People and Artifacts

Thomas Tschreppel

The vessel Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse

THOMAS TSCHREPPEL was born in the South of Austria (Europe). At the end of 1913, he had set sail aboard the vessel 'Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse' in Bremen (Germany) to find his destiny in the USA.

Upon arriving in the Promised Land, the 24-year-old bachelor changed his name into TOM SCHREPPEL, hoping this would make him untraceable to the Austrian authorities in case they wanted to enlist him in the Army.

The other reason was that 'Tom Schreppel' sounded nicer and was easier to pronounce for the English speaking population, thus, an advantage in the integration process.

The growing war threat in the Old Continent had increased the demand for land minerals. The arrival of these Europeans was just timely to explore the coalfields in the state of Kansas. Tom and his fellowmen rendered hard labor with meager wages working as coalminers in the New World.

Tom fell in love with Barbara Glickenburger, of German origin. After their marriage they settled down in Girard, one of those fast growing towns around Pittsburg, the centre of the coalmine industry in Kansas.

Tom Schreppel
TOM SCHREPPEL Sr. (Joe's dad)
Born: Dec. 21, 1889 site: Styria, Austria
Died: June 8, 1979 Oswego Kansas

Barbara Glickenburger
BARBARA (Glickenburger) SCHREPPEL (Joe's mother)
Born: Dec. 17 1898 Site: Germany
Died: Dec. 13 1999 Site: Oswego Kansas
At the age of almost 101, mother Barbara had nearly bridged 3 centuries.
The Schreppel Family<br />Click to zoom
This picture was made around year 1955. It shows Joe's parents: father Tom (left below) and mother Barbara (standing at the right next to the baby) together with their children and grandchildren. (Photo contributed by Linda Schreppel)
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Staff Sergeant JOE SCHREPPEL

We knew little about Tom and Barbara's firstborn son named Joe. For sure he grew up like any other American kid, going fishing, hunting and playing baseball, basketball or football.

On the 21st of May 1942, he made the most daring decision in his life by enlisting himself to the USAAF at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas at the age of 23.

His stations as provided through military records:

Joe's military records
Jefferson Barracks, Missouri from 24 May 42 to 23 June 42
Lincoln, Nebraska from 24 June 42 to 17 Sept 42
Kearns, Utah from 22 Sept 42 to 28 Oct 42
Las Vegas, Nevada from 2 Nov 42 to 8 Dec 42
Salt Lake City, Utah from 8 Dec 42 to 24 Feb 43

His unit, the 385th Bomb Group (Heavy), 548th Bomb Squadron, was formed in February 1943 and completed training at the end of May 1943. After that, their B-17 aircrafts had moved to England to reinforce the 8th Air Force, also known as the famous 'Mighty Eight'.

Sgt. Joe and the 548th Squadron, had to make the voyage by sailing on the Queen Mary. His new home base became Great Ashfield, a small town in East Anglia in the UK. He and his crewmembers had familiarized with their new B-17 bomber, serial number 42-5886, which they nicknamed 'The Jolly Roger'. They didn't fly combat until the 9th mission of the 385th BG. The target was the airfield of Vitry-en-Artois, France. It was what they called 'a milk run'.

Second mission to Regensburg, Germany was launched just two days later. The courageous but combat green-horned crew fell prey to highly skilled Nazi plane fighters. The Jolly Roger was shot down; a few of the crew had survived, while Sgt. Joe was heavily wounded. Rescued by the kind-hearted locals, to them he clearly uttered these words:

'My name is Joe Schreppel, from Pittsburg, Kansas'.

Joe Schreppel
Date of birth: 28 November 1919
Date of entry in the army: 21 May 1942
Army serial number: 37 202 639
Killed In Action: 17 August 1943
Status: Missing In Action


Linda Schreppel

Married to Joe Schreppel, a nephew who is named after his uncle, Sgt. Joe Schreppel.

Linda and her son Joseph were the first ones who replied to my inquiries when I started my investigation.


Jeff Schreppel

Jeff is a History teacher and basketball coach at the Oswego High School. He provided me with more information on Sgt. Joe almost on a daily basis.

Thanks to the Internet our communication was very intens as well as inspiring; through email we exchanged text and pictures being used by Jeff instantly in the classroom and by myself in this research project.


Michel Bosman in 1945

Together with his scoutmaster Cuvelier, Michel Bosman cut the cords of Sgt. Joe Schreppel's parachute and rescued him from the fire. After the liberation of Belgium in 1944, Michel joined the Allied Forces and fought against the Nazi's till the end of the war.
(Photo taken in 1945. Contributed by M. Bosman).

