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  #51  
Old 17th January 2020, 02:53
RSwank RSwank is offline
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Re: Crash B26 on 11.April 1945 near Cologne

Manni,

There are individual records and even medical records we can request. We will need their serial numbers to to that. We don't have serial numbers for Hopkins or Lidicker. We have their enlistment numbers, but not the serial numbers they would have received when they were commissioned.

Also, many records were destroyed in a fire in Saint Louis in 1973 and are no-longer available. (Medical records were not lost.)

https://www.archives.gov/personnel-r...nter/fire-1973

I will request one more CD from AFHRA which might have the DFC citation for Hopkins and serial numbers for Hopkins and Lidicker. It may also have info on positions in the plane and who was on (or not on) the boat.

Here is a better picture of Hopkins' grave than is shown in findagrave.
Click on the upper green star and then click the photo.

https://ancexplorer.army.mil/publicw...zEgRKb2huGgFU/

Note the grave says Hopkins had received:
The DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross), PH (Purple Heart)
AM (Air Medal) with 5 OLC (Oak Leaf Clusters)
and was a Prisoner of War.

(The Air Medal was typically given after the first 5 missions and an OLC for each additional 5 missions. Hopkins apparently had flown between 30 and 34 missions.)

I checked the POW records and it appears that Samar is listed. There is a John T Hopkins, Jr listed but he is listed as in the infantry, so maybe a different Hopkins. (These records sometimes have errors.) I don't think any others are listed in the POW records. We need to get the officer's serial number for Hopkins.

Last edited by RSwank; 20th January 2020 at 04:52.
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  #52  
Old 19th January 2020, 10:31
manniw manniw is offline
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Re: Crash B26 on 11.April 1945 near Cologne

Hello Rolland

thank you for your great summary of the flight to Aschersleben, it is comprehensible and understandable for me.

And thanks for the photos, especially the photo of the crew in the cockpit.....how cool the guys must have been to sit in the front of the cockpit and comfortably smoke a cigarette. They all had a damn lousy job........
Can you please tell me the source of the plane pictures?

Interesting also the photo of Hopkins grave, it must be a new gravestone, because on the other photo are not all his awards listed....But I couldn't find it in the Roll of Honor to the DFC....is that possible ?

I already had the photos of Cologne and Lülsdorf, but thanks anyway....

Greetings Manni
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  #53  
Old 19th January 2020, 15:04
RSwank RSwank is offline
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Re: Crash B26 on 11.April 1945 near Cologne

Manni, the photos are mostly AAF photos from fold3.com. I think the picture of the men in the plane is also an AAF photo. It can be found in many places on the web.

For those trying to follow this discussion, we are talking about a shared Google Drive about the crash here:

https://drive.google.com/drive/folde...1QKeLKMxgLXWpu

I am continuing to add material to the Google Drive as we go.

The linked videos (on youtube) are from various sources. The video showing the April 1945 missions appears to have been taken in the 323rd BG as the squadron codes are squadrons in the 323rd BG, i.e. WT - 456th BS, VT - 453rd BS, YU-455th BS.

Last edited by RSwank; 19th January 2020 at 16:25.
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  #54  
Old 21st January 2020, 10:24
manniw manniw is offline
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Re: Crash B26 on 11.April 1945 near Cologne

Hello, Rolland,
Concerns Aschersleben Mission Report:

This is exactly the question I ask myself....was it just Hopkins plane or was it the whole box that got lost and went off course ?

According to our school chronicle of April 11th, 1945, there is only talk of one plane. Also Martha Gellhorn describes only one airplane.....However, I also know a statement of an eyewitness who speaks of a " unit of three airplanes " .

The G-2 report also states that at the same time Hopkins plane crashes, the town of UCKENDORF is in flames after a B-26 bomb was dropped. Uckendorf lies exactly in the flight path from Kriegsdorf ( Flak ) to the crash site. I cannot imagine that Hopkins dropped bombs in the last second.......So I assume at least a second plane......


greetings Manni
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  #55  
Old 21st January 2020, 14:44
RSwank RSwank is offline
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Re: Crash B26 on 11.April 1945 near Cologne

Manni,

I have made it though the Mission report and uploaded a "first pass" of the complete Mission Transcription on the Google Drive.

It was only the 3rd Fight of Box 2 that flew off course on the return, 5 planes. The sixth plane had engine problems on the flight in and had returned early, it never made it to Aschersleben. The remaining 5 planes led by Kent as lead pilot and Libby as navigator made three passes over the target and did not drop. (The planes in a flight were to "drop on the leader", i.e., only the lead plane was using a bombsight. When the leader dropped his bombs the other planes in the flight (in this case the remaining 4 planes) were to drop.) Smoke and haze obscured the target on every pass. Kent/Libby then went to a "casual" target (or target of opportunity) to try and bomb a railroad "choke-point" at Guston rD670630. On the bomb run the PDI (Pilot Direction Indicator*) went out so the bombardier could not direct the pilot to steer the plane correctly. The 5 planes in the flight started home, all still carrying 8 bombs each. This flight went off course on the return and flew over/near the flak site . Hopkins was shot down and the remaining 4 planes all returned to the base with their bombs.

