At the Last Moment
German fighters into the nose of the aircraft. The
After, once he was alone in the cockpit, O’Leary other three men in the rear of the plane might
tried to contact the other crew members throu- have been hit by flak shrapnel. Those that regh the intercom, but with no success. No one mained alive and conscious would have endured
answered… He was also fighting the controls of the last seconds of their lives with the realizatithe plane, and he was trying desperately to ri- on that there was no way out of their trap. And
ght the airplane and to get it out of the flat spin
it wasn’t over in a few seconds, with respect to
in an effort to give the remaining crew at least
the height at which it all began and the relatively
a fighting chance to get out. But the controls of low vertical speed of the descent in the flat spin.
the airplane had been damaged, and the chances
It may well have taken some two very long miof regaining control while enemy fighters were nutes…
still circling it, were increasingly unlikely. O’Leary
then followed protocols to destroy the radar and
Four Claims for One Kill
IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) equipment and Along with Bartels, the unlucky B-25 was also
exited the aircraft in the same manner as the co- attacked by Ltn. Wolgang Hohls (same as Bartels,
-pilot moments before. This was quite literally at from 11./JG 27), Hptm. Joachim Kirschner (Stab
the last moment because the B-25 was now only IV./JG 27) and Ltn. Hans-Gunnar Culeman (Stab
about 1,000 ft (300 m) above the ground. O’Lea- III,/JG 27). The times reported are slightly inconry approximated this value from the fact that his sistent. Hohls attacked at 1249h, Bartels’ first was
chute opened just before he hit the ground. He at 1250h, and his second two minutes later, Culealso hit the ground just after the aircraft hit about man also at 1250h. O’Leary’s report says that the
30 m away from him. „Looking up I saw another first attack came after the dropping of his bombs
chute at what I estimated was between 4 to 5 which he reported as just after 1300h, but there is
thousand feet, floating down to the south of the a possibility that he was a bit off in that. His poposition in which I had landed. I assumed that this sition, and the quick onset of the German attacks,
was my co-pilot, because he was the only other were relatively consistent with what he later put
man who I knew of that had bailed out of the ship. in his report. After their return from the mission,
My first thought after landing was to go over to Bartels claimed two B-25s and Hohls and Kirthe ship, but I had hardly taken three steps when scher on each. All were confirmed.
the gas tank exploded. It was then I realized there Heinrich Bartels continued in his career with JG
was nothing more I could do to aid any of the men 27 in the MTO but did not claim any further kills.
that might be left in the ship.“
At the end of 1944, IV./JG 27 was moved to a base
The remainder of the crew was prevented from at Gratz. There, as a pilot within the Defense of
being able to get out of the aircraft by the plane’s
the Reich system, he would get another twentyinverted position and the centrifugal forces they -six kills. Around that time, he caused quite a stir
were experiencing. Some may have been inju- when he had the swastika removed from his Bf
red, or even killed by shrapnel or by fire from the 109G-10. Bartels simply did not like the Nazis…
attacking Bf 109s. Thanks to Smith’s report, we
He died on December 23, 1944 in combat with
know that Duszkiewicz survived the hits by the American fighters, when he was shot down by
a P-47 over Bad Godesberg, southeast of Bonn.
On the day of his death, Bartels got his 99th confirmed kill, a P-51.
Four Graves in Koropi
John O’Leary had some luck finally as he was
able to evade capture, and with the help of the
locals, he was able to get back to his own side.
John Smith was injured, and when he landed on
the ground, he was taken POW by the Germans,
which was how he spent the rest of the war after
being taken to a military hospital. O’Leary was
back pretty soon, because already by January 13,
1944, less than two months after being shot down,
he made his report at La Junta, Colorado. Smith
had to wait a little longer. After his return home,
he settled in Chicago, where he filled out his report in March, 1946 and expressed his views of
the events. There are some variations between
his report and O’Leary’s, but given the three year
time difference between them and the stresses
involved that the two men had to go through,
one can’t really be too surprised. More information about neither Smith’s captivity nor O’Leary’s escape from Greece is known, and nothing is
known about their later lives. After the war, neither one of them took part in any event connected
to the 57th Bomb Wing Association, so even there
are no more information on them available.
The four men that died in the B-25 were buried
by German troops with full military honours at a
cemetery in the town of Koropi, just about three
miles south of Athens. This article, as well as the
art on the box of the kit with the catalog number
84173 is a dedication in their honour, if in a small
way, and to their heroic sacrifice, and the hell that
not only they, but thousands of others, flew into
with no guarantee of ever returning.
Ernst Obermaier: Die Ritterkreuzträger der Luftwaffe / Jagdflieger
Jochen Prien, Peter Rodeike, Gerhard Stemmer: Messerschmitt Bf 109
im Einsatz bei der III. und IV. /Jagdgeschwader 27
340th BG Combat Reports
57th Bomb Wing Association (www.57thbombwing.com)
photo: 57th Bomb Wing Association
My sincere thanks to Mr. Daniel Setzer, 57th
Bomb Wing Association historian, for help in
the research for this article.
Shots of the bombing of the airfield at Kalamaki by aircraft of the 340th BG.
INFO Eduard - April 2021
One of the B-25s of 340th BG. It was no exception the
ships returned with such a damage.