I came to know more about Michel Bosman when I read his testimony in the Missing Air Crew Report over 'The Jolly Roger' (his unforgettable encounter with Sgt. Joe). Anxious to personally meet him, I came to the idea of adressing all the phone subscribers under the name Bosman, and began dialing those telephone numbers.

Michel Bosman today.

What a coincidence, the first number I called was immediately Michel and it was incredibly surprising to know that he's living just a walking distance from my village.

After a short negotiation, he agreed to be interviewed by me. After reading his own testimony in the Missing Air Crew Report, he confirmed all the written facts, but disowned having declared those facts.

He suggested that Frans Cuvelier, his former scoutmaster,
could have redacted the statement because by that time (December, 1945), Michel himself had already joined the Allied army.


Mrs. Cuvelier.

Michel Bosman's supposition that scoutsmaster Cuvelier could have written the testimony challenged me to do another investigation. With my former success of consulting the telephone directory, this time I wrote to a dozen of Cuvelier's in the region. After a few days, I received a phone call from Frans Cuvelier's widow.

This charming elegant lady told me that her late husband had died in 1989 but that she was well informed by him about the Schreppel tragedy. I was astonished when she confided to me that she was still keeping some artifacts that once belonged to Sgt. Joe.

Thanks to Mrs. Cuvelier, Sgt. Joe's hand-glove has been sent by mail to the Schreppel family in Kansas after more than 60 years of safekeeping.

Glove of Joe Schreppel<br />
On the left, one of the gloves of Sgt. Joe. This kind of inner glove was part of the crewmembers' thermal underwear clothing to protect themselves from high altitude temperatures often as much as 50 degrees below zero.
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An electric heated suit, sheepskin jacket and trousers furred with lambs' wool, completed the outfit.
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The bloodstained card with Joe's handwriting
The dying Sgt. Joe Schreppel handed this small card to scoutmaster Cuvelier. Sgt. Joe had probably written it before he went on combat mission 'Just in case ...'
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The backside of that bloodstained card with Cuvelier's handwriting
On the backside of that bloodstained card, Frans Cuvelier wrote some information over the deceased. It was remarkable that both boy-scouts misheard 'Schreppel' as 'Sharpel'. For sure they were skeptical, having an American hero with a German sounding family name.
What was the significance of the numbers 254565? Why did Frans Cuvelier jot it down?
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Frans Cuvelier

Frans Cuvelier
Born: 1924
Died: 1989

(Photo taken in 1946. Artifacts contributed by Mrs. Cuvelier)

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Luc is a successful amateur researcher specialized in warplane crashes in the Northern region of Belgium. He lives in Zoersel, ironically the centre of this story.

Luc supplied me with numerous documents, witnesses' declarations and links. He was able to trace Jörg Kiefner, the German fighter pilot believed to be the one who finally shot down 'The Jolly Roger'.

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From left to right: Mrs. Kiefner, Jörg Kiefner, an eyewitness and Luc Cox. They are holding some metal frameworks from the Focke Wulf 190, piloted by Kiefner that had crashed on this spot in the afternoon of August 17, 1943. (Photo Luc Cox)

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Grotere kaart weergeven

Google Maps

Crash site in Holland. Impact location: '2 km Southwest of Woensdrecht (Hoogerheide)' according to a German document. Google Earth blurred the environment of the Woensdrecht airfield because it is at this moment still a military air base; once used by the German Luftwaffe to intercept the Allied bombers.


Ball bearings.

They were the reason of the tragedy on August 17, 1943. Hitler needed millions and millions of ball bearings to keep his war machine literally rolling.

The Allied had to stop the production by bombing the factories in Schweinfurt. But the unpredicted strong German air defense decimated the American bomber fleets.

It turned into one of the bloodiest and costliest air battles in WW II.

Jeanne De Feyter
Jeanne De Feyter

Mrs. Jeanne De Feyter shows to Luc Cox, Justin Schreppel and his wife Misty, the exact spot where airman Joe Schreppel came down.

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Eye witness statement by Jeanne.

Jeanne De Feyter

Mrs. Jeanne De Feyter as 13-year old.

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Family Cryns

- Gustave, retired.
Amateur-researcher and narrator.
- Daughter Jasmine, archaeology student University of Ghent.
- Son Tom, project leader Siemens.
Webmaster and reviewer.
- Gustave's wife Vivian Lozada, aviation security agent.
Advisor, translator and reviewer.

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