30 November 1944
43-37713 (No name) BK-S
P Lt. Hugh L. Evans KIA
CP 2nd Lt Thomas K. Kohlhaas KIA
N 2nd Lt. Charles Rinkovsky POW
TOG Sgt. Homer L. Lott POW
TT T/Sgt. Milton B. Erich KIA
R T/Sgt. Edward R. Klanke POW
BT S/Sgt. John J. Bellovary KIA
WG S/Sgt. Merlin L. Flower POW
TG S/Sgt. Lester H. Russell POW
Lieutenant Hugh Evans and crew suffered the most dreaded fate of any bomber crew of World War II.
Aircraft number 43-37713 received a direct hit by FLAK and went down immediately over the town of Zeitz, Germany, about 20 miles southwest of Leipzig. The exact location was near the small town of Rebgeshain, Germany. The fate of the crew was the subject of confusion as the crew was seen to walk away from the plane after a belly landing. Why were four crewmen listed as killed-in-action? The story is shocking.
Just after the release of the last seven bombs on the target, aircraft number 43-37713 was hit by FLAK and immediately fell from the formation. As the dust settled the crew exited the plane and headed off into the nearby woods at about 2:00 PM, local time. At about 4:30 the same afternoon, Rinkovsky and Gwin were captured. The next day, 1 December, Lieutenants Evans and Kohlhass, Ssergeants Erich and Bellovary were captured were seen by some local rabbit hunters at about 6:00 PM near the town of Grünberg-Beltershain. They were escorted into the town and were placed in the hands of some locals. From here they were to be walked to another nearby town and handed over to German authorities.
Once the captured Americans were away from the town, each were shot in the back upon a prearranged hand signal from the leader of the five captors. Each was then also shot in the head and then relieved of all personal possessions, some clothing, footwear in particular. The men were left at the site until later that evening when their captors returned to bury the four airmen in a trench type grave.
This brutal act was investigated after the war by the War Crimes Branch who found the men guilty of the killing and at least two were hanged and long prison sentences were given to the others. The reason given for the brutal murders was the death of the young son of one of the executioners, who was killed during the strafing attack on a German train by American fighter planes.
On 2 December 1944, Sergeants Haskell, Norstrom and Russell were captured at Grünberg-Beltershain and became prisoners of war.
EVANS, HUGH L
DATE OF DEATH: 11/30/1944
BURIED AT: SECTION 11 SITE 603 SH
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard