Stichting Vliegeniersmonument Giessenlanden WO2
Airmen Monument Foundation Giessenlanden WW2
P-51B 43-6741 - USAAF 357th Fighter Group/ 362nd Fighter Squadron
Lt Albert Lichter bailing out near the village of Giessen-Oudekerk after his P-51 was hit by German Flak. Artist Scott Nelson
1st Lieutenant Albert Lichters mission on February 22nd was a “ramrod” mission which meant that bombers had to be escorted to their targets. The use of drop tanks enabled the P-51 to fly deep into Germany. This mission took the bombers and accompanying fighters to the city of Bernburg.The mission was part of the so called “Big Week” from February 20 to 25 and in which the allies carried out bombing missions on German aircraft industry in Orscherleben, Halberstadt and Bernburg. As part of this offensive on February 22nd more than a hundred B-25 bombers fly to targets in Germany but due to bad weather over the target area this mission is cancelled and the bombers get the order to pick out targets of opportunities. Due to strong wind the formations drift towards the Dutch border where they mistakenly bomb the Dutch cities of Enschede, Arnhem, Deventer and the city who will suffer the most Nijmegen where more than 800 civilians are killed
American bombs hit the city centre
In Bernburg bombs were dropped on het factories where amongst others the Junkers JU88 were produced. The mission was considered a success but also here many forced laborers were killed.
The burning factories at Bernburg during the bombardment (foto national archives Washington)
So it was the task of Albert Lichter to escort American bombers to their targets together with other squadrons. Two other Mustangs were part of Lichters wing and after the succesful attack bombers and fighters were heading back and now flying over Holland. The altitude the P-51s were flying was 24.000ft but for whatever reason they descended to 8000 feet as it was on that altitude that Albert Lichter bailed out after being hit by German, probably, 20mm flak positioned near Sliedrecht. It is very likely the P-51s were flying lower to pick out targets of opportunity and therefore coming within range of German 20mm flak.Before bailing out he radioed the squadron leader Lt. Egenes that he was bailing out. The other P-51 in the wing with pilot Captain Lingo saw how Lichter bailed out as written in the document below.
The report of Captain Lingo, later killed during combat on April 11th 1944
Captain Lingo was not the only one who saw the Albert Lichter bailing out. Sijmen en Mink Tukker, than still boys saw the plane coming down and crashing into the ground just behind the church tower of Giessen-Oudekerk at the land of family De Baat. The name of his fiancé “MAX” was written on his plane with big letters. Sijmen Tukker saw how Lt. Lichter came down with his parachute and landed safely in the area of the windmill of miller Frans Vogel located at the Tiendweg road. In the book “De Waard in oorlogstijd” this is also described. The book mentions how the Pilot was taken prisoner by members of the German Kriegsmarine who were stationed on a boat which was moored nearby for repairs at the machine factory Van Bennekom at Giessendam. Lt. Lichter was put on transport to a POW camp at Barth in Germany. He spend 435 days there. The camp, Stalag Luft I, was liberated by Russian troops on May 1st 1945. When he arrived back in the US he vowed never to return to Europe again.
1e Lieutenant Albert C. Lichter
Not much was found of the plane which crashed deep into the soil of Giessen-Oudekerk. What was lying around in the field the Germans salvaged. Job de Ruiter found in the autumn of 1944 during the clearance of ditches the propeller of the plane and attached this to the door of barn of Groen Kooijman. The Germans didn’t like this and removed it.
At the start of the 1950 attempts were taken to salvage the plane but without any result. The plane had sunk so deep into the clay that all attempts were stopped.
Albert C. Lichter died on April 19th in 2000. He never returned to the location where he came down. His children, two daughters, and grandchildren were interested in the war past of their father and grandfather and they tried to find out where the plane crashed and if it was ever salvaged. They came into contact with the Dare 40-45 foundation which contacted the Giessenburg Historic Society and then Sijmen Tukker who knew where the plane crashed. Than the exact location was determined and remains of the plane were located.
On June 23rd 2007 with a digger a pit was dug of 6 to 7 meters deep!
The remains of the Mustang were dug up under the watchful eyes of his son Pat and his daughter Marty. Also present were other family members including three grandchildren Brian,Chris and Laura. They stayed for a week in Giessenburg. During the salvage the smell of Kerosene still filled the air. All parts were recovered and even the machine gun and ammunition were found and everything was photographed and registered.All parts were then taken to the warehouse of Dare 40-45. The museum in Giessenburg received a metal fragment , still smelling of kerosene, which is now on display in Museum Het Regthuys ( Which also has a Browning M2 Machinegun from B17F 42-3116) as a memento and to honor the allied airmen who risked and gave their lives to free us from Nazi oppression.
Photo report of the dig by photographer Leo Lanser ww.ll.nl