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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. chris1

    chris1 Active Member

    many thanks james, for joining the forum and confirm of the picture.
  2. chris1

    chris1 Active Member

    thank you so much rolland, for writing the letters.
    our success is all the gathered information,
    we are able to convey to family members by now,
    in the hope that they would not be affected too much.
    if someone would like to contact, the possibility is opened.
    that is way more then i could imagine to find.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2016
  3. MBP_History

    MBP_History New Member

    My dad tells me we may have some medals that were awarded to my grandfather in the attic. I have some boxes to move up there this weekend, I'll look around and take pictures if I can find them, especially if we have records that any were from the crash. Might also request Lt. Pillsbury's service records.
    We've been busy but any more information we get pertaining to this crash we'll be sure to post. Thanks again to everyone for your contributions.
    chris1 and BMBazooka like this.
  4. MBP_History

    MBP_History New Member

    One more thing before I close my eye's again. It's been raining softly most of the day here, a little harder now. This poem jumped up from somewhere deep inside my mind, jeering me from imminent sleep, just the first half of the first line, it felt important enough to open my eyes Google.

    There Will Come Soft Rains
    Sara Teasdale, 1884 - 1933
    (War Time)

    There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
    And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

    And frogs in the pools singing at night,
    And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

    Robins will wear their feathery fire
    Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

    And not one will know of the war, not one
    Will care at last when it is done.

    Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
    If mankind perished utterly;

    And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
    Would scarcely know that we were gone.

    The earth and the birds may forget. But as long as humans have not "perished utterly", the effects of war will ripple through generations, ages, era's, perhaps even epochs. Edgar remembered. I will remember. We will remember. This forum will preserve the memory for future generations. Must be a decade since I read that last.
  5. chris1

    chris1 Active Member

  6. 25Kingman49

    25Kingman49 Well-Known Member

    It is hoped no one objects to me moving this crew photo with names forward to each new forum page. As redundant as this might be it keeps this image fresh as new crew member family join this thread. Also for members just tuning in the 34 page MACR 11765 starts here on fold3 https://www.fold3.com/image/46705596 This report can be a little confusing as two planes were lost this day with some confusion in the German report pages. However the Capt. John T. McErlane crew pages for the lose of 43-37857 should standout.

    Photo courtesy via the son of S/Sgt. Robert E. Dennard, (Tail Gunner)

    Standing (L-R): Capt. John T. McErlane, Pilot; 2nd Lt. Earl H. Hansen Co-Pilot; 1st Lt. Paul J. Manouvier, Bombardier; 2nd Lt. James S. Pillsbury, Navigator.
    Kneeling (L-R): S/Sgt. J. Lorin Pence, Engineer TTG; S/Sgt. Robert E. Dennard, TG; T/Sgt. William E Rambo, Jr. Radio Op.; S/Sgt. Michael A. Roppolo, Jr. BTG; S/Sgt. Hunter H. Dunn. WG.

    May we never forget this AAF Officer & Gentleman who sacrificed his life to save his crew, and perhaps the small German village of Schutterwald.

    Capt. John T. McErlane
    Capt. John T. McErlane, Pilot.jpg
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2016
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  7. RSwank

    RSwank Well-Known Member

    Attached is a list of 25 missions flown by McErlane according to 385th BG website. At this time in the war, a complete tour was 35 missions. McErlane's first 4 missions were a "break-in" period, flying with experienced pilots. By using the crew database on the 385th website, you can find that a couple other of McErlane's crewmen also flew a few missions with different crews. It is not unusual to see that.

    In fact, on McErlane's first mission listed, Manouvier also flew as bombardier.
    On the 3rd and 4th missions (with Ihlenburg), 5 other McErlane crewmembers came along, Dennard, Dunn, Manouvier, Roppolo, and Rambo.

