Filling in as a spare (Robert M. Littlefield)

The "Greifswald Incident" (Robert M. Littlefield)

 

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Filling in as a spare - Reproduced with kind permission of Mr. Robert M. Littlefield, from his book, Double Nickel - Double Trouble (ISBN 0-9623080-3-X)

Pilots that flew as a spare did so for their own squadron and were not required to fill in for another squadron unless they so desired.  This was a policy in the 55th Fighter Group because pilots were hesitant about flying in crucial combat situations with an unknown pilot.  The three fighter squadrons were not located near one another.  Pilots tended to stay with their own squadron and saw other squadron pilots only during the briefing of a combat mission held in the Group briefing room, in which only those who were to fly attended.

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The "Greifswald Incident" - Reproduced with kind permission of Mr. Robert M. Littlefield, from his book, Double Nickel - Double Trouble (ISBN 0-9623080-3-X)

Unfortunately for the pilots of the 55th Fighter Group who were downed on May 21, 1944, the Germans had become incensed over a strafing incident at the town of Greifswald, located on the Baltic seacoast in northeastern Germany. Some civilian German women had been killed and it was attributed to an American fighter plane. The 55th lost six pilots that day. Tipton and Shepard from the 38th Squadron, Walter and Garlock of the 338th, Weisel and Warwick of the 343rd. Walter and Warwick were killed. Shepard was severally wounded and in a German hospital. Garlock, Tipton and Weisel, along with other suspects of other American fighter groups, were being intensely questioned at Oberursel, about targets they had strafed on the day in question.

Back in England, Radio Germany was making scurrilous broadcasts about the "North American Gangsters" who had strafed innocent civilian women. They were also making propaganda points about an American bomber crew who had painted, "Murder, Inc.", on the back of their leather jackets. This was jokingly in reference to a Mafia organization which had recently been exposed by the FBI in Chicago. The Germans did not think it was funny!

Hanns Scharff, Germany's Chief Interrogator of fighter pilots at Oberursel, described Garlock in appearance as manly, frank, and without fear and eyes faithful, his speech free and positive. Garlock denied the accusations and Scharff believed him.

Scharff's interrogation of Tipton resulted in doubt because, Scharff said, he contradicted himself several times and his general behavior made him doubt whether he was telling the truth. Particularly at essential prime points, Tipton avoided answers by reverting to, "the name, rank and serial number routine." Eventually Scharff decided that Tipton was not involved.

1 /Lt. Weisel; Scharff described him as a very likable person but had the worst record and furnished it himself. Weisel maintained that one of his guns had jammed and that all he had done was test fire a burst into the ground. When asked what on the ground, Weisel said some bushes and that there was not a soul around.

The remainder of the "Greifswald Raiders", Rowan, a P-47 pilot from the 353rd Ftr. Grp., 350th Ftr. Sqd.; Shupe, a P-51 pilot from the 359th Ftr. Grp., 370th Ftr. Sqd.; Lt. Michaely of the 357 Ftr. Grp., 363 Ftr. Sqd., and Lt. Bernstein, unit unknown, were questioned by Scharff and in his own mind exonerated. On his authority they were all released to be sent to a permanent prison via Dulag Luft. Several days later Scharff was called before the Camp's Deputy Commander, Major Heinz Junge, a World War One Ace. Junge criticized Scharff for releasing the seven POWs and said that they were being returned from Dulag Luft at Wetzlar. Luftwaffe Headquarters had ordered a new investigation, this time with the aid of a Gestapo Liaison Officer named Gail. Scharff later described Gail as, "The very loathsome type of Gestapo-man of despicable fame." It became quite evident to Scharff that Gail's objective was clearly the conviction of these seven fighter pilots whether they were guilty or not.

Upon return to Auswertestelle West, the seven were brought before Scharff and Gail. They were told of the new investigation and the gravity of the situation and that only the truth could save them. Garlock asked if Scharff was in charge or Gail. Scharff said that he was, but that if they wished, another would be assigned. But, if they kept him he should be regarded as their advocate, not as a persecutor or prosecutor. They all agreed to keep Scharff. The seven were put in a large cell together so that, Scharff said, "I could have my listeners record every word that was picked up by a hidden microphone. Actually, though, I learned not one thing from all this eavesdropping." Eventually, they were returned to solitary.

Upon re-examination of Weisel, he nervously confessed that he had not told all and that a few stray bullets may have entered the town. But, there were no people in view when he fired. When he made that statement Gail jumped to his feet and shouted, "Look at the guilt written all over that bastard's face! We have found out enough! You need not find out any more from this dirty swine who has admitted enough already!"

The questioning of all continued individually, and there was a little more detail from each but no change in their stories. Suddenly a break came in the case. The gun-camera film from one of the crashed 355th Mustangs was finally recovered and it showed four German women in the middle of a small country road being strafed. The pilot was found dead in the cockpit. Scharff was called into Major Junge's office and told that Reichsmarschall Goring decided that the Greifswald Seven should be regarded as honorable combat soldiers And should proceed to a permanent camp.

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