkte Evans zu, dass er ihm folgen solle. Sie verließen den Raum und als ich wieder aus dem Fenster schaute, sah ich, dass der Rettungswagen weg war. Als ich Joda Evans nicht mehr sah, nahm ich an, dass der Sergeant veranlasst hatte Evans mit dem Rettungswagen in ein Lazarett zu bringen.
Nach einigen Tagen wurden wir nach Oberursel gebracht, das
Abfragezentrum, via München, Stuttgart, Frankfurt und das Rheintal. Jim
Bodker und ich waren in Oberursel für 5 Tage in Einzelhaft gefangen
gehalten und dann wurden wir nach Stalag Luft I in Barth, an der Ostsee
im Norden von Deutschland gebracht wo wir am 1.Mai 1945 von den Russen
Dann flogen wir nach Riems, Frankreich etwa Mitte Mai. Max Hostetler sagte mir 1995, dass er zum Schluss auch in Bath war, im selben Gefängnis in welchem Jim Bodker, Warren Robinson und ich waren. Er war wahrscheinlich in der südlichen Verbindung. Er sagte dass da ein paar Engländer waren. Jim und ich waren für ein paar Wochen ebenfalls in der südlichen Verbindung und dann wurden wir in den nördlichen Teil II gebracht. Warren Robinson war im nördlichen Teil I. Max war sehr überrascht als wir ihm sagten, dass wir in der selben Verbindung waren, aber dass wir uns nicht getroffen hatten überraschte ihn nicht, da waren ca. 8000 Gefangene.
S/Sgt. Carlyle O. Telford, togglier, who replaced the regular bombardier who did not fly because of illness, his report is as follows:
At the briefing on July 19th 1944 I learned that we would be flying
to Munich over .7 cloud coverage as tail end Charley in the lead
formation of the 384th Bombardment Group.
We were hardly over the over the channel (actually the North Sea) when the ship off to our right aborted, which virtually left us to ourselves. This was my 16th mission and the second for Lt. Bodker and his crew who I was flying with. I mentally figured my odds on returning and came to the conclusion that today I didn’t really have a good chance and thought to myself that if I get back from this one it will be the last one.
We received the usual good morning salute from Germans guns along the Dutch coast and a few ‘wake up’ salvos along the course, but as we neared the target I became more tense than on any of my previous missions.
It seemed that we were greeted with everything they could throw up at us and I had just released the bombs when a shell went through our bomb bay taking out some of the cat-walk. We made a left hand turn, not having the slightest idea of what was about to happen. Suddenly the plexiglass in the nose was chipping and hitting me in the face. My gun cover was being riddled and it was then that I realised that we were now being attacked by fighters. The FWs were nearly out of range when they became visible to me because of the angle of the attack, but I fired my guns.
The oxygen was gone, the interphone and guns were no longer of any value and only one engine seemed to be functioning properly but its prop seemed to be unbalanced which resulted in a lot of vibration and noise, I then looked at the altimeter and could see that we were going down with little delay. I then turned to the navigator, who had been hit in the arm (in his report the navigator, Lt. Steindam makes no mention that he was hit) and found that he was trying his best to find his charts and the course he had set for Switzerland, but they had been blown off his table in all directions, however, he soon discovered them and was able to inform the pilot of the course to take.
We had to clear 13,000 ft. (3,900m.) in order to fly over the alps, but it seemed to me upon looking out of a window that we were already lower than the mountains ahead. Soon we were flying over the inner foothills of the Tirolean alps and it seemed that someone had the confidence that we would make it, but the ground was coming up faster and faster and those alps looked damned rough even from the air. But we soon found out that we were not going to make it and we headed for some smoother ground where we might bail out or make a crash landing. (By this time they were far too low to have bailed out). Bailing out would not have been possible for most of the crew had injuries and in no condition to do this. We had lost too much altitude to clear the mountains that we had previously crossed over, and were now trapped in a small valley, there was now nowhere to pick out a smooth place to land we just had to stay in the limits of the valley and wait to see what happened. Our bomb bay doors were down as was the ball turret with its guns pointing to the ground, all in all almost no chance of coming out of the situation alive.