Upon return, they reported Weak (not very much), Accurate, LFF (Light Flak Fire) which struck Hopkins plane. They watched Hopkins go down. At this point, I would say that Hopkins released his bombs before he crash landed.

A couple of comments in the mission reports for the 4 returning planes are interesting. One man thought that it was friendly fire that had downed Hopkins. Another commented that "More navigation instruction needed for flight leads." "More" was underlined four times. This last comment was included again in the final page of the mission report.



*The PDI was connected to the bombsight and as the bombardier adjusted the sight to hit the target, the bombsight moved a needle on the dial of the pilot's PDI to indicate which way the pilot was to turn the plane (either left or right). In heavy bombers (B-17s and B-24s), the bombsight was connected to the auto-pilot so the bombardier actually "flew" the plane on the bomb run. In medium bombers, it was found to be better if the pilot flew the plane on the bomb run. One reason was that medium bomber flew very short bomb runs, the final straight and level run was for 30 seconds. (Even prior to the final "run", medium bombers typically changed course every 30 seconds, to throw off radar directed flak.) Medium bombers did not respond quickly enough to the autopilot corrections. (Heavy bomber bomb runs lasted for many minutes so the bombsight/autopilot system worked well for them.)

Last edited by RSwank; 23rd January 2020 at 13:42.
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  #56  
Old 23rd January 2020, 10:21
manniw manniw is offline
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Re: Crash B26 on 11.April 1945 near Cologne

Rolland,

Thank you very much for the very detailed transcription of the Aschersleben Mission. I will read and analyse it in the next few days. But the assumption has been confirmed that several airplanes have gone off course. And that Hopkins dropped its bombs shortly before the crash. For this I will try to find eyewitnesses in UCKENDORF, maybe someone knows something about this event ....

Greetings
Manni
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  #57  
Old 23rd January 2020, 17:09
RSwank RSwank is offline
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Re: Crash B26 on 11.April 1945 near Cologne

Manni,
I received the 2nd CD I ordered (B0241) again via a large (512MB) free pdf download. This CD/pdf has most of the history of the group. It probably will not be any help to us. There is no mention of any of the Hopkins crew prior to April 11. As to the Aschersleben mission it says:
“In a morning mission this group sent 44 aircraft against the Aschersleben marshalling yard with poor to good results. Two aircraft of the 450th separated from the rest of the formation, by mistake flew over the southwest corner of the Ruhr pocket and drew light accurate flak fire. One of the planes, piloted by 1st Lt. Hopkins, received a direct hit and crashed in enemy territory. With the exception of Sgt. W. Dyer, [sic] , all crew members survived the crash. They were 2nd Lt. Lidicker, 2nd Lt. D. Welberg [sic], Sgt. E. Koker, Sgt. A. Samar”

Their own mission report (which we saw in the prior download AFHRA file) show it was not just “two” aircraft that got separated, but rather five. This report may be the cause of the misspelled names of Dyer for Dwyer and Welberg for Wolberg. We still don’t have serial numbers for all the crew and are still not sure which crewmember was held as a POW for at least one day.

If we go back to the 82nd Airborne G-2 reports for April 11 and April 12 (which I have posted on the Google Drive) there are several comments as to a B-26 bombing. April 11 reports are in a pdf file of 75 pages, and on pdf page 46 is the first report of the crash of the B-26 at 1400 at location 47804839. They also mention “1400 Ammo dump blowing up at 559497. Cause bombing by B-26.”
This is logged as message No. 845 at 14:10.
On the next pdf page, 47 there is mention of the men lying around at the plane (at 480485). Then the mention 5 big explosions, one is Kriegsdorf (550460) and the other 4 explosions at Urkendorf, 530470. Then “1 big explosion between URKENDORF and LIBUR. A long building blew up with a big flash and is “now burning with black smoke rising from area.” Another explosion is reported behind Wahnheide, 560510.” The also say that “2nd Bn reports that each time a plane goes over PORZ a great deal of FLAK is thrown up from this locality.
Report 851 on pdf page 50 mentions:
1445 at Urkendorf (Uckendorf?) whole town in flames.
1455 American tanks “50? in number” reported shelling Libur and Wahn. Flags hanging outside of Wahn”.

