Hugh Legar Evans
First Lieutenant, United States Army Air Force
30 November 1944
Lieutenant Hugh Evans and crew suffered the most dreaded fate of any bomber crew of World War II.
Aircraft number 43-37713 received a direct hit by FLAK and went down immediately over the town of Zeitz, Germany, about 20 miles southwest of Leipzig. The exact location was near the small town of Rebgeshain, Germany. The fate of the crew was the subject of confusion as the crew was seen to walk away from the plane after a belly landing. Why were four crewmen listed as killed-in-action? The story is shocking.
Just after the release of the last seven bombs on the target, aircraft number 43-37713 was hit by FLAK and immediately fell from the formation. As the dust settled the crew exited the plane and headed off into the nearby woods at about 2:00 PM, local time. At about 4:30 the same afternoon, Rinkovsky and Gwin were captured. The next day, 1 December, Lieutenants Evans and Kohlhass, Ssergeants Erich and Bellovary were captured were seen by some local rabbit hunters at about 6:00 PM near the town of Grünberg-Beltershain. They were escorted into the town and were placed in the hands of some locals. From here they were to be walked to another nearby town and handed over to German authorities.
Once the captured Americans were away from the town, each were shot in the back upon a prearranged hand signal from the leader of the five captors. Each was then also shot in the head and then relieved of all personal possessions, some clothing, footwear in particular. The men were left at the site until later that evening when their captors returned to bury the four airmen in a trench type grave.
This brutal act was investigated after the war by the War Crimes Branch who found the men guilty of the killing and at least two were hanged and long prison sentences were given to the others. The reason given for the brutal murders was the death of the young son of one of the executioners, who was killed during the strafing attack on a German train by American fighter planes.
On 2 December 1944, Sergeants Haskell, Norstrom
and Russell were captured at Grünberg-Beltershain and became prisoners
Posted: 21 July 2009 Updated: 26 July 2009
Photos By Holly, July 2009