By Tech. Sgt. Mike Morrison, 442nd Fighter Wing historian
/ Published August 18, 2006
WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Of the thousands of aircraft passenger manifests scattered across Europe by the end of World War II, one holds particular significance to the brief but important role the 442nd Troop Carrier Group, now the 442nd Fighter Wing an Air Force Reserve Command unit here, played in the final chapter of destroying Nazi Germany.
Early on the morning of August 12, 1945, Tech. Sgt. Melvin Kraus, a Brooklyn, N.Y. native and a member of the 305th Troop Carrier Squadron of the 442nd TCG, readied for that day's 8 a.m. flight on board a C-47A Douglas Skytrain from Metz, France to Furth, Germany, via Sandweiler, Luxembourg.
Crewmembers included Sergeants James J. Barry, of Lynn, Mass., and Earl G. Carhart, Jr., of Tulsa, Okla. The Metz to Sandweiler leg would be piloted by 1st Lt. Robert.G. Denson, of Davenport, Wash., with 2nd Lt. Robert.M. Cole, of Staten Island, N.Y., as co-pilot. Lieutenant Cole would pilot the Sandweiler to Furth stretch.
Sergeant Kraus reached for a blank manifest, an Army Air Force Form No. 1, and, with pen in hand and undoubtedly on some type of clip board began recording the manifest.
Along with two "leave personnel" and four members of the United States Forces European Theater, Sergeant Kraus wrote a capital P in front of the other names, denoting a prisoner of war. In fact, this flight would carry some of Adolf Hitler's most ardent henchmen, presumably taking some of them one step closer to facing justice at the Nuremburg War Crimes trial.
Leading the list of prisoners (as it appears on the form), is H. Goering (Fieldmarshal) Herr Von Ribbentrop, Albert Kesselring (Fieldmarshal), Gustav Jodl (Col. General), Kietele (Marshal), Here Franck, Karl Doenitz (Grand Admiral) and Herr DeLauge.
Reichsmarschall (Marshall of the Empire) Hermann Goering was the commander-in-chief of the German Luftwaffe (Air Force) during World War II. He was often considered Hitler's second-in-command. Joachim von Ribbentrop, Germany's foreign minister, was an early confidant of Hitler. He was instrumental in securing a nonaggression pact between Germany and the Soviet Union prior to Germany's 1939 invasion of Poland.
Albert Kesselring, a Feldmarschall in Germany's Wehrmacht (Army), was active in the European and North African theaters during the war.
Generaloberst (Colonel-General) Alfred Jodl was chief of operations staff of the Wehrmacht. Jodl worked as deputy to another passenger on the flight, Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel, to develop the Jodl-Keitel tactic of military fighting. Keitel was the commander-in-chief of the High Command of the Wehrmacht. Instrumental in developing military and domestic policies for Nazi Germany, he signed the order allowing the German army to execute suspected communist leaders upon capture.
Hans Franck was Governor-General of Poland. He designed the policy that would result in devastating Poland's Jewish population during the war.
Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz, was commander-in-chief of the German Kriegsmarine (Navy). Early in the war, Doenitz led the development of many of Germany's advances in U-Boat construction and fighting tactics. In April of 1945, Hitler appointed Doenitz as his replacement to lead what was left of the crumbling Nazi state.
The last name on the prisoner list is Herr DeLauge. After searching several sources, no such person was found. However, considering Keitel's name is misspelled on the manifest, DeLauge may be SS Colonel-General Kurt Daluege, one of the top Nazis in Czechoslavakia, who ordered the infamous slaughter at and subsequent "wiping from the face of the earth" of the town of Lidice, in response to the assassination of SS Obergruppenfuhrer (Senior Group Leader) Reinhard Heydrich.
Although Daluege testified against Franck at the Nuremburg trials, he was tried by a Czech court for war crimes in Czechoslavakia and hanged in Prague on Oct. 24, 1946.
Goering was sentenced to die by hanging, but committed suicide in his cell. On Oct. 16, 1946, Jodl and Keitel were hung, as was Ribbentrop and Franck. Doenitz was sentenced to 11 and one-half years in the prison in Spandau, Germany, but was released in 1956.
According to the on-line encyclopedia www.wikipedia.org, Kesselring died at Bad Nauheim, Germany, at the age of 79 in 1960. He was tried in 1947 for the execution of partisans by troops under his command. He was found guilty and sentenced to death, but weak evidence secured his release in 1952.
(Tech. Sgt. Leo Brown and Staff Sgt. Greg Frost contributed to this story)