When I first relaised this I was almost speechless but said to myself, “It can’t happen to you, not to you!”. As we neared the ground the ball turret gunner remembered tht he had not stowed the turret and decided to make an effort to do this, just then I looked out of the ship , through the many shell holes and hollered at the gunner that it was now too late and helped him back down into the waist to wait for the crash that was to come. I had so completely given up all hopes of survival that I became more relaxed and calmer that at any other time on the mission, but the first shock came as I watched the ball turret as it came through the floor of the ship. I can’t remember seeing anything but I know that we hit the ground three times before we stopped. Each time we hit I said to myself, “Well, I’m still alive!”. And I was still saying that as we came to a stop and I found myself wrapped around the ball turret. So much dirt had come through the bottom of the ship that I was completely buried and five other men, wounded and otherwise were all draped over me, but with much persuasion, moans and groans we all got out of the ship.
I have never been in a place that looked so peaceful. Two farmers were busy hoeing their crops not more than fifty yards away (45m) and they worked right on as if nothing had really happened. (The Peham brothers from Mils).
Just before we came to a stop in the landing we had crashed through the top of a building in a field that was not more than 200 yards (180m.). Once out of the ship the thought did occur to me to try and make it to Switzerland on my own, once having got the rest of the crew settled, but a truck full of soldiers suddenly appeared and took us prisoner, there was a lady there, who I assumed to be from a local newspaper and a man taking photographs, I have often wondered about them.
I was a POW for eight and one half months after which I escaped and made my way across Germany and eventually caught up with an English unit.
(As with Lt. Steindam, S/Sgt. Telford also mentions the presence of a lady, thought, by them, to have been from a local newspaper and of the taking of photographs. But none of the many local eye-witnesses that I have interviewed can remember this).
Sgt. Joda D. Evans Jr., waist gunner, youngest of the crew, just 20 years old, and one of the original crew that had flown the Atlantic with Lt. Bodker, he reports as follows:
As I recall we were on a mission to a place near Munich and were hit
over the target, lost an engine and had to drop out of the formation.
Ironically we had changed places in the formation and the plane that
took over our position exploded when hit and all were killed. (This
might have been the Fortress piloted by 1st Lt. Gerard Heim KIA., also
from the 384th Bomber Group, which did explode in mid-air with the loss
of 7 KIA and only 2 survivors). We were out of formation and were
attacked by 7 fighters, we kept loosing altitude and managed to fly
from cloud to cloud, somehow or other we kept going but lost another
engine, when we eventually crash landed we were down to only one. Just
before the landing I was firing from my waist guns at an attacking
plane and then moved to the other side as it appeared an attack was
coming from there. I saw Max Hostetler coming from his radio room and
as he came over the ball turret he fell and grabbed at his foot, I
don’t think that I ever got to the other waist gun for a bullet hit my
helmet, it was a good thing that the strap was not fastened as the
bullet made a hole in the crown of it.
After awhile I realised that the action was over, I don’t know how long I was in a dazed condition but when I regained my senses I was on the floor behind some armour plate which probably saved me from serious injury. I had a headache, my ears were ringing and I could not hear too well but I remember seeing that Max Hostetler was sitting beside me holding his arm and a foot, his arm was bleeding and I noticed that he was pointing at MY arm. It was only then that I looked at it and saw that my gauntlet was full of blood which was running over the top of it, this was the first time that I realised that I had been hit, guess my head wasn’t working too good right then.
When the military arrived I was put in a truck with the ones that were not wounded and taken to a nearby town, but a bit later I was then taken to a Lazarette where they patched me up. In the hospital Max and I were on a ground floor room with a window that looked out onto a street and there were no guards anywhere. A short time later a doctor came in to see us and we talked with him, during the conversation he kept looking out of the window towards a church and said to us that if someone got to a certain church he would be in Switzerland by the morning, he also told us that 60% of the people there were anti-Nazi. We discussed what he had told us about the church, but Max could not really walk, only hobble, so we decided not to chance it with him in his condition.
After a few days at the Lazarette near to the place where we had landed, which I have now been informed (1994) was Zams/Landeck, we were then taken to a Luftwaffe hospital in Munich and I was there for about 30 days before being transferred to Stalag Luft IV on the Baltic Coast near a place called Koeberg (officially known as Grosstychow).
