Misfortune


03:00 | 06:15 | 10:45 | 11:17 | 11:30


11:30 - Zoersel

'Look over there ... smoke!' A wreath of smoke rises from a nearby wood. Michel Bosman:

"Contrary to an order given by our scoutmaster, who sensed the danger of the situation, Assistant Scoutmaster Cuvelier and I ran towards the spot where the airman would approximately come down. We had already covered quite some ground without finding the slightest trace of the parachutist. Suddenly our eyes caught a thin column of smoke rising from between the dry pines. We weren't very far from the fire itself, but the dense thicket prevented our discerning anything. All of a sudden we heard a cry for help. We cried back as best we could. Then we saw, shining in the middle of the smoke and flames, the white silk of a parachute.
Without further reflection we jumped through the fire, and there we found, half hanging and suspended by the cords of the parachute, the pilot whom we had seen descending. To attract attention he had probably put fire to the woods surrounding him, because he lay in the center of a circle of fire. There was no time for delaying however, for the fire was spreading rapidly. With a knife I found on the spot I cut the parachute cords, and then we carried the airman outside the fire area. He was very badly wounded in the stomach and on one of his legs; one of his feet was half crushed.

impression by Scott Nelson

When we asked him his nationality he replied, very clearly, 'Joe Sharpel from Pittsburg'. He asked where he was, and when we asked him where the formation had been heading for, he refused to reply. We realized that this had to remain a secret. In the meantime, the inhabitant of a neighboring villa and a local policeman had arrived. At Joe's request the former went to get him some water, and let him drink it. Then Joe asked us to remove his heavy boots. I threw them well out of reach of the fire, and later on was to find them back there."

11:30 - Airspace Belgian-Netherlands border

After his first run through the American armada, Jörg Kiefner rejoins his leader:

"There is Hermichen, I'm taking care not to loose him out of sight. Now we turn to two lonesome Boeings who where shot out of the formations. They are trying to get back to England. We attack from the rear. In front of me is my Chief holding on to his prey. I am right behind him, firing to the bomber that is almost as big as a barn door in the middle of the sight. I can see the tracers hitting the fuselage of the bomber. When one of its right engines starts burning, I can hear the voice of Hermichen commanding me over the radio: 'Nicht mehr schiessen!' Stop firing!
The whole fuselage is on fire now. The crew bailed out long before. I saw several of them when we started our attack. And then it happens. The bomber falls off to the left and heading down. It's an unforgettable view. Then follows a giant explosion: the mighty Boeing crashes not far from our base at Woensdrecht.

11:30 - Woensdrecht

Jaak van den Maagdenbergh is still residing at the parental farm in Woensdrecht. He witnessed the destruction of 'The Jolly Roger':

"There was a lot of work to be done in the polder. Everyone was very busy harvesting. When the bombers were coming over we noticed that two of them left formation.
After a while one of them came straight to our farm, at an abnormal low level. All of the sudden two German fighters appeared. The planes were already that close, compelling me, and the servants to duck into a shelter. I heard one of the fighters giving a long burst of fire and then a terrible explosion.
When I lifted my head I saw a huge cloud of smoke: the bomber had exploded right above our farmland. Only small pieces of the wreckage were left and the area was covered with 0.50 cartridges. In no time many people arrived on the scene, the soonest followed by a German officer on a motorcycle. Somebody said: 'There is one laying with his parachute' and we took a look. The officer lifted the parachute from the airman's face but could only confirm that he was dead. Amongst the debris, few human remains were found, just small pieces. When more Germans arrived from the nearby airbase the area got sealed off and we were driven away."

12:10 - Zoersel

Per Joe's request, a local man brings a priest. Pastor John van Kan from St. Antonius arrives hurriedly on the scene, consoles Joe and administers him the Last Sacraments. Now, surrounded by friendly and caring people, Joe Schreppel finds peace of mind and has nothing more to say. He is getting into coma, and then calmly passes away.

The two boy scouts run away as the Feldgendarmen (German military police) are about to arrive. They could have been punished for being member of an illegal organization. Michel Bosman is still holding the knife, and as he looks at it closer, the name 'JOE' is engraved on it.


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