140820 adventures of sgt zercher and other crew members karen b

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The reason for this paper is twofold: when writing the book ` Apeldoorn ' 40 - ' 45 the story behind the Apeldoorn’s war monuments' it appeared that on the monument at 's Heerenloo Midden-Nederland (formerly Groot Schuylenburg) the name of sergeant Zercher had been misspelled: Zurcher instead of Zercher. This mistake has been corrected. Moreover the story about Sergeant Robert W. Zercher and the crew he belonged to was unknown. In the ‘official’ source we consulted we found no more information than: `In spite of many investigations in America the names of these aviators could not be found’. Meanwhile further information has become available – especially internet has proven to be an invaluable asset - and that’s the reason why the story could be reconstructed.

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140820 adventures of sgt zercher and other crew members karen b

  1. 1. THE ADVENTURES OF SERGEANT BOB ZERCHER AND THE OTHER CREW MEMBERS OF THE ‘KAREN B’ Jelle Reitsma 1 July 28, 2014 In continuation of ‘Apeldoorn ’40 – ’45 the story behind the Apeldoorn War Monuments’
  2. 2. THE ADVENTURES OF SERGEANT BOB ZERCHER AND THE OTHER CREW MEMBERS OF THE ‘KAREN B’ Jelle Reitsma 2 July 28, 2014 In continuation of ‘Apeldoorn ’40 – ’45 the story behind the Apeldoorn War Monuments’ The reason for this paper is twofold: when writing the book ` Apeldoorn ' 40 - ' 45 the story behind the Apeldoorn’s war monuments' it appeared that on the monument at 's Heerenloo Midden- Nederland (formerly Groot Schuylenburg) the name of sergeant Zercher had been misspelled: Zurcher instead of Zercher. This mistake must be corrected. Moreover the story about Sergeant Robert W. Zercher and the crew he belonged to was unknown. In the ‘official’ source we consulted we found no more information than: `In spite of many investigations in America the names of these aviators could not be found’. Meanwhile further information has become available – especially internet has proven to be an invaluable asset - and that’s the reason why the story could be reconstructed. Robert W. Zercher was born in 1907 as the son of Frank and Ella Zercher. He and his twin sister Pauline grew up in Hallam, York, Pennsylvania. Robert graduated from William Penn High School and Penn State University. He then worked eight years as a test engineer for York Corporation and never married. Robert enlisted in the US Army Air Force (USAAF) on September, 22 1942 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. While in training as a belly turret gunner, his mother, Ella, died. Sergeant Robert W. Zercher
  3. 3. THE ADVENTURES OF SERGEANT BOB ZERCHER AND THE OTHER CREW MEMBERS OF THE ‘KAREN B’ Jelle Reitsma 3 July 28, 2014 In continuation of ‘Apeldoorn ’40 – ’45 the story behind the Apeldoorn War Monuments’ After training, he was promoted to sergeant and assigned to the crew of 2nd Lieutenant Hal J. Nelson from Iowa City, Iowa. The remaining crewmembers came from all parts of America. Copilot 2nd Lieutenant Charles F. Ramlow was from Shawano Lake, Wisconsin, 2nd Lieutenant Noyes Richey, the navigator, came from Ragley, Louisiana and 2nd Lieutenant Phillip R. Cavanaugh, the bombardier, from Baltimore in Maryland. Staff sergeant Michael Dencavage, the flight engineer, who also manned the machineguns in the top turret, was from Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. His fellow Staff sergeant George P. Paulk, who operated the radio, came from Bartow in Florida. Sergeant Don E. Jackson, Stone Creek, Ohio, was the left waist gunner, Technical sergeant Victor A. Ryczko, the right waist gunner, from Corona, New York, and Sergeant Floyd E. Ragsdale, the tail gunner, hailed from Honea Path, South Carolina. From left to right: Nelson, Cavanaugh, In front: Ryczko, Paulk, Dencavage, at the Ramlow, Richey back: Ragsdale, Jackson, Zercher After training as a B-17 crew in Texas the crew was transferred to the 729 Bomb Squadron (BS), one of the four squadrons of the 452 Bomb Group (BG). These BG’s were part of 8 USAAF, commonly known as the ‘Mighty Eight’. 729th BOMB SQUADRON During the period December, 1943, to January, 1944, the 452 BG moved to the United Kingdom. Deopham Green in Norfolk became their home base. The Nelson crew was assigned to the ‘Karen B ', a B-17G Flying Fortress. In this aircraft they completed their first operational flight on April, 24. Brunswick, Germany, was the target and they returned unscathed.
