Liberators over Vratnica

The Ploesti old fields in southeastern Romania were a vital strategic bombing objective for the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. Located 35 miles north of the capital Bucharest, Ploesti had formerly supplied one-third of Germany’s oil. The U.S. had targeted Ploesti to deprive the German military of petroleum. The U.S. first bombed Ploesti on June 12, 1942 during the HALPRO bombing raid. Then on August 1, 1943 during Operation Tidal Wave, a major bombardment was launched.

The Soviet Red Army advance on Yugoslavia and the capital Belgrade in 1944 was launched from Romania. Russian troops had captured Ploesti on August 30, 1944. But before its capture, Ploesti remained a major bombing target for U.S. forces.

On August 26, 1944, a U.S. B-24 Liberator crew conducted a bombing mission in Romania. On its return flight, it was shot down over the village of Vratnica in the former Yugoslavia, then occupied and annexed by Bulgaria. The Liberator bomber crashed in the wooded hills overlooking the village. Civilians from Vratnica were able to help the survivors and to bury those who were killed.

Vratnica was a village located in northwestern Macedonia at the border with Kosovo and Metohija. It had been part of Serbia after the First Balkan War in 1912. Before 1912, it had been part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, the region known as Turkey in Europe. In 1915, it was occupied by Bulgarian troops during World War I. In 1918, it became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. In 1929, the name of the country was changed to Yugoslavia. Vratnica was made a part of the Vardar or Vardarska Banovina from 1929 to 1941. Vratnica was part of a region called Southern Serbia or Stara Srbija, Ancient or Old Serbia. Claims were made on the area by Serbia and Bulgaria who fought three wars over the region, in 1913, 1915, and 1941. After 1945, Vratnica was part of the Republic of Macedonia created by the new Communist regime under Josip Broz Tito. In 1992, Macedonia seceded from Yugoslavia. A dispute remains with Greece over the name of the country because there is a region in Greece called “Macedonia”. Greece, thus, objects to the use of the name. Internationally, the country is officially known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYRM).

During World War II, Vratnica was occupied by Bulgarian troops who seized large swaths of territory in Macedonia which were annexed. Albanian nationalists and separatists also seized Vratnica and incorporated the village and surrounding area into the Nazi-fascist Greater Albanian state for a brief period during World War II. During the 2001 Albanian insurgency, Vratnica was again attacked and besieged by Albanian separatists of the so-called National Liberation Army.

The U.S. Army Air Force launched its attack on Ploesti from bases in Bari, Italy. The Liberator crew that crashed in Vratnica was part of the 15th Air Force, 455th Bomber Group, 732 Bomber Squadron, based in Bari, Italy.

The captain of the bomber crew was 1st Lt. Edwin Carl Kieselbach of Ravenna, Oklahoma. The rest of the crew was made up of eight members:  2nd Lt. John T. Edwards, the co-pilot, from of Gleason, Tennessee, 1st Lt. Richard T. McCauley, the bombardier from Providence, Rhode Island, T/Sgt. Edward Ambrosini, the radio operator and gunner from Brooklyn, New York, Sgt. David C. Koblitz, the engineer and gunner from Erie, Kansas, S/Sgt. Willis C. Stephenson, the assistant radar operator and Ball Turret gunner from Topeka, Kansas, S/Sgt. Bruce B. Tuthill, the assistant engineer and gunner from Seaford, New York, S/Sgt Harold L. Viken, the armorer and nose gunner from Denver, Colorado, and S/Sgt William M. Rhodes, the tail gunner from Cray Court, South Carolina. Their aircraft was a Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber named “Our Love” with the Airframe designation #42-78240.

Their bombing objective on August 26, 1944 was a train depot marshaling yard in Bucharest, Romania from where oil was shipped. It was also a hub for troop movements and weapons transports. Four squadrons participated in the attack. Each squadron had up to nine bombers. The bomb payload was three tons for every plane.

