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B-17 found in germany, do you know the pilots name?

Discussion in 'Heavy & Very Heavy Bombers' started by chris1, Sep 4, 2016.

  1. 25Kingman49

    25Kingman49 Well-Known Member

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  2. chris1

    chris1 Active Member

    Many many Thanks to all of you :)

    this research gave us a lot of knowlege about what happend on january 21 in 1945 in schutterwald

    (sorry for answering late, unfortunately i had no email-information about the last postings)
  3. RSwank

    RSwank Well-Known Member

    Eugen Hansmann (see post #129 for his crash description ) recently gave a presentation about the crash to the Schutterwald Historical Society. Eugen used some of the material we have presented here. After his presentation a man came forward to say he had seen the plane actually crash. We know the plane was flying from East to West over the forest when it crashed, but a mystery has been the crash pattern as evidenced by the damaged trees. The pattern suggests the plane was moving from West to East. The man told Eugen that the plane was flying from East to West but actually climbed, nose up over the forest until it stopped and stalled. It then fell backwards, sliding tail first back along the path it had flown as it crashed. That would explain the odd crash pattern.

    There are also plans for a local newspaper article in the near future. Maybe a few more facts will be revealed.
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  4. terveurn

    terveurn Active Member

    the correct story of 43-37857

    43-37857 c.JPG 43-37857-honey-chile.jpg
  5. 25Kingman49

    25Kingman49 Well-Known Member

    Sorry Dave. With this study by Rolland, and German crash site friends including original crash witnesses, and relatives of the crew perhaps you need to consider editing your book with corrections from the "old record" as new evidence is offered here. As always your additional information on any given Fort and this Fort being studied here is always welcome. However for you to state you offer the "correct story of 43-37857" is arrogant even for you my friend, or sadly you have not taken the time to read all ten (10) pages of this informative AAF forum thread; highly recommended.

    Last edited: Dec 2, 2016
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  6. terveurn

    terveurn Active Member


    Correct story being the actual history vs Osborns history on the aircraft card as well as the load-outs from 385th. Osborn conveniently skips over a lot of details and deformalizes the crew names. What else do you think is wrong.
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2016
  7. RSwank

    RSwank Well-Known Member

    Dave, some corrections for your "correct story". The man who died was McErlane not Hansen, (I assume that is the meaning of the + by Hanson's name). The plane had engine #1 feathered and engine #2 on fire and unable to be feathered. The fire had spread into the bomb bay. The plane did not explode in the air, it was flown until it crashed west of Schutterwald by McErlane.
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  8. terveurn

    terveurn Active Member

    From the causality questionnaire from the Flight Engineer

    Aircraft exploded before pilot could jump.....

    do have to fix causality list <damn>

    zzz 857.JPG
  9. terveurn

    terveurn Active Member

    and this is the aircraft card - now which version of the early history is correct on this point....

  10. RSwank

    RSwank Well-Known Member

    Dave, actually, the flight engineer Pence's statement is that "It is my belief that the plane exploded before he (McErlane) got out." Pence did not see or hear the plane explode. He was not told the plane exploded. He had a "belief". This belief was incorrect. The plane did not explode. There are German eyewitnesses who saw circumstances of the plane crashing as are discussed in several places in this thread.
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  11. terveurn

    terveurn Active Member

    Have to seriously disagree with you theory that the aircraft crashed.

    Did what you suggested and almost immediate this conversation stands out:

    "the wreck was spread on the ground into many many parts. some wheels on the tree. some parts were burning, there was a lot of machine gun ammunition, some of that exploded.pilot John mcErlane was found at the foot of a tree, already dead, no sign of pain in his face. the impact must have been abrupt. on the picture he is in row 1 at the middle recognized with high probability"

    This conversation also states that nobody saw the crash or what was happening in the sky because of the clouds - all they saw / heard was an explosion

    This is not an impact crash -- you do not get many, many parts spread out from an impact crash -- impact crash's are generally relatively small compact areas. An aircraft exploding, however, would spread out the parts -- depending on height this could be a very large or very small area. You also have the item that part of the landing gear was in a tree -- again, parts falling from 500 feet would drop landing gear into trees but an impact would drive them into the ground.