We can try to plot these various locations as given for the explosions and allowing a little “wiggle room” for the probable inaccuracies in the reported locations, (and maybe the times) come up with a possible final flight path. It is quite possible that not all the reported explosions were caused by the B-26 but I do think Hopkins did drop his bombs and he did not salvo them unarmed or SAFE. The bombs then should have exploded before the plane crashed.

Normally, either the bombardier or the pilot could have salvoed the bombs SAFE but it is possible that there was some flak damage that prevented that or perhaps they just didn't have time. I think it was a very short interval from the moment they were hit to when they made the decision to crash land instead of bailing out and then to putting the plane on the ground.

Last edited by RSwank; 23rd January 2020 at 23:57.
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  #58  
Old 25th January 2020, 20:03
manniw manniw is offline
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Re: Crash B26 on 11.April 1945 near Cologne

Rolland,

I already had the text about the mission to Aschersleben from the book "The Annihilators 322nd Bombardment Group ( M ), Book II". Also in this book there is no further mention of the crew or parts of it.
I have also searched all archives I know and have access to for the names of the crew, but I could not find the missing serial numbers anywhere.

In documents of the German Wehrmacht I also could not find anything about the capture of one of the crew members. But this happened two days before the American troops finally occupied the left side of the Rhine, there was a lot of confusion and the Wehrmacht was on the retreat.......And besides, a lot of documents and records on the German side were destroyed during these days.

About the bombing and the resulting explosions:
The explosion at Wahnheide, 560510 is in my opinion not caused by the bombing. An ammunition depot was blown up here by the Wehrmacht during the retreat. The other explosions I think are due to the bombing of Hopkins. They fit together in time and geography, even if the times of the individual reports vary by a few minutes.

I found something on ancestry about John T. Hopkins:
SVN: 577 265 477and John E. Lidicker

SVN: 384 186 519...... I think it's the social security numbers...... Does that tell us anything?

Greetings Manni

Last edited by manniw; 26th January 2020 at 20:54.
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  #59  
Old 26th January 2020, 21:29
RSwank RSwank is offline
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Re: Crash B26 on 11.April 1945 near Cologne

Yes, those are social security numbers, though Lidicker's was 348-18-6519. Hopkins' was 577-26-5477.

Besides Wolberg I have sent letters to 3 more different family relatives. We will see where it goes.

Lidicker had no children and I know two of the nieces mentioned in his obit (see post #2) have also died. One was the daughter of his brother and the other of his sister. I will see about the other one mentioned.

I have some leads on relatives of Dwyer but these would all be somewhat "distant" so perhaps they will not have any interest.

UPDATE: Letter sent to the 3rd niece of Lidicker, so at this point I have tried to contact 5 of the six crew families.

Last edited by RSwank; 26th January 2020 at 23:38.
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  #60  
Old 30th January 2020, 14:35
RSwank RSwank is offline
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Re: Crash B26 on 11.April 1945 near Cologne

I received a reply from the son of Emory J Koker. He sent a crew photo and his father's discharge papers which I have added to the Google Drive in a new "Crew" folder.

https://drive.google.com/drive/folde...1QKeLKMxgLXWpu

His father's brother is still alive and may have some more information. Here is the son's e-mail reply.
----------------------------------------------------Start of E-mail-------------------------------------
Hi Rolland,

Yes, my father was Emory J. Koker Jr. In the attached photo, he is on the far right. I'm not sure where in Germany he was shot down; I'll have to dig out the old Western Unions to see if they say anything. As I recall, Jack Hopkins was the pilot and I think our family visited his home in 1967. My father's closest friend was Andy Samar. They kept in touch regularly until Andy passed away in the early 90's, I think.

I believe there are some pictures of a birthday party / reunion for Jack Hopkins that took place some time in the 80's: I'll see what I can find if you wish.

My father service records are still around here somewhere. Maybe they'll have more information on where he was stationed. I'm actually not even sure what plane they flew in. Maybe you can tell from the photo.

Also, as the story goes, my father was in a POW camp for one day and the camp was liberated the next day. He was injured at the time and I don't remember him saying if the rest of the crew was at the same place. Pop was questioned by some SS guy who in the end instructed some officer to have him shot. The officer took my dad in to a back area, motioned for him to keep quiet, then shot a round in to the dirt. The officer told my dad that the Americans were close by and that he (the officer) just wanted to go home.

It is quite possible that I'm mixing up names and after digging through some of the old material, I may have more to offer or maybe have to make corrections.

Are you related to any of the crew? Just wondering.

Please let me know if any of my blathering is helpful or not.

Best Regards,
-----------------------------------------------------------End of Email-----------

Note that his discharge record on Google Drive says he was a POW at Cologne from April 11 to April 12, so Koker was the crew member held until the 12th.
He also received a Purple Heart and an Air Medal with six Oak Leaf Clusters (indicting completion of 35 missions).

Last edited by RSwank; 30th January 2020 at 18:03.
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