Over the target, the Our Love Liberator crew was attacked by anti-aircraft. The plane was hit. One of the engines was damaged. This resulted in the plane losing speed and falling behind while the rest of the squadron headed for the Bari base. The bomber was now descending and vulnerable to attack by German fighter planes. Five German Messerschmitt ME 109 fighters attacked the plane with machine guns. The tail and waist gunners were hit. The co-pilot was also injured and died from his wounds.

As the plane flew lower, it sought to avoid the Shar Planina range of mountains by flying over valleys. This allowed anti-aircraft batteries to zero in on the plane. The captain ordered the crew to bail out. The bomber’s two vertical tail assembly rudders were struck which put the plane in a spin. The crew used the bomb bay door to jettison equipment and ammunition and to parachute out of the badly crippled plane.

The captain hit a tree but managed to land safely on the heavily wooded mountainside just over the village of Vratnica. He had suffered a shoulder injury. The turret gunner, however, was killed when he struck the mountain. Both Tuthill and Koblitz had been ejected from the plane and had died instantly on impact. The body of Koblitz was found in a tree still strapped in the harness.

Two Bulgarian soldiers spotted the captain hiding in the woods. He was able to shoot them and flee into the mountains.

Vratnica residents carrying shotguns and pitchforks located him. One of the Vratnica residents could speak English. He told the captain that he had lived in Detroit, Michigan. The captain recalled that Bulgarian and German troops soon arrived and took him prisoner. He was taken to the Bulgarian prison camp at Shumen in northeastern Bulgaria. With Russian troops advancing on Bulgaria, the guards fled, allowing the captain to escape. He managed to get to Greece, Turkey, Syria, and Cairo from where he was returned to the air base in Italy.

There were three survivors of the crash, Kieselbach, the captain, Richard McCauley, the bombardier, and Edward Ambrosini, the radar operator. The rest were killed. Vratnica residents were able to bury those who were killed in the village cemetery. From here they were moved to Belgrade and finally returned to the U.S.

On Wednesday, November 26, 2014, on the 70th anniversary of the crash, a memorial plaque was placed in the Vratnica cemetery to commemorate the crew. The U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia, Paul Wohlers, commended the residents of Vratnica at the unveiling:

“The residents of this small village risked their lives when they decided to bury the killed airmen and help the survivors. The United States of America and the families of the US pilots will be eternally grateful for what they did.

Today we honor the memory of those who perished in the fight for freedom and we honor the friendship between the people of Macedonia and the USA. The Americans and the residents of Vratnica were close friends and allies back in 1944 and the USA and Macedonia are even more so today.”

Bibliography:

  1. Bassemir, June Tuthill, “A Case For Peace”. 2013. The More Stories Place.
  2. Fields, Spencer. “Unearthing History. Discovery of fallen WWII bomber unleashes memories.” Cerignola Connection. Fall, 2014. 455th Bomb Group Association Newsletter, pp. 17-18. Reprinted from State Magazine, December, 2013.
  3. Kieselbach, Captain Edwin C. “The Last Flight”. 2013. The More Stories Place.

2016-02-21

By Carl K. Savich

Source: Serbianna

 