    I believe there was a 26th mission flown by McErlane , on 18 OCT 44 to Kassel. The 385th BG website lists the pilot of the misson as "Mierlang, John T". The crew was mostly McErlane's regular crew so I suspect "Mierlang" is really McErlane. (The 385th website has no other missions listed for "Mierlang, John T", just this one.) The MACR has two statements saying that McErlane flew 27 missions, so still perhaps one is missing.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Nov 7, 2016
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  8. RSwank

    RSwank Well-Known Member

    I just received a very long e-mail from the son of the bombardier, Manouvrier. We are now in contact with families of 5 of the crewmen. I have set up a shared Google Drive which contains all the information we have collected in a somewhat more organized fashion. I give the families a link to the Drive and they can view or download any of the material. I have used this method on prior crash investigations and it generally works OK.
    -----------------------Email Below-------------------------------------------
    I'm truly impressed on what you were able to put together about the crash. For any other relative that might inquire or be discovered, perhaps I can add a little more context from my Dad's perspective.

    My Dad was late to the dance. If I understand correctly, he got his wings in B 24's. His friends were in the 15th Air Force serving in Italy. He was a gunnery and bombing instructor and was able to move over to B-17's and get to Europe.

    He and Mac (pilot) became best friends. He described Mac as a quiet guy and "steady and fair minded," (high compliments from him). He once said that he and Mac both had a lot of flying hours before they arrived in Europe and were a good team. He said that Mac had a "light touch," as a pilot that made him a much better bombardier. When they arrived at Great Ashfield, there was no room at the officers quarters, so they stayed in a room behind the kitchen. He said waking-up to coffee being delivered by enlisted men was like having room service and they never moved. The point to this is that neither He or Mac really got to know other flyers in their squadron well and said that was pretty-much understood that you didn't go out of your way to make friends as it was too hard from stories passed down about crews not coming back. I believe that his 1st mission was on 9/12/44.

    Given my Dad's last name, it was always misspelled, including by the Air Corps. Eventually, I found 27 missions. There is only one with another pilot. This is how I learned about Mac being a good pilot with a light touch-as he described the other pilot as being less steady and another in the states as being "ham handed."

    I know little about the crew. He mentioned that the Co-Pilot (Hansen) was a "health nut." He was a guy who lifted weights and ate healthy before my Dad knew what it was. Said he was a very nice guy that he liked, but was a "tea totaler," so when they went into London, "he never hung around with them."

    Their original navigator in the replacement crew was killed in their second or 3rd mission. The guy was due to go home and it seems to have been a direct hit. So Pillsbury (Nav. in the photo) came along after that. My Dad described him as a by-the-book guy-who took his job seriously staying focused on his maps. He did not know him well.

    He usually referred to the gunners in a group. Since he was a gunnery instructor for a while, and manned the so-called "chin gun," he said they were a talented group with a nearly impossible job. He was one day shy of 24 when they were shot down, so he was older than most of the gunners-although one, Pence perhaps, was older.

    He did describe Rambo as a "scrapper," (another high compliment) and fun-loving. He described both Dunn and Roppolo as being easy going, nice guys. He said that at that point in the war, that they saw jets, they were impossible to hit, and that at de-briefings, nobody would admit to seeing them as they defied description and airmen didn't want to be grounded with "battle fatigue," That's when he described Rambo as a "scrapper," to represent guys that weren't going to be grounded. It isn't much in the way of details, but I'd love to know anything about my Father when he served in the "big one."

    This is 3rd hand from snippets way, way, after the fact. So, it won't hold-up in court. But, here's what little else I know.
    The pilot had turned to France, but decided that they couldn't get very far and they weren't exactly sure where the front lines were. Like I said, they were told not to jump out near them. The pilot then decided to try for Switzerland. My Father thought that he jumped out somewhere around Offenburg, but not over Offenburg. He described the country what he thought would be beautiful rolling hills when it wasn't covered in snow. He described falling snow and trudging to a farm house about a half-mile away. He said that he was alone when captured, sitting in the farm-house for several hours and thinks he was captured about 5pm. He thought he was "out," for a while after "landing hard," so I'm not sure how clear he was.

