Bomber jacket belonging to KIA Kassel Mission airman surfaces

 This A-2 jacket originally belonged to T/Sgt. Calvin Hess, engineer and top turret gunner on the Bruce Crew. Photo courtesy Col. Warren Parker

This A-2 jacket originally belonged to T/Sgt. Calvin Hess, engineer and top turret gunner on the Bruce Crew. Photo courtesy Col. Warren Parker

By Linda Alice Dewey

Macon, GA--A retired Marine Corps officer has contacted KMHS, indicating he is in possession of a leather “A-2” bomber jacket with the name of a 445th BG Kassel Mission airman hand-printed inside it. The jacket has been sitting in the closet of retired Col. Warren Parker’s closet for more than half a century. Parker feels it’s time for the it to find an appropriate home.

Hess jacket interior

The name and serial number inside and just below the back collar tell us that Calvin E. Hess was the original owner. When Parker wrote us with this information, we immediately recognized the name belonging to one of the 117 men of the 445th Bomb Group killed in the fateful Kassel Mission air battle of 27 September 1944. Our question was, how did the jacket come to be in Parker’s hands?

 Lt. Bill Brown, Calvin Hess's original copilot was critically injured a month before the Kassel Mission. Somehow, Brown was in possession of the jacket after the war. Photo from KMHS collection

Lt. Bill Brown, Calvin Hess's original copilot was critically injured a month before the Kassel Mission. Somehow, Brown was in possession of the jacket after the war. Photo from KMHS collection

Turns out, Parker's uncle attended Lanier High School in Macon, Georgia with William (Bill) Brown, the original copilot on Hess’s crew. Brown had been severely injured when their plane was hit in August, 1944, a month before the Kassel Mission. Brown's heroic story is chronicled by the 2nd Air Division in their weekly news magazine, "Target Victory," which was distributed to all of its airmen on September 30, 1944. The article details Brown's actions under extreme injury and calls him "Man of the Division."

According to the late Kassel Mission bombardier turned historian, George Collar, “[Brown] stayed conscious and helped get that damn plane back down. And when they got him home, they took him out of there and they thought he was going to die, he’d lost so much blood.” Hess, who as engineer was on the deck with the pilots, tied the touniquet around Brown's leg, which he would later lose, but no doubt saved Brown's life.

Click here for Brown's complete story.

Once they brought the wounded ship in, Brown was immediately sent to the hospital. He lost his leg all the way to the hip.  

While their B-24, named Bonnie Vee for the pilot's wife, Verlyn, was being repaired, T/Sgt. Hess and the rest of the crew continued to fly missions through August and September until 27 September 1944--Hess's tenth mission--when their plane was again attacked.

This time, pilot William Bruce, and possibly engineer Hess who rode in the cabin with the pilots, again watched their replacement copilot become injured, this time mortally. At the moment when his copilot stood to remove Bruce’s seat belt (standard protocol), a shell pierced their ship, severing the copilot at the waist. The plane exploded, and Bruce was thrown clear, although his back was broken. The rest were killed. 

T/Sgt. Calvin Hess, right, by the Bonnie Vee as she was being fixed up, probably after that rough August, 1944 battle. Photo courtesy Tim Hess

Says historian Collar: "What was unique about Bruce is the fact that his first co-pilot got his leg shot off, and then the second guy came, a guy by the name of Walter [correction: John] Willett who was a first lieutenant, and poor old Bruce is still a second lieutenant, and this Willett had a lot of flying time but he'd never been in combat, and somebody told him if you ever want to go up the ladder you've got to get in combat. So he had a friend at the 445th who said "Come on over." And so he joined up with the 445th, and they put him on as co-pilot, and it might have been his first—well, no, I don't know how many missions Bruce did between the time Brown got it and Willett—but Willets [sic] got shot..."

On that tragic day only four of 35 bombers sent up by the 445th Bomb Group made it safely back to the base, breaking the record, making it the worst single-day loss for a group from one airfield in history. 

In the midst of this, T/Sgt. Calvin Hess’s jacket had somehow come into Bill Brown’s possession. As Col. Parker’s wife posits, perhaps Hess covered Lt. Brown with it when the lieutenant was hit a month earlier, and it stayed with Brown then. We do know that, when Bill Brown was shipped home to Lawson General Hospital, stateside in Atlanta, the jacket went with him.

