|2nd Lt Charles E.
|2nd Lt Charles D.
|2nd Lt Donald H.
2nd Lt Raymond J. McGuinness
S/Sgt David A. Gurman
|T/Sgt Eugene C. Damrel
S/Sgt Roy C. Johannesen
S/Sgt David Rattin
S/Sgt Fred A. Fischer
|S/Sgt Wilson R. Gee
349th Sqdn. Crew, as above, joined the 100th Group on 2/8/44. Micro film
Casualty report lists all of above except Sgt. Gee as aboard A/C on
11/9/44. SOC on p.79 says this ship was a "sepulcher for 7 men". (cannot
identify seventh man; are
they counting Damel ?..pw) A bit of irony presents itself in S.0 #247
dated 12 Sept.1944 at Thorpe Abbotts Paragraph 1. "2nd Lt Charles E. Baker, 0760691,
349th Sqdn. 100th Bomb Gp, having been found physically disqualified for
all flying duty, is suspended from duty involving flying, of this date." 2nd Lt Charles E. Baker is placed
on DS for an indefinite period WP Rail o/a 12 Sept.1944 fr AAF Sta 139 to
AAF Sta 101, RUAT President, Central Medical Board, for purposes of
undergoing observation & treatment. Upon discharge from and at the
discretion of the President thereof, will proceed on TD for a period not to exceed 30 days to Sta
511."It seems that the reasons for grounding Lt. Baker had been discovered
and the process was in motion to so act prior to his final flight. The
orders came a day to late
Account by Lt. Chiles: "After the enemy planes made their
first attack, our inter-phone system was shot out. Lt Baker & myself tried
to use alternate sources but it was impossible. A fire was raging in the
bomb bay and the instrument panel was shot up badly. Lt. Baker rang the
bell indicating that we were to abandon ship. If the bell rang I couldn't
hear it for the guns and engine roar. It wasn't heard in the nose either.
Smoke began to fill my oxygen system and another system did the same
thing. Baker pointed at my chute so I put in on and I put his on him under
his flak suit while he was fighting the controls to get the ship on an
even keel. We were leading the squadron but by was the ship exploding
which threw Lt. Chiles out..jb) Lt. Baker didn't wear his that time we
were either the only one left or the only one I could see & we were still
on fire & still being attacked by enemy fighters & our guns were still
going, how many I don't know. Baker tried to set up the Automatic pilot
but it was laying on the floor. He motioned for me to get out. Everything
was getting black. I motioned to the men in the nose to follow me & I must
have gone out the hatch then. The next thing I remember was floating in
air. (It dog tags that day but I believe he had an identification bracelet
on.) I didn't see any more of the six men listed in the casualty
questionnaire. It was the opinion of Lt Lienemann that Rattin, Fischer and
Gurman had been blown our of the A/C but that they had not been able to
open their chutes - being dead or unconscious - He also believed that the ball
turret with Johannesen inside had plummeted to earth after the plane
exploded. Chiles was shown Johannesen's dog tags by the Germans and he
said they were badly bent up and all bloody.
The following has been translated from writings in German of Jan
Zdairsky (Czech) about Donald Lienemann (WW II US Airman, 100th BG, 349th
"The air battle over the Erzgebirge on September 11, 1944 had one of
the worst outcomes over the Bohmischen territory. Because of this, any
additional information is important and must be recorded.
The history of this particular battle which started at noon September
11th, 1944 between the 100th Bomber Group of the US Army Air Force and the
JG Group of the Luftwaffe was sketchy. Details of this engagement were
almost nonexistent, but for the past few years efforts have been made to
clarify the whole picture.
In similar happenings it's not often that you can reconstruct from the
documents the exact details of what took place and confront the feelings
of one of the main players. Such a special moment occurred on Saturday,
July 15, 1995 at Schmiedeberg. At that time after 51 years one of the main
participants in Black Monday over the Erzeberge, 78 year old Donald
Lienemann of Papillion, Nebraska came to the place where his life began
for the second time. His first encounter with the Erzegebirge was as a
B-17 navigator (42-97806) with the Code XR-D belonging to the 349 Squadron
of the USAAF when his plane was shot down in the beginning phase of the
battle near Schmeideberg. His B-17 was one of 12 planes of the 100th
Bomber Groups shot down that day over the Erzgebirge.
While on the way to (R......?), flying without escort, shortly after
noon, the bomber formation was attacked by the 70th Fighter Wing of the
JG-4 Luftwaffe. Coming out of the sun, the fighter group was being led by
the dreaded R2 Rammjagern FW 190 A-8. A few of the badly damaged B-17's
started to lose altitude. The pilots tried to keep the burning planes
airborne as long as possible so that the crews could parachute to safety.
"We were hit and began to drop out of formation," Don Lienemann said.
