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
The Memorandum (1804) By The Karlovci Metropolitan Stevan Stratimirovic
The goal of this article is to investigate and describe the text of one very significant, but so far forgotten, document and historical source upon the question on Serbian liberation from the Ottoman sway and national unification. The document was written in 1804 during the first months of the First Serbian Uprising against the Ottoman oppression [about the uprising see in Petrovich 1976; Vucinich 1982; Temperley 1969; Ђорђевић 1956]. Introduction The Serbian nation was divided at the dawn of the 19th century by the borders of Ottoman pashaliks and by the state frontiers that separated the lands under Ottoman from those under ...
READ MORE
America’s Imperial Empire: The Sun Never Sets But The Mote Remains In The Emperor’s Eye
Post-colonial empires are complex organizations. They are organized on a multi-tiered basis, ranging from relative autonomous national and regional allies to subservient vassal states, with variations in between. In the contemporary period, the idea of empire does not operate as a stable global structure, though it may aspire and strive for such. While the US is the major imperial power, it does not dominate some leading global political-economic and military powers, like Russia and China. Imperial powers, like the US, have well-established regional satellites but have also suffered setbacks and retreats from independent local economic and political challengers. Empire is not a fixed ...
READ MORE
Making Balkan Caliphate: The Wahhabies – A New Danger For The Balkan And European Security
Editor’s note: This article was written and originally published in January 2015.      „God is our objective, the Quran is our Constitution, the Prophet is our leader, struggle is our way, and death for sake of God is the highest of our aspirations“ Jihadi credo The West Europe before the 2014 Christmas became once again a target of several mini-terrorist acts by the radical Islamists among whom the Wahabbies are the most active and dangerous. On Tuesday, December 23rd, Germany’s security service warn of highest terrorist threat in decades as the German participation in the anti-ISIS struggle became the reason for potential terrorism. ...
READ MORE
The Srebrenica Massacre: Some Victims Are More Equal Than Others
Last month was the 18th anniversary of the attack on the Serbian village of Kravica committed by Moslem forces from Srebrenica under the command of Naser Orić on Orthodox Christmas day, January 7, 1993. Several dozen villagers were killed in the attack, the remaining Serbian population was forced to flee to safety, and many homes were pillaged, demolished and torched during the several weeks that Kravica was forcibly occupied by neighbours from nearby Srebrenica. Regardless of arcane debates of who started the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, on a human level the attack on the village of Kravica and the ...
READ MORE
New Strategic Calculus For The Balkans
The Balkans have returned to the forefront of European geopolitics as a result of the New Cold War, with the US and Russia facing off in a proxy war over the planned Balkan Stream pipeline through the region. The geopolitical circumstances have evolved since the 1990s, when all of the former Yugoslavia was lumped together as the Western Balkans. In order to accommodate for the changing strategic reality in the region, it’s necessary to carve the Central Balkans out of the idea of the former, and the new division of the Balkans into Western, Central, and Eastern regions simplifies the ...
READ MORE
Hillary And Bill Clinton: The “Bonnie And Clyde” Of American Politics
Whether the information originated from hacked e-mails and computer files or Freedom of Information Act requests, the revelations about the political and business activities of Hillary and Bill Clinton and their cronies hearken back to another era, the Great Depression of the 1930s and the crime spree of another unscrupulous couple: bank robbery desperados Bonnie and Clyde. Aside from Hillary Clinton running her own lucrative «off-the-books» foreign policy via her private email servers and e-mail chain of associates and flunkies, it was her and her husband’s joint Clinton Foundation and Teneo Capital operations that scream out the word «corruption.» The servers ...
READ MORE
Kosovo history – Third part
For the Serbs as Christians, their loss of state independence and fall to the Ottoman Empire’s kind of theocratic state, was a terrible misfortune. With the advent of the Turks and establishment of their rule, the lands of Serbs were forcibly excluded from the circle of progressive European states wherein they occupied a prominent place precisely owing to the Byzantine civilization, which was enhanced by local qualities and strong influences of the neighboring Mediterranean states. Being Christians, the Serbs became second-class citizens in Islamic state. Apart from religious discrimination, which was evident in all spheres of everyday life, this status ...
READ MORE
Mass Exodus From Muslim Kosovo Into Europe: Did US Play A Role In Creating The Crisis?