At Lawson, Brown saw a familiar face. PFC Bernard M "Ace" Parker, the kid two years behind him in high school ROTC, had stepped on a mine in February 1945 and lost his foot. The two became friends, and both eventually learned to walk with prostheses.

 The Bruce crew, minus copilot Bill Brown, immediately after their fateful August 1944 mission aboard the Bonnie Vee. Calvin Hess stands in back, 2nd from left. Photo courtesy Tim Hess

The Bruce crew, minus copilot Bill Brown, immediately after their fateful August 1944 mission aboard the Bonnie Vee. Calvin Hess stands in back, 2nd from left. Photo courtesy Tim Hess

Some years later, Ace Parker was walking down the street at Mercer University in Macon, when lo and behold, here came Bill Brown down the steps of a home on that street. After hailing one another, Brown explained he and his wife were living at his mother-in-law's home for a while. They renewed their acquaintance, becoming close friends, and when Brown was moving, Parker's uncle came over to help and saw the bomber jacket.

"What's this?" Bernard Parker asked.

Brown told him it was a jacket from a guy on his crew who had been killed on a mission and asked if he wanted it. That's how it got to be in Parker's family.*

When Col. Warren Parker was twelve or so, he and his Uncle Bernard went fishing in Macon. It was cold, and his uncle offered the bomber jacket to fend off the chill, then told him to keep it.

That was 55 years ago. It has been hanging in a closet ever since, moving with the Parkers wherever they lived.

Three weeks ago, Parker saw it hanging in the closet and decided it was time to do something about it; but before he did anything like sell it, he thought he would look on the Internet to see if there was anything about the original owner (something he couldn't have done years ago).

Googling “Calvin Hess,” several sites came up. He found Calvin Hess memorialized on the American Air Museum’s website (located at Duxford, England). He also called the staff at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum. A few clicks later, he found pictures of Calvin Hess on the Kassel Mission Historical Society website (www.kasselmission.org ).

Now the man named had a face, and in that moment became real. Parker read Bill Brown's story on the website and learned how Hess saved Brown’s life. He also saw that there was real connection with Hess for Bill Brown.

This was Hess's jacket.

 Hess, left, i his jacket, receives mail. Photo courtesy Tim Hess

Hess, left, i his jacket, receives mail. Photo courtesy Tim Hess

Parker contacted KMHS through the website. We had Calvin’s nephew's contact information and got in touch with him. Mike Hess is very happy to hear about the jacket. We put the two in touch, and Parker and Mike Hess spoke by phone, agreeing on the Kassel Mission Museum in Eisenach, Germany, where many relics from the crash sites are displayed, should be the ultimate location for the jacket. Col. Parker intends to fly there with his wife on the anniversary of the Kassel Mission this year to present it to the museum. Mike Hess will be there, too.

Note:

*Bernard Parker currently lives in Macon at 92 years old. According to Parker’s wife, Bill Brown eventually moved to North Carolina. A great athlete before the war, Brown still excelled in golf afterward. He never did find a prosthesis that fit him well and ended up making his own. Even so, he often went without one, she says, walking with crutches. As the years passed, Brown experienced severe phantom pain and a great deal of trouble due to that injury and fought resultant depression in his later years.

 

Walter Hassenfplug, the father of all Kassel Mission research, passes at age 84

 Walter Hassenpflug at the 1 August 1990 Dedication of the German and American Airmen's (Kassel Mission) Memorial. Photo courtesy Walter Hassenpflug.

Walter Hassenpflug at the 1 August 1990 Dedication of the German and American Airmen's (Kassel Mission) Memorial. Photo courtesy Walter Hassenpflug.

Walter Hassenpflug was larger than life to anyone involved in the Kassel Mission. He died in Germany on February 26, 2017. He will be sorely missed by his KMHS family. Many of us over the years have been fortunate enough to visit Walter in Germany, to see his extraordinary research, and to visit the Memorial, the construction of which he completely coordinated. There is great reason for this man's dedication to preserving the history behind this battle. 

Walter himself was strongly affected by the Kassel Mission. At the age of 12, he witnessed the battle when he saw the lead 445th plane go down and crash in the woods near his home where the memorial is now located, and several men parachuting down. The next day, he found navigator Frank Bertram in the woods near his home and, with his companions, escorted him into town to turn him over to the authorities.  

Two months later, both of Walter’s parents were killed in an air raid. Walter survived because his father threw himself on his son as the bombs came down.

 Walter's father was killed in a bombing raid two months after the Kassel Mission, when he threw himself on top of his son in front of their home as the bombs descended. Photo courtesy Walter Hassenpflug.