    In my Dad's account, I remember several things. He came-up to check on the fire in the bomb bay-per the pilot to see if every one was out. The second thing was that he tugged on Mac's sleeve and said come-on. Mac told him that he was right behind him. He said all he remembers is out of the corner of his eye, he saw Mac's foot turn like he was getting out of his chair. He did not believe that the plane exploded. He heard that Mac was buried over-seas but I never thought to ask where. He mentioned once, that contributed money to a memorial for him in the Chapel at Great Ashfield. He mentioned that he corresponded a bit with Mac's widow. But, I never found the letters.

    After my Dad died, in his desk were a few pieces of paper that were important to him. One, was a hand written list of missions that he remembered. I found 3 more.

    The only other piece of information I have is that when it occurred to me that my Dad had never jumped out of a plane before, I asked him if he was afraid to jump. He responded that "since he was standing on the only part of the plane that wasn't on fire, it wasn't much of a decision."

    As for the crash, I have no idea if my Father's version is accurate. I may have assumed things like he and Mac were the only guys left, or that he assumed Rambo was out of the plane but was mistaken. Most of what I recounted were all too brief conversations late in my Father's life when we would watch war movies and something would come-up in conversations. In the moment, he could have had tunnel vision or just been mistaken. He was sure that he came down through a blizzard and landed in lots of snow. It is highly possible that a crew member could have been near-by. But, he thought they were spread out.

    My Father always celebrated the day he was shot down versus his birthday. He thought he was lucky. He said when the 1st navigator was killed, he realized that if your number was up, it was up. Nothing you could do.

    I can tell you that he thought that the B-17 was the better bomber than the B-24 and said that in a B-24, they would have been shot shot down several times.

    Thank you so much for doing the research. I learned things that I didn't know and really appreciate you getting in touch with me. If I can add anything for any relative of the crew or for Christiane Kluge, I'd be more than happy to. I'm certainly happy to contribute, however meager, the contribution.

    ----------------------------End Email-----------------------------------------
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  9. chris1

    chris1 Active Member

    many thanks to paul, for writing and share so many new aspects of the incident.
    we learn a lot about.

    i dont ponder wether the report or the memory of manouvier was right.
    both manouvier and hansen believed, they were last who got out of the plane. i think, mac said he was right behind and would follow to both, for he wanted them to go out in time and not worry about their pilot.
    25Kingman49 likes this.
  10. chris1

    chris1 Active Member

    eugen sent a correction of the circle map today.
    the plane went over langhurst, when edgar saw it. the children were playing on wiese = meadow with their sleighs.
    langhurst is one part of schutterwald. schutterwald consists of 3 parts: langhurst = head, schutterwald = body, höfen = tail

    eugen and edgar are convinced, that mac saved langhurst.

    Attached Files:

  11. RSwank

    RSwank Well-Known Member

    Today I received an e-mail from the son of the Ball Turret Gunner (S/Sgt M. Roppolo), so we have now made contact with 6 of the 9 crew families. That means we have reached 2/3rds of the families, which is about what I expected. My intent is to write up a description of the final flight based on all we have learned. It will take a few days to put everything together.
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  12. chris1

    chris1 Active Member

    Thanks Rolland
  13. RSwank

    RSwank Well-Known Member

    Contact has been made with Hansen relatives.
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  14. Riley Pence

    Riley Pence New Member

    Hello all,

    My name is Riley Lorin Pence, great-grandson to J. He never spoke much about the crash, and reading over all of this so truly amazing. Thanks to all of you for the research you have done. I have shared all of this with my grandfather Robert Lorin and father Brandon Lorin, and we could not be more touched nor grateful to hear the accounts of those involved.
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  15. RSwank

