75th Anniversary Loss of Local Norfolk B.24 Crew (Swaffham)

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75th Anniversary Loss of Local Norfolk B.24 Crew (Swaffham)

Postby Hornchurch » 26 Aug 2019, 01:14


As per title, am posting this in recognition of a very brave, local, Norfolk based B.24 Liberator crew, 75th Anniversary of their tragic demise.

It's brave young guys like this that helped free Europe from tyranny & made the ultimate sacrifice, giving US the freedoms which we enjoy today

Whilst I wish to relate this event & tragic real-life story (in their memory & honour),

I also wish to point out - READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED

Much of which occurred is pretty unpleasant, SO, "if" you are easily offended & disturbed easily, may I advise you skip this thread if so....

If not, otherwise, then read on & please do remember of this brave crew, exactly 75 years on.... today
Please do excuse any repetition here, it's a long & complicated subject & is merged from TWO internet-sources, to piece the tale.

With some degree of irony, I inadvertently drove-past North Pickenham's 8th Air Force B.24 base last-night, around 10.45pm
I'll be going past it again, tomorrow-night, in similar circumstances too.

It jogged my memory to post this, regarding the tale & fate of one of their most unfortunate crews, who need to be recognised & remembered
It's 75 years ago (this weekend) since it happened, yet many folks locally, are still probably unaware of this sad tale.

It was around 1992 that I first heard about & got smitten with the story of a local North Pickenham B.24 Liberator

For those unaware, North Pickenham is a small-village just outside Swaffham & was also a HUGE American B.24 Liberator base, in WW.II

Here is the (more or less) full tale & saga of one of North-Norfolk's wartime crews, who lived, fought & flew from just outside Swaffham, in 1944.

(Below, a beautiful stonecast memorial in Georgia, USA)



Russelsheim, Germany, is a typical industrial town, producing Opel cars in partnership with General Motors (when this item was written)
The town, just east of Mainz, with a population of 60,000, has a historic district, and is not unlike any of the hundreds of towns throughout Germany.
This town, chartered in 1437, is the center for the assembly of autos, and is the sixth largest engine producer in the world.

Underneath this calm existence enjoyed by the citizens, one would not suspect that Russelsheim hides a dark secret better left untold.
They hope someday to outlive the horrible massacre, so terrible as to defy description.

The British Royal Air Force on Aug. 26, 1944, launched a massive air raid against the Opel factory.
This raid created a growing hatred of the daily death from the sky. The weary townspeople wanted revenge.


On Aug. 24, 1944, the 8th Air Force launched a massive raid from North Pickenham, Norfolk in England, on an area just North of Hanover, Germany.

Over 2000 planes were involved.

Among them was the B-24 nicknamed..."Wham Bam Thank You, Ma'm" from the 491st Bomb Group, 2nd Air-Div'

Here are some fairly rare shots, taken of the actual plane involved, B.24 Liberator, serial number '42-110107', coded as "6X-N"

(Note : Nose-Artwork is the famous Warner.Bros cartoon 'Bugs Bunny')

NB : Both shots taken at North Pickenham
Also, here is a photograph of "Wham Bam" (42-110107) having her No.1 engine changed - significant, given it's part in her eventual flak demise.


The crew consisted of:

Pilot- 2nd Lt. Norman J. Rogers Jr.
Co-Pilot- 2nd Lt. John N. Sekul
Radio Operator- S/Sgt. Thomas D. Williams
Belly/Gun- Sgt. William A. Dumont
Left/Waist Gun- Sgt. Elmore L. Austin
Nose/Gun- Sgt. William M. Adams
Tail/Gun- Sgt. Sidney E. Brown
Flt. Eng.- S/Sgt. Forest W. Brininstool
Nav. Bombardier- Flight Officer Haigus Tufenkjia



The North Pickenham "Wham! Bam!" B.24 at that time was part of the largest formation of aircraft ever to leave England:

Consisting of 485 B-24s, 834 B-17s, and 739 fighters.