A sort of panic set in with the German authorities when they were informed that the Russian army was approaching our camp and on February 6th 1945 we all started marching to the west. The Allies were also on the point of a break through, so we moved from west to east but always working our way to the south for 85 days, 580 miles (928 km.), 10,000 men. We nearly froze or starved to death. I guess the Germans did as well as they could for us under the circumstances that nothing moved that did not get shot up and, of course, supplies were scarce. We were finally liberated in a little town of Annaberg on the River Elbe and from there it was to England and then home.
Looking back, now in the peace of 1994 and looking at the picture sent to me of the landing site it doesn’t look as if the area is any bigger now than it was in 1944 when we first saw it. I still can’t believe that our pilots did the landing without killing us, they were really good, and Gray Brandon with a broken foot. “MIRACLES DO HAPPEN”.
Records of interviews made by Keith M. Bullock with some of many, most helpful Tiroleans.
With the help of local newspapers, Austrian Television and by ‘word of mouth’ from family and friends I began to amass information about the Flying Fortress that crashed landed in the Milser Äule on July 19th 1944, albeit, just one of the 36 aircraft of the United States Army Air Force, in short, USAAF, that were downed on this day. Some 30 people came forward with their offers of help which I have decided it best to edit and reduce in a form that will not repeat itself too much. Naturally many of the interviews that I made had more than a similarity, which, of course, if correct, they should have. Confirmation, as any historian will know, is a very important part of his research. I have always been delighted when, for example two people, who have never seen, heard of, or spoken to each other give me the same report on the same incident that they had both been witness to, and this has occured very often with this story of “The Miracle of the Milser Äule”, with which we are still involved. Although most of the people that I have interviewed over these last six years of my research have been women, for obvious reasons, the men being away ‘at the front’, but the case of the Milser Fortress I will however, report on five female and five male eye-witnesses, of which four were boys, on what they have been able to remember after 50 years plus, since it all happened. So, ladies first.
Fr. Paula F., who now lives in Braz in Vorarlberg, but in 1944 lived in the village of Imsterberg which looks down on the field in which the Fortress landed, one can see the Imsterberger Church in the photograph shown on page 1. It was thought at one time that Fr. Paula was the girl in the picture, but after I had interviewed her it was apparent that she was not. When she saw that the ‘big American bomber’ was about to land she dashed down to the scene of the landing on her bicycle, together with a few of her friends and arrived there before the airmen had been taken away by ambulance or army truck. She is one of the few interviewed who can remember seeing someone taking photographs, but was unable to give any further information on this subject. Although they were shocked and wounded, she and some of her friends were given chocolates by two or three of the airman. Contact was made with Fr. Paula through a relation of mine who lives in the same village where she, Fr. Paula, once lived.
Fr. Anna G., of Hopfgarten i. Brixlegg, Tirol. In 1944 Fr. Anna lived and worked in Imst, on the day the bomber landed she was working in an armaments factory, the machine passed so low over her place of work that she knew that it must land within almost seconds, so she ran for her bike and left without permission to leave her place of work, she didn’t have time she told me, she cycled off at high speed arriving in the Milser Äule, one of the first on the spot, even before the Americans had left their aircraft. She remembers seeing that some field workers were already on the site, between two and four, but she was not sure and that there was also a lad near a hay-hut that seemed to have been partly demolished. When the crew came out of the machine they wanted to know if they were in Switzerland. Soon more people arrived and just a few seemed very much against the airmen and some even spat at them. Strange to say there were more men than women around the aircraft and there seemed to be ‘mixed feelings’ among the spectators, a feeling of sympathy and a feeling of hate for these were the “Terror Fliegers” from which everyone had been constantly warned about. She herself, decided to keep quiet but her own personal feeling was one mainly of sympathy, for they all seemed so young. After awhile the military arrived on the scene and the wounded, she thought three, were taken off by ambulance to the Lazarette in Zams/Landeck, they heard later, she said, that one of them had died. (That three were taken from the Milser Äule to Zams agrees with the report made by Lt. Steindam, that one member of the crew died later is completely false, for no member of the Bodker crew was KIA.,.) She did not remember seeing anyone taking photographs or that a young lady journalist was also present, but what she does remember is, that the local Imster “Partei-Bonzen” were quickly on the scene. (Partei-Bonzen was a word used meaning, Nazi Party Big Wigs).
Fr. Gerti M., of Mils bei Imst, a young girl at the time can remember going down to the Äule to see the huge American bomber that had landed there. But apart from the fact that a lot of people from Mils were already there when she arrived she could not relate much more.