Save

Save

Save 

RELATED POSTS
A Russian warning
We, the undersigned, are Russians living and working in the USA. We have been watching with increasing anxiety as the current US and NATO policies have set us on an extremely dangerous collision course with the Russian Federation, as well as with China. Many respected, patriotic Americans, such as Paul Craig Roberts, Stephen Cohen, Philip Giraldi, Ray McGovern and many others have been issuing warnings of a looming a Third World War. But their voices have been all but lost among the din of a mass media that is full of deceptive and inaccurate stories that characterize the Russian economy ...
READ MORE
The Vatican Bank Clean Up Is A Cover Up:  Nazi Linked Assets Ignored
Washington: Cardinal George Pell, who is Vatican Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, told The Tablet, a Catholic newspaper on June 17, 2016, that: ““The Vatican is committed to transparency, international cooperation and the use of contemporary international standards in financial reporting.” Cardinal Pell further praised Jean Baptiste de Franssu, the director of the Vatican Bank as one who had done “an excellent clean out job.” Pell further stated: “Pope Francis continues to insist that the financial reforms must continue.” Nowhere in Pell’s message was there any mention of the Nazi linked Ustasha Treasury first identified by the US State department in ...
READ MORE
Independence on Nakba Day – Accountability and Healing as an Israeli Aggressor
I am an Israeli-American. I was raised in a middle-class academic ‘Liberal Zionist’ household (aligned with the Israeli Labor Party and Meretz), which is an inherent contradiction. Liberal Zionism maintains a belief in universal human rights yet it supports a Zionist ideology that endorses and promotes Israel as a Jewish state – one that has been systematically carrying out a project of apartheid and ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinian people. Since I can remember, my birth town of Jerusalem has been highly segregated. Growing up, I never interacted with Palestinians other than Abed the soft-spoken gardener from Hebron (aka El ...
READ MORE
The Ku Klux Klan: America’s Long History of Accepting White Terrorist Organizations
Thursday marked the 150th anniversary of the founding of America’s deadliest terrorist organization: the Klu Klux Klan. Since September 11, extremists associated with various far-right wing ideologies, including the KKK and Jewish extremists, have killed far more people in the United States than extremists motivated by radical Islam. One centuries’ old example of US government double standards when it comes to terrorism, is the infamous Klu Klux Klan. The Klan has terrorized and killed far more Americans than Islamic terrorists ever have; and despite being America’s oldest terrorist organization, the US government does not officially consider the KKK a terrorist organization, classifying ...
READ MORE
Nightmarish Global Military Agenda
Warring hotspots all over the world are flaring up in 2016 in what amounts to preparation for World War III between the military forces of the US led Western Empire against the forces of the Eastern axis led by Russia and China joined by Iran and North Korea. Let’s be clear – the globalists are the puppet masters behind the Western forces intentionally provoking catastrophic world war. We live in a time when the earth’s ruling elite has willfully created this foreboding, seemingly suicidal endgame scenario, using US Empire to prod, orchestrate, and push the world into two enemy camps in a West ...
READ MORE
Déjà Vu in the Balkans
An eerily familiar sense of regional unease has crept over all the former republics of Yugoslavia. Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar echoed the Balkan zeitgeist when he warned at a press conference this week that: “If the migrant crisis is not adequately controlled as agreed at the summit in Brussels there is a possibility of conflict situations between the states of the Western Balkans. It is possible that a small conflict would initiate a wider reaction because of the very difficult recent history (of the region), which is why it is very important that we solve this crisis together as no country can solve this problem by itself.” It seems like everybody knows that ...
READ MORE
NATO — Private Club Of War Criminals
What has happened is that NATO provides cover for these transgressions of the United States government’s policy. In other words, it absolutely legitimizes what effectively is NATO aggression. Moreover, what one needs to bear in mind and what one needs to be mindful about is the fact that in Western Europe you no longer have rulers with the independence of Charles de Gaulle. It seems that Washington, and we can use Washington, America and NATO interchangeably because NATO is dominated by the United States. It is a command structure, which ultimately is based on American military power and American military precedence.  ...