Walter's father was killed in a bombing raid two months after the Kassel Mission, when he threw himself on top of his son in front of their home as the bombs descended. Photo courtesy Walter Hassenpflug.

It took a long time for Walter to get over the death of his parents, but he was a kid, and war was going on. In early April of the following year, Walter, fascinated by the friendliness of the U.S. soldiers who were coming into town, served as a translator for them as they made temporary camp nearby.

When he finished school, Walter took a job in the offices of the city of Bad Hersfeld, where he continued throughout his career in municipal administration.

In his off-time, Walter became known as a local historian. He also researched the war he had lived through, beginning with the battle that killed his parents, then the plane he had found on September 27. As he researched other crashes nearby, he began to understand the magnitude of the battle and discovered Luftwaffe pilots who had participated in the battle and interviewed him.

Walter found navigator Frank Bertram through writing the editor of the 8th Air Force News. Bertram flew over in 1986 to meet Walter. The next year, Bertram brought his pilot, Reg Miner. In both cases, Walter took the men to their landing places and walked their trek with them to the homes, jails and train stations where each was taken. He even introduced them to a Luftwaffe pilot who fought that battle.

 Hassenpflug, left, meets navigator Frank Bertram in 1986 at Bad Hersfeld. Photo courtesy Walter Hassenpflug

Hassenpflug, left, meets navigator Frank Bertram in 1986 at Bad Hersfeld. Photo courtesy Walter Hassenpflug

When Kassel Mission pilot Bill Dewey contacted Hassenpflug in 1989 with the idea of building the memorial, Hassenpflug embraced and coordinated the project as well as a huge dedication ceremony that took place on 1 August 1990. On that day, Hassenpflug made a public pledge to hold a ceremony on that site annually so that everyone could remember that friendship can result between former enemies. He kept his word.

 German and Amercan former enemies who fought in the Kassel Mission raise their hands in victory over war, celebrating new friendships after together unveiling the three plaques at the Memorial at the dedication ceremony on 1 August 1990. Photo courtesy Walter Hassenpflug.

German and Amercan former enemies who fought in the Kassel Mission raise their hands in victory over war, celebrating new friendships after together unveiling the three plaques at the Memorial at the dedication ceremony on 1 August 1990. Photo courtesy Walter Hassenpflug.

He also took two busloads of Kassel Mission veterans and families—both German and American—to all the crash sites. At each, those who remembered that day and were associated to that spot came forward—Luftwaffe pilots, 445th BG airmen, and German civilians who, like Hassenpflug, had witnessed or been involved on the ground. All of this is captured in the Dzenowagis DVD “Pride of the Nation.”

Over the quarter century since that day, many Americans have returned to the memorial and met Walter again and again. New families and veterans not on that initial trip have gone there as well. In every case, when he was asked, Walter invited them to meet him at the Memorial, took them to their associated landing/capture sites, listened to their stories, shared what he knew, and often dined with them.

Walter Hassenpflug dedicated three decades to researching the Kassel Mission. We owe him a great debt of gratitude. 

The Memorial, Fall 2007. Photo by Walter Hassenpflug

KMHS fulfills bucket list item for 99-year-old veteran of 445th BG

In November 2015, 98-year-old Steve Bolcar contacted KMHS looking for family members of two of his crew (Tenny Crew, #238) who died in two separate crashes. Mr. Bolcar was not on the Kassel Mission, but this was at the top of his bucket list. He wanted to tell each family about their lost one, who was still very much alive in his memory.

Mr. Bolcar and then KMHS President Linda Dewey conversed on the phone several times. He was very much "with it!" He said that he had been thinking of hiring a private investigator, but wondered if KMHS could help. Dewey told him that we had found many crew members from the Kassel Mission and/or their families and that we would give it a shot.

Dewey gave the assignment to the primary member of our Search and Contact Team, Janet Heise. Janet is a family member of Lt. Bolin, who died on the Kassel Mission. Janet is the one who made headlines by finding the only surviving crew member of the Bolin crew, tail gunner Orland Schooley. Mr. Schooley, you may recall, cried when he opened his door in Florida to a man asking if he was on the Kassel Mission. The tail gunner thought everyone had forgotten. Janet's sons flew to Florida and presesnted Mr. Schooley with a KMHS plaque that Memorial Day at his hometown's commemorative ceremony. Six months later, our newfound tail gunner passed away.