    There is also the lack of impact crater.

    -- it is very possibly that this B-17 had an engine failure before it bombed, aborted the mission and when the fire spread to the bomb-bay / aircraft rolling as the pilot let go of the controls the bomb load exploded - in flight


    example -- compact crash area - note, even totally destroyed, the landing gear is still attached to the wing spar and retracted

    42-102482 b.jpg
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  12. RSwank

    RSwank Well-Known Member

    Some good points, Dave. I hope we can get some more input and clarifications from German eyewitnesses, when and if the newspaper article is published.
    Clearly the plane was quite low as it flew directly over the children out playing in the snow over "north" Schutterwald. And perhaps the man who saw it stall and then fall into the woods will be able to give some further clarifications, e.g. was there any sort of explosion immediately before or even after it crashed. I will post any updates I receive.

    As to whether the plane was still carrying any bombs, there is no mention of that in the MACR. The bombardier says they were hit as they came off target. I think all bombs had been released normally and if there was an explosion it would be a gasoline explosion. There was certainly a fire at the crash site.

    We are in a "Sherlock Holmes" position as we probably need more facts and data to resolve this.

    ‘It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.’

    Sherlock Holmes Quote from
    -A Scandal in Bohemia
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2016
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  13. 25Kingman49

    25Kingman49 Well-Known Member

    Thank you for taking the time to read thru this thread more completely. This is often boring and tedious with a thread this long but I hope you agree the new information of this incident is most interesting. As is obvious and as Rolland has pointed out not all the answers are known about the last minutes of 43-37857 whether low level explosion vs a stall and crash entering a wooded area ripping the plane apart and perhaps explosion.

    I regret my suggestion to you in post #185 that you should edit your book, as this was me being reactionary to your "correct story" introduction to your post where it appeared to me you were making the statement that "Only You" had the true and complete record; perhaps my error where I read this wrong. I absolutely agree that you offer far more complete detail than offered by Osborne from more sources. That is why I purchased your last book and look forward to purchasing your next, about to go to the printers.

    With this current and continuing study of 43-37857 I hope you can keep an open mind and participate and perhaps be less adversarial; I know a lot to ask my friend but this is not some idiot thread from the old forum days. To me this thread has been exemplary and continues to be a thorough and complete study with new information. No one is claiming to have all the answers here but I hope you agree more is known now then ever before thanks to the aid of the German crash site investigators and crash witnesses from Schutterwald with aid from Rolland to make contact with all crew member families and so much more hoping to bring closure here for all involved then and now.

    On you the author I commend you on your current work and expect no less from you in your next. That having been said I expect every author including Roger Freeman, et. al. had regrets the day after printing, i.e. damn wish "that" had been included. Such is the life of an author, and for you as I recall maybe in the old forum after you had published you continued to add content, so I know you understand. This is the way of it...and right now the story of 43-37857 continues for all to evaluate and contribute as more information becomes available.
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2016
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  14. terveurn

    terveurn Active Member

    Scott -- my feeling is as soon as a book is published, it is obsolete. I know with my first book, that in just two year, I have found an additional 50 photos for these long serial numbers B-17 -- and then you get a document from the Air Force and you go oh damn.

    Maybe my words were too strong on being the only correct version -- only meant in the sense the aircraft early history -- while I admire Osborne's information, there is something that drive me nuts (like his liberties with the crew names and all of the aircraft's early histories).

    RSwank -- some of what I am thinking is coming from working aviation and accident investigators usually do not have high regard for witness statements from people on the ground -- very easy to mistake directions, height, strange sounds,etc... as abnormal, different or just the opposite of what is actually occurring (hell ask anybody who just witness an auto accident what they seen and you will get numerous different versions).