Fr. Herta H., of Telfs. At the time of the landing she too was working in an armanents factory quite close to the landing site, and as with Fr. Anna, she too had dashed off, without permission to leave her place of work to see the American bomber, she remembers that two or three of the crew were taken away by ambulance and of one of the airman standing on the top of the aircraft waving something white, she then went on to tell me that she could remember a second aircraft that had crashed. At the time she was living in Landeck and on Sunday, that is a few days after the first crash she again went on her bike, to have a look at another crashed American bomber, at the time her interest in aircraft was great as her, then, boy-friend was in the German Air Force, he was later to be shot down on a raid in England, the aircraft was to fall into the sea and he was never to be seen again, to her knowledge. After quite some time I at last convinced her that it was one and the same aircraft that she had seen, the first time she had gone to see it on the day it landed and from an easterly direction and the second on the Sunday after from a westerly one. After thinking about what I had told her for a few minutes she agreed that I was most likely correct and then suddenly , completely out of context said that she could remember something else, on her first visit, that the Fortress had taken the roof of a hay-hut in the middle of the field, which confirmed that this had been July 19th 1944.
Fr. Irmgard Z., of Imst, then and now. Actually it was her son who rang me upon seeing the photograph in the local paper that was pubished on July 10th 1993 thinking that “Das Mädchen” could very well have been his mother and so, by arrangement I went to interview her, but the interview was only a few minutes old when we both knew that Fr. Irmgard was not the young lady in question, but not the end of the interview. Yes, Fr. Irmgard had indeed been to the landing site, but a few days afterwards, at the time the Fortress landed she was in an air-raid shelter but had heard the noise of the machine as it flew over them just before it made its ‘touch down’. She went to view the bomber with a girl-friend and managed to persuade the only guard on the machine to let them get inside and have a look round, however, she told me, she was most disappointed in what she saw, cables hung down from everywhere and everything seemed to be ‘kaputt’, for she had envisaged a much more comfortable scene. But Fr. Irmgard had a friend who she thought might be able to help me, a friend who had then worked in the Imst Parish Council Office and who, she knew had been one of the first to view the bomber when, she went with “Party Officials” to officially see what had happened. Fr. Irmgard kindly agreed that she would have a word with her friend, Fr. A., and make an arrangement for me to interview her. Fr. A imparted the knowledge that she was indeed there before the men came out of the machine, that they seemed to be a good looking bunch of guys and that she thought that the girl in the picture came from Landeck, but that was all, Fr. A just would not allow me to visit her and discuss the landing.
Augenzeugenbericht von Alfred Mungenast aus Mils:
Ich war 12 Jahre alt als der amerikanische Bomber am 19. Juli 1944 im
Milser –Äuli notlanden musste. Motorenlärm und Schießerei am Vormittag
aus der Richtung von Imst ließen mich und andere Milser sofort
hellhörig werden. Bald beobachtete wir ein Flugzeug, das beim
Tschirgant auf halber Höhe von einem anderen kleineren Flugzeug
beschossen und verfolgt wurde. Bald darauf sahen wir, dass das Flugzeug
tiefer und tiefer flog bis wir es von Mils aus nicht mehr sehen
konnten. Schnell verbreitete sich die Kunde, dass das Flugzeug im Äule
gelandet ist. Eilig schwang ich mich auf das Fahrrad und fuhr in
Richtung Äuli. Da lag es auf einem Feld im Äuli. Ein riesiges Flugzeug.
Man konnte sehen, dass der Bomber beschädigt war. Inzwischen war auch
das Militär schon beim Flugzeug. Durch ein sofortiges Umstellen des
Flugzeuges durch die Soldaten war es für mich und andere Schaulustige
nicht möglich direkt zum Flugzeug zu kommen. Jedoch habe ich genau
gesehen dass die Besatzung noch teilweise im Flugzeug drinnen war. Ich
habe auch gesehen, dass Verwundete dabei waren. Zuerst wurden die nicht
verwundeten Besatzungsmitglieder abtransportiert in Richtung Imst.
Inzwischen ist auch ein Rettungsauto gekommen und hat die verwundeten
ins Krankenhaus nach Zams gebracht.
