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    Friesland wartime history     by Willem de Jong    <   page 21b  

 

68th Bombardment Squadron's Battle Casualties during January 1943

Leeuwarden Airfield
Schiermonikoog
Shipdham Barracks
Harlingen & Harderwijk
Occupied Harlingen
German Radar
Ameland
Vlieland
Terschelling
St. Jacobparochie
Rottum Island
Hindeloopen
12 Squadron Losses
Texel & Den Helder

 

 

Official information supplied to Jenifer Wagner about the death of her uncle Sgt. Thomas W. Crook

 

PERSONAL INFORMATION: Sergeant Thomas W. Crook, Jr., U.S. Army Air Forces, service number 13040353, enlisted on 31 December 1941 from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

He was a member of the 68th Bombardment Squadron (BS), 44th Bombardment Group (BG), 8th Air Force. Sergeant Crook was a gunner aboard a B-24D that was shot down over the Netherlands on 27 January 1943. Sergeant Crook’s remains were not recovered. For his actions during the war, Sgt Crook was awarded the Air Medal and the Purple Heart. Today he is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Netherlands. The details of Sgt Crook’s loss are recorded in the Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) under his name, Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) Number 15459 and in the unit records of the 68th Bombardment Squadron.

CIRCUMSTANCES OF LOSS: In an effort to weaken German forces and undermine the morale of the German people, the Allied forces began a strategic bombing offensive against Germany. Although the 8th Air Force had flown missions against targets held in occupied France, the mission against Wilhelmshaven, Germany on 27 January 1943 marked the first U.S. mission flown against the Germans on their own soil. The mission, including aircraft from the 44th BG, targeted the naval base, U-boat construction works, power plant, and docks located at the German coastal town.

As part of the 44th BG, the 68th BS sent seven planes on the 27 January 1943 raid, including B-24D, serial number 41-23776, nicknamed the “Spirit of ’76.” This aircraft flew with a complete crew of ten airmen, and Sgt Crook served as the gunner aboard this aircraft. The aircraft took off from Shipdham Airfield, England . Their original targets were the submarine building yards across the English Channel at Wilhelmshaven, Germany. The seven aircraft from the 68th BS became separated from the rest of the formation, however, and instead bombed a target of opportunity, the town of Lemmer, Netherlands, located near the Zuider Zee.

Immediately after bombs-away over Lemmer, approximately thirty-five enemy fighter aircraft, including Messerschmitt (ME) 109’s and Focke-Wulf (FW) 190’s, attacked the seven aircraft.

Several American aircraft were hit, and two aircraft went down. The B-24 on which Sgt Crook flew, serial number 41-23776, was attacked “from ahead and above” by two to three FW 190’s.

According to unit records, the aircraft’s #3 engine burst into flames and the plane dropped out of the formation. Shortly afterwards, three men reportedly bailed out although only two parachutes appeared to open. Almost immediately after the men bailed out, “the plane exploded and came apart in mid-air.”

First Lieutenant (1st Lt) Robert Dickens stated that “After the formation had released its bombs and was returning from the target area, A/C #776 [Sgt Crook’s aircraft] was hit by a 20 mm cannon shell which resulted in an explosion.” He reported that the aircraft then split in two and left the formation.

Another source noted that there was an explosion, and the aircraft ripped apart in mid-air. The rear fuselage and tail units fell into the Terschelling Harbor, while the rest of the aircraft was scattered over the Noordsvaarder marsh and Terschelling beach below.

The entire crew of B-24D, serial number 41-23776, was initially listed as Missing in Action, although 2d Lt Glass’s status was changed to POW after the Germans reported his capture on 25 February 1943.

It is unclear from the historic record which of the three crewmembers may have bailed out, as was reported in the unit records. Because another B-24, serial number 41-23690, associated with MACR 15637, also went down in this area around the same time, it is possible that the three parachutes seen were not all from the “Spirit of ’76.”

SEARCH AND RECOVERY: The sole survivor of this crew, Second Lieutenant (2d Lt) Albert W. Glass, stated that when the aircraft exploded, he was blown clear from the plane and that somehow, his parachute was blown open. He was then saved by the lifeboat “Brandaris.”

In the days following the explosion of the aircraft, German forces recovered eight sets of remains from the dunes on the north shore of Terschelling Island, Netherlands, which is located approximately forty miles northwest of Lemmer.

On 30 January 1943, they buried S Sgt Philip J. Bloomfield, 1st Lt Maxwell W. Sullivan, 2d Lt Duane Nelson, 1st Lt Raymond C. Lunenfeld, S Sgt Glen C. Pierson, M Sgt Benjamin F. Duke, and two unknown sets of remains in the Terschelling Military Cemetery.

