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Flugzeugabsturz B-24 G Liberator am Hösljoch

At 5:00 a.m. on 25th December 1944, an American B-24 G Liberator (No. 63) crashed on the Hösljoch. Its original target was to bomb the town of Hall in Tyrol.

Erinnerungsplatz in der Nähe der Höslam | © Alpbachtal Tourismus Erinnerungsplatz in der Nähe der Höslam | © Alpbachtal Tourismus

On board was a 10-member crew:

  • 2nd Lieutenant Don D. Williams – Pilot
  • 2nd Lieutnant Donald E. Mitchell – Co-Pilot
  • 2nd Lieutnant James Stephenson R – Navigator
  • 2nd Lieutnant Frank N Kautzman Jr – Bombardier
  • Technical Sergeant Jack W Aber – Engnineer
  • Technical Sergeant Donald L Emlaw – Radio Operator
  • Staff Sergeant Wilfried J Barton – Gunner Staff
  • Sergeant Clifford C Fäth – Gunner Staff
  • Sergeant Charles Johnston M – Gunner Staff
  • Sergeant William R Oolslager – Gunner

Their flight route led via the Brenner to Hall. Near the target, they were shot at and an aeroplane defence cannon hit engine no. 4. The plane quickly lost altitude, three crewmembers parachuted out over Jenbach and the rest of the crew bailed out between Brixlegg and Kundl. All the crewmembers survived the crash and met approx. 7 days later in a detention camp in Rosenheim. Two crewmembers and witnesses from Kundl reported the following: Some locals from Kundl were standing outside the „Klement-shop“ and watched the crew as they descended with their parachutes. They ran towards the Saulueg plateau hoping to get hold of one of the parachutes. Parachute silk was of a top quality, highly sought after and would make ideal material for making shirts. On arriving there, some of the locals tried to apprehend the parachutist.

After firing several volleys in the air Wilfred Barton one of the gunners, surrendered coming out of the woods with raised hands. The old Distelberger farmer managed to avert even worse from happening with his brave action of taking in the freezing Wilfred Barton and bringing him to his farm where the farmer’s wife gave him hot soup and coffee. Apparently, she at first ascertained he was a catholic, which he enthusiastically affirmed. Later the Kundl mayor handed him over to the German authorities, who brought him to the detention centre. Frank Kautzmann, bombardier on board the crashed plane wrote in a booklet about the incident and even visited Kundl and Rattenberg many years later.

E-Mail from Clifford C Fäth: 376th Bomb Gp. Crash‏:

My name is Cliff Faeth and I was the lower ball gunner on the B-24 that Don Williams was piloting. I lost track of a number of our crewmembers but I know that at least five are deceased. I still communicate with Don several times a year and I met with him about three years ago as my daughter lives in the Chicago area as does Don. Myself, the radio operator and the tail gunner were in the rear of the plane so we could only go by what the others told us as to what happened. We took a hit in the number four engine and, since the temperature was about 47 degrees below zero, the pilot had a very difficult time feathering that propeller. We were not mortally wounded, just crippled, but from that point on everything went downhill. The superchargers went out on number three engine and the inverters went out on number two. Don asked Jim Stephenson, the Navigator for a heading towards Switzerland but we were losing altitude rapidly. At that point, the radio operator motioned for me to bail out, I glanced back at the tail gunner and he motioned go so I rolled on out. The three of us were quickly rounded up and taken into the jailhouse in Jenbach (I think that‘s the name of the town) We heard the plane blow up but we never saw any of the other ‚chutes so we thought the others were all killed.

It was about seven or eight days before we met the rest of the crew in Rosenheim and it was like seeing people come back from the dead. So, to this day, I believe that we went out on the warning bell and that allowed them to fly on a few moments longer and thus we were separated by a number of miles. From there we were taken to Frankfurt on the Main and were prisoners of the Germans until the 29th of April when we were liberated.

Sincerely, Cliff Faeth A

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Sebastian Margreiter
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