  4. 4. THE ADVENTURES OF SERGEANT BOB ZERCHER AND THE OTHER CREW MEMBERS OF THE ‘KAREN B’ Jelle Reitsma 4 July 28, 2014 In continuation of ‘Apeldoorn ’40 – ’45 the story behind the Apeldoorn War Monuments’ B-17G ‘Flying Fortress’ bomber Early in the morning of Saturday, April 29, 1944 the ‘Karen B’ took off from Deopham Green as one of the more than seven hundred heavy bombers that were heading to bomb the Friedrichstrasse railway station in Berlin, Germany. This station was a key point in the city's railroad passenger traffic system. By eliminating it, the Americans thought they would deal a terrific blow to the German war industry in and around Berlin. The factory workers would no longer be able to reach their factories and as a result, production would greatly decrease. To protect the bombers against German fighters, the ‘Mighty Eight’ sent an impressive array of more than 800 Allied fighters into action: P-38 Lightning’s, P-51 Mustangs and P-47 Thunderbolts.
  5. 5. THE ADVENTURES OF SERGEANT BOB ZERCHER AND THE OTHER CREW MEMBERS OF THE ‘KAREN B’ Jelle Reitsma 5 July 28, 2014 In continuation of ‘Apeldoorn ’40 – ’45 the story behind the Apeldoorn War Monuments’ P-38 Lightnings P-51 Mustangs P-47 Thunderbolts The outward flight was relatively uneventful for the ‘Karen B’, which flew in the first of the three formations. That was not so with all planes. Two BGs from the first formation went off course because the radars of their ‘Pathfinder’ bombers malfunctioned. They strayed south and entered the airspace over Brunswick, Germany, without fighter protection. There they were mercilessly attacked by more than a hundred German fighters. The third formation was delayed by wind: 10 to 20º northerly and 10 to 15 knots stronger than predicted. As a result, no contact could be made with their fighter escort. The third formation the formation was attacked by 60 to 80 German fighters over the Hanover area.
  6. 6. THE ADVENTURES OF SERGEANT BOB ZERCHER AND THE OTHER CREW MEMBERS OF THE ‘KAREN B’ Jelle Reitsma 6 July 28, 2014 In continuation of ‘Apeldoorn ’40 – ’45 the story behind the Apeldoorn War Monuments’ German Focke Wulf 190 fighters The German fighter control did an extremely competent job bringing its fighters into action in two waves and causing considerable losses amongst the American bombers. Eventually, no more than 580 bombers appeared over the target in Berlin. The formations had been seriously disrupted by the German air attacks. One of the navigators from the third formation sighed: `Too many aircraft in very poor formations over target’. Moreover, the target was barely visible due to a low overcast. The German anti-aircraft artillery - ‘Flak’ guns - took over from the fighters and harassed the bomber fleet violently. Only 1408 tons of bombs hit the Friedrichstrasse railway station and the surrounding area. Aerial photo April, 29 1944, the target at Friedrichstrasse Railway Station The bombers that had gone astray chose Magdeburg as their ‘target of opportunity ’and dropped the bombs there. During the return flight the bombers got a good beating. The third formation now became the victim. Due to the delay caused by the unfavorable wind and the German fighter
  7. 7. THE ADVENTURES OF SERGEANT BOB ZERCHER AND THE OTHER CREW MEMBERS OF THE ‘KAREN B’ Jelle Reitsma 7 July 28, 2014 In continuation of ‘Apeldoorn ’40 – ’45 the story behind the Apeldoorn War Monuments’ attacks, the fighter escort could not locate the bombers in time. Effective protection could only be offered after passing Hanover. Nevertheless, the results of the attack were assessed as ‘fair to good’. The price was high, though. 38 B-17 Flying Fortresses, 26 B-24 Liberators and 14 fighters were lost. 355 bombers landed with battle damage – 325 with damage caused by German anti- aircraft artillery. After the mission, 636 crew members went missing (MIA), 39 were wounded (WIA) and 18 killed (KIA). Of the 636 MIA it later became known who were taken prisoner (POW) and who had been killed. Fortunately the majority of them proved to be POWs, and most of them survived the war. The ‘Karen B’ was hit by anti aircraft artillery over Berlin. That resulted in a no. 2 engine burning and its fuel tank leaking. The B-17 could no longer keep up with the formation and had to continue the flight home alone. It quickly became clear that it would be impossible to return to its home base, Deopham Green. At a one point, it appeared that the complete crew would have to bail out. The pilot, 2nd lieutenant Hal Nelson, told his crew members over the intercom at 1240 hours just how serious the plane’s situation was and ordered them to strap on their parachutes if they had not already done so. On hearing this, Sergeant Don Jackson, the left waist gunner, immediately bailed out of the plane. It is possible that he misunderstood the orders. Other crew members later said that Jackson was standing near the door. With the noise of the plane and an intercom that was malfunctioning, Jackson simply jumped out of the plane as soon as he heard the pilot’s voice. He landed in the village Ölper, approximately 3 km northwest of Brunswick. He was severely beaten by the local citizens and immediately became a POW. Don Jackson was moved to an unknown prisoner of war camp (Stalag Luft?) and was liberated at the end of the war. Shortly after passing the Dutch border, with three engines shut down and one burning, the plane lost more and more altitude. Because it was still under control, the pilot decided to make a crash landing and not to order his crew to bail out. During the landing, only the pilots, the lieutenants Nelson and Ramlow, sat in the cockpit. The rest of the crew stood together in the radio room. It was 1330 hours, the plane landed at the corner of Veldermansdijk - Strengendijk on Het Vellert, some 5 kilometers south of Ruurlo.1 Nobody was injured. The crew tried to set the plane on fire, but to no avail. Only one wing burned. The crew then took to their heels into the woods to avoid to be taken prisoner. A Dutchman, Jan Veldhuis took the crew through a ditch to safety in a canal behind the farm Maandag’s Koeweide. The Germans arrived on the scene of the emergency landing around two o’clock, but by that time the American crew had already fled. That same evening, the Americans were picked up by Henry Wieggers. He wanted to hide them in 1 In the book ‘Vijfenvijftig namen op Heidehof’ (55 names at Heidehof cemetery), written by A. Meijer, the crash at the Veldweg 25 in Lieren is described (a B-17G 42-31226, 401 BG, 613 BS, home base Deenethorpe, same mission, MACR (Missing Air Crew Report) 4345. Meijer thought that this was Zercher’s plane. Probably there were two MACR’s involved MACR 4449 (B-17G 42-39920 452 BG 729 BS) is the report describing the crash landing of the ‘Karen B’.
