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Thread: Great Uncle's WWII Dog Tag

  1. #1
    Administrator J.Baker's Avatar
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    Great Uncle's WWII Dog Tag

    Today I learned that I had a great uncle (Perry W. Wolfe) who was a B-24 Liberator co-pilot in WWII and that he was killed in action near Magdeburg, Germany on March 3rd, 1945. Basically I received a huge stack of documents from another relative containing everything from the day he went missing to the correspondence between the War Dept. and his aunt and mother regarding the location of his remains and the return of his personal effects. This documentation and his dog tag didn't ever make it back to the family until just recently in 2008.

    Here are the details of his last mission:

    3 March 1945
    Rothensee
    b/Magdeburg
    Type: Liberator (B24J)
    Markings: 44-48844
    Pilot: Lt. Richard Winters
    Co-Pilot: 2/Lt Perry W. Wolfe
    703 HB Sqd.
    445 Bombing Group
    8th Air Force
    Target: Airfield Madgeburg-East

    Of their 11 man crew, only 5 survived who were captured and later transferred back to U.S. Military control. In 1955 a German hunter turned in my great uncles dog tag to the U.S. Consulate General and stated he had come across some remains while hunting and that he had buried what little was left at the site. Upon investigation into his claims the Army was unable to locate the remains he said he had buried. This story also contradicts several other accounts that the remains of two airmen were recovered by a local policeman the day of the crash and taken into his custody, then turned over to German soldiers two days later who then buried them in a local cemetery the following day. The remains of 20 U.S. soldiers were disinterred from that cemetery in 1947, 10 of which could not be identified at the time and 5 of which were ultimately classified as unidentifiable and are now interned . So how that German hunter came by his dog tag is a mystery.

    There is reference to an Air Medal, an Oak Leaf Cluster and three other citations in the documents regarding his personal items which were shipped back to his mother and aunt. Naturally he also received the Purple Heart posthumously.

    Now imagine my surprise when I was actually able to find a crew photo via a simple Google search.



    And according to the Status column in the next image their B-24 had only in service for a little over a month before being taken out by AA.



    Here's the dog tag that the German hunter turned in at the Consulate in Germany in 1955 along with the black velvet United States Army pouch it was returned to the family in.






    I have to admit that I got pretty pissed though when I stumbled across a military medals collector up in Grand Rapids, MI that has my great uncles Purple Heart for sale on his website whilst doing my research. I don't know how he came to have it, but the fact that he's trying to sell it and a second one together for $900 as a "set" because they're from the same plane just chaps my biscuits. Profiting off the stories and sacrifices of our nations hero's is just wrong on so many levels.

    http://militaryaviationartifacts.com/wings.htm
    (third listing from bottom in left column)





    "Life' is tough. It's even tougher if you're stupid." ~ John Wayne
    “Under certain circumstances, 
urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.” —Mark Twain

  2. #2
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    That is truly an amazing story. Personally I don't think any medals should be sold. Kind of like taking the gold fillings out of the deceased. No respect! Of course someone (family or friend) could have sold it at an estate sell to help pay expenses ect. Just more to the story. Once again amazing story. Thanks.

  3. #3
    rattfink
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    Thanks for sharing this story!

    I myself have my grandfathers dogtag though his was self made out of a piece of plastic on Guadalcanal.

    An interesting bit of military legendry: The term for officers "Zeros" or simply "0s" comes form the days of service numbers. Officers' numbers started with a zero.

    My hats off to your uncle, and also to the hunter who had the respect to bury his remains and allow an ending to the story.

  4. #4
    Administrator J.Baker's Avatar
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    I really have my doubts about the hunter's story. According to the official investigation, the remains of two crew members were found by a local policeman the day of the crash and turned over to German soldiers two days later, who later buried the bodies in the Westerhausen town cemetery (this from an interview of the policeman's widow). Then in 1947 20 bodies of U.S. soldiers were disinterred from that cemetery by the U.S. Army, 10 of which were immediately identified by dog tags found with the bodies, 5 of which were later identified via dental records, and 5 of which couldn't be identified - thus the investigation concludes that it is likely that one of those 5 unidentified bodies was my great uncle's. Those five bodies were later reburied in the American War Cemetery in Margraten, The Netherlands and his name is listed on the Wall of the Missing in the same cemetery.



    Apparently the records cited above aren't that great as three of his sisters aren't listed - Anna Louise (my grandmother), Ida May and Nellie Grace. Also, his mother Margaret's maiden name was Roberts, not Rogers.

    Getting back to the German hunter who turned in his dog tag, how could he have found it and the remains as he claims if the bodies in the wreckage were found and buried in 1945? Additionally, the local outfit that scrapped out the plain shortly thereafter would have clearly found any other remains as they cleaned up the wreckage. I kind of wonder if maybe this hunter wasn't one of the German soldiers whom the local policeman turned the bodies over to and he kept the dog tag as a war trophy the same as our troops would take German Lugers, medals, flags, insignia's, etc. as trophies. After the war Madgeburg was part of the eastern block (Russian control) and somehow he had managed to get out to turn the dog tag in at the U.S. Consulate in Bremen (Western Block).