READ MORE
The Parties of Jefferson, Lincoln and FDR Are Dead. Bipartisan Neocons Infesting Washington, What Prospects for America?
US duopoly power replaced the eras of Jefferson, Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. No JFKs exist, President Kennedy as we recall was a peacemaker assassinated for opposing war, urging nuclear disarmament and the normalization of relations  with the Soviet Union.    New Deal, Fair Deal and Great Society programs are heading for history’s dust bin.  Bipartisan neocons infesting Washington want social justice ended, neoliberal enslavement replacing it, fascist police state harshness enforcing it. America is a gangster state, criminals running it – beginning in the 1990s under Bill Clinton, hardened under George W. Bush, institutionalized under Obama, certain to worsen no matter who succeeds him. US ...
READ MORE
Twenty Principal Misconceptions About The Kosovo Issue
1. Kosovo issue is a conflict between ethnic Albanians and ethnic Serbs over the territory Wrong: It is a part of the conflict between Balkan Albanians and the surrounding populations, in Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia and Greece (ex. clashes between Albanians and Macedonians in Macedonia from 1991 onward including and open rebellion in 2001 & 2015 2. The issue is a fight of Albanians for their political rights Wrong: The crux of the matter lies at the biological level. The real rationale is a demographic explosion which is going on within the Albanian population for a century or so (rate of growth by Albanians ...
READ MORE
Why Are We Sending $38 Billion to Rich and Powerful Israel?
Last week’s announcement of a record-breaking US aid package for Israel underscores how dangerously foolish and out-of-touch is our interventionist foreign policy. Over the next ten years, the US taxpayer will be forced to give Israel some $38 billion dollars in military aid. It is money we cannot afford going to a country that needs no assistance to maintain its status as the most powerful military in the Middle East.All US foreign aid is immoral and counterproductive. As I have often said, it is money taken from poor people in the US and sent to rich people overseas. That is ...
READ MORE
US Elections: Neither Free nor Fair
Media across the world are literally transfixed by the spectacle of US elections. The Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton, Republicans vs. Democrats battle is captivating enough to distract public attention from other issues. Democracy promotion has been a centerpiece of US foreign policy for over half a century since the days when President Woodrow Wilson crafted a new foreign policy that involved active democracy promotion. The implementation of the «beacon on the hill» concept presupposes that the United States would act as a model of excellence for others to follow is analogous to contemporary soft-power democracy promotion efforts. Lecturing on democracy is a ...
READ MORE
The Hysterics Of Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė
The outbursts of anti-Russian rhetoric of Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė is certainly very bizarre in view of her curriculum vitae. Dalia Grybauskaitė is a very educated woman. Because of the free education system of the former USSR, she was able to complete her university education at the elite Saint Petersburg State University. She became a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1983, some five years before she earned a doctoral degree at the prestigious Academy of Social Sciences in Moscow. It is generally known that not every applicant is routinely accepted to become a Party member. This ...
READ MORE
The Destabilization Of Macedonia? Greater Albania And The Process Of “Kosovization”
Introduction The last open armed conflict in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – FYROM (former Socialist Republic of Macedonia as one of six federal republics of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) in the May 2015 was just an expected continuation of constant tensions between the ethnic Albanians and the Macedonian Slavs during the last quarter of century.[i] However, these tensions are time to time transformed into the open armed conflicts of the Albanian extremists, usually coming from Kosovo, with the Macedonian security forces. The most notable conflict incidents in Macedonia after the Kosovo War in 1998−1999, when the Kosovo Albanians ...
READ MORE
When Terrorism becomes Counter-terrorism: The State Sponsors of Terrorism are “Going After the Terrorists”
