"...As soon as we got out of the car, a woman riding a bicycle stopped to ask if she could help us, and minutes later, a man driving a car also stopped. I'm sure that on a deadend road to a tiny village, it was unusual to see a car with three Danes and one American..."
from Sue A. Thornton
"When Fred Thaxton asked that I help find the graves of the crew of "Ark Angel" 44-40073 that had been shot down over Germany on the last Sunday in November, 1944, I knew only that they were supposed to have been buried in the village of Oerie somewhere north and west of Hildesheim.
When I checked the map, I realised that my Danish family and I would be driving through Hildesheim.
As we could not find Oerie on any of our maps of Germany , I asked some German friends if they could tell us where it was. We were told to look in the area of Pattensen, which is a small town north of Hildesheim and south of Hannover.
The next day as we drove out in the country we thought we'd never find it.At last we came to sighn "Oerie" pointing down a narrow side road and in few kilometers we were there. As we drove towards the village, we stopped at a cemetery.
Like everything in Germany it was neat, clean and attractive. As soon as we got out of the car, a woman riding a bicycle stopped to ask if she could help us, and minutes later, a man driving a car also stopped.
I'm sure that on a deadend road to a tiny village, it was unusual to see a car with three Danes and one American.
Imagine our surprise when, after being so discouraged about even finding Oerie, two people came along, both of them knew about the plane. The man said that farmers were still finding parts of the plane in their fields.
The woman, Hannelore Pohl, told us, that the graves had been moved by the Allied military authorities about three years after the war. Hannelore told us that, although the plane crashed before she was born, she had heard about it all her life. As it was the only plane to crash near Oerie, it was part of the village folklore.
She also told us that it crashed on property owned by her father, who is dead and who at that time was mayor of the town. She invited us to her house for something cold to drink.
Driving to her house we realised that Oerie is a typical German village consisting of 15 to 20 houses altogether. While we were at Hannelore's house, we talked about the crash.
She told us that the villagers had never known whether the crew was English or American. By this time the whole village knew about us, and everyone was excited that finally they knew which country the crew was from. Hannelore brought out a large framed aerial photo of Oerie and the fields surrounding it.
I took a picture of it where it showed the crash site. She and I exchanged adresses and she promised, if any other parts of the plane turned up, to send a piece.
For example, just a few weeks before we were there, a farmer had found a piece of a propeller. We then walked the field where the plane had crashed. As we were walking her mother came to meet us and and to tell us her memories of the crash. She said that everyone in the village was very frightened because it was the first crash any of them had seen. They had all ran across the fields to the plane where all of the crew members were still in the plane but they had burned to death. The mother was anxious that we know what they did with the bodies and told us three that they gave each a proper Christian burial.
We thought this was remarkable for a poor village in the middle of a war zone to treat their enemy in such a humane way.
I wish the families of the crew members could have been there to see the peaceful scene. It would have been a comfort to know that the remains were well cared for by the villagers. I would like the people who knew the members of the crew to know how my Danish family and I felt about the experience we had that day.
We began by feeling that we were doing you a favor but one that we were happy to do. By the time we left, we realised that we should feel grateful for being able to be there in the village, to meet the people, to answer a question those people had for 45 years, and to get the information for the American families and friends of the crew."
("Reprinted by permission from the Ringmasters' History" and authorised by Nelson Leggette, Editor, Ringmasters' Log, slightly adjusted by John Meurs where the original document was unreadable).