  8. 8. THE ADVENTURES OF SERGEANT BOB ZERCHER AND THE OTHER CREW MEMBERS OF THE ‘KAREN B’ Jelle Reitsma 8 July 28, 2014 In continuation of ‘Apeldoorn ’40 – ’45 the story behind the Apeldoorn War Monuments’ his own house, but his helper did not like this idea. Therefore Wieggers brought them to the grove with Bernard Stegers, where they could hide themselves in the dry ditches. Here they were provided with civilian clothes. Helping Allied airmen was very risky. In 1941 the Germans introduced the death penalty as punishment for these actions. Iimmediately after the emergency landing of the ‘Karen B’ the Germans diligently started searching for the crew. They searched also near the Stegers’ grove, but the grove itself was left alone. The fallen rain made the young trees and the leaves very wet and the Germans had apparently no desire for wet uniforms. The second shelter from the crew was a loft belonging to Mr. Wopereis where ‘onderduikers’ (persons in hiding) sometimes hid when danger threatened. Here they arrived Saturday night. Wieggers, in his own words, had to put up with the ‘verwende sikke’ (‘spoiled brats’): Sunday morning they could not chew the currant-bread (made of dried pears) with German farmer sausage. However, when Wieggers’ sister arrived with pudding, it was greedily devoured. Monday morning , the Germans conducted a raid in Zieuwent and an ‘onderduiker’ (person in hiding) who fled for this raid and sought shelter in the loft of Wopereis , was more than a bit surprised when he saw the nine men sitting in the loft. The situation was too dangerous and Wopereis felt that the American crew had to disappear as soon as possible. They were too great a danger to other people in hiding nearby. The headmaster of the school in Mariënvelde, Mr. Rots, wanted to make sure that Sunday evening they would be collected by the Resistance men Joop ter Haar and Henry Leemreize from Lichtenvoorde. This did not happen, however, and the crew was then taken to another place. The next day a pilot glove was found on the road between Wopereis’ loft and their next shelter, fortunately not by a German or pro-German Dutchman. On Monday evening a rendezvous with Mr. Krul was arranged on the Harreveldseweg in Zieuwent. When Krul heard that Wieggers kept pilots hidden, he became angry and said, ‘Let them go, they are for me.’ Apparently Krul probably wanted to achieve more glory. It was agreed that the crew, clad again in uniform, would be transferred to the Resistance group in Aalten. The transfer would take place across De Radstake in Heelweg and more in the direction of Aalten. First, this was to be done by bike, but the Wieggers’ helper, Jan Lammers, did not like this idea. Therefore it was decided to walk the crew to meet the Resistance in Aalten. During the walk, Jan Lammers cycled ahead to see if the road was clear and safe. At one point it became dangerous when a group of people left a farm to watch the increased aircraft activity overhead. Wieggers and Jan Lammers persuaded the Americans to march two-by-two. The inhabitants of the farm, who thought the airmen marching Germans, one by one took cover behind the hedge and so the Americans and their helpers had no trouble passing the farm.