Detail am Rande: Der notgelandete amerikanische Bomber wurde einige Wochen nach der Landung vom Militär noch streng bewacht. Ich und andere Burschen aus dem Dorf schlichen uns bei günstiger Gelegenheit immer wieder an das Flugzeug heran und entnahmen Benzin (Kerosin?) aus einem „Tank“ und füllten ihn in eine kleine Flasche. Im Dorf tauschten wir Burschen dann den Benzin zur Verwendung von Feuerzeugen mit einem Mann gegen einen Punkt auf der Tabakkarte.
Hr. Arnulf R., in 1944 of Seehaus, Gurgltal, between the towns of Imst and Nassereith. But before going to this eye-witness account I believe that it might interest the reader to know how we made contact with each other, for Arnulf now lives at Stawell in the State of Victoria, Australia. Just 20 minutes after the Milser Fortress landed, another Fortress crashed on the Maisalpalm above the village of Roppen, just 10 km. east of the Milser Äule and I was instrumental in finding and making contact with the bombardier of this machine, for reasons that will be reported by me at a later time, as this is a long story in itself. The Town Council of Telfs, in the form of Bürgermeister Kopp invited this bombardier, 1st Lt. Donald W. Barton, and his wife to spend a week in Telfs as their guests, to commemorate the 50th Annivesary of Don’s landing on top of the mountain range known as the Simmering, which towers above the farm where Arnulf then lived, and Don Barton and his wife were here in the Tirol around July 19th 1994 for this celebration. Naturally the Tiroler Tageszeitung gave good coverage to the occasion and a copy of the particular issue was sent to Arnulf by his brother Winfried (now deceased). Upon reading the story of Don Barton Arnulf was reminded of an incident that occured on the farm where he was living in the summer of 1944, an incident that he had always wanted to follow up and solve, but had never had the opportunity, very briefly, Arnulf’s story is of a very badly burned airmen who was ‘captured’ by his father sometime during the summer or early autumn of 1944, then 10 years old Arnulf has always remembered that day as clear as if it was last week. Arnulf’s father, who was able to speak English spoke with the airman for some time, but all Arnulf can really remember of what the airman said was his name, John Allen. Upon reading the story of Don Barton Arnulf wondered if John Allen had been aboard the same aircraft and so he wrote a letter to Bügermeister Kopp requesting the address of Don Barton which was immediately sent to him. Writing in German or English is no problem for Arnulf and he wrote off to Don Barton with his question, that is, “Did you have a John Allen on board your aircraft that crashed on the Maisalpealm on July 19th 1944?”. However the answer was in the negative, Don Barton had never heard of John Allen. Don sent me a copy of the letter that Arnulf had written him, and also a copy of the letter that Don had sent Arnulf in reply, and so the contact was made between Arnulf and myself. Five years have now passed since we got to know each other, and in that five years a friendship has formed between the two of us, that is, Arnulf R. and myself, not only a friendship but an excellent exchange of information as you will now read. The Don Barton Story will be told at a later date, for we are still mainly concerned with, “The Miracle of the Äule”. Arnulf’s written English is excellent, I only wish that I could write as well in German and he has written a small book on all the information that I have fed him with and his own remembrances of the summer of 1944 and until the end of WW II, he has also given me permission to use in any way I see fit what he has written, I now do just this, and report on what Arnulf has to say about the Fortress that landed in the Milser Äule, and now here are Arnulf’s words.
Quote, “One day my mother was up an old wild 200 years old cherry tree near to our farmhouse, picking the fruit and letting them fall into her tied apron, while I foraged among the lower branches feeding myself, we never gave it much thought when we heard the sound of distant aircraft from the other side of Mount Tschirgant, which towers above the town of Imst a few kilometers away and completely blocks our view to the south, and then suddenly a huge bomber appeared flying very low along the west side of the mountain, as it approached us it got lower and lower and flew directly over our house. I cried out, “Look mama, I wonder what he will do?”, to which she replied, “Don’t worry, he’ll not drop bombs on an old farmhouse such as ours, more likely he is after the factory in Nassereith close by”. At that time the bomber was heading north east about 150 meters above us, but loosing visible height all the time, from our point the valley lay in full view from both sides. Something seemed wrong with the aircraft for when it reached the end of our valley it did not rise to go over the Mieminger Plateau as an escape route in preference to the Fernpass which was much higher but instead it made a complete U turn, still loosing height, and headed back the way it had come and when it passed over our house again it was most likely less than 100 meters above the ground, and it was then that I saw the reason why. There was a very large hole in the right wing which had serrated edges and pieces were hanging from the rear end of the aircraft, I could see that one engine had stopped, perhaps two and the propeller of another was just rotating. “See that large hole mama, it’s badly damaged and they want to land somewehere, it surely would not drop bombs on us”, I cried excitedly. How could I just stand there and watch from under the ‘protection’ of our cherry tree, of course I couldn’t, and disobeying my mother’s command went away from the tree to see what the plane was going to do. The aircraft seemed to drop lower than the floor of our valley as it went towards the River Inn, finally it was so low that it went out of my sight and we just knew that it could not have gone all that far before landing, or crashing. Later, we heard that the machine had made a reasonable landing near to the small village of Mils just a few kms. west of Imst. We also heard that the whole crew were captured and made prisoners of war. My brother Winfried went to the landing site on his bike but was not allowed to get near to the plane, I muttered that I too would like to go, but the answer was, “Don’t you even think of doing such a thing”. Unquote.