"For a short while we were all alone but quickly five German fighter
planes appeared beside us. Everyone who was able manned a machine-gun to
defend against the attack. At the moment the crew was weakened because TTE,
Sgt. Darmel was badly wounded in the first attack. His fellow-crewmembers
deployed him by parachute in hopes that the enemy would provide him needed
medical help. Shortly after the fighter plane attack, Co-Pilot 2nd Lt.
Charles Chiles parachuted."
"The Bandits were everywhere. I saw direct hits on our tail and wings
and the plane started to burn. There was nothing left to do but jump. Our
Capt. Charles Baker tried to keep the plane airborne but after more hits
by the fighters, the B-17 exploded. I saw that the plane lost a wing and
went into a tailspin. I was able to find the door and the centrifugal
force pulled me out. We were about 6,000 feet up. I bumped my head and
"While falling, I regained consciousness shortly before hitting the
ground. I looked all around and shortly thereafter my parachute snagged
between two big trees on a heavily forested slope. There I hung some 3
meters above the ground. When I finally reached the ground, I tore off my
oxygen mask and washed my burning face in a puddle of water. Only then did
I remember the procedures to take off identifications prior to capture. I
buried it all under the tree in which I had landed. Because I was unable
to get the parachute down, I just left it hanging."
At that moment Lienemann felt pretty good about his situation. The
horror of the crash I lived through was past, but he could only imagine
the fate of his friends (crew). When he finally got over the shock, most
of his comrades were already dead.
"While I was hanging in my parachute, I saw at a distance someone else
but I didn't know whether it was someone from my crew." Others from his
group (XRD) who jumped from planes shortly after Lienemann were too low
and their parachutes didn't completely open. In the wreckage of the
fuselage, which crashed a few hundred meters beyond into the Torf marsh,
close to Muthutte, between Oberhals and Schmiedeberg, were three other
airmen who died in the crash, including the pilot Charles Baker. Shortly
after it crashed a bomb which was still on board exploded, making a
useless exclamation to the tragedy of the mission for this crew. In
addition to Baker, Sgt. Roy Johannesen, Sgt. David Ratlin, and Sgt. Fred
Fishcher lost their lives over the Bohmisch Erzgebirge. The co-pilot, 2nd
Lt. Charles Chiles and Navigator, 2nd Lt. David Lienemann saved themselves
by parachute. TTE, Sgt. Eugene Damrel, because of his wounds was captured.
Lienemann went in the direction he felt neutral Switzerland to be.
Local witnesses of the crash came to the site finding body parts and the
wreckage strewn over a wide area.
"All afternoon I ran thru the forest until at evening I discovered an
isolated farmhouse. As a farmer, I knew how to milk a cow to get a little
nourishment." In his account, the navigator got a bit mixed up in
remembering about his buddies, with the pressure of trying to escape,
being betrayed by two children and the pursuit of the first night.
However, the next morning at the edge of a cornfield unexpectedly he was
"Three soldiers with automatic pistols blindfolded me, put me in a
trunk and drove me to my first interrogation. This was done in a old
cabin. They didn't like my German name. They though I was a German
deserter--Sgt. Lienemann." After that he was put into a group transported
by train where he met a few buddies and other acquaintances. After that he
was taken to five different prison camps. All together he was imprisoned
for over 6 months. At the end of 1945 he was released from active duty.
"Shortly after returning to the States, I looked up the families of
buddies from my unit and gave them the last greetings from their sons."
This is what he (Lienemann) told me word for word with tears in his eyes.
"Since then, I visited them a few more times and we still keep in contact.
After he got back to the US, he resumed farming and also sold insurance
and was chairman of the Central Committee of the Republican Party from
"I often thought of the place where I got a second chance at life, but
finding the place was like looking for a needle in a haystack." A few
years ago, Lienemann developed a strong longing to return to the place
where he was shot down in September 1944. He tried to find out how to go
about returning to the crash site and he went to Mr. Allen Beerman,
longtime Secretary of State of Nebraska.
Because of his efforts, he developed leads in research in archives and
contact with Lutz Awmann, who had been a student in Lincoln, who was now
at the Police Headquarters in Berlin.
In the attempt to identify the battlefields they obtained information
from American archives pinpointing the location south of Berlin. Even
though Lienemann did not know the exact location, he felt that what they
provided was too general. He kept on researching until he found a map that
showed the formation and even located the places where the engagement took
place. This information pointed toward the southern part of the Erzgebirge,
where we believed that together with Lutz Awmann and other researchers, we
can identify the battle's location. This visit happened in October 1994.
Many days of exploration in German's Erzgeberge produced no results.
"On the last day of my stay in Germany at 6:30 in the evening I had the
strange feeling that the area I was looking for was within arm's length.
But a thunderstorm was coming up and we had to think about getting back.