  9. 9. THE ADVENTURES OF SERGEANT BOB ZERCHER AND THE OTHER CREW MEMBERS OF THE ‘KAREN B’ Jelle Reitsma 9 July 28, 2014 In continuation of ‘Apeldoorn ’40 – ’45 the story behind the Apeldoorn War Monuments’ Eventually, the Americans were transferred to the other members of the Resistance. The nine found shelter in Aalten at the place of milkman Hendrikus Lambert Becking. On Thursday, May 4, 1944, they dared to bring the crew, hiding in two taxis.2, to garage owner Peter in Zutphen. The risk could be reduced by constantly changing the hiding places. The ultimate goal was to return them to England via the ‘pilots escape line ‘. All this was not only very dangerous, it also took a lot of time and effort. The crash landing site, August 2006 Peters himself could offer accommodation at his house3 for five men and the four others (George Paulk among them) were taken in by the Peters Sr4. Some three days later, Michael Dencavage, George Paulk and Floyd Ragsdale were taken in by the Vinke family at ‘Huize de Voorst’ in Eefde; about May, 18 they moved on to the Hetebrei sisters5 in Zutphen, straight across the road from the German ‘Ortskommandantur’. Charles Ramslow and Noyes Richey went into hiding with the Jansen family 6 in Zutphen till May, 17 and later on at Ross’s house7 in Eefde, and at the house of the widow ten Kate, also in Eefde 8 from May, 26 till August, 14. After that they moved on to Apeldoorn. 2 drivers Hans Peters and E. Schuppen 3 Hans Peters, Hemonystraat 20, Zutphen 4 Peters Sr, Paardewal 11, Zutphen 5 Oude Wand 19, Zutphen 6 H.F. Jansen, van Löben Selsstraat 19, Zutphen 7 R. Ross, Oranjelaan E285, Eefde 8 widow H.J. ten Kate-Rosch van Dugteren, Boedeldijkhof E627, Eefde
  10. 10. THE ADVENTURES OF SERGEANT BOB ZERCHER AND THE OTHER CREW MEMBERS OF THE ‘KAREN B’ Jelle Reitsma 10 July 28, 2014 In continuation of ‘Apeldoorn ’40 – ’45 the story behind the Apeldoorn War Monuments’ The other crew members went to two addresses addresses9 - to the Koeslag family in Laren10, where Floyd Ragsdale and George Paulk were taken in and to the Slagman family in Harfsen, where Philip Cavanaugh, Hal Nelson, Victor Ryczko, Michael Dencavage and Bob Zercher hid. Dencavage, Ragsdale and Paulk, at ‘Huize de Voorst’, May 1944 Two crewmembers remained in the Achterhoek region for a long time. Tiemen de Jonge and Bertus Hekman, from Nijverdal and well-known in the Resistance, took Hal Nelson and Philip Cavanaugh along to that village. They stayed there till March 24, 1945 in the house at the Campbellstraat 30 (now demolished), with the Arnold family. On April, 6 1945 soldiers of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division liberated them. Hal J. Nelson Philip Cavanaugh Tiemen de Jonge Campbellstraat 30 Person in hiding Copilot Resistance Nijverdal Two crew members, Michael Dencavage and Victor Ryczko, managed to disappear from the Achterhoek region to the province Limburg by means of an ‘escape line’, probably with the aid of 9 widow Besseling, Hesselink or Wesselink in Warnsveld, May 1944, at Bosch in Zutphen and at Van Dijk ‘Huize ‘t Velde’ in Warnsveld; it is not clear which Americans were involved 10 A.J. (‘Appie’) Koeslag,
  11. 11. THE ADVENTURES OF SERGEANT BOB ZERCHER AND THE OTHER CREW MEMBERS OF THE ‘KAREN B’ Jelle Reitsma 11 July 28, 2014 In continuation of ‘Apeldoorn ’40 – ’45 the story behind the Apeldoorn War Monuments’ J.B. (Joop, nickname ‘Pilotenjoop’) ter Haar. Possibly they traveled by train from Lievelde11 via Arnhem to Limburg in the south of the Netherlands. They were hidden in Klimmen, Stein, Maastricht, Valkenburg and in Klimmen again, where they were liberated by elements of the 2nd (US) Armored Division ‘Hell on Wheels’ between September 14th and 17th. According to the official report they returned to active duty afterwards. Victor A. Ryczko his false Belgian passport Eventually, the five other crew members arrived in Apeldoorn. Around August 10th, Floyd Ragsdale and George Paulk were picked up by bicycle in Laren by members of the Resistance group called Narda12. They all cycled together to Apeldoorn. To avoid the German control at the IJssel Bridge they crossed the river IJssel in a small rowboat. The Oxener family living at the Loseweg 59 temporarily took in Floyd Ragsdale13 and George Paulk14. After a couple of days they moved on to the Kliest family, at the Valkenberglaan 25, where John Low, Bill Moore and David Smith15 already had been hidden. Bob Zercher at the Slagman’s in Harfsen and Charles Ramlow at the widow ten Kate’s were picked up in the same way around August 15. During the first few days the family De Vries 16 and doctor Stigter 17 took care of them. Noyes Richey had to stay a few days more in Eefde, because he could not ride a bicycle; he was picked up by car18 on August, 18. Charles Ramlow and Noyes Richey 11 probably with the help of Albert J. (‘Appie’) Postma 12 Group named after their leader, Ms. Meinarda (‘Narda’) Maria K. van Terwisga, born August, 24 1919. Nicknames: ‘Ms. Jansen’ and ‘Marie’. Narda van Terwisga herself, Aart Kliest and Jan Mennink were involved in the picking up of the American aviators 13 nickname ‘Charly Holms’ 14 nickname ‘Johnny Dunham’ 15 crew members of crashed B-24 Liberators , who were also involved in the Berlin mission 16 G.A. de Vries, Frisolaan 5 17 doctor H.J. Stigter, Frisolaan 7 18 by Jan Mennink, in a police car
