“Schonbronn Germany - Raschke crew crash site”
“Schonbronn Germany - Raschke crew crash site”
The town of Schonbronn, crash site of Lt. Walter C. Raschke. The German report (KU1265) we found at the National Archives listed the following information: Subject - Crash of 1 Liberator on 18 March 1944 at 1330 hours, 500 meters south of Schonbronn, Community of Schramberg, County of Rottweil; kind of capture - by fighter; type of aircraft - Liberator; markings - E C; Number on aircraft - 27-518; remarks - 6 men dead, 1 unknown, wearing a piece of silk with inscription, 1 man may be identified after recovery of plane, nothing is known about others.
Gerhard Jackle was our guide and eyewitness to the crash at the outskirts of Schonbronn of the B-24 Liberator named, “Hard To Get”, piloted by Lt. Walter C. Raschke. This crash site was of particular interest to us as our good friend Ernie Barber was the Crew Chief of “Hard To Get” and today is the 392nd Bomb Group’s archivist. Several eyewitnesses of the crash had called telling of the several pieces of wreckage they had picked up after the crash. One of these pieces was a Vickers control valve that operated the B-24’s front wheel landing gear. This was picked up by Erwin Kuner who was a young boy at the time. Mr. Kuner also recovered an electric motor and a electrical junction box from the crash.
Another piece came from eyewitness Alfred Gessler from Schramberg, who was a young boy then. He had picked up a military first aid bag at the crash site in Schonbronn, some distance away from the main part of the aircraft. The bag was full of pills, bandages, plasters and syringes. He showed the bag to a doctor from Schramberg, who took the contents away. For this reason the bag is empty today.
Gerhard Jackle can remember in his mind every detail of that day at the Raschke crash site. Jackle and his friends ,as young school boys, were curious and wanted to see the crash site. Shortly after the plane went down, they rushed to the site and saw several dead American airmen. Jackle picked up a communicator (Radio) and a chocolate bar that were lying about the crash area. Then suddenly flak soldiers appeared and chased them away. The site was on the top of a small hill with the tail section on one side of a small woods and the cockpit on the other. The propellers, wings, and motors were a short distance away. Mr. Jackle said that until several years ago it was still possible to see the indentation in the ground where the motor impacted. The missing air crew report states that the plane was seen to complete an inside loop, then go down. This coincides with Mr. Jackle’s account except that he said the plane exploded before it hit the ground. Pieces of the aircraft were scattered across the field and into the woods, making it possible for onlookers to pick up souvenirs of the aircraft. The crash site was guarded by only one soldier from the Stetten flak position. We were also told that the wreckage from this site and some of the other sites was still in the fields a few days before Easter. We were also told that a scrap metal company from Schramberg was given the task of cleaning up the crash sites, and it is possible that some of the aircraft parts are in the possession of the company to this day.
Cockpit at the edge of the woods
The flight engineer from the Raschke ship S/Sgt. Roy W. Davis was able to bail out of the plane before it went into its fatal loop. He came down through some trees and was seriously injured and transported to the hospital at Konigsfeld by ambulance; then he was taken into surgery and operated on by a British doctor, Dr. A . Heisher. Unfortunately because of the seriousness of Sgt. Davis’s head wounds, Dr. Heisher was unable to save his life. Before he died Davis and Dr. Heisher had a conversation, and the Doctor wrote a short letter to Davis’s wife. A small thing back 52 years ago, but that letter has meant so much to the wife and son of Sgt. Davis, even to this day.
Davis's son Bill shared this letter and some photographs with me a few years ago. It was an emotional letter that was written during a rare occurrence, since most of the boys were killed instantly without a chance to say "Goodbye" to their families. This letter has become a treasured piece of family history that tells of the love of a father for his family and the terrible price that he paid for their freedom.
That evening at the Kohlmanns's a surprise was in store for us. A local resident Erwin Kuner stopped in to meet with us, and he gave me a piece of wreckage from the Raschke plane. It was the Vickers control valve that I mentioned earlier. We thanked him for his gift and told him that we would present this piece of wreckage to Ernie Barber, who was the crew chief of the aircraft in 1944. Today Ernie is the 392nd Group Archivist.
It was a long day with much to remember, and I was emotionally drained listening to the witnesses and their accounts of death and destruction. I hadn’t thought about it before, but it was becoming increasingly apparent that there was nothing good on either side about this war in the peaceful Black Forest.