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LT  Robert C. VOLLMER

UNIT: 349th BOMB Sqdn POSITION: P
SERIAL #: O-803318 STATUS: POW
MACR: 03029 CR: 03029

Comments1: 3 MAR 44 BERLIN (E/A)

COMMENTS & NOTES

MEMO 1:

CREW

 LT ROBERT D. VOLLMER                 P POW 3 MAR 44 BERLIN
 LT JOHN W. ADAMS III                 CP KIA    3 MAR 44 BERLIN
 LT EDWARD G. SULLIVAN           NAV POW 3 MAR 44 BERLIN
 LT ROBERT S. CONNELLY            BOM NOC
  SGT RICHARD C. HULL                TTE NOC
 T/SGT ELIAS M. JOHNSON           ROG KIA    3 MAR 44 BERLIN
 S/SGT DON GUTHRIE                   BTG POW 3 MAR 44 BERLIN
 S/SGT DONALD W. BECKER          RWG KIA   3 MAR 44 BERLIN
 S/SGT THOMAS H. MULLENIX       LWG POW 3 MAR 44 BERLIN
 S/SGT GEORGE W. WOOD              TG KIA   3 MAR 44 BERLIN

349th Sqdn.  Crew, as above, joined the 100th on 28 Nov 1943.
MACR #3029, Microfiche # 1026, A/C #42-39817 "MURDERER'S ROW"

On 3 Mar 43 T/SGT ERNEST B. CLARK was flying as Togglier in place of Connelly and was KIA. T/SGT WILLIAM S. HUMPHREY was flying in place of Sgt Hull and became a POW

When this crew joined the 100th GP on 28/11/43,Lt.Robert S. Connelly was the Bombardier and Sgt.Richard C.Hull the TTE. Nothing further is known of them.

Eyewitness Report: A/C #817 was #3 in lead element,lead squadron. Near 5410 N 0910 E the leader flew into a dense layer of clouds. The leader of the second element pulled up above the overcast and his wing men peeled off right and left. None of these crews saw the leading element agaln. Crews in the 100th B group flying in the combat wing behind turned back before entering the cloud bank. Most of the crews observed a large explosion behind them and slightly above the formation. Altitude. 

A VHF sigral was received from A/C 017 a short time later saying that the pilot intended to try to reach Sweden.

A somewhat clearer picture of events is given in a letter from Vollmer to John Miller (1980/81).  "Our element remained together and broke out on top of the clouds at 31,000 feet. For the next five or ten minutes it looked like the mighty 8th Air Forc.,consisting now of only three B-17s,was going to try to make the first strike on Big B. It didn't last long. A bunch of FWs hit us from about 2 o'clock high and got all of us. Two shells exploded in the cockpit,starting a fire in front of the rudder pedals and causing flames to come through my oxygen mask. At that altitude,I was unsble to secure the walk around bottle before losing conciousness. The plane then dived and climbed alternately until it finally broke up. I don't know how I got out,but I did parachute with debris falling all around me. Five of the men on my crew died that day."   ".  .  . Bob Lohof was leading the 349th. John Gossage was on right wing,and I was on the left. Lohof was leading the 100th. His radio operator did not receive the recall message and we were unable to convince him,so we continued"

More recollectiong from Vollmer to Gerald Putnam January 5, 1990…"The group was split up in the very high clouds.   
Our element continued and came out on top at about 32,000 feet.  Very shortly, we were attacked by 6 FW-190's.  Their first pass started a fire in hydraulic and oxygen lines in the cockpit.  The other two ships were also hit and severly damaged.  There was no collision (as is commonly described as the reason for the loss of Vollmer, Lohof and Gossage).  John Gossage was escorted to  the landing at Schleswig. He landed to save the life of his flight engineer who was seriously wounded in the attack.  My navigator, Ed Sullivan wound up in the same compound with Gossage and can verify this account.  We were imprisioned in Stalag Luft I"


More recollections from Lt Vollmer to Tim Lohof (son of Capt.Lohof Jan 2002, mpf)

The other night I called up Robert Vollmer and talked with him for a while. He provided some interesting info for the story of their collective shootdown. He confirmed they were the very tip of the spear that day--nothing but the enemy ahead of them, the entire 8th AirForce behind them. As for the recall of the mission, Vollmer, of course, had received the call, but Capt Lohof/Putnam did not. Intent on maintaining radio silence, Vollmer attempted to communicate the fact of the recall to dad/Putnam using what he called a "code gun" aka a "blinker," even now somany years later still showing slight frustration over why they didn't pickup the recall message and why they could not understand his attempts. He had not known that their radio was faulty (per Putnam's letter to Crosby).Neither had he known that they had determined to turn back anyway, firstwith an initial slight 5-10 degree left course change and climb to get ontop of the weather into clear sky. Once clear, they would then complete theturn back and head for home. Of course, no sooner did they finally climbout of the clouds, than they were shot down. Anyway, I attach my quick recap of my phone conversation with him.

