AP NEWS

US veterans of 1943 bomber crash commemorated in Holland

November 17, 2018

MINOT, N.D. (AP) — Seventy-five years ago on Oct. 14, 1943, Arthur Linrud of Velva and nine other members of a B-17 crew were shot down near the border of Holland and Germany. Five of the crew perished and Linrud and four other crew members were captured and taken prisoners of war.

In commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the crash, the town of Eygelshoven, Holland, honored the crew members in two ceremonies held there. Linrud’s daughters, JoAnn Linrud of Minot and Peggy Linrud of Edina, Minnesota, and Peggy Linrud’s daughter, Erica Stern of Silver Spring, Maryland, attended the ceremonies held Oct. 13. They represented the families of the survivors at the ceremonies, the Minot Daily News reported.

A ceremony was held at the U.S. Army maintenance base, the site where the tail of the B-17 fell. Here, five streets were named in honor of the five crew members who died in the crash. At another ceremony held at a nearby Catholic cemetery, a monument was dedicated to the entire crew, with U.S. and Dutch military and others representing U.S. and Dutch organizations.

All of those who survived the crash are now deceased except 95-year-old Benjamin F. Roberts, the ball turret gunner, who lives in Decatur, Alabama. Arthur Linrud, the top turret gunner/flight engineer, died in 2012 and is buried in the Veterans Section in Rosehill Memorial Park, Minot.

“What we have now in 2016 to 2018 is a reexamination of this whole flight because some of the spectators are still living,” Joann Linrud said.

Wim Slangen of Eygelshoven has been researching the plane crash and what happened to Breeden, the co-pilot. He has interviewed a number of the eyewitnesses. One of his relatives was an eyewitness to the incident.

When a story about Slangen and his search for Breeden appeared in the Aachen, Germany, newspaper about two years ago, Karl-Josef Offermanns of Aachen, Germany, came upon the name “Arthur Linrud” in the newspaper story. His wife, Martina, a relative of Arthur Linrud’s wife, the former of Adela Gliege of Max, contacted JoAnn Linrud and Peggy Linrud, saying in an email, “Is this your Dad?” It was quite a surprise for them to hear from relatives on their mother’s side with information about their father. When JoAnn Linrud went to Germany in 2016 she met Wim Slangen.

“Really he’s the one who is responsible for coming up with the idea that something should happen in relation to the 75th anniversary,” JoAnn Linrud said.

Slangen encouraged the U.S. Army maintenance base personnel to honor the crew of B-17 #42-3436 because they fell in the Eygelshoven area. They agreed. Slangen worked with base and townspeople on the ceremony held last month.

“Black Thursday” and other books have been written about the Second Schweinfurt Raid on Oct. 14, 1943, a mission with nearly 300 bombers drawn from various units to bomb the ball-bearing factories at Schweinfurt Germany, about 500 miles from the B-17 bases in England.

Arthur Linrud was not an original crew member of B-17F #42-3436 but was a replacement on the crew, JoAnn Linrud said.

“By the time this one happened, he had four missions already so this was his fifth mission and it turned out his last,” she said.

Due to heavy fog in England for days ahead of the planned mission, the crew didn’t think they would be flying but then their superiors gave the go-ahead for the mission. Because of the fog, the planes coming from the various bases had to circle and maneuver into position hopefully before they got across the English Channel, JoAnn Linrud said.

“Dad’s plane took off about 9:15 in the morning and it was noon, maybe afternoon, when they finally got an assemblance of a formation heading over,” she said. “Because it had taken so long for them to get into formation the fighters (serving as escorts) ran out of fuel and headed back to England.”

When Arthur Linrud’s plane got near the Holland border the Messerschmitts, German fighter planes, attacked.

The B-17 had a great deal of difficulty getting into the position so it wasn’t in the place it was supposed to be and flying lower, JoAnn Linrud said. “The ones that were lower were the easy prey. His plane was among the first to come down about 1:30.”

Arthur Linrud, as the top turret gunner, could see what was coming.

“It was just a barrage,” she said.

The plane’s second engine on the left side was hit and soon was in flames. There was no way for the crew to get the fire out and the pilot gave the bail out order, JoAnn Linrud said.

“Dad was told to go down and open up the trap door. He did that and then he was told, ‘Go,’” she said. Later she has learned her father may not have been the first one out of the plane.

“As the engine catches on fire, the plane breaks up as it’s spinning out of control. The tail and fuselage separate from the nose. The tail as it’s coming apart from the plane has no heavy weight in it so it’s just floating,” JoAnn Linrud said.

The tail of the plane with the two dead waist gunners fell in Holland and the nose and bombs fell about three-fourths of a mile across the river Worm into Germany. The navigator and bombardier were found dead near the nose.

Arthur Linrud and four other crew members (radio operator, tail gunner, pilot and ball turret gunner) were captured by Germans. Co-pilot Donald Breeden was unaccounted for.

A German Messerschmitt fighter plane shot down by this B-17 also crashed Kerkrade-Chevremont, also near Eygelshoven. The pilot’s remains were never found.

After Arthur Linrud was captured, he was interrogated for about a week in Amsterdam and then sent on to Frankfurt where thousands of captured Americans were put on trains and sent to POW camps.

“His possessions were taken, his high school class ring was taken and his wrist watch. It makes you wonder who in Germany might have that 1939 Velva High School ring?” JoAnn Linrud said.

Arthur Linrud and three of the crew members were sent to Stalag 17, a POW camp controlled by Germans in Krems, Austria. The pilot, an officer, was sent to another POW camp. Arthur Linrud was a prisoner of war for 18 months until May 3, 1945.

“They were released when it was apparent the Russians were invading from the East and Patton’s Army was moving in from the west,” JoAnn Linrud said. The POW’s marched for about 17 days to Austria. They were liberated by Patton’s troops in Braunau am Inn and taken to France to board planes or ships for return to the U.S.

Breeden, the co-pilot, remains unaccounted for but it is now believed his remains are probably interred with those of the navigator and/or the bombardier who are buried in the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial Margraten.

JoAnn Linrud said she and family members have gained new friendships as a result of the recent events. She said she has also seen how much those in the community where the plane went down value the sacrifice that U.S. service members made and how much they value their freedom. “They said to me, ‘Our world would be a very different place if they hadn’t come.’ ”

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Information from: Minot Daily News, http://www.minotdailynews.com

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