US foreign  policy has nurtured Al Qaeda, a creation of the CIA for more than 35 years, with the support of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and Saudi Arabia’s  infamous  General Intelligence Presidency (GIP).  Lest we forget Osama bin Laden was recruited in 1979 by the CIA at the outset of the Soviet- Afghan war.   A complex network of Al Qaeda affiliated terrorist organizations overseen by US and allied intelligence agencies has unfolded, extending across the Middle East, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, Western China, South and South East Asia.  Rand Corporation  Report 2012 While mainstream analysis regarding CIA covert  support of “jihadist” terrorist entities is ...
READ MORE
Pope Francis at Auschwitz But Not Where Catholics Slaughtered 700,000 Serbs, Jews and Roma in WWII
Jasenovac in Croatia was the third largest World War II concentration camp in Europe by number of victims. It was operated by the Catholic and Nazi-allied Ustasha government. Wartime Croatia has been called “one great slaughterhouse.” The prisoners – mostly Serbs, Jews and Roma had their throats cut with specially designed knives, or they were killed with axes, mallets and hammers; they were also shot, or they were hung from trees or light poles. Some were burned alive in hot furnaces, boiled in cauldrons, or drowned in the River Sava. Here the most varied forms of torture were used. Finger and toe nails were pulled out with ...
READ MORE
America Aggression: A Threat to the World
The war machine that is the United States of America, not content with threatening the world with its missile attack on a Syria airbase, not content with massing its forces around the Korean Peninsular and threatening to murder its leaders and massacre its people, not content with its escalating hostility towards Russia and China, decided the world needed one more demonstration of its power today, Thursday, April 13 by dropping its most powerful non-nuclear bomb on an Afghanistan saturated with its bombs. This demonstration, using a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Blast Bomb (MOAB), that the Americans like to call the ‘mother of ...
READ MORE
Bosnian Muslim Genocide Over The Serbs In Srebrenica And Her Vicinity in 1992-1995 (Photo Album)
A Serb from Bosnia, General Mladic, protected Muslims civilians and gave them buses, food and water for to leave fighting zones (as you can see). There was no genocide over Muslim population in Srebrenica like main stream media want you to believe – there was no genocide over Bosniaks because all Bosnian Muslims victims were jihad fighters who had been killed during fight (in war). Even the so called „tribunal“ in The Hague for ex-Yugoslavia admitted that there was no genocide! Now,  you can see here how djihadistes have treated the Serbian population – the content is very hard, not for ...
READ MORE
Authentic Video On The U.S. Democratization Of Afghanistan
The US marines in the mission of democratization of the Afghan Talibans. An authentic video clip. No comment, except: Can you imagine reaction by the CNN in the case of the Russian marines are doing the same in Syria with the fighters of the ISIL? Enjoy 38 sec. of the documentary clip on democratization of Afghanistan.
READ MORE
Washington Has Found The Solution: “Let’s Divide Iraq As We Did In Yugoslavia!”
Editor’s note: This article by Michel Collon was first published by Global Research in December 2003. It outlines with foresight the strategy of the US, through covert intelligence operations, of breaking up Iraq into a number of separate states. The unleashing of a civil war with a view to deliberately breaking up Iraq was part of the US war agenda from the outset. They have found the solution! Divide Iraq into three mini-states and then pit them against one another. Does that remind you of something else? Oh, yes! It’s not the first time something like this happened…. The New York Times published ...
READ MORE
A Russian warning
The Vatican Bank Clean Up Is A Cover Up: Nazi Linked Assets Ignored
Independence on Nakba Day – Accountability and Healing as an Israeli Aggressor
The Ku Klux Klan: America’s Long History of Accepting White Terrorist Organizations
Nightmarish Global Military Agenda
Déjà Vu in the Balkans
NATO — Private Club Of War Criminals
The Parties of Jefferson, Lincoln and FDR Are Dead. Bipartisan Neocons Infesting Washington, What Prospects for America?
Twenty Principal Misconceptions About The Kosovo Issue
Why Are We Sending $38 Billion to Rich and Powerful Israel?
US Elections: Neither Free nor Fair
Je Sius La Serbie 1999!
The Hysterics Of Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė
The Destabilization Of Macedonia? Greater Albania And The Process Of “Kosovization”
When Terrorism becomes Counter-terrorism: The State Sponsors of Terrorism are “Going After the Terrorists”
Pope Francis at Auschwitz But Not Where Catholics Slaughtered 700,000 Serbs, Jews and Roma in WWII
America Aggression: A Threat to the World
Bosnian Muslim Genocide Over The Serbs In Srebrenica And Her Vicinity in 1992-1995 (Photo Album)
Authentic Video On The U.S. Democratization Of Afghanistan
Washington Has Found The Solution: “Let’s Divide Iraq As We Did In Yugoslavia!”

Subscribe, Share & Follow