Additionally, the remains of other Allied soldiers were buried in this cemetery as well, including several other airmen lost from the 68th Bombardment Squadron on the same mission.

A year after Sgt Crook’s disappearance, the War Department investigated the details of his case in accordance with Section 5 of the Missing Persons Act of 7 March 1942, which outlined regulations for determining the status of missing persons. On the anniversary of the loss, the War Department concluded that sufficient evidence existed to declare Sgt Crook deceased, and issued a report of death for him showing the presumed date of death as 27 January 1944.

Following the close of hostilities, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC), U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps, searched for and disinterred the remains of U.S. servicemen in Europe as part of the global effort to identify and return fallen servicemen for honored burial in U.S. cemeteries. During their area investigations, teams of AGRC investigators interviewed locals and officials for information about missing American servicemen, including reported burials that could be associated with American losses or with downed aircraft.

The 3059th Graves Registration Company exhumed all American dead from the Terschelling Military Cemetery. After confirming or establishing the identities of the remains, on 5 November 1945 the AGRC reburied all eight sets of remains in the U.S. Military Cemetery at Margraten, Netherlands. The two sets of remains originally buried as Unknowns in grave #77 and #78 were identified as S Sgt Harry L. Ottman and S Sgt Frederick W. Clark.

Sergeant Crook was the only crewmember from B-24D, serial number 41-23776, still unaccounted for.

Investigators also considered the possibility that the remains of Sgt Crook had been recovered but not identified. For individuals not recovered, AGRC investigators compared physical identification features and circumstantial information regarding the approximate time and location of each loss with unidentified remains collected. Thousands of unknown remains had been collected by the AGRC. These unidentified remains, often consisting of only partial bodies or skeletons, were labeled with an “X” and a number. These are commonly referred to as “X-files.” Many X-file remains were positively identified, usually through dental records.

Others remained unknown despite AGRC attempts to make identifications.

During their investigation, AGRC paid particular attention to two unidentified sets of remains, Neuville X-4629 and X-4632, which washed ashore on Terschelling and were buried in the Terschelling Military Cemetery. After disinterring Allied remains from the cemetery, investigators determined that these two sets of remains belonged to American airmen. Because of the dates and location of their discovery, the AGRC tentatively associated them with the two B-24 27 January 1943 losses from the 68th Bombardment Squadron: B-24, serial number 41-23690, and also the “Spirit of ’76.”

Although the general circumstances of recovery for the two sets of remains ostensibly compared favorably with the loss of Sgt Crook, ultimately the AGRC concluded that neither set of remains could be positively identified. Neuville X-4629 washed ashore on 30 March 1943 and was buried on 3 April in the West Terschelling military Cemetery, grave #91. After disinterment and examination of the remains, investigators tentatively associated these remains with Sgt Crook.

The AGRC concluded, however, that “available dental records for Sgt Crook do not reflect sufficient information to establish the identification of the remains of Unknown X-4629 as those of Crook,” and the remains continued to be unassociated with an individual.15 Neuville X-4632 was also recovered from the West Terschelling Military Cemetery, grave #93. The remains washed ashore on 4 June 1943 and German forces buried them on 7 June 1943. Although remnants of sergeant stripes were present on the wool shirt found with the remains, comparison of the dental information and other identifying factors contained within the file for these remains did not match that for Sgt Crook.

The AGRC also compared the information for Sgt Crook against other unidentified remains that washed ashore on other islands in the vicinity of Terschelling, but were unable to identify any as Sgt Crook.

The AGRS concluded its final area search of Terschelling without finding any trace or further information about Sgt Crook. On 16 November 1950, after reviewing available details of the loss and unsuccessful efforts to resolve the case, an AGRS board of officers recommended that Sgt Crook’s remains be declared non-recoverable.18 The Office of the Quartermaster General approved the recommendation on 6 February 1951.

NEXT STEPS: The details of Sgt Crook’s loss have been added to the case-tracking system maintained by analysts at both the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (Washington D.C.) and the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (Hawaii). Any new information these agencies receive regarding possible reported isolated burials in Terschelling will be compared against the details of Sgt Crook’s loss for possible correlation. November 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Terschelling graves report

 

 

 

 

 

And it was also because of this same register, I think, about the (American) graves no.76 and 77 - like everyone can see now via this copy - that for a long period there were ' wild rumors ' on the island, even after the war, about the ' two Pierson brothers, from the same family ', killed in the air crash near West-Terschelling, on that horrible winterday in January 1943. ' It should be the most dramatic happening of all for that family '. But why that kind of information was written down in the register, I still do not know..... It has everything to do of course with the destructive and chaotic scenes after the crash, and ' how exactly the bodies, the human remains of the airmen were found, and recovered etc. later on '. But perhaps it is more simply explained now. If we could say for 100 % sure, one of them borrowed the outfit of the guy, next to him in the plane, maybe because of the cold or........ (?); perhaps a sweater, a jacket, a coat or you name it......, and with that same name on it, while only one of them had a real ' ID tag ' on his body, telling (the same) name and registration number...... but this is only suggestive of course, most likely far from the truth!   Willem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shipdham

 

 

 

An interview with Oep de Breed around 1976, by Willem.