    All I can do is beat the hell out of the bush's and shake the trees and see what goes plink and what goes plunk -- and the plunk I have is two trained / very experienced T/Sgt's both stating explosion (plus a fire in the bomb bay means get out of the aircraft now).

    This is when photographs help.

    Now at time, an aircraft will disintegrate, but that is when it is falling from height (15K+) and from all accounts this aircraft was at low altitude (<1,000 AGL) when the crew bailed so the remains of the airframes should be more substantial.

    I would be interesting to see what gets uncovered if they take a metal detector to this site
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  15. BMBazooka

    BMBazooka Well-Known Member

    The last idea I consider as most interesting.
    We went to the two B24s near Munich, and let me say, although I am not much of technical person, the reports from 1944 and 1945 and downing and the artifacts do not fit together.
  16. chris1

    chris1 Active Member

    @ dave/terveurn,
    many thanks for your interest in the topic and writing your opinion.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2016
  17. terveurn

    terveurn Active Member

    Scott was kind enough to send me the original translation of the 'boy's' description of these events -- and in his letter, he is describing two separate aircraft.

    "As it flew past me, I saw that the propellers on the two engines on the right wing were stopped and that the plane only had the two motors of the left wing working. I could see every detail despite the gloomy weather. I recognized that the machine was in danger of tipping over to the right and crashing"

    "But that was not the airplane that crashed perhaps a half hour later"

    "I went to my room and was browsing through my books for a while when suddenly my friend stormed in and shouted to me that an aircraft was crashing. I quickly ran with my friend into the open to watch the crash, but we only heard the roar of aircraft engines and then a dull explosion.

    After that, there was only the hum of the passing airplanes. In the meantime my parents and my sister came out of the house. Our neighbors were all out on the road and we all weren’t quite sure what had happened. Suddenly, one of the bystanders cried out and pointed into the air. As we stared in the direction in which he pointed, we saw a parachute come out of the clouds, which in short intervals was followed by more and more. We counted a total of seven or eight parachutes floating down slowly. It was clearly the crew of the crashed bomber who were coming down. While the aircraft, as it turned out, had crashed west of Schutterwald, across from Müllen."

    Then much further down in the story after he went to where he thought the aircraft crashed

    "On the way home from the search in the fields, I saw there was a column of smoke ascending from the Schutterwälder forest. And so it was that direction that I set out"

    * * *

    We know from the MACR that it was engines # 1 & 2 damaged so that would be left wing and she should be tipping over to the left -- from a ground observers it is very easy to get left / right / up / down mixed-up.

    The other bits are interesting as children, he tells an german officer where he thought it crashed, yet only when coming back from that site, does he actually see smoke from the site
  18. Norden B.S.

    Norden B.S. New Member

    I certainly don't have the answers to what is being discussed, but the thread has taught me that my memory weaved an interpretive narrative of the events of 1/21/45 and some of my interpretations were off. Some vary from the account here, but many jive. I truly appreciate everyone's interest and their effort.

