The crash of a US bomber near Bussin

The crash of a US bomber near Bussin


The B-24 "Liberator”
On August 4, 1944, the U.S. Air Force launched a bombing raid on the Heinkel aircraft factories in Rostock with hundreds of aircraft. This mission appeared to be a light routine operation. The U.S. military expected only minor enemy air defense. But things turned out completely differently than expected. In all, 15 bombers were shot down.

One of the planes, a four-engine "Liberator" B-24, was piloted by 26-year-old Lieutenant James L. Cole. With his crew, he had already completed nine successful missions over Germany.

After taking off from England and flying over the North Sea, the plane reached its target of Rostock shortly before 2 p.m. at an altitude of about 7,000 meters.

The bombardier had just dropped the bomb load over the target area when the plane was hit by an anti-aircraft shell. The explosion tore a large hole in the side of the aircraft just behind where the co-pilot was sitting. Immediately, fire spread through the aircraft. A gunner and the radio operator then had to parachute out. The right engine was also damaged and began to burn. Cole ejected his Liberator, leaving the bomber formation smoking and losing altitude. The crew tried to extinguish the fire on board. Pilot Cole kept the aircraft under control as best he could. By the time the fire was out, the plane had lost a lot of altitude and was down to 1000 meters. Then two more engines failed. A return to England was therefore out of the question. Pilot Cole therefore changed course in an attempt to reach neutral Swedish territory. As the plane came closer and closer to the ground, he ordered the remaining men to parachute out. While the pilot held the plane in a stable position, all the men were able to exit the plane. Pilot Cole was the last to exit the burning plane by parachute. But the altitude was already too low to break his fall. He did not survive the impact. His torn open body was found not far from the wreckage in a field between Bussin and Lendershagen. A gunner and the radio operator also did not survive the emergency jump. The remaining seven crew members landed unharmed by parachute in a field. They were captured shortly thereafter between Hövet and Velgast. At the end of the war, they returned home.

The body of Lieutenant James L. Cole was buried in the Velgast Cemetery. He was exhumed by U.S. military authorities two years after the war ended. He found his final resting place in 1949 at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri.


Air Force launch reporte
by Manfed Rassau 2017
MACR 7709, KU Report 2656, U.S. National Archives
Information from Edith Schult, Irmgard Vespermann, Joachim Wulff from Velgast
Information from Mrs. Erika Eberhard from Bussin