Around 1976 Douwe Drijver and I were visiting and interviewing another islander, in ' Huize Avondrood ',a rest home for the elderly people in West-Terschelling,) Mr. Oep de Breed. He was an engineer at the local gasworks in West village, during WW2.

However one ' horrible thing ' now: Though we tape-recorded our conversations in that interview (via a portable recorder stationed at the kitchen table in his apartment, in which a small microphone), the quality of that tape was not so very good from the very beginning, but now..... there is alas nothing to hear on it anymore! And the results were never written down on paper, although it was always our intention to do so.

He was telling us then a lot of details / information about 27 January 1943 in particular, but alas, that tape is not ' readable ' after all those years.

One thing is clear and remembered from that interview. One of the landing gears of the 'Spirit of '76 ', almost complete, and a rather large part of the bomber wreckage, were falling down in the street near the old light house, thus close to the centre of the village, fortunately without bringing more damage to houses etc. (some good luck during some very bad luck). He also described the situation in the harbour of West Terscelling, after the crash, when almost the complete tail section of the craft was laying in the so called ' Kom ' (Western harbour basin) in which there were two dead bodies of airmen (recovered by some Kriegsmarine soldiers at the location).

 

60 years of sharing the love and griefs of life.

Terschelling - On 28 December last the married couple De Breed, living in ' Huize Avondrood ' (House Evening Glow) were celebrating their marriage of 60 years with their family. Many islanders, among them the mayor, brought them their congratulations.

Oep de Breed was born in 1893, his wife T. de Breed in 1891. The couple are still in rather good health, although Oep has his difficulties when walking. When aged 15 years only, Oep de Breed was going ' to sea ', like so many islanders, to earn some first money.

In 1914 he met his wife for the first time. During WW1 he was serving with the army (Infantry) in Haarlem city (Noord-Holland), but later on in Harlingen city and even at Terschelling itself. The local barracks on the island were situated then alongside the Bur. Reedekerstraat (Mayor Reedeker Str.). After his army services Oep found employment as serviceman in his own village and gemeente, as a foreman. Later on he was on duty (as engineer) at the local gasworks, for more than 28 years, till he got an accident and couldn't carry out his duties anymore. After that time Oep de Breed was for more than 12 years a ' potato pitter ' in the hotel kitchen of ' Europa '. And in his free hours he was distributing newspapers on the island. The lucky couple has 4 sons, 6 grand children and 10 grand grand children (then in 1977). They are living already 7 years in ' Huize Avondrood ' in comfort and happiness and many times their children are visiting them.

 

Willem's  report after his interview, 17 April 1976, with ... Jaap Dijker, another islander witness of the 27-01-1943 events.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Translations in English of the main parts of the interview with Mr. Jaap Dijker, on Sat. 17 April 1976, in West - Terschelling village (Europalaan 18) about the happenings of 27 Jan. 1943 (of which he was a witness). The rest is known and told already on page 21 and in the US reports etc. on this page. Although not every detail might be completely correct, it’s giving us another view, via the eyes of the islanders. For them it was an important and exciting day also, and they were lucky at the end, because their old village survived without damage.  Willem

 

2.) During the nearby scenes of the air battle between the German fighters, (most likely 5 or 6 of them), and the US bombers - now back in the island area and still 23 planes - the combat could be followed easily and was clearly visible, in particular at West - Terschelling habour, from the position in front of the so called ‘skipper’s waiting house' named 'Het Wakend Oog' (The Watching Eye!). *

The Liberators came in again, flying straight from SSE to NNW in a close formation (combat box) at an altitude high enough to make (new) ‘contrails’ (vapor trails) in the sky. The condensation trails of their earlier flight southwards, about 20 minutes earlier, were still clearly visible.

For a moment the German ‘ West - Batterie ‘ was opening fire (test shooting or even maybe a signal ?) but still at a great distance in front of all the airplanes; black ack-ack-clouds could be seen. However after 2 or 3 bursts of each gun (at least from 4 positions, in which were the 10.5 cm. FLAK) they held fire because they knew about their own fighters in the air (from warnings via their own radar station ‘ Tiger ‘ etc.).