    I'll try to speak for my Father, the bombardier. My Father described the mission as a "milk run," the easiest of his missions. The mission was complete when they were hit in one engine coming off the target. He thought it was Mainz which wouldn't be correct per this thread, but there was cloud cover, so no landmarks would be available. Although I never asked the question, "did you drop every bomb," he did talk about eating his frozen chocolate bar, his treat for completing a mission. The bar was frozen and stored in a slot that would make sure his chocolate bar was frozen. He ate the chocolate bar after the bombs were dropped and the pilot had control of the plane. I was told by someone, that my the crew mostly flew deputy lead in the formation, so if they didn't drop their bombs, probably no other crew did; but I can't prove they flew deputy lead on that mission. As an example of where I was wrong in interpretation is when he said "milk run," followed by "we were the only plane shot down that day." As a kid, I assumed 8th Air Force. Now, I'd assume his group. I made another inaccurate assumption when he mentioned that he "tugged on Mac's sleeve," and said let's go, (he always thought Mac would stay with the plane) that he was the last man out of the plane. I assumed it. He did say that he went to check the fire in the bomb bay at the request of the pilot to make sure everyone in the rear of the plane had gotten-out. But, I don't know for instance, if that was before the quote, "boys, this is the end of the line," but had assumed after. What he emphasized, was that plans changed about trying to make it back, when the second engine caught fire, and that they were told "not to jump out near the front lines." I assumed that they didn't know where the front lines were, but they may not have been sure where they were. But, Mac was trying to turn south and head for Switzerland. It never occurred to me that this could have transpired quickly. At some point, he thought they were in France near Strasbourg, and was pretty sure that he was picked-up near Offenburg and that it was after dark. He thought that everyone was spread-out when they landed. I don't know if that jives with current thought, but he was banged-up on landing according to his account.

    He mentioned seeing Hansen only once at camp; but I he was interrogated at one place and then transported to another. He did mention trips by railcar from one camp to another and passing through Frankfurt. He was later in a hospital in Heidelberg.

    He thought the plane crashed but never knew if they recovered a Mac's body.

    I understand how witnesses to a crash might not be clear in what they saw, I wonder how clear the crew would be. I've never been through that kind of trauma. I've wondered how trauma might affect memory.

    Perhaps putting a fine point on the crash isn't possible; but I truly appreciate everyone's interest. Knowing more about it, after this much time, has been a wonderful surprise.
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  19. chris1

    chris1 Active Member

    @ dear Norden B.S.,
    thank you so much for writing here.

    Special greetings from eugen to you and the forum members:

    (eugen hansmann)

    as i put into english i beg your pardon for errors.
  20. Norden B.S.

    Norden B.S. New Member

    Although this has nothing to do with the crash, ironies abound for me as my family history is tied to the part of the world where all of this happened. Although the bombardier's last name is French, his family immigrated to the U.S. from Bremen, post Waterloo, the result of the changing fortunes of war. His Grandmother's family was from a village near the Rhine, slightly N. of the Strasbourg, while my Mother's family was from a village S. of Strasbourg, on the French side, but her last name was Wolff, the same as the head of SS forces in Italy.

    My Father volunteered for service. He wanted to be in the fight. He was stationed at Great Ashfield and echoed that the English, by 9/44 when he flew his first mission thought Americans were over-paid, over-sexed, and worst, over-there. Post prison camp, my Father spent time in Paris. He said that the only person he personally wanted to shoot, was an obnoxious French waiter. Although he only saw Germany up close through the door of a box car, behind, barbed wire, and through a hospital window, he always wanted to see Germany, particularly the area around Offenburg which he thought would be beautiful in Spring. He found kindred spirits at railroad stations after his capture, when German fighter pilots would come over and swap war stories. He said they all wanted to fly P-51's and told the Americans that if they had enough of them, they war would go on longer. My father admired Focke-Wulf 190's, and said he'd see those big radial engines in his sleep. We owned German Shepherds because he saw how well-trained they were when they guarded prisoners. German sergeants who protected him at railway stations, pulling off his air corps patches, he described as guys who were professional, did their duty, and didn't want to go to the Russian front. "They just wanted to go home like all of us." Perhaps war is far more impersonal from the air, but he found humanity on the ground.

    For my Father, the war wasn't personal. For myself, I'm cognizant that for the grace of God, the son that McErlane never had would be writing this and I wouldn't be here. My Father did realize just how lucky he was to survive the war and the crash of the Honey Chile on 1/21/45. Again, I appreciate that this day came to life and the memory of my Father came to life, and the pilot got his just due. According to my Father, he was everything you wanted in a B-17 pilot, and everything you wanted in a human being.
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