Heinrich R., of Imst, then and now, was 14 years old at the time and can well remember July, 19th 1944 and he told me that first, from where he was in Imst, he saw an American bomber coming from the direction of Nazereith, over the Gurgltal and at the same time, very high above Mt. Tschirgant there was another bomber seeming to be in a fight with one or two fighters, suddenely he saw three or four parachutes emerge from the aircraft way above and to the left of the Tschirgant and then he lost sight of the bomber. (This aircraft was certainly the Fortress that crashed on the Maisalpealm). Seeing that the plane that come come from the direction of Nassereith, and was now heading in a westerly direction he and his friends all jumped on their bikes and pedalled off in the direction of Landeck and it was not long before they reached the Milser Äule and saw that the aircraft had landed only a few minutes before, in fact the whole crew were still in their machine as Heinrich and his friends approached it. He remembers speaking to one of the pilots who was sitting in his seat and as he had approached from the north side of the landed Fortress it must have been the co-pilot, he does not remember what he said. Very quickly other people appeared, the crew came tumbling out of the aircraft and settled themselves down in a group to the rear of the machine. Suddenly someone seemed to take charge of the proceedings and after about and hour or so, an ambulance took the wounded away and then a military vehicle the rest of the airmen. I asked Heinrich if he could remember anyone helping one of the crew who was attending the wounds of one of the badly injured airmen, and he said, “Yes, I can, it was Oberförster L”. I then asked him if he could remember how the Oberförster was dressed and Heinrich said, and what he said was almost unbelieveable, “He was dressed in short pants, stockings to his knees, a short jacket and a cap with a feather in it”. Exactly as Lt. Steindam had described the man in his report, and what is more amazing, all related in the same order. (An Oberförster in English is a Senior Forest Warden). Heinrich then went on to say that when the war ended Oberförster L. was taken into custody by the Americans but after being interrogated was released.
Deutsche Übersetzung des Berichtes von Heinrich Rokita aus Imst:Heinrich Rokita aus Imst war zu dieser Zeit 14 Jahre alt und kann sich sehr gut an den 19. Juli 1944 erinnern. Er erzählte mir als erstes, dass er in Imst war und einen amerikanischen Bomber aus der Richtung Nassereith über das Gurgltal kommen sah. Zur gleichen Zeit war ein anderer Bomber weit über dem Tschirgant, welcher in einen Kampf gegen ein oder zwei deutsche Jagdflugzeuge verwickelt schien. Plötzlich sah er drei oder vier Fallschirme aus dem Bomber kommen und verlor dann die Sicht zu den Flugzeug. (Dieses Flugzeug war sicherlich jene Fortress, welche auf der Maisalpe abstürzte). Das Flugzeug, welches aus der Richtung Nassereith kam, flog nun in Richtung Westen. Heinrich und seine Freunde stiegen auf ihr Fahrrad und fuhren in Richtung Landeck. Sie waren nicht weit vom Milser Äule entfernt, das Flugzeug landete dort ein paar Minuten vorher. Als Heinrich und seine Freunde dort ankamen, war die ganze Crew noch im Flugzeug. Er erinnert sich daran, dass er mit einem der Piloten sprach, welcher auf seinem Sitz saß. Sehr schnell sind andere Menschen aufgetaucht. Die Crew stolperte aus dem Flugzeug und setzte sich zum hinteren Teil der Maschine. Plötzlich übernahm jemand die Initiative und nach ca. einer Stunde kam ein Rettungswagen, um die Verwundeten zu holen. Ein Militärauto holte den Rest von den Flugmännern. Ich fragte Heinrich, ob er sich daran erinnern kann, dass jemand der Crew half. Er bejahte diese Frage:“Ja, es war Oberförster L.“ Weiters fragte ich ihn, ob er sich erinnern kann, wie der Oberförster bekleidet war and Heinrich sagte, und was er sagte war wirklich unglaublich: “Er hatte kurze Hosen, Strümpfe bis zum Knie, eine kurze Jacke und eine Kappe mit einer Feder an.“ Genau wie Lt. Steindam diesen Mann in seinem Bericht beschrieben hat. Und was noch erstaunlicher ist, alles in der selben Reihenfolge. Heinrich erzählte weiter, als der Krieg endete, wurde Oberförster L. in amerikanische Obhut genommen, nach dem Verhör wieder entlassen.