Late in 2015 and into early 2016, Janet dug in and did what she could. She became stymied looking for George McGuiness, who died in a crash on March 20, 1945. His widow, Irene, had moved by Santa Monica in 1954. The trail cooled there.

Things were different in the search for Keil Holland’s family, who was killed in a plane crash. Through searching obituary mentions of family members, Janet found Keil Holland's nephew, of the same name! She wrote the younger Keil, but never heard back. She contacted another, who said he was not related.

We had come so close, we couldn’t give up now. Wondering this Keil Holland was on Facebook, Dewey searched and did find a Keil Holland, messaged him and asked if he was related to the 445th BG airman. That was a year ago. That trail cooled as well, while Mr. Bolcar aged another year.

Apparently, Keil Holland never saw the message. Then, out of the blue, Dewey received an answer from him a few weeks ago. Yes, he is the nephew we are looking for! After several correspondences, Mr. Holland sent his contact information, saying he wishes to connect with Steve Bolcar.

On Sunday, Dewey tried to call Mr. Bolcar, but his phone no longer works. Hoping that he hadn't passed away, she wrote to tell him the good news.

"Last night," Dewey says, "I received a phone call from an alert, astute, overjoyed 99-year-old. Steve Bolcar is alive and well and absolutely thrilled!" Bolcar intends to write Keil Holland and is even thinking of asking his newly retired grandson to take a drive with him to Pennsylvania. (Mr Bolcar lives in New Jersey.) He has some things to give to the Holland family and wants to meet them and tell them all about their uncle, whom they never knew.

History is never dead. We will keep you posted. Meanwhile, we will renew the search for the McGuiness family

 

 

 

New Finds at Bolin Dig Site

By Eberhard Haelbig, Eisenach, Germany

Bolin crash site

Continuing from previous post of the first dig session at the Bolin crash site, we now have session 2:

Saturday morning at 0800. Weather is good--no rain, but cloudy. No sweat ! The excavating machine arrives and the dig can begin.

After we clear the location with the huge piece, we proceed with our work by spade – fortunately. For there is another huge piece –made from glass.

Now I am sure that we`ve found the front of Lt. Bolin's ship. The armor plates and the armor glass are from a B-24 and should have protected the bombardier, Truman Armstrong, Jr.

Exciting findings! But the best is yet to come. If you find the debris, they often looks like this. 

I take it all home, where I make a discovery, absolutely awesome. In one lump of earth and corroded metal I find…..

I begin carefully to uncover the watch from earth, dirt and that black stuff –action of the heat after the crash. It is an ELGIN from one of our heroes AND LOOK AT THE TIME!!!

The ELGIN stopped at 0957 English Time. At this time occurred obviously the first american crash – the end of Lt. Bolin and his crew.

The last two pictures are my “helping Hands” – Mr. Moenke, Mayor of Krauthausen, his wife, daughter and friends. Many thanks !!!

Left to right: Nico Mamzed,Denise Moenke, Frank Moenke und Miki Friedrich

Simone Moenke, Denise Moenke, Miki Friedrich und Nico Mamzed

New Dig Begins!

Eb Haelbig, curator of the Kassel Mission Museum in Eisenach Germany, submitted the following to KMHS (edited for clarity):

"Mr. Nowatzki, the former Mayor of Krauthausen and eyewitness of the Bolin crash [first plane to go down, 703rd Squadron, all killed except the tail gunner], asked me for a search [for] the exact place of this crash site. He could never forget the recovery of the bodies and the plane. He was also onsite at the first burial of the crew at the local cemetery.

"We [didn’t have] to search for a long time. After some small pieces, the parts became bigger. Suddenly we found a big and heavy iron plate. I [knew] instantly what it was--the armor plate from the bombardier at the front of the ship. The last man who was seeking shelter behind that plate was Truman Armstrong, Jr.

"Then we found an AERIAL DEAD RECKONING COMPUTER; TYPE E-6B. The last man who used it was Louis P. Ajello.

"Further, we found a lot of ammunition and other debris. [Then] we had to stop to spade, because under [these] little parts is a huge piece. Yesterday, we leased an excavating machine and we will work again at the site soon. I can imagine what it is , but……..TO BE CONTINUED."

Eb has already begun work on refurbishing these pieces. Incredible work!

Bolin Dead REckoning computer restoration 1

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering Ira Weinstein

From Linda Dewey, KMHS President

Dear friends,

We have lost our dear Ira Weinstein. He was suddenly unresponsive on Thursday. The paramedics revived him, but he never regained consciousness and died this morning (January 24, 2016).

