The Germans had a name for the American airmen who were raining downs bombs on their country– terrorfliegers. A number of airmen successfully parachuted out of their doomed craft but suffered physical abuse at the hand of civilians or soldiers before being taken to prisoner-of- war camps. Seven members of one crew crash- landed on the German island of Borkum after a mid air collision with another B-17, only to be gunned down by a German soldier who had lost his wife and three children in an earlier raid. However, what follows is the story of Lt Dolan’s crew whose plane was shot down in a raid on a German jet airfield on April 10 1945 – a time when Allied armies were advancing deep into the heart of Germany and the German forces were in full retreat on all fronts. Larry Maxim was the nose gunner
“It was on the bomb run and we were picked up by tracking flak – that is the type that follows the ship. Just as I opened the bomb bay doors I felt the hit back in the waist somewhere. Then suddenly there were three in rapid succession. All in the wings. I do not know what it was but I felt that she was mortally wounded, and immediately dropped the bombs and closed the bomb doors. We were already losing altitude. No 2 and 3 engines were shot out and we were hit badly in the left tanks. Gasoline streamed all over the place and I believe only the expert handling and coolness of Dolan saved us from blowing up…..finally No 1 engine went out.
We bailed out in this order…ball gunner, radio man, waist gunner, tail gunner, engineer, myself, navigator, co-pilot and pilot. We jumped from 1200 feet and I fell at least a thousand before I could get it opened. It opened and the next second I hit, breaking my left leg.
After a few experiences I wound up in a haystack – being able to speak a few European languages I was able to find out exactly where we were from slave laborers in the fields. Our troops were only twenty miles away and we could hear the cannonading distinctly. The slave laborers said the Americans should be there the next day. Then Jack hid me in a straw stack and I told him to find the rest of the boys and give them all the information I had obtained.
He had been gone about ten minutes when a Wermacht patrol of seven and one lieutenant came up. They dug me out with bayonets. After attempting to question me, two of them began to march me, or I should say hobble; after five hours we came to Hornhausen –it was nitefall and Lt Dolan (pilot) was laying on a bench, a sort of table affair. I saw evidence of others being there and also when we approached the town a Jerry met us and I heard him tell of capturing the rest. Dolan confirmed this when we were alone. He told me that Murph, Skip, Jack and the tail gunner were being marched to a town twenty five kilometers away; he refused to walk due to his foot injury. None of the others were injured in any manner up to that time. The road they took was the secondary road south of the main road between Braunsweig and Magdeburg. This was the last they were seen alive by anyone to the best of my knowledge.”
Five of the nine crew members survived but, despite extensive enquiries after the war, the fate of those four men who went off under escort along that road is unknown. They were Ken Lamer (co-pilot), John Murphy (navigator), Jack Marks (flight engineer) and Charles Serockas (tail gunner).
The pilot, Kenneth Dolan, said later:
‘Treatment of us by the Germans was at all times very good and the Wehrmacht (regular army) guard assigned to the missing four was also seemingly a good fellow.
Any explanation of their fate is based in part or wholly on supposition: wholly on supposition I think that they ran into SS troopers on the east side of the Elbe River because I talked to another fellow who was down in that area at that time and who mentioned that the area was occupied by SS troopers and that he saw many dead airmen hanging from trees at that time.’