Around noon on November 26, 1944, 1Lt. David Bennett's crew of nine were in their bomber B24-"Ark Angel" on their way to attack the synthetic oil plant in Hannover-Misburg.

Shortly afterwards the heavy bomber crashed in a field between the woods of Oerie and Jeinsen

The last mission - November 1944

Around noon on November 26, 1944, 1Lt. David Bennett's crew of nine were in their bomber B24-"Ark Angel" on their way to attack the synthetic oil plant in Hannover-Misburg.

The American Air Forces flew their missions to nazi-Germany during the day while the British allies bombed after dark. Flying by day-light offered better possibilities to identify the targets but the Americans had to pay the price of heavy losses.

The B-24, with the serial number 44-40073, belonged to the 491st Bombing Group (BG), 853rd Bombing Squadron (BS). At the end of the war it was learned that among all B-24 Groups the 491st Bombing Group had flown most missions had flown most missions.

Together with the 492nd the 491st BG was based at North-Pickenham. Until August 1944 their air base had been Metfield.

This November 26 would bring the Group the heaviest losses sustained during the whole war, for which after the war they were awarded with the "Distinguished Unit Citation

On the day of the attack to whole crew was hoping that that the mission could be flown without problems. The "Ark Angel" in flight Over the target the Ark Angel encountered heavy flak and was attacked by German fighters.

The "Ark Angel" was probably attacked by FW-190 fighters, the pilot was unable to maintain altitude and the aircraft went down.

A pilot in the bomber stream who witnessed that Ark Angel was losing altitude and was leaving the formation later reported:

"Bennett (the Pilot) managed to link up with us but drifted down under our aircraft. The top-turret was completely gone and the right wing showed an enormous hole. She could not keep up with us and was last seen at 12.58 hours. She was continuously losing altitude. Nobody saw what happened afterwards to Ark Angel ..."

Shortly afterwards the heavy bomber crashed in a field between the woods of Oerie and Jeinsen.

Some of the crew members managed to bail-out but were too low for their chutes to break their fall.

All nine crew members lost their lives:

Position Name Begraben in:
Pilot David N. Bennett Ardennes American Cemetery, Neuville-en-Condroz, Belgien
Co-Pilot Jessie F. Blount Gainesville, Texas
Navigator George H. Engel Pennsylvania

Nose-Turret

Raymond O. McKee Baton Rouge National Cemetery, Louisiana
Top-Turret Irving B. Star State of New York
Radio Pete Patrick Jr. Ardennes American Cemetery, Neuville-en-Condroz, Belgien
Left waist Normann Warford Ardennes American Cemetery, Neuville-en-Condroz, Belgien
Right waist Charles E. Hixson Tennesse
Tailgunner Henry P. Stovall Beckley, West-Virginia

 

List of names of the killed crew.

 

 

Original documents concerning the crash

 

Some of the inhabitants of Oerie, frightfully disturbed by the crash of the heavy bomber, ran to the site. Some of the dead were burned and still in their seats.

Those who had tried to jump were hanging in the trees nearby. The people of Oerie collected the bodies and buried them in the cemetery in Oerie.

That day 96 men of the 491st Group lost their lives, 94 became prisoners of war. The losses on the German side (fighter pilots) were also very high.

Note: When a B-24 ("The Unlimited") crashed on Hüpede some inhabitants were killed and some buildings burnt down.


On a hot summer day in 1989 Hannelore Pohl met three strangers in the cemetery in Oerie.They asked her if she perhaps knew if American airmen were buried there.

Three of the visitors were Danes, the other an American lady. They were looking for a bomber crew. Mrs. Pohl knew that the airmen had been reinterred at the end of the war but had no idea where.

She showed the three visitors the crash site behind the woods of Oerie and told them the story of November 1944.

Mrs. Else Mensing, Hannelore Pohl's mother, who had been present when the crash happened told them her personal story: The 24 years old had been on her bicycle on the way from Bennigsen to Oerie.

When going through neighbouring village Hüpede she saw several foreign soldiers (probably survivors of the crashed "The Unlinited") standing in a ditch under guard of a couple of men. She wanted to bring flowers to the cemetery of Oerie on this "Remember the Dead" Sunday.

On the road leading to the farm of her future husband Heinrich Mensing, she learned that an aircraft had probably crashed behind the woods of Oerie. Driven by curiosity she went with her sister-in-law Hilde into this forest. Having arrived there, they discovered that they were the first to visit the crash site.

The nose of the aircraft had plowed into the field and the wings had broken off. When approaching the wreck they saw the burned and still buckled up corpses of the crew.

The pilots were in their seats. Totally upset they cycled home and told the people in the village what they had seen. That was all Else Mensing learned about the crew.

Some weeks later a certain Charles K. Johnson wrote a letter to Hannelore Pohl on behalf of John T. Keen, a former member of the 491st Bomb Group, thanking her for her assistance in the search of the crew members. You can read what he wrote in the following article.

John T. Keen, member of the 491st Bombing Group in front of a B-24

 

The American lady, Sue A. Thornton, later wrote to the Chronicle of the Bomb an account of her visit to Oerie. The complete story of Sue A. Thornton can be read here.


February 1998

Having gained access to internet, I tried using the different searching engines to find if somewhere on the net something could be found about Oerie.

I arrived on a web site of veterans of WW II or, more precisely, on an extensive site where people were looking for information about B-24 aircraft. I searched this site for "Oerie" and found a message from a certain John R. Robinson.

He was looking for information about a B-24 "Ark Angel" that had been shot down between Oerie and Sarstedt.

John Robinson had read the story of Sue A. Thornton about Oerie, and was looking on internet for more details about the crash. I could not believe my eyes, and immediately sent him immediately an e-mail. I told him everything I knew about Ark Angel. (At that moment in time, I had no idea that the bomber was "Ark Angel", to me it was just the B-24).

We exchanged some e-mails and told each other what we knew about "Ark Angel". The Tail-Gunner of "Ark Angel", Henry Paul Stovall, was a relativ of John R. Robinson. On the initial handwritten lists, only 7 of the 9 crew members were mentioned and the Robinsons were hoping that Paul had somehow survived the crash.

I had to tell him, alas, that all 9 airmen had lost their lives.

On February 14, 1998 I received the following e-mail from John Robinson:

"While I am not a veteran of WWII, I am a retired US Air Force Colonel and I have experienced war myself. I know what war does to people. When I read Hannelore's story in the 491 Bomb Group history about the villagers giving the crew of this enemy bomber a christian burial, I was deeply moved. By November 1944, the Allied air offensive was inflicting immense suffering on the German people. For the people of your village to treat the crew members of the Ark Angel in that way shows that they understand that all men are a part of the body of christ, and that all believers are brothers on his church. The villagers of Oerie are a shining example of what it means to be a Christian..."

November 2001

When collecting the information for this page I came in contact with quite a few people who 60 years after the conflict are still interested in the fate of service men on both sides who had lost their lives.

At the same time I learned a lot of horrible details about the crashes. For instance the crash near Hüpede. I use this opportunity to thank John Meurs, a Dutchman living in Switzerland, who helped me translating this page and provided me with a lot of fresh details about "Ark Angel".

Thomas Pohl, November 2001