Airwar over Denmark

Airwar over Denmark

 By Søren C. Flensted

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B 17G 42-31972 belly landed on Fliegerhorst Odense 13/5 1944.


The aircraft belonged to USAAF, 8 Air Force, 379 Bomb Group, 527 Bomb Squadron.
T/O Kimbolton. OP: Stettin.

 


  (David  Claypool)

The 379th leaving Kimbolton on the morning of May 13, 1944


12 minutes after having dropped the bombs Pilot 1st Lt John E. Wilds Jr. left the formation with his # one engine feathered. A 20 mm had gone through the cone in the front of the propeller and gallons of hot oil came out looking like a fire.
 
When over the island of Fyn it was found necessary to land the aircraft which was coded FO-F. At 16:35 42-31972 was belly landed in a field near Beldringe north of the city of Odense. Engineer T/Sgt Warren D. Claypool dropped the landing gear ½ down untill impact. At the time of impact he brought the wheels back up because the field was short. The wheels acted like a shock absorber. As the crew left the bomber Germans soldiers came over a berm and ran towards the crew with guns. The crew were made POW`s. The Germans told the crew to strip off their cloths and was left standing naked for a long time while the Germans searched for weapons.
 


 
The field Wilds had selected for landing lay right in the centre of the location where the Germans half a year earlier had started building Fliegerhorst Odense.

 


 
The next day Pilot 1st Lt John E. Wilds Jr., Co-pilot 2nd Lt Samuel L. McDaniel, Navigator 2nd Lt James R. Schaeffer, Bombardier 1st Lt Virgil J. Garth, Radio operator T/Sgt Gordon Tucker, Engineer T/Sgt Warren D. Claypool, Ball turret gunner S/Sgt Charles J. Baldwin, Waist gunner S/Sgt John Corey and Tail gunner S/Sgt Joseph Carl were sent by train to Dulag Luft at Oberursel for interrogation.

Claypool and Gordon Tucker was sent directly to Stalag Luft IV from Oberursel. Claypool was made a room leader in Compound B. On 6th of February he and Tucker, along with the POW`s of Compound C, were send on a forced march of about 600 miles which lasted untill they were liberated by 104th Infantery (Timberwolfes) at the Mulde river near Bitterfeld on April 26th 1945. It is not clear where the rest of the crew was sent to or when they were liberated.                                                                                                                         

 

All 3 pictures showing 42-31972 being shipped out of Odense.

 


        (David  Claypool)

Bridge across the Mulde river near Bitterfeld

 


        (David  Claypool)

Engineer T/Sgt Warren D. Claypool

 


        (David  Claypool)

Radio operator T/Sgt Gordon Tucker

 


  (Christian Stock via David Claypool)

Co-pilot 2nd Lt Samuel L. McDaniel

 

Sources: MACR, LBUK, Erik Jensen, David Claypool.

 

During his research of his fathers war time experiences David Claypool found this web site and told me about his father, Warren T. Claypools time in Germany and very generously let me exclusively bring a number of pictures of his father. When David realized that the exact place where his father had landed in 1944 was known, he decided to visit the place. Here follows his account on the visit.

 

TRIP TO DENMARK

MAY 10, 2012

I began a trip on May 10, 2012 to Denmark.  My purpose was to follow the history of WWII into Denmark and more specifically locate the exact crash landing site of my Father near Beldringe on May 13, 1944.  Coming from Germany into Denmark I noticed a distinct difference in the style of buildings.  Most of the buildings were all lower with hardly any tall buildings at all.  The next day as we went north I realized why.  It is a windy and chilly place as you go northerly and experience the wind from the North Sea. Things need to be protected from it.

I met with Soren Flensted when my nephew Swen and I arrived in Billund.  Soren has the Web Site which has pictures and the official report on my Father’s plane.  On Friday the 11th we went North to Hanstholm and studied the bunkers of the large guns which the Germans trained on the sea between Denmark and Norway.  The large bunker museum has many preserved weapons and they have reconstructed the various aspects of the military life in and around these guns.  The area these bunkers have together with other support bunkers take up a huge area along the North Sea.  Each of the four 38 cm guns had its position with immediate support personnel in an attached bunker surrounding the gun.

 


   (Søren Flensted)

David and Swen riding the ammunition train at Hanstholm

 

When we proceeded on with the journey Soren pointed out the burial mounds of each ancient family who had owned and worked the land.  The burial mounds are much the same as those by the American Indians in Minnesota and other places in America.  However, what really catches your eye is the amount of German Bunkers everywhere.  There were command bunkers, crew bunkers, panzer bunkers and various other bunkers for support.  As you traveled along one might believe if you stood on one of these bunkers you may see one or two more somewhere around you.

On May 12th we visited Ringkobing and saw the contents of the bunker which was uncovered by a storm on the North Sea.  The Bunker had been intact and covered by sand since WWII so all the personal items and bunker contents were available.  A young German Soldier had been the last out of the Bunker and he was located and he confirmed some of the items belonged to him.  We proceeded to Vandel where Soren is involved with a Bunker Museum on an airfield built by the Germans.  The airfield covered a large area and contained abutments and dugouts where planes and equipment were kept hidden.  I enjoyed the collection and in particular the complete set of uniforms of the Luftwaffe according to their various subgroups that they maintain there.  It was a neat, clean, well lighted and well organized collection.

