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Passenger list a who's who in Nazi high command

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Mike Morrison
  • 442nd Fighter Wing historian
Of the thousands of aircraft passenger manifests scattered across Europe by the end of World War II, one holds particular significance for today's 442nd Fighter Wing.

Sixty-one years ago the Air Force Reserve Command unit here was the 442nd Troop Carrier Group and was tasked to transport high ranking officers of defeated Nazi Germany.

Early on the morning of Aug. 12, 1945, Tech. Sgt. Melvin Kraus, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native and a member of the 305th Troop Carrier Squadron of the 442nd TCG, readied for that day's 8 a.m. flight on board a C-47A Douglas Skytrain from Metz, France, to Furth, Germany, via Sandweiler, Luxembourg.

Sergeant Kraus reached for a blank manifest, an Army Air Force Form No. 1, and with pen in hand began recording the manifest. Along with two "leave personnel" and four members of the United States Forces European Theater, Sergeant Kraus wrote a capital P in front of the other names, denoting a prisoner of war. In fact, this flight would carry some of Adolf Hitler's most ardent henchmen, presumably taking some of them one step closer to facing justice at the Nuremburg War Crimes trial.

Crewmembers on the flight included Sergeants James J. Barry of Lynn, Mass., and Earl G. Carhart Jr., of Tulsa, Okla. First Lt. Robert G. Denson of Davenport, Wash., piloted the Metz to Sandweiler leg, while 2nd Lt. Robert M. Cole of Staten Island, N.Y., served as co-pilot. Lieutenant Cole piloted the Sandweiler to Furth stretch.

Leading the list of prisoners on the manifest were Reichsmarschall Herman Goering, Joachim Von Ribbentrop, Field Marshall Albert Kesselring, Generaloberst Gustav Jodl, Marshall Kietele, Hans Franck, Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz and Mr. DeLauge.

Goering was the marshal of the empire and commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe, German air force, during World War II. He was often considered Hitler's second-in-command.

Von Ribbentrop, Germany's foreign minister, was an early confidant of Hitler. He was instrumental in securing a nonaggression pact between Germany and the Soviet Union before Germany's 1939 invasion of Poland.

Kesselring was active in the Wehrmacht, German army, in the European and North African theaters during the war.

Colonel-General Jodl was chief of operations staff of the Wehrmacht. He worked as deputy to another passenger on the flight, Field Marshall Keitel, to develop the Jodl-Keitel tactic of military fighting. Keitel was the commander-in-chief of the High Command of the Wehrmacht. Instrumental in developing military and domestic policies for Nazi Germany, he signed the order allowing the German army to execute suspected communist leaders upon capture.

Franck was governor-general of Poland. He designed the policy that would result in devastating Poland's Jewish population during the war.

Doenitz was commander-in-chief of the German navy, Kriegsmarine. Early in the war, Doenitz led the development of many of Germany's advances in U-Boat construction and fighting tactics. In April 1945, Hitler appointed Doenitz as his replacement to lead what was left of the crumbling Nazi state.

The last name on the prisoner list is DeLauge. After searching several sources, no such person was found. However, considering Keitel's name is misspelled on the manifest, DeLauge may be SS Colonel-General Kurt Daluege, one of the top Nazis in Czechoslavakia, who ordered the infamous slaughter at and subsequent "wiping from the face of the earth" of the town of Lidice, in response to the assassination of SS Obergruppenfuhrer (Senior Group Leader) Reinhard Heydrich.

Although Daluege testified against Franck at the Nuremburg trials, he was tried by a Czech court for war crimes in Czechoslavakia and hanged in Prague on Oct. 24, 1946.

Goering was sentenced to die by hanging but committed suicide in his cell. On Oct. 16, 1946, Jodl and Keitel were hung, as were von Ribbentrop and Franck. Doenitz was sentenced to 11 ½ years in the prison in Spandau, Germany, but was released in 1956.

According to the on-line encyclopedia, Kesselring died at Bad Nauheim, Germany, at the age of 79 in 1960. He was tried in 1947 for the execution of partisans by troops under his command. He was found guilty and sentenced to death, but weak evidence secured his release in 1952.  (AFRC News Service with contributions by Tech. Sgt. Leo Brown and Staff Sgt. Greg Frost)