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On November 1, 1945, the crew of a Douglas C-47A on a flight from RAF Bovington in England to Schleissheim Airfield north of Munich apparently lost its bearings in bad weather. Thirty people were aboard—four crewmembers and 26 soldiers returning to their base at the airfield. At around 5:00 that morning the airplane should have been near Augsburg along the Lech River. In fact, it was near Karlsruhe and the Rhine. After following the river south for about 30 miles, the pilot, Lieutenant Bahne H. Andressen of Iowa, made a left turn and climbed back into the clouds. Within minutes the airplane plowed into the top of Mount Bernstein in Bavaria’s Black Forest, cutting a swathe through the trees that remains visible today. All four crewmembers died; four passengers managed to exit the burning wreck.

The memorial commemorates a crash from November 1, 1945 (Peter Bittmann photo).

Local historian Peter Bittmann grew up hearing stories about the incident and decided to create a memorial for the crash site. He had hoped to unveil the marker on the accident’s 75th anniversary but COVID-19 forced a delay until October 27, 2021. The small group assembled for the ceremony included two citizens from local villages, aged 90 and 92, who remembered the crash and had shared their recollections of it with Bittmann.

Ironically, the C-47 was a combat survivor, accepted by the U.S. Army Air Forces in April 1944 and assigned to the 100th Troop Carrier Squadron, 441st Troop Carrier Group of the Ninth Air Force. On D-Day it transported paratroopers of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment to a drop zone near Sainte-Mère-Église in France, and the next day towed a glider with men from the 82nd Airborne Division for another drop. Transferred to the 30th Air Depot Group at Illesheim in Germany after the war, it was loaned to the 344th Bombardment Group at Schleissheim just before its fatal mission.

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this article first appeared in AVIATION HISTORY magazine

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