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2nd Lt. Charles E. Baker

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2nd Lt. Charles E. Baker

2nd Lt Charles E. Baker P KIA Ruhland 11-Sep-44
2nd Lt Charles D. Chiles CP POW Ruhland 11-Sep-44
2nd Lt Donald H. Lienemann NAV POW Ruhland 11-Sep-44
2nd Lt Raymond J. McGuinness BOM KIA Ruhland 11-Sep-44
S/Sgt David A. Gurman ROG KIA Ruhland 11-Sep-44
T/Sgt Eugene C. Damrel TTE POW Ruhland 11-Sep-44
S/Sgt Roy C. Johannesen BTG KIA Ruhland 11-Sep-44
S/Sgt David Rattin WG KIA Ruhland 11-Sep-44
S/Sgt Fred A. Fischer TG KIA Ruhland 11-Sep-44
S/Sgt Wilson R. Gee WG UNK -- --

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 BS).

"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 lost consciousness."

"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 captured.

"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 Nebraska.

"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.

Second Return

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 battle.

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 of 1944.

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.
Best, 
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 C. Damrel.

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 authorities.

I was transported to Stalag One, Barth, Germany and spent the remainder of the war as a POW.

Best,
C. Dwight Chiles
Ret. Braniff Airlines 1946-1982

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