Liberators over Vratnica

Share

Hits: 1628

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.


Originally published on 2016-02-21

Author: Carl K. Savich

Source: Serbianna

Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection & Pinterest.

Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!

Donate to Support Us

We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.

[wpedon id=”4696″ align=”left”]

Save

Save

READ MORE!
Opus Dei: Neofascism Within the Catholic Church
What we are seeing today in the fight over birth control is a revival of a very old, and very dangerous kind of Catholicism. It is not one supported or practiced by most Rank and File Catholics. It is a kind of Catholicism which has done irreparable harm. It is a kind of Catholicism unfit for existence in the modern world.It was the underpinning of the regimes of Mussolini in Italy, The National Catholicism of Francisco Franco, in Spain; The Parti Rexiste in Belgium; The Irish Blueshirts; The Croatian Ustaše, the Nazi puppet government in Croatia, and ultimately, was the ...
READ MORE
NATO’s 1999 Attack on Serbia’s State TV Headquarters “Wiped from the Record”
On 23 April 1999, a NATO missile attack on Radio Television of Serbia (RTS) headquarters killed 16 employees of the state broadcaster. The forgotten war crime occurred during the Kosovo War (March 1998-June 1999), and was part of NATO’s aerial campaign alongside the US-backed Kosovo Liberation army, in opposition to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.In the aftermath of the attack there were no great public campaigns launched for the 16 murdered journalists and employees, no outpouring of emotion for those killed, no calls for solidarity and togetherness in the face of aggression. On the contrary the West justified this grievous ...
READ MORE
ISIS is a US-Israeli Creation: Top Ten “Indications”
Makia Freeman is the editor of alternative news / independent media site The Freedom Articles and senior researcher at Tools For Freedom.com (FaceBook here), writing on many aspects of truth and freedom, from exposing aspects of the worldwide conspiracy to suggesting solutions for how humanity can create a new system of peace and abundance.ISIS is a US-Israeli creation, a fact as clear as the sky is blue. It’s a truth as black and white as the colors on their flag. For many alternative news readers, this may be patently obvious, but this article is written for the large majority of ...
READ MORE
Neoconservatives, Machiavelli and “The Prince”
Tyrants and despots have never required justification for their actions. In the 17th century, as political philosophers began to reject the classic Catholic doctrines of politics and ethics, The Prince was viewed as more relevant: truths are more important than ideals. It is probably not an accident that The Prince has been misinterpreted for 300 years. Taken literally, there is no better justification for tyranny, whether political or economic, than the universal misinterpretation of The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli. This small pamphlet, written in 1513–1514, addressed to the new Medici prince, if taken literally, outlines the best practices to attain and ...
READ MORE
The Middle East on the Waves of Chaos
For some time the criminal activities of the terrorist organization “Islamic State” (ISIS) seemed to have faded into the shadows. It seemed that this organization in the near future will be broken tie with due to the “heroic” American bombing. However, the ISIS like a fabulous hydra, who immediately has a new head grown in place of a severed one, revived and made further impressive gains.The capture of ancient Palmyra in Syria and the important city Ramadi, the main city of the Sunni province Anbar, located by the way just 100 kilometres far from Baghdad, made the world’s media and ...
READ MORE
A Biography of Kurt Waldheim (Austria)
The U.N. Organization was established in 1945 for the very security reason – to preserve the peace in the world. We believe that the governmental bodies and administrative structures of the U.N. have to be composed by the proved democratically oriented politicians and magistrates but above all this requirement has to be applied to the post and function of the U.N. Secretary-General. Nevertheless, in the history of the U.N. there is at least one (extremely) problematic appointment to the post of the U.N. Secretary-General: Kurt Waldheim from Austria.On the official website of the U.N. about its fourth Secretary-General one can ...
READ MORE
The Social and Economic Achievements of North Korea
“My conscience leaves me no other choice than to break the betrayal of my own silences…I know that the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own government.”  The Reverend Martin Luther King, Recipient of the Nobel Peace prize.“The United Nations which was created to prevent the scourge of war has become an instrument of war.”  Former U.S Attorney General Ramsey ClarkIntroductionWashington, D.C.  White House tape recordings, April 25, 1971President Nixon: “How many did we kill in Laos?”National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger: “In the Laotian thing, we killed about ten, fifteen thousand”President Nixon: “See the attack in ...
