Horgan Crew - Assigned 752nd Squadron - July 29, 1944
Shot down September 11, 1944 (MACR #8928)
|1Lt||Thomas G Horgan||0434281||Pilot||11-Sep-44||POW||Stalag Luft I|
|2Lt||Robert O Hochtritt||0768100||Co-pilot||11-Sep-44||POW||Stalag Luft III|
|2Lt||Joseph S Pokorney||0712662||Navigator||11-Sep-44||POW||Stalag Luft I|
|2Lt||Donald L Tapie||0762966||Bombardier||11-Sep-44||POW||Stalag Luft I|
|Sgt||Leo E Green||36459338||Radio Operator||11-Sep-44||POW||Stalag Luft 4|
|T/Sgt||Ralph W Schenewark||39276308||Flight Engineer||11-Sep-44||POW||Stalag Luft 4|
|S/Sgt||Walter H Wright||36477106||Aerial Gunner||27-Jan-45||UNK||Sullivan & Denard crews|
|Sgt||James H Henderson||39282451||Armorer-Gunner||11-Sep-44||POW||Stalag Luft 4|
|S/Sgt||Robert I Sinn||17096991||Aerial Gunner||01-Oct-44||UNK||Repl on Simpson crew|
|Sgt||Nathan A Woody||38403443||Aerial Gunner||11-Sep-44||POW||Stalag Luft 4|
A/C 314 was apparently hit by flak over Koblenz at 1123. #1 engine was feathered and A/C dropped out of formation and down to 10,000. Seven parachutes reported one of which may not have opened. A/C continued flying below formation for 10-20 minutes under control and in no apparent trouble when last seen.
On September 11, 1944, our crew was flying a B-24 named E.T.O. Playhouse. Our
mission for that day was for synthetic oil [plant] at Magdeburg,
Germany. As we approached Koblenz we were hit by flak. Our wing gas
tank was on fire, our pilot had feathered one engine, and we had a fire
in two others. We were informed by a crew from another plane in the
group that flames were shooting out way in front of our plane and that
we had better bail out. Knowing that our plane could blow up at any
second, our pilot gave the order to bail out. I understand that the
story is that I bailed out sans parachute over the target.
There is a mix up somewhere as we had not yet made it to our target, and
that I am here today. I understand that just seven chutes were
counted, however all of our crew got out safely and were all interned in
POW camps. The five of us non-coms were interned in [Stalag] Luft IV.
Three of our commissioned officers were interned in [Stalag] Luft I. Our co-pilot evaded for about two weeks, was captured, escaped, was recaptured and was beaten up quite badly. He was taken to Stalag Luft III. He and the rest of our crew then spent the rest of the war as POW's. Us five non-coms were all on the death march. The group that we were with was liberated by the 104th Infantry Division "Timber Wolves" on April 26, 1945.
|Date||Target||458th Msn||Pilot Msn||Serial||RCL||Sqdn||A/C Msn||A/C Name||Comments|
|05-Aug-44||BRUNSWICK/WAGGUM||105||ABT||41-29352||K||7V||--||WOLVE'S LAIR||ALL 4 GEN FAILED|
|07-Aug-44||GHENT||107||2||42-95179||X||7V||31||HERE I GO AGAIN|
|01-Sep-44||PFAFFENHOFFEN||ABN||--||41-29340||N||7V||--||YANKEE BUZZ BOMB||ABANDONED|
|11-Sep-44||MAGDEBURG||126||9||42-50314||L||7V||55||ETO PLAYHOUSE||SHOT DOWN FLAK|
Flight of the ETO Playhouse
Leo, your plane, which - as we found recently - crashed not in Westerburg/Westerwald, but away from the area where you bailed out. From the original KU report, of which one page is also included into MACR, that the crew was captured around 11:40 in Westerwald, so when the plane crashed far away, this was written into another KU report, No. 2XX3, because Germans initially did not know that the plane appeared [with this crew] under KU 976A.
If all the times written are correct, then we have some times:
- plane was hit at 11:32 (in MACR is also written 11:23, but it seems, that the 11:32 is more correct).
- crew captured 11:40 - Westerburg
- plane continue fly below formation 10-20 minutes (apparently no crew) - as eyewitness says in MACR
- plane crashed at 12:35 in ???
The Place of crash: the village or town "Buchst" I can´t find on the map (electronic search). This can be similar, but changed while rewriting from telegrams, by US translators after the war, etc.
