A continuation of my post regarding the location of the crash site of the 28 September 1944 mid-air collision of the John Oliver Buslee crew B-17 (the unnamed 43‑37822) and James Joseph Brodie crew B-17 (42‑31222, Lazy Daisy).
As I previously reported,
- The crash site of 43-37822 was noted in a German Report on Captured Aircraft included in the Buslee crew Missing Air Crew Report (MACR9753) as “33 km west of Magdeburg and 2 km north of Ost Ingersleben.”
- The crash site of 42-31222 Lazy Daisy was noted in a German Report on Captured Aircraft included in the Brodie crew Missing Air Crew Report (MACR9366) as “north edge of Ost Ingersleben, 33 km west of Magdeburg.” The two B-17’s likely crashed very close to the same location.
On the afternoon of 28 September 1944, two B-17’s fell from the sky near Ost Ingersleben, Germany. Unclear is how close in proximity the two planes crashed to the ground, but they likely both landed in the same general vicinity.
George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., the navigator who bailed out of one of the fortresses said from his birds-eye view above the scene, floating down in his parachute, “Many civilians and the military there saw the incident.”
One of those “civilians” was a Czechoslovakian man who was interned by the Nazis as forced labor. He said he saw one plane crash land, but never mentions a second aircraft.
To hear and see such a terrifying sight, two spinning, burning planes speeding toward the ground, to feel the ground shake upon impact seems to me an image that would be etched in memory forever. But the reported recollection of the Czechoslovakian man, who claimed to be first on the scene, is somewhat inaccurate.
Of course, considering his situation, perhaps I expect too much of his recollection as a witness. I don’t disbelieve him. I can’t. He had indisputable proof that he was there and witnessed the crash. He had taken John Oliver (Jay) Buslee’s ring as a souvenir.
Years after the collision and ensuing crash of the two B-17’s, the Czechoslovakian man, now freed from Nazi forced labor and back home, decided to return the ring to Jay Buslee’s family. He wrote a letter dated 28 January 1948 and in it explained,
On Sept. 22, 1944, American plane came down in flames alone, about 40 kilometers from Magdeburg. I have been working in the fields, there the Germans put me on forced labor. I came to the plane before the Gestapo and SS did and all the flyers have been dead and I pick up a ring which belonged to one of the flyers.
In his claim to having witnessed the crash of Buslee’s B-17, he noted the date of 22 September 1944 rather than the correct date of 28 September 1944. He also noted that the plane came down in flames “alone.” I can understand in his circumstances getting the date wrong. Not seeing the second B-17 come down makes me think the Brodie plane did not come down as close to Buslee’s plane as I thought.
The Czech man later left home for military service. Correspondence continued through the man’s father in a letter dated April 12, 1948, in which more, but slightly different, details were provided,
On Sept. 24, /Sunday/ about 14 hours, /That is 2 P.M./ came a swarm of bombing US planes and the direction was Magdeburg in Germany. One plane was separated from the swarm and the way it looks, damaged. Finaly after a while, the plane came down in flames near the village Bertensleben, about 9 kilometers from Helmstadt. My son, who have been in Germany on forced labor in lager close to village Bernsdorf, went to the scene and came there sooner before the German authorities did.
… the place, where the plane came down, is out of populated places…
… I made a primitive sketch of the place where the plane came down. The place is between the village Bartensleben and Bornsdorf…
- In this letter, the date of the crash was noted as 24 September, a Sunday, at about 14 hours/2 o’clock in the afternoon. The actual time, in German time, of the mid-air collision and crash would have been about 1 P.M, which was about noon in English time as noted in military documents.
- In my previous post of this letter/information, I chose to omit the exact locations, but am including them now after further review and determination of what I believe to be the locations the writer intended. The names of some of the places were not noted correctly, but I believe I know the places the writer meant.
- Location name corrections, including those noted on the sketch,
- Helmstadt should be Helmstedt
- Bernsdorf or Bornsdorf should be Beendorf
- Bertensleben (although correct on sketch) should be Bartensleben
- Braunsweig (Braunschweig), on the sketch, is also known as Brunswick.
- The locations of Beendorf and Bartensleben also seem to be swapped in the sketch. Beendorf is actually to the west of Bartensleben.
To make the location of the sketch more clear, I have plotted each location on a Google map,
Click images to enlarge…
I also wanted to see exactly where 2 km north of Ost Ingersleben would be as noted in wartime documents.
And zoomed out…
And zoomed in…
Internet searches do not turn up any more information regarding the crash of the two B-17’s in this area. Next steps for me will be to attempt to connect with libraries or local government entities in the area in order to learn more about the crash of the Buslee and Brodie crew B-17’s.
To be continued with more information regarding the role this area of Germany played in World War II and the role of the people who were forced to play it…
Previous post, When in Magdeburg, Look Up
Previous post, Path from Mid-air Collision to Crash Area
Previous posts, The John Buslee Ring Letters
Aircraft records and Missing Air Crew Reports courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group website.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022
Often, people in traumatic situations will remember things incorrectly. Or maybe he saw two planes but thought it was one that had broken up. It’s not unusual that this man’s recollection could be inaccurate. Or that he saw only one plane.
Yes, I’ve considered all those things, and not just from the trauma of that day. I have another post coming up next week that explains what I believe his “forced labor” entailed and I think he was lucky to live through the war, much less remember what day and day of the week he saw a B-17 crash nearby. And I don’t doubt that parts of both planes crashed together, but I do believe there must be a separate crash site somewhere nearby as the two B-17’s were observed separately after the collision. I hope to be able to pinpoint both crash sites someday.