READ MORE
Mainstream News and USA’s Heroics in Vietnam: Why the Silence about the 7 Million Dead?
The amount of bombs dropped by Americans on the innocent citizens of tiny French Indochina was more than twice the amount of bombs dropped in Europe, Africa and Asia during the Second World War, and this includes bombs  dropped on the cities of Hanoi and Haiphong by American hero Senator John McCain, who proudly ran for president on his military record in spite of Nuremberg Counsel for Prosecution General Telford Taylor having said he would have been proud to have prosecuted US flyers shot down while bombing in Vietnam.[3]  What mastery of fake news, blacked out news, selected news and outrageously ...
READ MORE
Photo Evidence of Russian Terror over Crimean Muslim Tatars Today
Save  SaveOrigins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection, Public Domain & Pinterest.Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!Donate to Support UsWe would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.[wpedon id="4696" align="left"]
READ MORE
Hidden Manipulators: Who is Behind the “Kosova Independence” Campaign?
The Balkans conflicts of the 1990s saw a massive revival and resurgence of US and Western media propaganda and infowar techniques. The “new” advocacy journalists recalled the “yellow journalism” of William Randolph Hearst, who helped induce the US to engage in the imperialistic or colonial war in Cuba in 1898, the Spanish-American War. This marked the emergence of the US as an expansionist global imperial and colonial power, like Britain, France, Spain, and Germany had been. Hearst was credited with manufacturing or “furnishing” the war in Cuba. Frederic Remington, his correspondent in Cuba, reported that nothing was happening in Cuba, that ...
READ MORE
Accusing Russia: Listening to History
The prophet Cassandra’s curse was that when she told the future, no one listened; history’s curse is that when it tells the past, no one does.The West has no shortage of charges it hurls against Russia, but most of them can be grouped into one of three categories: that Russia intervened in the American elections, that Russia is dragging the world into a new cold war, and that Russia is becoming increasingly aggressive and expansionist. Sometimes when charges are brought against you, the best witness you can call to your defense is history.Election InterventionThis history of Russia, America and political ...
READ MORE
Death and Destruction in Iraq, Extensive US War Crimes: Apocalypse in Mosul in the Guise of Bombing ISIS
“The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants” (Albert Camus 1913-1960) On 1st May 2003, George W. Bush stood in a dinky little flying suit on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and in a super stage managed appearance told the lie of the century: “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.” (1) The illegal occupation and decimation of Iraq continued until December 2011. In June 2014 they returned to bomb again ...
READ MORE
Nixon and the Cambodian Genocide
The genocidal rule of the Khmer Rouge began forty years ago this month. Their rise to power was inseparable from US intervention.On April 17, 1975, Khmer Rouge (KR) forces stormed Phnom Penh and reestablished Cambodia as Democratic Kampuchea — a supposedly self-sufficient, entirely agrarian society. Resetting the clock to “Year Zero,” the KR forced urban dwellers to the countryside, and began to “purify” Cambodia through a genocidal purge of intellectuals and minority groups. By the time the slaughter came to an end in 1979 — after Vietnam invaded Cambodia and removed the KR from power — some 1.7 million people (21 percent ...
READ MORE
The Complete History of Monsanto, “The World’s Most Evil Corporation”
First published by Waking Times, posted by Global Research in May 2014, this article provides a historical viewpoint. It is of particular relevance in relation to the Monsanto-Bayer merger. Of all the mega-corps running amok, Monsanto has consistently outperformed its rivals, earning the crown as “most evil corporation on Earth!” Not content to simply rest upon its throne of destruction, it remains focused on newer, more scientifically innovative ways to harm the planet and its people. 1901: The company is founded by John Francis Queeny, a member of the Knights of Malta, a thirty year pharmaceutical veteran married to Olga Mendez Monsanto, for which Monsanto Chemical Works ...
READ MORE
Albanian Jihadist’s Easy Passage to Syria’s Brutal War
A former Islamist fighter in Syria recalls why he went to Syria, how easy it was to get there – and why he would go again, if he could.On his first trip abroad, he left with 400 euros in his pocket, a printed map from the internet and the belief that he was fulfilling his destiny in eyes of Allah. The destination was the frontline of the war in Syria, but his jihad ended faster than it started.Two years later, in a bar full of people in his hometown in northern Albania, Ebu Merjem stands out with his long beard ...