  12. 12. THE ADVENTURES OF SERGEANT BOB ZERCHER AND THE OTHER CREW MEMBERS OF THE ‘KAREN B’ Jelle Reitsma 12 July 28, 2014 In continuation of ‘Apeldoorn ’40 – ’45 the story behind the Apeldoorn War Monuments’ stayed with the ladies de Bree, at the Badhuisweg 121, later on, they moved to J. Bonselaar, Vonderlaan 21. Bob Zercher moved on to Mrs Meijer-De Vries at the Jachtlaan.19 In June the Allied forces notified the Resistance that aviators were no longer allowed to escape but had to stay put in occupied territory and await their liberation. Moreover, in the autumn of 1944, many of the Resistance, who were involved in the ‘pilot escape lines’, fell into the hands of the Germans, as a result of treason. Thus, it became extremely difficult to reach Allied lines. Losing the battle of Arnhem on September, 26 1944 was not only a heavy moral blow for occupied Holland, but also for the Resistance and for the aviators in hiding. Everyone had thought that the liberation was imminent, and that it would only take a couple of days before the Allies would arrive in Apeldoorn. That didn’t come true. Saturday, September 30, turned out to be a disastrous day. Because of the treason committed by Willem l'Ecluse the Narda group was eliminated. The SD (Sicherheitsdienst) set a trap in the house at the Paul Krügerstraat 30 for Narda van Terwisga. They arrested Narda and most of the members of her group. The SD also tried to arrest another member of the group, Joke (Joop) Bitter, the son of Mrs. Bitter-van Noordaa, who lived at the Jachtlaan 134. To their great surprise the SD people discovered the Englishman Kenneth Ingram and the American Bob Zercher in the house: 'Komm schnell, hier sind zwei Engländer’. In the confusion Joke was able to escape. It still remains unclear, how and why Bob Zercher and Kenneth Ingram, who were taken in by Mrs. Meijer-De Vries, arrived at the house of Mrs. Bitter-van de Noordaa in September, 1944. Frequent moves for security reasons? Other reasons? We do not know. Narda van Terwisga Mrs. Bitter Joke Bitter Ken Ingram 19 together with Kenneth Ingram, a British Flight sergeant
  13. 13. THE ADVENTURES OF SERGEANT BOB ZERCHER AND THE OTHER CREW MEMBERS OF THE ‘KAREN B’ Jelle Reitsma 13 July 28, 2014 In continuation of ‘Apeldoorn ’40 – ’45 the story behind the Apeldoorn War Monuments’ Jachtlaan 134, 2006 Bob Zercher was a reserved, matter-of-fact kind of person, a sharp observer with a good sense of humor and a sense of self-mockery. Not exactly an Adonis, he once said: `Nobody loves me, I'm a monkey’. This type of humor was typical for him; he found pleasure in playing the fool at bridge or poker at the start of the game; later he turned out to be an accomplished player. When awaiting the coming liberation he and Kenneth Ingram, the British Flight sergeant, being in the same boat together, made drawings of the American and English flag, so that they could be reproduced rapidly after the liberation. Both Robert Zercher and Kenneth Ingram wore civilian clothes when they were arrested on September, 30, but the SD knew they belonged to the military. Both of them should have been treated as prisoners of war. On the contrary, they were shot without trial Monday, October 2, together with six Resistance men. Bob's body, with the cardboard sign ‘Terrorist’ pinned to his chest, was laid down on the Deventerstraat in front of the shop that belonged to the ladies De Jong. He was buried in the local cemetery Heidehof. Because of this arrest, the existing secret addresses were considered compromised by the Resistance. On Sunday October 1st, the Resistance found a new shelter for the Americans hiding at the Valkenberglaan 25 and so John Low, Bill Moore, David Smith, George Paulk and Floyd Ragsdale moved to the Van Hasseltlaan 5220, the house of Mrs. ‘s Jacob. On October 2, they heard that the Germans had shot all the men and had their bodies displayed at several places in Apeldoorn with a cardboard sign `terrorist’ pinned to their chest. The same evening the SD searched the Van Hasseltlaan house with much violence and arrested Bill Moore, but they did not discover the shelter in the attic, where the remaining aviators were hiding. As soon as the aviators thought it was safe, they escaped to Wenum Wiesel and hid themselves in the haystack of farmer Buitenhuis 20 Now Frisolaan 50