Above the growing background sound of the engines of the bombers there was suddenly heard the echoes of some explosions and other strange sounds.

South of the island, between the sunlight reflections from the waters and shallows of the Wadden Sea, at the location of ‘De Slenk‘ and ‘De Zuidwal‘, columns of sea water and mud falling down were seen (as dark shadows and rolling waves)………etc. ……….

But most attention was directed to the airplanes high in the sky, who were soon straight over the island. The screaming sounds of the German fighters and the shooting from both sides could be heard apart from the buzzing sound of the US formation.

At that moment a FW-190 (….?) was diving from above the Americans and also another one. Then the vapor trails behind one of the bombers were gone; and the aircraft was sinking away from the safe formation. The other planes, 21 then, reformed into the formation……..etc………

 

3.) Not everyone had the nerve to go outside, but standing near the ‘skipper’s waiting house’ (Het Wakend Oog), there was, as usual, (even today) a group of islanders, about 20 men, and one of them was Mr. J. Dijker (Jaap, the witness of this interview). And at other places around the harbour and in the streets more people stood watching what was happening.

 

5.) The state of emergency and standby for the Germans (on the ground and on the ships in West harbour) had already started when the US formation was intruding the first time, about 11.30 hrs. (local time), when flying Southwards over the Vlieland and Terschelling area (via the seaway between the islands). The German FLAK in the nearby ‘ West - Batterie ‘ was ready to open fire, but for some reason they were not shooting (and later on there was no 2nd alarm given apart).

 

7.) The weather was sunny and without clouds, thus clear skies! Only the view in the Southern direction was limited, because of the sun and the light reflections on the waters of the Wadden Sea.

 

11.) The launch of the lifeboat was rather quick. Douwe Tot, the skipper, Jacob ‘Jaap’ de Beer, the wheelsman, Iemke Swart, the engineer, and Klaas Tot, the 2nd engineer and helmsman (and son of skipper Douwe), were already on board the lifeboat, like most mornings and doing maintenance work, when the US bomber crashed and Lt. Glass was parachuting down into the sea. Also IJsbrand Lettinga, one of the rescue men and deckmates, was in the harbour too, because he was aboard the fishing vessel TS 37 (Terschelling No. 37) and was soon present on the ‘Brandaris II’.

Thus when the German permission came to launch, the lifeboat engines were already started, and the crew had to only wait only for 2 more rescue men, Sijbrand Dijker and Lemke Bloem, and 2 Germans as guards (but no weapons on board a lifeboat, because of the Geneva Convention!) Then they were leaving the harbour, straight away in the direction of Lt. Glass.

 

* In red = Part of the family of witness Jaap Dijker and at the time of this interview he was still alive, the last one of the ‘Brandaris' lifeboat crew.

* In blue = some corrections and / or extra explanations today.

 

* And about the ‘skipper’s waiting house' (local known as ‘t wachthuske) and named ‘Het Wakend Oog’ (The Watching Eye) : even today it’s still the meeting point of the village, and for visitors and tourists. There you can hear the ‘strongest sailor stories' and the latest island news while watching the ferries etc. arriving.

 

 

The Meeting Point today      wikipedia


 

 

 

Willem's Introduction

14

Ameland in war-time

25

Texel  & Den Helder 

1

Friesland War-time Crashes

14b

Ameland,166 & 75 Squadron

26

Hindeloopen

2

Friesland Cemeteries

14c

Ameland Graves

27

Destroy the Scharnhorst!

3

Leeuwarden area

15

Terschelling

28

Destroy the Scharnhorst!

3a

Wirdum Remembers

15b

Terschelling 2

28a

Destroy the Scharnhorst!

4

Schiermonnikoog

16

Sage War Cemetery

29

12 Squadron

4b

Schiermonnikoog  part 2

16b

RAF Topcliffe & 424 Sqdn.

30

The Runnymede Memorial

5

Harlingen

17

Vlieland Cemetery

31

Vuren at war

6

Kallenkote Cemetery

18

Jacobiparochie

32

Makkum Cemetery

7

Wartime Harlingen

19

Hampden AE 428

33

A Fatal collision?

8

RCAF 428 Ghost Squadron

20

Willem's War-time photos

34

Hudsons and Venturas

9

Zwolle's ' De Groene ' group

21

Shipdham & USAF 44th

34a

Hudsons and Venturas (2)

10

408 Squadron's Leipzig raid

21b

68th Squadron's Casualties

35

101 Squadron

11

Friesland radar

22

Rottum Island

12

Lancasters DS776  & JA921

23

Bergen General Cemetery

 

 

 

 

back to 626 Squadron

 

 

 

 

 

 email-address:  w.jong1@upcmail.nl

 

 

uk           tom.bint2@gmail.com