    I could speculate as to the how's and why's all day, but the truth is we'll probably never know the real story. I'm just glad to have what we have as even the dog tag didn't make it back to the family until just recently in 2008. Apparently the State Dept. turned it over to the Army and then it simply got put into his record file. If my great aunt (his youngest sister) hadn't put in a request for his records and info on his burial location it would still be tucked away in the archives somewhere.
    "Life' is tough. It's even tougher if you're stupid." ~ John Wayne
    “Under certain circumstances, 
urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.” —Mark Twain

  5. #5
    Basic Member JCalhoun's Avatar
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    Jim, that's awesome.

    I'll link this to the WW2 forum that I (and Dennis) belong to. Maybe they can offer some leads.

    Look here,
    http://www.weaponsofwwii.com/forum/v...hp?f=14&t=6635
    Last edited by JCalhoun; 10-08-2013 at 09:22 AM.
    Professionals built the Titanic, amateurs built the Ark.

  6. #6
    Team Savage
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    This is a good story and a good reminder of how we got to where we are today.

  7. #7
    Sheldon
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    These are the same people they were trying to keep out of the War Memorial . . . If it hadn't been for them we wouldn't have a War Memorial!!

    Sheldon

  8. #8
    Team Savage
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    I had an uncle with Gen. Patton when in England, my uncle was a Chaplin and on his grave marker is a marking he was awarded the Bronze Star BUT what for as we can't find out.

  9. #9
    Administrator J.Baker's Avatar
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    I still haven't been able to verify what dates my great uncle was with the 703rd Bomber Squadron, but I do know he enlisted in the Army on May 16, 1942 at Patterson Field (Wright-Patterson AFB) and that the 703rd wasn't established until April 1, 1943. Depending on when he was assigned to that squadron there's a good chance he might have served directly under actor James 'Jimmy' Stewart as he was made the squadron's Operations Officer in August of 1943 and three weeks later was promoted to Squadron Commander - a position which he held until January of 1944 at which time he became Deputy Commander of the 2nd Bomb Wing. Stewart stayed with the 2nd and 20th Bomb Wings through the remainder of the war and routinely "unofficially" flew out on missions with them.

    The plane he went down in wasn't put into service until Jan 29, 1945 so I don't know if he didn't get to Europe until then or if he was part of the crew on another plane before that or what. Found a historical group for the 445th Bomber Group which the 703rd was a part of so I'm hoping I can get some more information from them in the near future.
    "Life' is tough. It's even tougher if you're stupid." ~ John Wayne
    “Under certain circumstances, 
urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.” —Mark Twain

  10. #10
    Basic Member JCalhoun's Avatar
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    He would have went through at least a couple of years of officers training a various flight schools.
    Professionals built the Titanic, amateurs built the Ark.

  11. #11
    Basic Member GaryB's Avatar
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    Here are a couple of great links that I used to do some research last year.

    http://www.militaryindexes.com/worldwartwo/

    http://www.archives.gov/st-louis/military-personnel/

    The second link, or the National Archives, will probably be your best bet. Be forewarned though, it is run by the government and can be very trying at times.

    Good luck
    Gary

    Sorry, I see you have already been to archives.gov. I should read all the posts first.
    Last edited by GaryB; 10-09-2013 at 10:52 AM.

  12. #12
    Basic Member JCalhoun's Avatar
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    Jim,

    Ricky posted some cool stuff about them on the other forum.

    http://www.weaponsofwwii.com/forum/v...hp?f=14&t=6635
    Professionals built the Titanic, amateurs built the Ark.

  13. #13
    Administrator J.Baker's Avatar
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    Thanks.

    The 445BG.org site is where I'm hoping to get some more detailed info. The guy who runs it (Mike Simpson) has a complete catalog of all the 445th's mission records that were obtained from the National Archives in Maryland. The records show what plane #'s flew what missions, who the crew members were for each plane on each mission, what the loadout was for each plane on each mission, etc.
    "Life' is tough. It's even tougher if you're stupid." ~ John Wayne
    “Under certain circumstances, 
urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.” —Mark Twain

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    Thanks for this post Jim, it's timely for my father's interest. He turned 90 last month, still lucid even after getting hit by a falling tree in his yard 3 days before his birthday. He flew 50+ missions P38's mostly, 154th. They flew recon, ground missions and cover for B17 & B24. He has many of the records and wants to find the staff sargent, or his family, that wrote an account of the squadron. I have the names, dates, records but don't know how to proceed on dad's behalf. It would be worthwhile if a flight historian could talk with him. Don't know where to start.

    It's a wonder listening to his accounts. He rarely talked much about his combat duty, he jokes he never got the good conduct medal.

  15. #15
    Administrator J.Baker's Avatar
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    Best place to start is to do a Google search for info on his squadron and fighter group #. Many of them have organizations nowadays with an online presence, and most of them will have a designated squadron/group historian or will know where to send you to find more information.
    "Life' is tough. It's even tougher if you're stupid." ~ John Wayne
    “Under certain circumstances, 
urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.” —Mark Twain

  16. #16
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    Thank you Jim, followed up and located someone from the squadron. Survivors must be in their 90's. Thanks all of you for your service.

