JU 88G of 11./NJG3,
flown by HHM when he shot down
B17 42-31377. Confirmed by HHM in a letter to Les Schrenk
at Christmas 2012. HHM's photos
Lester Schrenk - The day of my capture give
On 22 February 1944
B17 42-31377 crashed
here in Thy after the crew with Sgt Lester
Schrenk had bailed out. See ID + Lester
On 23 April 2012 Lester Schrenk and his family visited former Oberleutnant
Hermann Müller who shot down Schrenk's B-17
Pot O' Gold.
Schrenk and H.H. Müller in uniforms
and Lester Schrenk and Hans Hermann Müller in
2012 based on information and photos from Les.
On 9 MAY 2012 Les added
started it all.
You may see
TV2: Old enemies meet 68 years later and
2 min. 47 sec.
enemies become friends (print
sent on 25 APR 2012.
On 28 MAY 2012 Les sent How I met the German Pilot:
On the 22nd of February, 1944 I was flying my
10th bombing mission out of
in a B-17 named Pot O' Gold
( serial number 42-31377) to bomb the
airfield at Aalborg
in Denmark. There were about 30 B-17 airplanes in our formation. All of
these planes were from the
92nd Bomb Group and
we had no fighter escort. We were the only group sent to bomb the airfield.
There was very dense cloud cover over the target so we did not drop our
bombs. Bombs were never
dropped on friendly countries, unless we could clearly see the target. Denmark was
considered a friendly country, even though it was occupied by Germany. On
our way back
to England, first over Skagerrak, Denmark, and further on over the North Sea,
we were repeatedly attacked by German
ME-109 and JU88
A B-17 flying
just to our right was hit (see 92nd
USAAF-USAF Memorial Association with
Missions 1944, see
Losses 22 FEB 1944.
AS) and crashed into the sea.
There were no survivors. Two minutes later our
plane was also hit by a JU88
twin engine fighter. There was a very loud explosion coming out of the right
and we were
on fire. I heard the navigator telling the pilot that we were 20 minutes
dead east from the nearest land. I knew right away that we were going down.
Our pilot, Lieutenant William Ralph Lavies lowered
the landing gear. This was a sign that we were surrendering. This was a
universal sign. We were escorted to land.
For the next 20 minutes there was one explosion after another coming out of
the right wing, with only seconds between the explosions. We were trailing
fire of about
25 feet. None of us thought that we would make landfall. If we had gone
down over water, none would survive in the cold North Sea water in February.
to reach landfall. All 10 of our crew bailed out over Thy in the Jutland
area of Denmark where lake Ove is situated (overview
at close range
After we bailed
out, the right wing blew off and our plane swerved around and crashed at
where, I would later learn, was the farm of
Koustrup Mollegaard, Sønderhaa.
our pilot Lieutenant William Ralph Lavies lost his life. On bailing out as he
landed in lake Ove (about
here), breaking through the very thin ice that
The German soldiers would not let the Danish people go out to rescue him, so
he was left to die in the cold water. It was only after he was dead
Danish local citizens were allowed to go out in a boat to retrieve his body.
Years later after the internet came into
being, I searched and found a copy of a painting done by one of the
maintenance crew at
Podington, of our plane, Pot O’ Gold. With
this success I then searched for the crash site of our plane. I had located
the Danish historian Finn Buch. He located the farm in Jutland where the
plane had crashed. He put me in contact with Niels Moller, the owner of the
farm. Soon Mr. Moller and I were writing via email and became friends. He
invited us to come for a
visit and see the crash site. In April of 2008 we finally did come to
Denmark. At the Copenhagen airport we were met by Nikolaj Bojer, who we had
met three years
earlier when he and his mother, Ida, came to visit us in Minnesota. Nikolaj accompanied us
by rail to the Niels Moller farm in Thy. During our entire stay we were
treated like royalty by the Moller family, their friends and neighbours and
Nikolaj with meals, lodging and everything we could possibly want. It was at
the farm, where
we visited the crash site of our airplane, now invisible and buried deep
under a field of wheat. Even though the Mollers had been excavating
parts of the airplane since
it crashed in 1944. Within about 30 minutes, digging in the dry dirt with a
shovel, we found dozens of artifacts from our plane. The most incredible
find was the identification plate of the airplane
with the paint and all the lettering still clearly visible, including Pot O'
Gold's serial number 42-31377. The plate was badly bent and partially melted
from the fire when it burned upon impact
Almost as amazing, I also dug up one of the
control handles from my ball turret. The most
memorable part of the visit to Denmark was meeting Agnes Moller, the 99
year old mother of Niels Moller. She and her husband owned the farm when our
plane crashed. She had seen our parachutes as we bailed out and for those
years had not known our fate. Vibrant, talkative, and with a sharp memory,
she was very anxious to meet us and this with tears in her eyes. Sadly she
died a week
after our visit, almost as if her life was now complete.