To his dying day, Ira P Weinstein felt that this organization was utterly important on getting out the word about the Kassel Mission. Ira was a bombardier on that mission in Lt. Donald’s plane. He was captured and sent to Stalag Luft I and had many stories to tell about that experience. You can read his interview or listen to it at www.kasselmission.com.

 After the war, his experience never let go of him. He had terrible survivor’s guilt and would often break into tears when he spoke of it to small parties or even to large audiences. He was a continual promoter of KMMA/KMHS. In this organization’s formative years, and he sat on the board for over 20 years. As an advertising man, he created our current logo and manned the supply side of the PX, coming up with new products to help support the organization. He finally stepped down from the board this past Fall.

The one thing he did not feel he could do, however, was visit the Germans who had been our enemy. He overcame that in the mid-90s, and came back cheering. He was dumbfounded over the treatment he received from Walter Hassenpflug, Guenter Lemke and the other Germans he met when he was there. Their open-hearted friendliness amazed him. 

Over the years, Ira often Skyped with Guenter, our translator, and called me to keep in touch and stay on top of things. He was a very good friend of my father and all the Kassel Mission veterans in this organization. He cried every time one died and moaned that he was nearly the only one left, even though he wasn't. He cared very much about this organization and wondered for a long time if it would survive once his generation was gone. He was always reassured to hear the progress we continue to make.

And so we carry on, albeit with sad hearts, having now lost such a fine man who flew that day, with the 445th Bomb Group, on the infamous Kassel Mission.

Obituary

Ira P. Weinstein, 96, Glenview (formerly Glencoe, Il and Palm Beach, Fl), January 24, 2016. Beloved husband of Marilyn (Gandelman, née Powell) and the late Norma (née Randall); treasured father of Terri Weinstein and Laura (Steve) Temkin; revered grandfather of Max and Ross Temkin. Adored brother of the late Gladys Zweig and the late Anita Siegel; cherished uncle to Penny Siegel (Michael) Swartz and Jeff (Beth) Siegel and far flung grandnieces and grandnephews.

 Ira Weinstein, 1999, Savannah. Photo by Luc Dewez.

Ira Weinstein, 1999, Savannah. Photo by Luc Dewez.

A decorated veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corps during WWII, serving two dozen missions as 1st Lieutenant in the 8th Air Force and bombardier/navigator on B24 "Liberators," he survived his plane being shot down over Germany in September of 1944 and endured the remainder of the war as a POW in Stalagluft I. In later years he was active in the 8th Air Force and Kassel Mission Historical Societies, sharing his story with authors and documentarians and authoring the book "The Watch That Went To War."

Upon return from service, he ran Schram Advertising for over 40 years, pioneering the direct mail and business-to-business fields, as well as publishing two successful board games, and started a family in Glencoe, where he resided for over 60 years, known locally for his gardening and greenhouse expertise. He was instrumental in the founding of Congregation Solel, and over the years donated with vigor to various Jewish charities, with special attention to Women's American ORT. An accomplished world traveler and photographer, he enjoyed wintering in Palm Beach, and in later years became a skilled builder of scores of model airplanes.

He will be most remembered as the embodiment of persistence, resilience and generosity. Services will be held 3pm, Wednesday, January 27, Weinstein & Piser Funeral Home, 111 Skokie Blvd, Wilmette, IL. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to kasselmission.com

The Hautman Crew Letters

Look what we just received from long-time KMHS member Dr. Craig Garrett! A beautiful collection of heartbreaking, hand-written communication between mothers of the Hautman Crew, which went down on the Kassel Mission. Edward Hautman and his tail gunner were both killed; the rest became POWs. Dr. Garrett is the son-in-law of Maynard Jones, who was the navigator on that crew. We also have a delightful poem written on notebook paper in fountain pen by Lt. Jones. Thank you, Dr. Garrett!

Hautman - July 14, 1944

Hautman - October 11, 1944

Hautman - October 16, 1944

Hautman - November 17, 1944

Hautman - December 6, 1944

Hautman - January 8, 1945

Land - January 14, 1945

Land - January 20, 1945

Land - April 23, 1945

Maupin - March 15, 1945

Snidow - October 19, 1944

Snidow - January 10, 1945

Snidow - January 25, 1945

Tarbert - April 10, 1945

Maynard Jones - Navigator Poem