Approaching the target they ran into heavy anti-aircraft fire.

In THIS very picture during the raid, below, "Wham Bam" can be seen on the left (olive-drab '24), trailing smoke from No.1 engine...


Just after releasing their bombs right on target the plane took several burst of flak.
One direct hit in the bomb bay area knocked out the hydraulic system, one engine, and damaged two other engines.

The Wham! Bam! was mortally wounded - The bail out order was given. The crew landed in a farm area.
Brininstool had suffered a shrapnel wound in the stomach, and was very fortunate when a farm couple took him in and cleaned his wound.
The rest of the crew was rounded up by Luftwaffe personnel and placed in a cell in the town hall. Dumont and Rogers suffered ankle injuries.
The entire crew was taken by train to an unidentified German Air Force base near Munster.
Brininstool was taken to a clinic where a Doctor operated on his stomach wound, then placed in a hospital in Munster for further treatment.
He was then taken by guards to a POW interrogation center near Frankfurt.

The remaining eight crewmembers while on a 12 hour train ride ran into a bombed out section of track near Russelsheim and were forced to detrain.
The guards began escorting the airmen toward Russelsheim expecting to catch another train beyond the damaged track area.

"Between 9 and 10 a.m. on that Saturday, a small troop of men in foreign flight suits came lopping along, accompanied by two German soldiers as guards.
Suddenly a shrill female voice was heard: “Beat them to pieces, beat them to death. They are the ones who were here last night. Kill them.”

The Americans were led into town and left there waiting under only one guard while the two others went away to get directions.
Almost two hours later, only one guard returned. The most senior of the guards, a fat man in his forties with a stripe on his sleeve, never came back.

The two remaining guards, two very junior soldiers with no rank insignia at all, decided to march their charges. But the guards did not know the town.
Instead of turning right at Marktstraße which would have been the shortest way to the railway station, they went straight ahead following Frankfurterstraße.

A mob of townspeople began to gather and follow them, jeering and shouting.

A man with the green arm band of an air raid warden, armed with a 6.35 mm pistol, stopped the Luftwaffe guards and talked to them.

He demanded that they take the airmen eastward out of town. They refused, saying that they needed to get a train.

While the dispute was still going on, a female shout came from the rear: “Beat them….!”

It was Käthe Reinhardt who, together with her sister Margarete Witzler, ran a tobacco shop on Frankfurterstraße.

She picked up a brick from the rubble in the street, and hurled it towards the airmen.

The brick hit Rogers on the left side of his head and cracked his skull

The air raid warden, forty-year-old Josef Hartgen, drew his pistol and fired a shot in the air to regain everybody's attention, but to no avail.

Margarete Witzler who was also among the crowd, heard her sister's screams and followed suit
She, too, picked up a brick and threw it at the prisoners.

This was the moment when hell broke loose.
A mob of perhaps twenty, perhaps 200 people (Estimates differ) descended on the airmen, threw bricks, stones and pieces of slate, and picked up sticks to beat them.

People came running out of their houses along the way, wielding shovels, brooms, hammers…

It would be too long and too depressing to describe here the whole ordeal in excruciating detail.

Six of the airmen were dead and two were severely injured, alive and conscious but pretending to be dead.

Between 11 and 12 a.m., the bodies were placed on a farmer's carriage brought for the purpose, and drawn by Hitler Youth to the cemetery.

Someone with a club climbed on the cart and beat those who gave signs of life on the head.
Then an air raid alarm sounded, and the man sought shelter.

Two of the eight were still alive, Brown and Adams.

After dark, they crept from under the dead bodies of their comrades, and fled.

Four days later, they were captured again, brought to a POW camp, and survived.

Russian prisoners of war buried the six victims on 28 August in a common grave.