Mils bei Imst (deceased 1988). Johann, who was always known as ‘Hans’,
was one of my brothers-in-law, and in 1944 was just 15 years old. On
the day of the landing he was working in the Äule near to his father’s
hay-hut when he heard the sound of aircraft engines in the direction of
Mt. Tschigant, to the east of Mils, and he saw a large bomber and two
fighters one of which he had the impression had fired on the bomber and
then suddenly the fighters disappeared out of his sight , leaving the
bomber alone, which flying ever and ever lower also disappeared from
Hans’s view in a north easterly direction, for a time all was quite and
Hans returned and concentrated on his work, but it was not long before
he was confronted, in the true sense of the word, with the roar of an
aircraft, he looked up in the direction of Mt. Tschirgant and the sky
seemed to be filled with the huge machine that he had seen a few
moments before, and it was coming straight at him, in panic he dived
into the hay-hut for ‘protection’, which he once admitted to me was
about the worst thing he could have done, for one of the engines of the
bomber struck the roof of the hay-hut removing it completely, but apart
from being covered with a certain amount of debris and hay Hans,
slightly bruised and shocked, was unhurt, and ran out of the hut to
join other spectators who had, as if by magic, appeared on the scene.
He and his father, who was the Bürgermeister of the village, together
with some others, spent the next two days busily reparing the roof in
case of rain, under which circmstances the vauleable hay would have
I have often regretted that I did not really question Hans on his experiences of July 19th 1944 much more fully, but Hans died suddenly five years before I became involved in the research that I am now doing. The hay-hut still stands but has now been moved about 50 meters to the west, almost on the very spot where the Fortress came to rest.
Deutsche Übersetzung des Berichtes von Johann Thurner aus Mils:Johann Thurner, aus Mils bei Imst (1988 verstorben). Johann, er war als „Hans“ bekannt. 1944 war er gerade 15 Jahre alt. An jenem Tag, als das Flugzeug landete, arbeitete er gerade im Äule, in der Nähe der Heuhütte seines Vaters. Er hörte das Geräusch vom Motor der Maschine, aus der Richtung vom Tschirgant kommend. Er sah einen großen Bomber und zwei Jagdbomber, von welchem einer er den Eindruck hatte, dass jener den Bomber beschoss. Plötzlich verschwanden die deutschen Jagdflugzeuge aus seiner Sicht, der Bomber wurde alleine gelassen. Dieser flog immer niedriger und niedriger und verschwand auch aus Johanns Sicht in eine Nordöstliche Richtung. Für kurze Zeit war alles still und Johann konzentrierte sich wieder auf seine Arbeit. Aber es dauerte nicht lange und er wurde mit dem Heulen eines Flugzeuges konfrontiert. Er schaute in Richtung Tschirgant und der Himmel schien gefüllt zu sein mit der riesigen Maschine, welche er ein paar Momente zuvor gesehen hatte. Es kam direkt auf ihn zu. Aus Panik verschwand er in der Heuhütte, um Schutz zu suchen. Er hat mir einmal gesagt, dass dies das Schlimmste war, das er jemals machen konnte. Der Motor streifte das Dach der Heuhütte und entfernte es vollkommen. Bedeckt von Schutt und Heu, geschockt, aber unverletzt, rannte er aus der Hütte, zu den anderen „Zuschauern“, welche wie magisch auf einmal auftauchten und dann rannte Hans sofort nach Hause und berichtete was alles im Äuli geschehen ist. Einige Tage später half er dem Vater das Hüttendach zu reparieren, dass im Falle bei Regen die Heuernte nicht zerstört würde.
