Warbirds of Glory have graciously provided us with the artwork that will be applied to 8Z ‘Sandbar Mitchell’ once their restoration project is complete. 50% of the purchase price of this set will be donated to the museum to help with the restoration process. Visit Warbirds of Glory for more info.
On March 20th, 1945 8Z was part of the mission to bomb the Campo North Rail bridge. The air crew that day are as follows:
2nd Lt. James E. Jacobs Pilot
2nd Lt. Hardy D. NARRON CoPilot
S/Sgt. Jack B. Willingham Radio Gunner
S/Sgt. Melvin E. Kelly Tail Gunner
1st Lt. George W. HAMMOND Bombardier
S/Sgt. Medard R. TAFOYA Flight Engineer and Top Turret Gunner.
8Z was part of a three plane flight to suppress the flak position protecting the Campo Rail bridges. The flak suppression flight would lead the mission breaking off from the group 2 minutes before the bomb run would start. They would drop chaff to disrupt the radar used to aim the flak guns. They would drop Phosphorus bombs with fuses set for air bursting the bombs. The Germans would head for cover until the Phosphorus had landed and burned out. The bombing run would be complete by the time the Germans returned to their flak guns. The Germans knew the three aircraft that broke off from the main flight were heading for them and they concentrated their fire on them. 8Z was bracketed by flak and had to feather their starboard engine and drop out of formation.
A B-25 could fly on one engine, but could only maintain a altitude of 6,500 feet at best. The crews of the B-25¹s knew the mountains were higher than the B-25 could fly on one engine. There was only one B-25 that had returned to Corsica after loosing an engine in the Brenner Pass just three days before this mission. The pilot was one of the most experienced pilots in the group and was lucky to find a pass low enough to get thru on one engine.
The crew of 8Z radioed they were bailing out. The crew of 8Z was quickly captured by the Germans and put in the Male¹ Jail and held there till March 23rd and then transported to the Gestapo holding cells at the Bolzano concentration camp on March 23rd. It should be noted the Germans had some 4,000 soldiers looking for resistance fighters and OSS agents in this area and the crew of 8Z landed in the middle of their search for these resistance fighters and OSS agents.
The book "The Brenner Assignment" by Patrick K. O¹Donnell details The OSS operations in the Brenner Pass and mentions the fate of the 8Z crew. The Gestapo (SS) had orders to interrogate all person who parachuted into German occupied territory to determine if they were air crew or saboteurs. Saboteurs were to be shot and air crew sent to Luff Stalag¹s. SS - sturmhannfuehrer August Shiffer was in command of the local Gestapo and SS-untepsturmfuehrer Heinz Andergassen and SS-oferscharfuehrer Albert Storz were under Shiffer¹s command. The SS/Gestapo headquarters appears to have been in the Italian Army Corp Building in Bolzano. Prisoners would be transported to the Gestapo headquarters for interrogation or were interrogated at the holding cells at the concentration camp.
The 8Z crew was interrogated in their holding cells at the Bolzano Concentration Camp. The interrogations took place March 23rd. The crew members were beaten to get information from them. The Gestapo was looking for information on American radar guided bombing techniques. Shiffer learned that three of the crew had been on at lease 40 bombing missions with one being on their 61st . Shiffer decided these three would be shot while trying to escape. 2nd Lt. Hardy D. NARRON CP, 1st Lt. George W. HAMMOND B, S/Sgt. Medard R. TAFOYA EG are the tree crewmen Shiffer decided to shoot. It should be noted the Dresden firestorm happened six weeks before the crew of 8Z bailed out. The Germans were very angry about the bombing labeling air crews as gangsters. On March 24rd the other three crewmen were sent to Stalag VIIA. Also on March 24th a car was sent to pick up the three men to be executed under the pretense they were being taken to a prison camp on the edge of town near the aerodrome. On the way to the camp the vehicle "conveniently" broke down and the men were told to get out of the car and were then shot for trying to escape. Two died at the scene and one was still alive. The one wounded prisoner (Tofoya) was taken back to the holding cells. They lived thru the next day and was shot in the head on March 26th. The three crewmen were taken to the cemetery of the resurrection at Bolzano and buried.
After the war War Crime Trials were convened to try Germans for their war crimes. The OSS lost a agent by the name of Stephen Hall and were very aggressive in finding out what happened to him. As a result of their investigation it was determine Shiffer, Andergassen and Storz were the ones who murdered Hall plus several air crewmen including the three aircrew of 8Z. They were found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. The driver of the Gestapo¹s car was sentenced to life in prison for their involvement. The bodies of 8Z's air crew were recovered and two were taken back to the states for burial and one was buried at the US cemetery in Florence. The three SS officers were hung on July 26, 1946 at the Peninsular Base section near Leghorn Italy. They were buried in the US Military Cemetery at Castelfiorentino and then moved in 47 or so to the German Cemetery at the Futa-Pass