  14. 14. THE ADVENTURES OF SERGEANT BOB ZERCHER AND THE OTHER CREW MEMBERS OF THE ‘KAREN B’ Jelle Reitsma 14 July 28, 2014 In continuation of ‘Apeldoorn ’40 – ’45 the story behind the Apeldoorn War Monuments’ 21. Buitenhuis sent them to Vaassen the same day. They arrived at the haystack of the Pannekoek family 22. They stayed hidden there from October, 4 till October, 29. Valkenberglaan 25, 2006 Van Hasseltlaan 52 The Pannekoek haystack, 1944 ‘Our home Oct 4 - Oct 29 ’44, with fresh rye and new top’ The first escape of hidden Airborne soldiers and Allied aviators across the river Rhine in the night of October 22-23, known as ‘Pegasus I’, - was such a success, that when the Germans got wind of it, they took the preventive measures. The area south of the Utrecht – Arnhem highway and a strip north of the highway was declared off-limits. The next attempt of ‘Pegasus II’, started under an unlucky star. The Resistance allowed the aviators hidden in Vaassen to participate in the Pegasus II escape attempt on November 18, 1944. To do this, they had to be relocated to a mill in Barneveld 23 and 21 ‘De Wildkampen’ in Wenum Wiesel 22 Bottertweg in Vaassen 23 Miller A. van de Heg Azn, Wilhelminastraat, Barneveld
  15. 15. THE ADVENTURES OF SERGEANT BOB ZERCHER AND THE OTHER CREW MEMBERS OF THE ‘KAREN B’ Jelle Reitsma 15 July 28, 2014 In continuation of ‘Apeldoorn ’40 – ’45 the story behind the Apeldoorn War Monuments’ some time later to different farms in Kootwijkerbroek 24. From there they went to the henhouses in Meulunteren, the meeting point for Pegasus II. Charles Ramlow and Noyes Richey were still in Apeldoorn and had to hide elsewhere to prevent further discoveries. Charles was able to cycle and was the first to be moved25. He was almost discovered, when a German soldier tried to confiscate the bicycle of his companion who belonged to the Resistance. The next day Noyes Richey went on foot to a place 5 km from Apeldoorn26. He traveled from there as a passenger on the back of a bicycle 27 to Barneveld. Via this village Ramlow and Richey both reached the meeting point for Pegasus II. Unfortunately, even though this attempt failed, George Paulk and Floyd Ragsdale succeeded to stay out of the hands of the Germans that particular night. At daybreak they were surrounded by more than a hundred German soldiers with rifles. Armed only with an old stengun they decided to surrender. David Smith was also made prisoner. Lieutenant Noyes Richey was shot through the lung. Lieutenant Ramlow succeeded in staying out of the hands of the Germans 28 once again and finally reached the Allied front line at Lage Zwaluwe by crossing the Biesbosch on March 10, 1945. How did the rest of the crew succeed? Don Jackson spent the rest of the war in an unknown German POW camp and was finally liberated in May 1945. As described before, Michael Dencavage and Victor Ryczko finally managed to escape, as did Charles Ramlow. It was March of 1945 before Hal Nelson and Philip Cavanaugh were liberated in Nijverdal. George Paulk and Floyd Ragsdale were confined to a prisoner of war camp - Stalag Luft 4 - at Gross-Tychow, in former Pomerania. Nowadays the place where the camp was situated is called Tychowo in Poland. When the Russians approached the prisoner of war camp, the Germans cleared the camp at the beginning February, 1945 and forced the prisoners to march to camps in Germany such as Wöbbelin near Ludwigslust and Usedom, both in Mecklenburg Vorpommern. The circumstances of the march were terrible. It was icy cold, the roads were covered with snow and the maintenance during the march was abominable. Instead of three days, as the Germans had suggested, for many prisoners, the trip lasted almost three months. The number of casualties was considerable. According to an interview with Floyd Ragsdale he and George Paulk did not take part in this ‘death march’. They were finally ‘liberated’ by the Russians, who merely knocked down the prison fences and abandoned the prisoners to their fate. 24 various farms, among others H. Esveld, G.J. Goorhuis; the latter tried to teach Noyes Richey to ride a bicycle 25 by Mr. ‘Visser, Vonderlaan, Apeldoorn 26 idem 27 Dick Kraft, an ‘evasion agent’, rode the bicycle (parachuted in Vaassen, June ’43, to assist evading Allied airmen) 28 he went back to H. Esveld at Kootwijkerbroek stayed there till the end of January; afterwards he moved from hiding to hiding; February, 3 1945 he arrived at Zwartbroek
  16. 16. THE ADVENTURES OF SERGEANT BOB ZERCHER AND THE OTHER CREW MEMBERS OF THE ‘KAREN B’ Jelle Reitsma 16 July 28, 2014 In continuation of ‘Apeldoorn ’40 – ’45 the story behind the Apeldoorn War Monuments’ Noyes Richey did not experience this death march. He was confined in Stalag Luft 1 Barth- Vogelsang, 23 km North West of Stralsund, in Mecklenburg Vorpommern, the only camp that the Germans did not evacuate. On May 1, 1945 the Russians liberated him. After approximately two weeks the American prisoners were transported to France by B-17 bombers29. Bob Zercher was the unfortunate crew member who was assassinated in Apeldoorn. Part of the ‘Karen B’ crew in Florida, June 1945 [from left to right couple Cavanaugh, Richey, Ramlow, couple Paulk, Jackson, couple Ragsdale] The others returned to the United States and they met once again in 1945 .Then and there, the reports