25 March, 1945, soldiers of the 3rd US Army took Rüsselsheim.
Slave labourers and P.O.W's told American officers about eight British soldiers (so they thought) who were buried at Waldfriedhof.

On 28 June, exhumation started. The party, looking for eight bodies, only found six.
Four of their number could be identified because they wore their dog-tags: Sekul, Williams, Dumont, and Austin.
All except one had their skull fractured. The man without skull fracture had two bullet holes in his head.
Two others had bullet injuries to their skulls as well. There were no other fractures.

In June 1945, the US Army set up a department for the investigation and prosecution of war crimes.

Lieutenant Colonel Leon Jaworski (later known as Watergate Special Prosecutor) prosecuted in the Rüsselsheim case.

Eleven German civilians stood trial from 25 July to 2 August 1945 at Darmstadt.

They were defended by defence counsel from the ranks of the US military but also by German civilian attorneys;

The trial ended with seven death sentences (among them Käthe Reinhardt and Margarete Witzel),

One sentence of 25 years at hard labour, two of 15 years at hard labour, and one acquittal.

On 23 August, 1945, Colonel C. Robert Bard, Staff Judge Advocate, wrote his recommendations for the review by the Commanding General of the Seventh Army.
In Bard's opinion, all the sentences should be upheld, because:
…while American sympathy may be aroused at the prospect of hanging women and old men,
...it must always be remembered that half-way measures will never impress upon the people of Germany and that their actions have been unlawful and degenerate.

The deterrent effect of punishment must be great enough to prevent forever crimes that are an abomination in the eyes of man and blasphemy in the sight of God.

On 10 November 1945, gallows were erected in the yard of Bruchsal prison.

The death sentences were executed by M/Sgt John C. Woods, assisted by S/Sgt Fred Guidry.

The condemned were executed singly. They were:

Josef Hartgen, 41, married with three children aged 2 to 7, foreman in the Opel plant, leader of the local Nazi party group,

Also an SA man, air raid warden, propaganda chief for Rüsselsheim, who had beat the airmen like a madman using something like a hoe handle.

He finally fired pistol shots to the head of at least three men.

Johannes Seipel, 67, kicked an airman who was sitting on the ground, wounded, against the neck and chin.

Philipp Gütlich, 49, married with four children of which the youngest was eight months old,
who had also beaten the airmen several times with a club three feet long and two inches thick, using both hands.

Friedrich Wüst, 40, beat with a piece of wood with great force, later beat an airman on the head with a hammer.

Johannes Opper, 62, beat the airmen twice with a broom and joined in the incitement to violence.

Johannes Opper being prepared for hanging (in the background, behind the rope, S/Sgt Fred Guidry, assistant hangman)

The persons sentenced to serve prison terms were released in 1953 and 1954 and returned to Rüsselsheim.

After this trial, the prosecution did not consider the case closed.
They clearly had not succeeded to round up all persons involved, and probably never would.

But they tried nevertheless. Two more persons were found and tried for their part in the Rüsselsheim massacre:

The man who climbed on the cart near the cemetery and tried to finish off the still living victims with his club (“the size of a table leg”),
and one of the several soldiers who had been mentioned in evidence during the trial as having joined in the beating.

The man with the club was found to be Otto Hermann Stolz, 34, a carpenter and SA member.
He was tried on 15/16 May, 1947 before a General Military Government Court at Dachau,
was found guilty and hanged on 14 November 1947 at Landsberg, at 11.12 a.m.

One of the soldiers was identified as Corporal Franz Umstatter, aged 36.

A wine gardener in his civil profession, and described by the investigator as “the worst looking criminal of them all and … built like a gorilla”.
He was tried on 26/27 August, 1946 before a General Military Government Court at Dachau, was found guilty and sentenced to death.

The War Crimes Group of the European Command however overturned the verdict.
It seems that the reason was a technicality: The charge against Umstatter did not specify where the crime had been committed.
On 1st March, 1948 at 2 p.m., Umstatter was set free. The five words “at or near Rüsselsheim, Germany” by their absence saved his neck.