I was trying to think about the situation. See on attached map:
- blue circle 03 - Westerwald, where the crew was captured
- blue line - track chart of the 2nd BD to Magdeburg, Hannover, Misburg.
- red line - flight path of Horgan's aircraft
It was planned that the first combat box of the force (458BG) would cross the Rhine river at 11:25. Later, over the target, the force was 5 minutes later than planned (bombs released 12:28, planned 12:23). This may mean that over the "Rhine" turning point, the formation was late by about 3 minutes. This may mean, that when the plane was reported being hit at 11:30 - 32, this is very close to the time when we believe, They crossed the turning point over the Rhine river (cca 11:28, position 5027N-0726E). If in this area they were hit (because this is very close to Koblenz, reported in MACR), it takes some minutes before the crew bailed out after 11.32 and were captured around 11:40 (these German times of capturing are often not very accurate, but it may seems, that most of the crew were really captured between 11:35 - 12:00.
So it is sure, the plane was abandoned about 11:35 in vicinity of Westerburg in Westerwald, as is marked on the map by the blue circle and number "03". The plane was reported to continue with the formation next 10 or 20 minutes. See, next turning point (5040N-0910E) was planned for the 458th at 11:43. If they were flying still around 5 minutes late than planned, this may mean that exactly around the 10 minutes the formation changed route to NE and lost sight of the plane below. The Liberator probably continued on to the East by the route marked as red line if the plane kept the initial course.
From the translation of the KU 2XX3 (your pic. 11) is important the note of the "destination of the report" (by error translated as "target"): Airbase Brandis. This means that the plane must have crashed in the Leipzig area after about 200 miles flying without crew. This happened sometimes. The time difference between bailing out of the crew and the crash is one (1) hour. I believe, this may be correct for the plane hardly damaged.
NE of Brandis I have found village "Bucha". Really I do not know if this is "our" correct location, but I will check it.
Is necessary to add, that although the eyewitness reported that the plane was under control, it was not. In German reports are all of your crew, including pilots, reported to be captured in Westerburg - Giessen area, which correspond to your memories... So the plane must fly with autopilot only. Also there is the note about crash of this particular plane in the Brandis (SE of Leipzig) area. I think there is sure that the plane really continued to the East by itself. I do not know if was finally crashed because of malfunction or by the altitude descending or by flak or fighters. Still I did not find any German
fighter claim of B-24 on that day and that area. But I will continue in the searching.
Many thanks and I wish you a great day...!
As I remember I did not hear or feel anything when we were hit. I was in my position right behind our Co-pilot. Everything happened so fast. I think that it was from our pilot's conversation with the pilot of one of the other planes that I heard that there was a fire in our wing gas tank and that flames were shooting out from four to six feet ahead of our plane.
Our pilot knowing that our plane could blow up at any second said "Joe what is our position?" Joe said, "We are about thirty miles east of the Rhine." Horgan told us, "This is it men, bail out." I quickly sent out an SOS and went to the rear of the plane where I saw our engineer. He looked at me and pointed down and I somersaulted out of the bomb bay. I thought that he was also telling me to bail out but he told me later that his inter-phone had come unplugged and he was asking me if we were supposed to bail out. Our engineer, ball gunner, waist gunner and myself all landed close to Westerburg and our bombardier landed about 3 miles out of Koblenz.
I have a letter that I received from our pilot dated July 1st, 1945. In it he says "It was a good thing to get out fast because with 2 engines out and a fire in the wing fuel tank the old crate could have blown at any moment”. I can’t imagine how that plane could have gone on so long without blowing up and I probably would not believe it if I had not heard so many other stories that seemed impossible. For instance there was a man in Luft 4 that who was in their plane when it blew up and he was blown clear and his chute had opened by itself. There were three or four other ones also that were just as strange.
I have an email from our bombardier in which he says that we were to make about a 30° turn at Koblenz and that we failed to do so I didn't know if he meant just us or the whole group. But I see by your map that where the group was supposed to turn is where our plane did not. He also said that we had 1 engine on fire so it would make more sense if there were just 2 engines out and there it must have been 1 out on each side.
It just blow's my mind how that plane never did blow up and crashed so far away. I hope this gives you a little better look at the ETO Playhouse situation. Thanks so much for all of the new information.
Leo and Pat