Editor:  Little did I know when I posted a short news story about the ‘invasion of Hungary’ last evening that the situation in Kosovo has become untenable and a mass exodus was so advanced.  ‘Pungentpeppers’ has again pulled many threads together to give us the big picture of what is happening in Eastern Europe.  Is the US responsible?  An Austrian political leader says so! Mass exodus from Muslim Kosovo into Europe ~150,000 or more Kosovars on the move since summer ~Hungarian Police catch 1,000 Kosovars daily – a small fraction of the total ~Hungarian mayor calls for fence as Kosovars overwhelm village ~Austrian politician blames ...
READ MORE
The Authoritarian Militarization Of The Croats
The internal and much more external destruction of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s was celebrating in 2015 its 20th years of anniversary. However, this historical and much more geopolitical event still needs a satisfactory research approach in regard to the true geopolitical reasons and political-military course of the destruction of this South Slavic and Balkan state. During the last quarter of century, the (western) global mainstream media unanimously accused Serbia and the Serbs for the national chauvinism as the main cause of the bloody wars on the territory of ex-Yugoslavia in the 1990s. However, the role and direct impact ...
READ MORE
The New Global Economy: Rise Of China And Decline Of USA
There is a limit to economic manipulations by empires. All empires have perished due to economic hardships. The Ottoman, Soviet and the British empires were no exception in the past century. Waste was the key product of these empires. Whether the only empire – the US – understands it or not, the fact is that its economy is being undermined due to its wasteful policies, living beyond its means and by dictating it’s economic and foreign policies on free nations and by treating them as satellites. The US has used economic sanctions (strangulation) against countries to gain an advantage but ...
READ MORE
The history of “Humanitarian Warfare”: NATO’s reign of terror In Kosovo, the destruction of Yugoslavia
The following text was written in the immediate wake of the 1999 NATO bombings of Yugoslavia and the invasion of Kosovo by NATO troops. It is now well established that the war on Yugoslavia was waged on a fabricated humanitarian pretext and that extensive war crimes were committed by NATO and the US. In retrospect, the war on Yugoslavia was a “dress rehearsal” for subsequent US-NATO sponsored humanitarian wars including Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003), Libya (2011), Syria (2011), Ukraine (2014). Who are the war criminals? In a bitter irony, the so-called International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague ...
READ MORE
These Are all the Countries Where the US Has a Military Presence (in 2015)
On Mar. 24, US president Barack Obama announced that all 9,800 US troops currently stationed in Afghanistan will remain until the end of 2015. This generated a fair amount of criticism: it was, after all, Obama’s promise that the last American troop would leave the country in 2014. How have Obama’s plans for pulling out of Afghanistan fared so far? Those expecting the US to leave Afghanistan, however, should take a minute to consider this: the US still hasn’t left Germany. In fact, there are quite a few places the US hasn’t left, and while certainly most of them don’t pose a threat to American soldiers, ...
READ MORE
Why Russia Resents U.S.
Friday, a Russian SU-27 did a barrel roll over a U.S. RC-135 over the Baltic, the second time in two weeks. Also in April, the U.S. destroyer Donald Cook, off Russia’s Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad, was twice buzzed by Russian planes. Vladimir Putin’s message: Keep your spy planes and ships a respectable distance away from us. Apparently, we have not received it. Friday, Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work announced that 4,000 NATO troops, including two U.S. battalions, will be moved into Poland and the Baltic States, right on Russia’s border. “The Russians have been doing a lot of snap exercises right up against ...
READ MORE
Fifty Years of Imperial Wars: Global Neoliberalism and America’s Drive for World Domination
Over the past 50 years the US and European powers have engaged in countless imperial wars throughout the world. The drive for world supremacy has been clothed in the rhetoric of “world leadership”, the consequences have been devastating for the peoples targeted.  The biggest, longest and most numerous wars have been carried out by the United States.  Presidents from both parties direct and preside over this quest for world power.  The ideology which informs imperialism varies from “anti-communism”in the past to “anti-terrorism”today. Washington’s drive for world domination has used and combined many forms of warfare, including military invasions and occupations; proxy ...
READ MORE
Heusinger, Adolf,  Generalinspekteur der BW 1.4.1957 - 31.3.1961
General Adolf Heusinger (August 4, 1897 – November 30, 1982) was a German general officer who briefly served as Adolf Hitler’s Chief of the General Staff of the Army during World War II and served as the first Inspector General of the Bundeswehr, the West German armed forces, from 1957 to 1961. Heusinger served as Chairman of the NATO Military Committee from 1961 to 1964. Heusinger was born in Holzminden, in the Duchy of Brunswick, German Empire. He entered the Imperial German Army on June 17, 1915, and was assigned to 7. Thüringisches Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 96, an infantry regiment raised in ...