about the crew of the ‘Karen B’ were written. At that time Noyes Richey was still suffering badly from his lung wound. Hal Nelson remained in the service and retired eventually as a lieutenant colonel in the USAF. Charles Ramlow was killed in an aircraft crash in Miami Beach in 1946. Michael Dencavage reenlisted in the USAF as Technical Sergeant in 1946. The others resumed their studies or returned to their civilian professions. George Paulk returned to the Netherlands in the ‘80s to meet the people who had helped him and to visit the scene of the crash-landing once again. On February 1946 the American Eldon Soper of the Judge Advocate Section ordered the remains of Bob Zercher to be exhumed and to be examined more closely. A bayonet stab dealt with much 29 Operation Revival, from 12 to 14 May 1945 approximately 9000 prisoners of Stalag Luft 1 were flown out of Barth, Germany and back to Allied control. RAF POW’s were flown back to England and the Americans were flown to Leon airfield near Bordeaux. From there they continued by truck to Camp Lucky Strike NE of Le Havre (Janville), France. Here they were processed for return to the States. See also The Evacuation, http://www.merkki.com/rescue.htm#398
  17. 17. THE ADVENTURES OF SERGEANT BOB ZERCHER AND THE OTHER CREW MEMBERS OF THE ‘KAREN B’ Jelle Reitsma 17 July 28, 2014 In continuation of ‘Apeldoorn ’40 – ’45 the story behind the Apeldoorn War Monuments’ violence was concluded to be the cause of death. That does not fit with the reconstruction of the assassination according to the interrogation reports of the SD-men and Willem l'Ecluse who were involved in the execution. From the interrogation reports it is evident that Kenneth Ingram and Bob Zercher were shot. Afterwards Bob Zercher was reburied at the American war cemetery Neuville-Condroz (Neupré) in the Belgian Ardennes. On October, 2 1969 the memorial stone at Groot Schuylenburg was unveiled. On the stone is written: R. ZURCHER U.S.A.A.F. Why not as R.W. ZERCHER, SGT USAAF in full, as Kenneth Ingram? His data have been correctly inscripted on the stone: K.H. INGRAM, F/SGT R.A.F. We still do not know how this could have happened. Robert W. Zercher's name appears also in the prestigious honor roll of Americans who died in World War II while stationed on British soil. For years, St. Paul's Cathedral in London has displayed a roll of honor bearing the names of Americans serving with the Canadian, British and United States Armed Forces who made the ultimate sacrifice while on route to or while stationed in the United Kingdom. 30 The artwork above was the header for a York Corporation poster detailing employees serving in the military in World War II - and those who died. This was distributed in ‘Shop News,’ a newsletter for employees at home and in the military. The right part of the header states that 991 men and women had served to date; the six stars indicate that six had died in uniform. At this moment Bob Zercher was ‘Missing in Action’ for two days. York's factories kept employees up to 30 At the east end of St Paul’s Cathedral behind the High Altar is the American Memorial Chapel. This part of the building was destroyed during the Blitz and, when rebuilt in the 1950s, formed a chapel funded by the British people to commemorate the members of the United States forces based in Britain who gave their lives defending liberty during World War II. In a case behind the High Altar is an illuminated book of remembrance: the American Roll of Honor, presented by General Eisenhower in 1951, in which their 28,000 names are inscribed.
  18. 18. THE ADVENTURES OF SERGEANT BOB ZERCHER AND THE OTHER CREW MEMBERS OF THE ‘KAREN B’ Jelle Reitsma 18 July 28, 2014 In continuation of ‘Apeldoorn ’40 – ’45 the story behind the Apeldoorn War Monuments’ date about those who were serving in uniform in World War II and those who had died. At the end of the war, 1200 employees had served and 25 of them had died. By 2014, only Victor Ryzcko of the crew of the ‘Karen B’ is alive. All the others have passed away. In 2006, it was high time to redeem the misspelled name. Robert W. Zercher ‘s name is now inscribed correctly on the memorial stone at Groot Schuylenburg: R. W. ZERCHER, together with the names of the members of the Resistance who did their utmost to keep the aviators out of the hands of the Germans and the name of the British flight Sergeant Ingram. The monument is in remembrance of those who did everything in their power to regain our freedom. However, the name of Mrs. Bitter-van dr Noordaa, who kept Zercher and Ingram in hiding in her house, and subsequently lost her life in the Buchenwald concentration camp, was not commemorated. The glass plaque (to the right of the base) was unveiled October 3, 2011, by her great- greatgranddaughter Belinda Bitter and a pupil from the primary ‘Regenboogschool’ who adopted the monument. The monument with the revised text, September 25, 2006, and the glass plate remembering Mrs. Bitter-van der Noordaa, October 3, 2011.