The town we were looking for--Schmiederberg--was only a few miles over the
mountain. But, of course, Lienemann understandably did not realize this at
the time. He also couldn't realize that in Schmiederberg, on the Bohmisch
side of the Erzgeberge, a monument had already been erected in memory of
the fliers killed in the battle of September 11, 1944. The names that were
on the plaque were those of his buddies and himself, and those names were
widely known in Bohmen.
A sad Lienemann returned home across the ocean, but with the hope that
as soon as possible he would return to Erzgeberge to continue his search.
Because of the 50th anniversary celebration, many mentions were made both
in our (Czech) and the German press. This was the last much needed thread
to continue the track of the former navigator by the German researchers.
Then in December came the first contact. In the spring, they made a
definite appointment to meet with Donald Lienemann.
On July 16th, 1995, 9:00 a.m., all the technical amateur aviation
historians and the American navigator met on the Marktplatz, fulfilling
their long-time dream of shaking hands. After he met with the mayor and
talked about 2 hours, you could see him (Lienemann) becoming emotional
looking at the many relics from the crash site and his plane. In it they
found a wristwatch showing the time they were hit, pieces of his own
pencils, parts of the cords from his parachute, etc. Finally, after 51
years he was again reunited with his machine (gun?) used in the last
Before sharing a fancy luncheon, the official representatives of the
community who were invited, aviation historians and Lienemann, visited the
crash site in the Torfmarch near Oberhals where his buddies died. It was
difficult to walk through the heather.... The catastrophic crash of his
first visit to the Erzgerberge in 1944 damaged his equilibrium making the
walking in this terrain difficult. An emotional Donald Lienemann stood at
the edge of a crater which was encircled by heaps of wreckage and glass
from the fuselage.
The whole afternoon into the evening his Czechoslovakian host took him
to the area in which they felt he might have landed in his parachute. But
he couldn't recognize any of the places. It is possible that changes have
been made in the landscape and the passage of fifty years could be one of
the reasons for this lack of recognition. He left satisfied in the belief
that he would one day return to Schmiedeberg, carrying home with him gifts
and relics of the crash site. These included documental reminders and a
small Czech pilots' which was like a greeting from his own fighter pilots
The happy Lienemann added "I did not expect such a reception in
Schmiedeberg. It was an unbelievable experience." Lienemann is writing a
book "Miracles Do Happen." "I have to write one more chapter "Unbelievable
Discovery" and then the book will be completed. I will give the royalties
from this book to the families of those involved.
He is saying goodbye to his host with the promise that he will
participate in the next reunion in Schmiedeberbg and will help in any way
he can in documenting the reconstruction of the events of 1944.
Site correction from Charles D. Chiles (Copilot
on the Baker crew). Received via email by Mike Faley on 22 Jul 2001:
Lt. Charles Baker my
fellow pilot who sat next to me as Pilot perished that Sept. 11, 1944. Lt.
Don Lienemann reported that T/Sgt. Eugene Damrel was the tail gunner and
was patched up by several crewmembers. That is not correct. He was our
flight engineer and TT gunner. I personally put a tourniquet on him,
snapped his parachute on and pushed him out the door. I went back up to
help Baker. I helped put his chute on as he struggled keeping the nose up.
He signaled all to bail out. I have since spoken to Flight Engineer Damrel
in the 1960's. Get it right. Eugene Damrel was Baker and my TTE not the
Tail Gunner as Lt. Lienemann describes in his recent report in 1995.
CO-Pilot 2ndLt. Charles Dwight Chiles
B-17 A/C 42-
Site correction from
Charles D. Chiles (Copilot on the Baker crew). Received via email by Mike
Faley on 07 Jul 2002:
I truly appreciate the correction made to 2nd Lt. Donald H. Lienemann
account of individual names of our tail gunner and our TTE T/Sgt. Eugine
Lienemann states that several crew members patched up Damrel's arm
after his right hand was shot off. Actually what occurred was he came down
from the Top Turret with his hand shot off to show me and fellow Pilot 2nd
Lt. Charles Baker. As co-pilot, it was my duty to administer First Aid to
Damrel. After doing so, Baker and I discussed Damrel's condition. Damrel
was in shock and we were getting hit hard by ME-109's. It was Baker and my
who decided to snap Damrel's parachute on and toss him out. As I took
Damrel down to the lower hatch our Interphone was not working. I pushed
Damrel out, saw his chute deployed. My mask was filled with smoke and as I
turned around to signal the other men to get out, I was blown out just a
few feet above the hatch. This is all I remembered until I regained my
self near 4,000 feet. I was picked up by a nearby farmer and his son. I
spent the night with the family. The mother spoke English. Next morning I
was picked up only to be picked up again the following day by German
I was transported to Stalag One, Barth, Germany and spent the remainder
of the war as a POW.
C. Dwight Chiles
Ret. Braniff Airlines 1946-1982