  17. #17
    Administrator J.Baker's Avatar
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    Got a little more info tonight about my great uncles final mission from the guy who runs the 445th.org website.

    Hi Jim:

    Looks like your Great Uncle was on his 22nd mission when their plane was hit by two flak rounds while they were on the bomb run. He flew as co-pilot for all missions with Lt Richard A. Winters. According to the missing air crew reports, their plane was leading the high right squadron in an H2X radar equipped B-24 from the 701st Bomb Squadron. In late February of 1945, the 445th reallocated all of the radar equipped aircraft to the 701st Bomb Squadron to consolidate ground personnel needed to work on the radar aircraft. Shortly after their crew was lost, the lead crews (those who were the most experienced) were transferred to the 701st. Since Perry’s name appears in the crew load list for the 703rd Bomb Squadron, that helps me narrow down the date when the crew were reassigned.

    Being a lead crew was quite an honor as it meant the crew functioned as one and could be depended upon to get the job done. Magdeburg was a really tough target to go to. It had one of the largest oil refineries in Germany and was heavily defended with multiple rings of radar controlled flak guns. From the Missing Air Crew Report, 2nd Lt Ira J. Castles, the navigator and one of 4 survivors of the crew, reported that the aircraft was struck twice with direct hits from the flak guns below. His report stated that the right rear tail fin assembly and rudder were shot away, which would have greatly hampered the pilot and copilot in trying to maintain control of the aircraft. The damage was severe enough that after the first hit, the pilot ordered the crew to bail out. First out were T/Sgt Melvin E. Schmidt (radio operator) and S/Sgt Karl G. Goff (waist gunner). The aircraft sustained a second hit and started to go into a spin which was unrecoverable with the loss of the tail section. The last two to get out of the aircraft were 2nd Lt Ira J. Castles (navigator) and 2nd Lt Matthew S. Bahelka (bombardier). The rest of the crew were probably trapped by centrifugal forces inside the aircraft and were unable to make it to their bail out stations.


    Michael S. Simpson
    Unit Historian, 445th Bomb Group (H)
    Also found out his time in Europe was fairly short considered he enlisted in May of 1942. According to the paperwork I have he had a physical exam at Biggs Field in El Paso, TX on 6 Sept. 1944. That has me a bit baffled considering the 703rd was based out of and did all their training at Wendover Field in Utah (Phase I training) and Sioux City Army Air Field in Iowa (Phase II and Advanced training). As such I can only guess that he and/or his crew were re-assigned to the 703rd/445th upon their arrival in England. I'm going to have Michael do a complete mission history for all 22 missions so that should give me a better idea of when he got to England or at least narrow it down a good bit.
    "Life' is tough. It's even tougher if you're stupid." ~ John Wayne
    “Under certain circumstances, 
urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.” —Mark Twain

  18. #18
    Basic Member JCalhoun's Avatar
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    A possible explanation as to the difference in times and locations is maybe he/they were replacements.
    Professionals built the Titanic, amateurs built the Ark.

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    Basic Member rice paddy daddy's Avatar
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    Jim, thanks for sharing this story. I am a military history buff, especially WWII.
    You seem to have done a thorough research. If you would like to share what you found, or perhaps find more, one site (of the many I visit) that I would reccomend would be the WWII Forum. Very nice fellows over there. http://www.ww2f.com/
    Give them a look, you might like it.
    Also, the US government will provide a service member, or the family of a fallen service member, one replacement set of his/her medals, free. I applied for my own, and while it took almost a year, they finally came in the mail. If you would like the medals your Uncle earned to put along with his dog tag and documentation, a Veterans Service Officer can help you file the paperwork. Here in Florida, each county has one that is employed by the state. If your state does not have the same thing, many local veterans organizations such as Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Military Order of the Purple Heart, etc have a service officer in their Post. They will help you for free.

    Good luck, and I hope you assemble as much of your Uncle's story as you can for future generations of your family.
    Last edited by rice paddy daddy; 10-25-2013 at 09:13 PM.
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  20. #20
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    Thanks for the advise on finding info on the 154th. Following a hunch from a web search, located a son of a pilot dad served with. Wish there was a flight historian interested to interview dad. He's pretty sharp, especially recalling his missions and fellow pilots. At 90yrs there aren't many around. His record of missions missed a few but he figured it is a good reporting. These gentleman flew a mission every three days, more if they volunteered. Dad laughs the air corps perched 18 year olds on top of 1200hp twin Allisons...with 50 cal nose guns and set them loose. He is especially respectful speaking about the bomber crews he escourted.

  21. #21
    Basic Member JCalhoun's Avatar
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    A tiny bit more info,

    Ricky wrote:They were based at RAF Tibenham in Norflok, near where I studied, so I may have some books with info in - I'll try to look them out



    Sadly they had nothing much new, except that the airfield was purpose-built for the USAAF, and the 445th Bomb Group were the only unit ever based there (though the site had been used by the RFC in WW1)
    Professionals built the Titanic, amateurs built the Ark.

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