May 13, 2012, a day I have been waiting for.  68 years ago my father, Warren D. Claypool, had taken off for a raid on Poznan and was diverted to Stettin because of bad overcast at Poznan.  My father’s position was flight engineer/top turret and he was flying his 34th mission with the 379th Heavy Bomb Group.  The plane was hit by a 20 mm in the number one engine and as the pilot attempted to keep up they lost power and had to find a landing place.  My father stated they landed in the only area they could find that was long enough for a landing.

 


   (Søren Flensted)

Outside the museum bunker at Beldringe airport with Bent and Jens and the flag David brought home with him.

 

There I was, going to that place with Soren Flensted who knew exactly where it was.  That place where my father lost his freedom and he could not go home to his English Wife of two weeks, my Mom.  To a place that affected each of them for the rest of their lives and me as well.  Like most POWs he was MIA for about 3 months before word reached home that he was a POW.  We met Jens P. Sorvin and Bent Henriksen at the Beldringe bunker museum.  They are responsible for the bunker museum and the collection they have.  I have never been welcomed more warmly than by these two gentlemen.  What a great feeling to know that someone really cares about what happened to our soldiers in those days.  They showed me the American Flag that they flew for me that day. It was a coffin flag, a flag that draped the coffins of the American Soldiers the Danes had buried and cared for and were later brought together to be reburied in Belgium after the war.  The missing men were all brought together in the basement of Assistens Kirkegaard Cemetery in Odense. They were identified and embalmed and on May 8, 1948 they were sent to Belgium by train.

We then walked about 300 yards to the crash site which was a field alongside of a small country road.  Near a grove of trees and an old brick barn which were there that day. 

Today, there is a field with a new crop coming up.  No one shooting or capturing anyone.  Just a bunch of men meeting as friends and sharing a common interest.  It was nice.

They showed me around their Command Bunker which was having trouble with water coming in.  They showed me the layout and how the stove was grenade proof.  They showed me how the machine gun was setup to protect the entrance.  They gave me plans on how the Germans built their various bunkers.

 


   (Søren Flensted)

David and Jens with the front window from his fathers B 17

 

We then proceeded to the temporary storage in the Beldringe Airport basement.  There they showed me the windshield from my father’s plane.  It was really something to see the windshield he would have been looking out of while he lowered and then raised the landing gear for the crash landing.  The windshield was from his last flight.  It felt good to hold it and to know he eventually made it home.  A bit of my history.

 


   (Søren Flensted)

One happy American

 

We looked at the several RAF and 3 American flyers wooden crosses that had marked their graves.  Two of the American flyers were killed when a B17 crashed in February nearby. The Americans were sent to Belgium and the RAF are still buried but with nice headstones at the main cemetery in Odense.  It was nice to know that if Dad had not made it they would have taken care of him.  Bent told me how he had visited with an eyewitness to the crash site and he told him how the crew was standing outside of the plane with the Germans crawling up to capture them. The plane had plowed a large furrow in the ground.

A reporter and photographer were on hand when we went back.  They interviewed me and did a great job of covering the visit.  The next day there was an article in the Odense Newspaper.  I also talked with some folks who were there from the Danish Partisan Museum in Odense.

 

Click on image to enlarge (Link will open in a new window)

 

Click on image to enlarge (Link will open in a new window)

 

Click on image to enlarge (Link will open in a new window)

 

 

We then went for a flight over the area with Steen Jep Emming our pilot.  We calculated by the GPS where the line would be from Stettin to Beldringe and flew that line and around the west side of Odense.  Steen took us around the area and passed by where the last leg of the doomed plane most likely was.  Dad had said he saw Sweden out the window but he may have seen the easterly part of Denmark.  Steen pointed out where the westerly boundary of Odense would have been in 1944.  It was a great way to determine what most likely happened.  It was a wonderful plane ride and much appreciated.

 


   (Søren Flensted)

David, Swen and pilot Steen after the flight

 

When it was time to leave Bent and Jens came up and presented me with the American coffin flag.  They presented it as a gift.  I have to say I was completely speechless.  What can you say about a gift that represents all those who were lost in the North Sea and over Denmark.  I am searching for the proper way to welcome this flag home.
Knowing that the coffins that it covered never came home perhaps Jens said it the best.  “The flag is carrying home all the souls of those that perished”.

We did go downtown Odense with Bent and he showed us where Luftwaffe Headquarters was located.  This is where Dad would most likely have been taken by covered truck from the crash site.  He then would have been put on a train to Frankfurt which would have taken 2 or 3 days and then interrogation at Oberursal.  They had nothing to eat during this period of time.  Bent also took us to a large natural stone where the names of the two flyers who died in February were carved.

 


  (Swen Brandt)

The memorial at the crashsite where two americans died on 20/2-1944

 

On May 5th the Danes celebrate the Germans defeat in WWII.  On every allied grave and memorial I saw wreaths and flowers which had been laid the week before I got there.  They did, and still do, assist the allies that helped rid their Country of Denmark of their German Oppressors.

 


  (David Claypool)

At the cemetery in Odense where the American crewmembers had rested

 

Many thanks to the most gracious people I have ever met.  Thanks to Soren Flensted, a true historian, for his dedicated work in finding and preserving the personal history of WWII in Denmark on the Web.  Without his work this trip would have never happened.  Bent and Jens you are the best.  Thanks for what you have protected and preserved and Bent thanks for your long history preservation.  Steen many thanks for your airplane ride as it made the final leg a real experience.

With my deepest heartfelt thanks,

David D. Claypool

 

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