READ MORE
From a Sunday to a Monday in August, the Sixth Day
The genesis of the world, the myth of creation speaks of seven days.1 Six days of divine labour whereon the seventh the lord of the universe rested. No one, not even the angelic general staff of the combined heavenly hosts, could fathom what led the Creator to engage in this feat.2 But tradition has established that man — here the gendered reference is intended — as being created in the image of the Creator — aka “God” — should also rest on the seventh day. Depending on the sect into which one was born and bred, this may be called ...
READ MORE
Linguistic Nationalism in Belgium and the Walloon-Flemish Cleavage
PrefaceIn the area where the multilingual state of Belgium is located, the main political mark today is the general openness for the expression of different attitudes and policies. Therefore, there are almost unlimited options in drawing political boundaries. That is unlike, for example, as well as with multilingual Switzerland, where the mountains create natural areas for the four different language districts and many political-administrative cantons. The physical openness of the area also causes Belgium to be more open for influences from outside and therefore sensitive to changes in the European policies.One way to look at the situation in Belgium is ...
READ MORE
NATO's destruction of Belgrade in 1999
March 24, 2018, marks the 19th anniversary of NATO illegal and illegitimate bombing of Yugoslavia, Serbia and its Kosovo, province during 78 days. It has – one is tempted to say: of course – been conveniently forgotten by the West itself.It was masterminded by the United States under Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright after the so-called negotiations between Serbs and Albanians in Rambouillet outside Paris (the parties never met face-to-face).While Clinton may be best remembered for his relations with Monica Lewinsky and his wife, Hillary Clinton, some of us also remember him (and Albright) for bombing Afghanistan, ...
READ MORE
The World According to ISIS
This article is excerpted from Fawaz A. Gerges’s forthcoming book, ISIS: A History.Although the spectacular surge of ISIS must be contextualized within the social and political circumstances that exist in Iraq and Syria and beyond, the group’s worldview and ideology should be taken equally seriously. Ideology is, after all, the superglue that binds Salafi-jihadists known as revolutionary religious activists or global jihadists of the ISIS variety to each other. The Salafi-jihadist movement emerged from an alliance between ultraconservative Saudi Salafism (or Wahhabism) and revolutionary Egyptian Islamism which was inspired by the Egyptian master theorist, Sayyid Qutb. The Afghan war against ...
READ MORE
Understanding Albanian Nationality and Regional Political-Security Consequences
The Albanian nationhood as understood in the 19th century was part of a romanticist notion of nationality, i.e., the Albanians were the Balkan people whose mother tongue was Albanian regardless of any confessional division of Albanian people into three denominations (Moslem, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox). Within the north Albanian tribes, especially among the Miriditi, the Roman Catholic Church was very influential. The Roman Catholic Church became the main protector of the Albanian language and cultural heritage and the main protagonist of the national identity of the Albanians in Northern Albania.[1] The expression of common notions of the Albanian nationhood ...
READ MORE
Opus Dei: Neofascism Within the Catholic Church
NATO’s 1999 Attack on Serbia’s State TV Headquarters “Wiped from the Record”
ISIS is a US-Israeli Creation: Top Ten “Indications”
Neoconservatives, Machiavelli and “The Prince”
The Middle East on the Waves of Chaos
A Biography of Kurt Waldheim (Austria)
The Social and Economic Achievements of North Korea
Mainstream News and USA’s Heroics in Vietnam: Why the Silence about the 7 Million Dead?
Photo Evidence of Russian Terror over Crimean Muslim Tatars Today
Hidden Manipulators: Who is Behind the “Kosova Independence” Campaign?
Accusing Russia: Listening to History
Death and Destruction in Iraq, Extensive US War Crimes: Apocalypse in Mosul in the Guise of Bombing ISIS
Nixon and the Cambodian Genocide
The Complete History of Monsanto, “The World’s Most Evil Corporation”
Albanian Jihadist’s Easy Passage to Syria’s Brutal War
From a Sunday to a Monday in August, the Sixth Day
Linguistic Nationalism in Belgium and the Walloon-Flemish Cleavage
Remembering the 1999 War on Yugoslavia (Serbia & Montenegro)
The World According to ISIS
Understanding Albanian Nationality and Regional Political-Security Consequences
FOLLOW US ON OUR SOCIAL PLATFORMS
Share