READ MORE
Memorial Day Ignores Millions of US Imperial Victims
The day commemorates lost lives of US servicemen and women sent to war for the wrong reasons – from the 18th century to today, notably America’s so-called War of Independence, its Civil War, WW I and II and all subsequent wars of choice. America’s only enemies in the past 70 years and throughout at least most of its history were and remain ones it invents. It could have been a model peaceful nation had it chosen a different path. Instead, its history reflects unbridled militarism, endless wars of choice, related violence and chaos, contempt for rule of law principles, along with unparalleled ...
READ MORE
Fall of the Arab Spring: From Revolution to Destruction
From Libya and Egypt to Syria and Yemen, the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region is undergoing unprecedented tumult and chaos. To understand the current breakdown of states and society, examining the so-called Arab Spring of 2011 that laid the groundwork for this ongoing regional anarchy is indispensable. Global Research brings to the attention of its readers the newly released book by Christopher L. Brennan.  Fall of the Arab Spring: From Revolution to Destruction (available here), propounds an incisive and timely analysis. The book views this widespread Arab upheaval, not as authentic grass roots movements for democracy, but as a US-engineered destabilization. Below are ...
READ MORE
75 Years Of Pearl Harbor Lies
Pearl Harbor Day today is like Columbus Day 50 years ago. That is to say: most people still believe the hype. The myths are still maintained in their blissful unquestioned state. “New Pearl Harbors” are longed for by war makers, claimed, and exploited. Yet the original Pearl Harbor remains the most popular U.S. argument for all things military, including the long-delayed remilitarization of Japan — not to mention the WWII internment of Japanese Americans as a model for targeting other groups today. Believers in Pearl Harbor imagine for their mythical event, in contrast to today, a greater U.S. innocence, a ...
READ MORE
The world order is crumbling – “Pax Americana” is dying
Six months into 2016 and the world looks decidedly nervous and edgy from a geo-political viewpoint. A dramatic oil price plunge has pushed producing nations into near crisis as the international scrap for market share follows a bid by a collapsing OPEC cartel to fight off American production. China’s economic woes continue to destabilise markets the world over. The USA is clearly becoming more hostile, even warlike towards Russia, who in turn appears to be gearing up to defend itself from increasingly belligerent and aggressive NATO commanders who are facilitating Europe’s encirclement of Russian borders. The latest weaponry pointed directly at Moscow does not help ...
READ MORE
Reviving The Greater Israel Scheme
Israel’s Maariv newspaper has revealed that the government of the Zionist state is planning to drop a political bombshell in the coming weeks by presenting a bill in the Knesset (parliament) calling for the annexation of land occupied since 1967. It is likely to have the support of the majority of Knesset members. The newspaper added that the right wing has chosen this time for the move ahead of the US presidential election; America, it is believed, will be too preoccupied to care about what is happening in the occupied Palestinian territories. Preliminary talks about a first stage have been held, ...
READ MORE
The Memorandum (1804) By The Karlovci Metropolitan Stevan Stratimirovic
America’s Imperial Empire: The Sun Never Sets But The Mote Remains In The Emperor’s Eye
Making Balkan Caliphate: The Wahhabies – A New Danger For The Balkan And European Security
The Srebrenica Massacre: Some Victims Are More Equal Than Others
New Strategic Calculus For The Balkans
Hillary And Bill Clinton: The “Bonnie And Clyde” Of American Politics
Kosovo history – Third part
Mass Exodus From Muslim Kosovo Into Europe: Did US Play A Role In Creating The Crisis?
The Authoritarian Militarization Of The Croats
The New Global Economy: Rise Of China And Decline Of USA
The history of “Humanitarian Warfare”: NATO’s reign of terror In Kosovo, the destruction of Yugoslavia
These Are all the Countries Where the US Has a Military Presence (in 2015)
Why Russia Resents U.S.
Fifty Years of Imperial Wars: Global Neoliberalism and America’s Drive for World Domination
Adolf Heusinger: Hitler’s Army Chief And NATO’s Chairman
Memorial Day Ignores Millions of US Imperial Victims
Fall of the Arab Spring: From Revolution to Destruction
75 Years Of Pearl Harbor Lies
The world order is crumbling – “Pax Americana” is dying
Reviving The Greater Israel Scheme

Share