    RSwank Well-Known Member

    Riley, thank you for responding. I am sending you a PM (conversation) about a Google Drive that has been set up which has all the information here plus much more about the crash. Many of the other crew families have added information there. I think you and your family will find it very interesting.
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  16. chris1

    chris1 Active Member

    thank you Riley, for your interest and writing in the forum. as rolland writes, the google drive contains further informations for you.
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  17. RSwank

    RSwank Well-Known Member

    Well, it took a little while but today I heard from relatives of Hunter H. Dunn, so all crew families have been contacted. I will write up a report for them detailing what happened on the flight.
    For many of the families this story was essentially "lost".
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  18. Airwar

    Airwar Well-Known Member

    Rolland you did a Wonderfull research to helping Chris. Next year in Schutterwald ?

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  19. RSwank

    RSwank Well-Known Member

    I thought I would post my final write-up of the Schutterwald crash here. Eugen Hansmann's account, which is very interesting, can be read back in post #128. As is typical in this type of research, not all the various accounts will match-up. Two people can look at the same event and report quite different versions of what happened. So I have made choices as to what seems more likely to me. I welcome any comments or corrections.

    For the families who shared their stories with me, I thank you. The research has revealed stories untold and stories forgotten. Some stories were painful. Stories change over time and are sometimes confused. Most of the survivors did not talk much about what happened. So in the end we are left putting together a jigsaw puzzle with half the pieces missing. I hope that what is reported here honors the men who lived it.

    Attached Files:

  20. Norden B.S.

    Norden B.S. New Member

    Thank you so much for writing it. Since the thread started, I realized that I'd made assumptions of the few things my Dad said about the crash and I weaved a narrative based on some assumptions that I made when I was probably 10. The report clears up a lot of things about that day, 1/21/45. My Dad was right about some things judging by the report. He thought that they jumped pretty close to the clouds. So, jumping out at 15,000 would seem to fit. He thought he jumped into a blizzard. I'm sure it looked like it from above. He thought that they were hit around Mainz, about 50 miles away, and although he was good at dead reckoning, he couldn't see below.
    He thought they were shot down around Offenberg, he thought the crew was separated by winds after they jumped, and that he was picked-up at a farm house. He described his wait as being 4 hours or so and he was picked up late afternoon around dark. It generally fits the narrative. He said that, at first, the pilot tried to head to France, but realized they couldn't make it and couldn't jump out over the front lines but they weren't sure exactly where the lines were, so the tried to head south to Switzerland. Then, the bell rang to jump and I remembered that Mac said, "end of the line, fellas," or that's what my Father heard. The officers were separated, taken to one place to be interrogated and moved to a much larger camp. He said he saw Hansen there once, and not again. But, he was moved to a prison hosptial. I don't think he knew as much about Mac and the crash as some others did. He'd have been glad to know that Mac was buried near Offenburg; but wasn't sure. One thing he'd have testified to: he said that Mac was "as decent a man as you could ever meet and a very good pilot-who made him look good because he was so steady (high praise from a bombardier). He always thought Mac would try to land the plane (because that's the kind of guy he was [again, high praise]). The fact that he tried to avoid civilians and saved a village would (fit his character) had my Father been here to say so. My Father didn't give away compliments and wouldn't have said so, unless he believed it. I've never used the phrase "sugar coat & my Father in the same sentence. No one who ever knew him would, either. What would have tickled him to death, was the news that Hansen played the bad guy in an Audi Murphy Western. Wish he was here so I could tell him and show him this report. He'd have said, "that researcher from Michigan is a pretty smart Yankee. I'll have to thank him." I'll say it for him. Rolland, "thank you,'' and I think I speak for the living and the dead. Mr. Hansmann, I can't thank you enough for your vivid recollection of that fateful day. For a moment in time, you brought memories of my Father back to life and recalled a story that would've made him very proud of his friend. I've been through Offenburg, but didn't know where the crash site was located. Thanks to you and Rolland's efforts, I know know more about than I thought I'd ever know. It's a gift that can't be purchased.
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