***************************************************************************************************************

Vollmer Crew
  
17 Jan 2002
Telephone interview with Robert C. Vollmer, pilot, Murderer’s Row
Flew Lead 2 as Capt. Lohof’s wingman on his last mission:

General. Vollmer learned to fly before the war, after participating in some screening program at the end of which he was #1 in a class of a few hundred. The reward was free flying lessons. At war’s outbreak, of course, the Army Air Corps picked him right up. Vollmer arrived at Thorpe Abbotts around 28 Nov 43, well after dad, and flew his first mission to Bremen on 16 Dec 43. Consequently, he did not really know dad well. Flying several missions with him, though, Vollmer recalled he admired dad as an excellent pilot, who "handled his ship well," meaning he made it relatively easy for those following him to maintain formation.

Vollmer didn’t know of the 100th’s reputation until his first trip to London on leave. Someone asked him what unit he was with. When he told them, "they just shook their head and said, ‘Too bad.’" That was the first he even knew the 100th had a reputation.

One’s 13th mission "scared the heck out of you," since aside from the unlucky connotations, 13 missions was about the average life expectancy of a combat crew.

25 Feb 44: The 25 Feb 44 mission to Regensburg was tough and the one he immediately mentioned when asked which mission (besides his last) was most memorable. (Dad did not fly Regensburg.)

3 Mar 44-BERLIN: Flying his 14th mission, Vollmer flew on Capt. Lohof’s left wing on this day. Murderer’s Row was not his normal ship, which was unavailable after the mission the day before to Chartre, France. The crew flying that mission reached the magic 25 and burned out several of the 50 cal. barrels on board, apparently in celebration. Vollmer recalled picking up the recall message, but tried vainly flashing it to Dad  ( via "code gun" in order not to break radio silence. Vollmer figured they had time to figure it all out, so elected to maintain silence. (So many years later, he showed distinct frustration over why they didn't pick up the recall message—he did not know their radio was faulty—and why they could not understand his attempts.) Hardly had the three planes emerged from the overcast, than six FW-190s knocked Vollmer and dad down on the first pass, and seriously damaged Gossage. Two shells exploded in Vollmer’s cockpit, causing a fire to break out that came up through his oxygen mask (see account on 100th BG website under Vollmer crew). At 31,000 feet, he and copilot 2Lt John W. Adams III quickly lost consciousness before they could get to their walk-around oxygen. For a period of time, Murderer’s Row flew itself, alternately diving and climbing. Vollmer recalled in his semi-conscious state vaguely feeling the Gs build at the bottom of a dive. Finally, the fire-weakened plane broke up and the unconscious Vollmer came to falling with aircraft debris all around him. He delayed pulling his chute waiting to fall clear of the debris. He remembered the cold conditions with snow literally blowing up at him as he fell. Finally he deployed his chute near the ground. As he came down, his chute was swinging almost 180 degrees back and forth. As he approached the ground, he pulled the lanyards in an attempt to better position himself for landing, but he swung out one final time, face to the ground, and just as his momentum built coming back down, he hit. The wicked blow knocked him out cold and hurt his leg very badly. Gossage meanwhile thought he was over Sweden, but then several German fighters forced him to land in Denmark. 

From Hamburg (?), they took a train to Dulag Luft in Frankfurt. Spent 3-4 days there, before embarking on a train once again for the trip to Barth. That trip took 3-4 days itself, with frequent stops due to bomb alerts (by Allied planes), including sitting on the train a full day in Berlin itself during a bomb raid. He felt dad surely must have been on the same train.

He was in the South camp; dad  and Vollmer’s bombardier were in the North camp at first, then transferred to North 1 after it was built. Occasionally, they would see each other across the 20 feet separating the double fence and say a few words.

After the war, he returned to being an accountant, which he’d been prior, and never piloted an aircraft again.

MEMO 2:

KIA / MIA / EVA / INT INFORMATION:

TARGET: Berlin DATE: 1944-03-03  
AIRCRAFT: "Murderer's Row (42-39817) CAUSE: FW-190/Explosion  

BURIAL INFORMATION

PLOT: ROW:  
GRAVE: CEMETERY:  

PHOTOS:

 Lt. Robert C. Vollmer Crew: From left standing; Thomas H. Mullenix, Donald W. Becker, GeorgeW. Wood, Richard C. Hull, Don Guthrie, and Ellas M. Johnson. Kneeling from left; Edward G. Sullivan, Robert C. Vollmer, John W. Adams III, and Robert S. Connell. Detailed Information (Photo Courtesy of Bruce J. Adams, Nephew of Lt. John Adams II) 

 

SERVED IN:

Crew 1

ID: 5340