A few weeks later, I again met Nikolaj Bojer
when he came to visit us in Minnesota. I told him, that I had always wished
to meet the pilot who shot us down and to
thank him for sparing our lives, when he could so easily had taken them.
Nikolaj took up the task and began to comb through German records to find
the pilot. He
had learned that his name was Hans Hermann Müller. Over the internet,
Nikolaj took all the names from Hans Hermann Müllers group. Two names in
particular was special, unfortunately, one was a still being nazist and
living in Canada. The other one was Walter Briegleb in Cologne, Germany. He
told Nikolaj, that he presumed
Hans Hermann Müller was dead in the 1990's and his wife recently had passed
away in Berlin. But there were at least two sons.
Nikolaj now began his 3-1/2 year search for
Hans Hermann Müller's grave. At least for putting a wreath in honoring the
German fighter for his noble acts.
Presuming Hans Hermann Müller had lived in Cologne, Nikolaj contacted the
city hall, the undertaker Kuckelkorn, and all the cemeteries in Cologne.
With no luck
Nikolaj wrote to the Military archives in Freiburg, the Deutscher
Dienststelle in Berlin. Nikolaj then called the Bundesverteidigung in Bender
in Berlin and the Bundes archives in Koblinz. Still no luck.
Then one day Nikolaj wrote to Bürgerservice in Bundesluftwaffe in San
Augustin, which is close to Bonn. A Lieutnant Dirk Dieling answered
Nikolaj's letter. It said that the information was classified. The
next day Nikolaj telephoned Lieutnant Dirk Dieling that he respected his
answer. But as he did not know why Nikolaj was looking
for Hans Hermann Müller's grave, he told of Lester Schrenk's wish to reach
out for the German fighter. When Lieutnant Dirk Dieling learned that I
wanted to thank the
pilot for sparing our lives, his voice started to tremble. He said that he
would give all his help to find Mr. Müller's grave. Now the news came fast.
At web sites, Nikolaj found traces of
Müllers whereabouts in the war. Asking questions, answers came fast.
As Mr Müller had been shot down over Caen, France in
September 1944 and reported missing. His name, date and year of birth and
birthplace was released by the Germans. This was essential news for Dirk
third time Nikolaj called Lieutnant Dirk Dieling, he told Nikolaj that now
he knew why he had had so many problems in finding the grave. Dirk Dieling
had found the "widow". Calling her, he asked, "do you know Hans Hermann
Müller?" "Yes." "Is he born 5th of February 1921?" "Yes." "An American
soldier wants to put a wreath on
his grave, honoring him for sparing the crew's life on an airplane", "Stop
spinning. He is alive - sitting here beside me," Lydia the wife of Hans
Hermann Müller replied.
With Mr. Muller very much alive, Nikolaj went
to Heidelberg, to explain why I wanted to contact him. I immediately wrote
to him through Nikolaj and Dirk Dieling. I was very happy to soon receive
his return letter. After the fourth letter, we were given the direct
After 6 months of correspondence and
considerations and with his invitation, a date was set in April 2012. My
family and I + Nikolaj went to
Heidelberg, Germany on
April 21st, 2012 to meet Mr. Muller and his family. As soon as we met, we
became friends after 68 years and 2 months. During our stay in Heidelberg he
family had us to their houses and restaurants many times for meals, took us
on tours of Heidelberg, and showered us with gifts. The warm reception the
Muller family gave us was amazing and they were so incredibly kind and
generous to my family and me.
It was very interesting hearing his version
of shooting us down. I found that the reason I had not seen his JU-88
airplane was because he had attack us from behind
and above and so he was not visible to me as I was located in the ball
turret under the B-17. I never got a chance to shoot at him. Also I learned
that just before our
crew of 10 bailed out that he was ordered to completely shoot us down as
his advisers feared we would fly to neutral Sweden. He said that he did
again fire at us but stopped as soon as he saw us bail out. Until I had
talked to him 68 years later, I did not know this. He remembered clearly
what had taken place that day and talked
at length about it.
It also was great hearing what he thought of
various aircraft and finding that he had flown during the entire war from
1939 to the very end of the war and later working
He first flew
JU 52 transport planes, in Africa, later
FW 190 fighters and lastly the
JU88 which he said was by far
his favorite plane.
Also, I learned that he had been shot down
and badly wounded, but was lucky in landing on the German side of the
conflict, so he never became a prisoner of war.
It was very fulfilling meeting him and I am
so glad that I could do so. Just as soon as we met it felt like meeting an
Now we are the best of friends and will
certainly remember this event the rest of our lives. I am so very thankful
that all of the events ended up at such a happy