August 2001,

Survivor Sidney Brown, accompanied by his wife and Tufenkjian's brother with the latter's wife, came to Rüsselsheim upon an invitation of the town mayor
to take part in a service of remembrance and to receive a formal apology.

On the sixtieth anniversary of the crime, 26 August 2004, a memorial was unveiled on the spot where the airmen suffered most, near the railway station in Grabenstraße.
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Re: 75th Anniversary Loss of Local Norfolk B.24 Crew (Swaffh

Postby supergt1971 » 26 Aug 2019, 09:44

There is a book called The last mission of the Wham,bam boys and Ultracast released decals for thar aircraft if you fancy building it yourself Hc.
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Re: 75th Anniversary Loss of Local Norfolk B.24 Crew (Swaffh

Postby Hornchurch » 12 Sep 2021, 08:28

supergt1971 wrote:

There is a book called The last mission of the Wham,bam boys and Ultracast released decals for thar aircraft if you fancy building it yourself Hc.


Hi J/GT, Might sound daft, but I've only just chanced across this thread, again, some two years later - (After dialling in 'Luftwaffe', in the search-box - It came up)

I did see that book, when trawling on E-Bay for other (unrelated) stuff - must've been soon after it came out, but I never bought it.

It was one of those E-Bay searches that trawled-up my copy of that book you had, the day I came-over to visit ya, at the signalbox.

BTW ; Jog my memory - That was Oct' 19, right ? - We had the (parking) warden after us, but took your suggestion, seeing the Manager at Spar.

Anyways, back to the thread event & your observations - I've not heard of "Ultracast", so you must have your finger more on the kit-market, just now.

Where are they made ? I've never heard of them. Czech, or American decal-makers ? Is the scale 1/72nd, or 1/48th ?

Might surprise ya this, BUT, I'd already bought a set of "Microscale" 1/48th for THAT very plane... but without realising the "massacre" implications.

Bought purely as I had TWO Monogram 1/48th B.24-'J's & needed an aftermarket decal-sheet, for B.24 Liberators-(Bought from Hannants, at Lowestoft, Suffolk)

There was another B.24 option on the decal-sheet ; "Boulder-Buff" & her crew had force-landed (inturned), in "Neutral Sweden", with minimal damage.


It also has "Local Interest", as both the plane (B.24 Liberator) and her crew, lived & were based at North Pickenham, just outside Swaffham **

** (off the A.1065 Rd) Link, here.... https://www.forcedlandingcollection.se/USAAFe/USAAF105-440706-boulderbuff.html

This (for me), was some time back in the very early 1990's, for I'd had the decal-sheet for about one-year BEFORE I realised it's matched-implications.

Funny enough, it was only last-week, that someone (An American), over on "REDDIT" forum, posted a photo' of 'Hartgen", one of the main perpatrators.

Obviously he's over in the states (USA) & had or has no-idea that the plane (B.24), & American-crew WERE local to us, therefore part of Norfolk-History.

I hear that the "Blue Lion" Pub had re-opened (around 2018), after having been "closed" for some five-years prev' - (IIRC, it was around 2012-2013)

Poor sods, barely open for 18-months//two-years, then, scuppered by the Coronavirus 'Covid.19', which decimated their trade (understandably)

I was so smitten (with rememberance, for THIS crew), that I bought a 2nd-decal-sheet, as I have multiple '24's in our stash.

The superb, magnificent "Bugs Bunny" massive nose-artwork, rather belies the outcome of this sad, tragic tale.

But, two-years ago, I figured I'd put the post-up on here, as it's NOT well-known outside the aviation, or WW.II "history-buff" circles.

I figure the crew DESERVE to be remembered, for as they TOO were Norfolk residents, even if only for 18-months or two-years ( As many of the 8th A.F were.

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