Ich habe es oft bedauert, dass ich Hans nicht wirklich genauer über sein Erlebnis vom 19. Juli 1944 befragt habe. Fünf Jahre bevor ich in diese Forschungen beteiligt wurde, verstarb Hans plötzlich. Die Heuhütte steht immer noch, wurde aber cirka 50 Meter in Richtung Westen versetzt, nicht weit von jenem Punkt, an welchen die Fortress zum Stillstand kam.
( Notlandung eines amerikanischen Bombers B 17, im Milser Äuli, am 19. Juli 1944)
Hans Krabacher, damals 15 Jährig, erinnert sich:
Während des Krieges wurden im Oberinntal mehrere sogenannten „Flugwachen“ eingerichtet. Unter anderem befand sich eine solche Anlage auf dem „Grombichl“ in Karrösten. Diese Wache war Tag und Nacht von älteren Soldaten besetzt. Ihre Aufgabe war, den gesamten Luftverkehr zu beobachten und jedes Flugzeug per Telefon nach Innsbruck zu melden. Einer dieser „Flugwächter“ war mein Vater. Ich war beauftragt, meinem Vater das Mittag- bzw. Abendessen zu bringen. Während nun die Männer ihre Mahlzeiten einnahmen, durfte ich in einer getarnten Grube sitzend mit einem großen Fernglas die Flieger beobachten und ihre Identität bestimmen. Das Ergebnis meldete ich umgehend dem Vater, der den Überflug nach Innsbruck übermittelte. Es war im Vergleich zu heute nur wenige Flugzeuge, die sich tagsüber im Luftraum bewegten. Es war mir deshalb ein leichtes, die Identität festzustellen.
Am 19. Juli 1944 hatte ich die Aufgabe, als „Beihirt“ auf der Karröster Alm die Kälber zu hüten. Es war Vormittag, so ca. 10.15h. Ich saß auf einer baumfreien Fläche am Tschirgant in ca. 1.500 m Seehöhe und hatte gute Sicht in das Pitztal und in das Oberinntal, als ich plötzlich starkes Motorengeräusch vernahm. Sekunden später brauste ein Flugzeug knapp an mir vorüber. Ich erkannte sofort, dass es kein deutsches Flugzeug war. Am Hoheitszeichen konnte ich die Nationalität feststellen. Und dann etwas später konnte ich beobachten, dass der Flieger stark an Höhe verloren hatte, tief unten im Tal Richtung Mils flog und vermutlich eine Landemöglichkeit suchte. Ich wartete nur noch darauf, dass er bald am Boden zerschellen würde. Aus der verhältnismäßig großen Entfernung konnte ich die Flughöhe nicht abschätzen. Mein weiterer Gedanke war, jetzt fliegt das Flugzeug geradewegs auf einen Feldstadel vor Mils zu. Dann glaubte ich zu sehen, dass das Flugzeug den Stadel gestreift hatte und Teile des Daches zerstörte. Tage später erfuhr ich, dass das Flugzeug tatsächlich einen Feldstadel „streifte“ und dann unweit davon notgelandet ist.
Ausstellung in der „Trofana Tyrol“Genau vor 60 Jahren ereignete sich die Notlandung eines amerikanischen Bombers B 17 ("Fliegenden Festung") in Mils bei Imst am 19. Juli 1944.
Diese Ausstellung wurde mit Originalfotos und Augenzeugenberichten aus dem Archiv des Hobbyhistorikers Keith Bullock gestaltet. Zusätzlich haben einige Leihgeber Originalteile dieser „Fliegenden Festung“ für die Ausstellung überlassen ( u.a. Instrumente aus dem Cockpit, Original-Fallschirmseide, Propellerblatt, Bilder, etc.)
Der Höhepunkt dieser Ausstellung war eine telefonische Live-Schaltung nach Amerika - zu dem Co-Piloten George Brandon, einem noch lebenden Besatzungsmitgliedes dieses Bombers - am 19. Juli 2004, genau 60 Jahre nach diesem Ereignis.