  19. 19. THE ADVENTURES OF SERGEANT BOB ZERCHER AND THE OTHER CREW MEMBERS OF THE ‘KAREN B’ Jelle Reitsma 19 July 28, 2014 In continuation of ‘Apeldoorn ’40 – ’45 the story behind the Apeldoorn War Monuments’ Grave marker for Robert W. Zercher AMERICAN BATTLE MONUMENTS COMMISSION Bob Zercher ‘s date of death is not registered correctly by the American Battle Monuments Commission; 4-Oct-44 should be 2-Oct-44 Robert W. Zercher Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Forces Service # 13092429 729th Bomber Squadron, 452nd Bomber Group, Heavy Entered the Service from: Pennsylvania Died: 4-Oct-44 Buried at: Plot B Row 42 Grave 16 Ardennes American Cemetery Neupre, Belgium Awards: Purple Heart
  20. 20. THE ADVENTURES OF SERGEANT BOB ZERCHER AND THE OTHER CREW MEMBERS OF THE ‘KAREN B’ Jelle Reitsma 20 July 28, 2014 In continuation of ‘Apeldoorn ’40 – ’45 the story behind the Apeldoorn War Monuments’ Sources: H.W. Poorterman, Van bezetting naar bevrijding, Enschede 1978, p.143-145 A. Meijer, 55 namen op Heidehof, Apeldoorn 1985, p. 51 f.f. Wim en Peter Rhebergen, Vermist boven de Achterhoek, Naarden 1991, p.94, 112 Bob de Graaff, Schakels naar de vrijheid, ’s-Gravenhage 1995, p. 111 and 112 Wolter Noordman, Gevangen op de Veluwe, Kampen 1998, p. 30, 47, 48, 50, 51,177 Wolter Noordman, Luchtalarm op de Veluwe, Kampen 2002, p.76 f.f. NARA POW records http://aad.archives.gov/aad/series-description.jsp?s=644&cat=WR26&bc=sl 8 USAAF Missing Aircraft Report (MACR) 4449, by Lynn.Gamma@MAXWELL.AF.MIL The Mighty Eight Air Force Message Board, June 2006, http://www.com-web.com/ Stalag Luft 1 on line: http://www.merkki.com/index.htm Annete Tison, The Berlin Bombing Mission, flown by The 8th Air Force on April 29, 1944, http://www.b24.net/stories/annette.htm, 2004 WW II Squadron Patch Gallery, USAAF http://members.aol.com/brimiljeep/WebPages/SquadronPatchAAF2Page.html Jan Heerze en Jelle Reitsma, Apeldoorn ’40 – ’45 Het verhaal achter de Apeldoornse oorlogsmonumenten, Apeldoorn 2006, p.72 f.f.; p.100 f.f. E-correspondence with Mr. Martin Hols, Eelde and Mr. John Meurs, Rüti ZH, Zwitserland June/August 2006 E-correspondence with Mr. Willis S. Cole Jr, Kirkland, WA 98034, Colonel USAF (retired) William D. Kay, Mount Pleasant, SC 29464 and Mrs. Ruth Rumsey – Richey, TX, USA June/August 2006 Conversation with Mr. P. Monasso and Mr. J. Geerdinck in the AVOG Crash museum August, 6 2006 and the following e-correspondence with Mr. Monasso
  21. 21. THE ADVENTURES OF SERGEANT BOB ZERCHER AND THE OTHER CREW MEMBERS OF THE ‘KAREN B’ Jelle Reitsma 21 July 28, 2014 In continuation of ‘Apeldoorn ’40 – ’45 the story behind the Apeldoorn War Monuments’ Jim Clure’s Blogs, York Town Square, in the York Sunday News, http://www.yorktownsquare.com/2008/01/nazis_murdered_downed_airman_f.php. January 2008 Escape & evasion reports (declassified in 2010): Staff sergeant Dencavage http://media.nara.gov/nw/305270/EE-2269.pdf 2nd Lieutenants Nelson / Cavanaugh http://media.nara.gov/nw/305270/EE-2939-2940.pdf 2nd Lieutenant Ramlow http://media.nara.gov/nw/305270/EE-2852.pdf Technical sergeant Ryczko http://media.nara.gov/nw/305270/EE-2260.pdf

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