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44th Bomb Group B-24 Marcia Ann

MarciaAnn 41 23918B-24 serial number 41-23918 “Marcia Ann” of the 44th Bomb Group 67th Bomb Squadron was shot down on 1 October 1943 on a mission to bomb the Messerschmitt Factory, located at Wiener Neustadt, Austria.  Her crew that day included George Bronstein Pilot, Charles Erickson Co-Pilot, Jacob Cohen Navigator, William Archambault, George Berkstresser Engineer, George Click Radio Operator, Jack Shephard Gunner, Michael Prekopie Gunner, Harry Bolster Gunner, and Joe Mansfield Tail Gunner.  Of these ten brave men Jacob and Jack were the only survivors.

Some 68 years to the day, I was at the crash site of Marcia Ann with my friend Max Reisner, a Historian and Author in Austria.  He found an eye witness to Marcia Ann's fate who took us to the crash site.  While we were all at the site, Mr. Schoell told us what he witnessed that day, translated by Max.

 


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“At the age of 15 on the 1st of October 1943 I witnessed an American four engine bomber crashing after an attack on Wiener Neustadt at this spot not far away from our village.  The Bomber was coming in from north flying already low and trailing smoke.  Two Messerschmitt 109s were following the Bomber and conducting several attacks on it coming from the rear.  They were using their canons, which we heard very loudly.  Suddenly the tail of the bomber broke away from the fuselage and the plane went into a near vertical dive crashing here.  I was not able to observe any crew members who jumped out of the plane.  When it impacted, there was a huge explosion followed by black smoke which formed a mushroom like cloud.  We heard several more explosions which indicated that ammunition was cooking off.  We ran over to the site to try and get closer.  Several farmers were already trying to block off the site.  On the way to the bomber several farmers found crew member who had successfully jumped out of the plane at low level.  They surrounded him and started to talk to him.  He had a white face and was obviously in shock.  The crash site was covered in flames, to get closer was not possible.  So we all went back to the village.  When we arrived there some men started to shouting at the American.  The situation was becoming violent.  The American realizing this pulled out a photo and showed it around.  It showed him with a female and some kids (Very likely his wife and kids).  A German NCO who was on holiday in the area arrived at the scene telling the men that he is a POW and will be handed over to the Police . The situation calmed down. The American was asking for water when one of the women present gave him a cup to drink.  He smiled and said in German words: “The first water from Europe!”.  Everyone was astonished.  Police forces from Lackenbach police station arrived. They took over the Prisoner.  After a while Luftwaffe soldiers from Wiener Neustadt arrived too and blocked off the crash site. On the next day several farmers and the Luftwaffe soldiers went to the site.  The fuel was still burning.  They were able to gather the remains of the crewmen that were to be taken to Wiener Neustadt.  In the next weeks the Luftwaffe returned to the site to collect the larger parts of B-24"

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The site is in a wooded area today, near the village not far from Wiener Neustadt.  There is something unique to this crash site.  An evergreen tree that is more than 70 feet tall and over 3 feet in diameter towers far above all the other trees in the area as if to be a tribute to the brave men who lost their lives at that spot.  We recovered a lot of artifacts at this site that will be preserved and displayed.

MarciaAnn CrashLocation

MarciaAnn CrashSiteToday

MarciaAnn 41 23918

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