Date: 1944 Feb 21/21 A/C Type: B-17G SH (Radar) PFF SN: 42-30280 Code: MI- A/C Nickname: Crazy Horse
 File: 164 Airforce: USAAF Sqn/Unit: 482 BG - 812 FS Mission/Raid: Diepholz
1 Pilot 1Lt. Ralph W. Holcombe      KIA, buried Amersfoort 8 Bomb. 2Lt. William H. Barret     jail, Amsterdam
2 Co-pilot 2Lt. John W. Baber                        POW 9 RWG S/Sgt. Bryce W. Long      jail, Amsterdam
3 Nav. 1Lt. Edward H. Horner                  POW      
4 Eng. T/Sgt. Thomas D. Kennedy          POW 10 Extra Co-P Captain Gerald D. Binks   evd, Liege (POW)
5 RO S/Sgt. Steven F. Martin                 POW 11 Radar op. 1Lt. Charles A. Haupt           evd, Liege
6 BTG S/Sgt. Henry Reamer Jr.                POW 12 Radar/Nav 2Lt. Joel D. Punches             evd, Liege
7 TG S/Sgt. William M. Blake                POW 13 LWG S/Sgt. Harold M. Booth       evd, Liege

Flak shot 2 engines out over Diepholz. Flew over Osnabrück in direction west back to the UK, losing height. Over Holland, north-edge of Apeldoorn crew started to jump out. Pilot Holcombe held the aircraft level for them. At the Lake IJsselmeer (Old Zuyder Sea) shoreline the bomber dove into shallow water at Horst (Between Nijkerk & Harderwijk, at Ermelo), 1km from shore. Holcombe washed ashore 2 months later. Other crew OK.

The Horst
The wreck of the bomber was initially visible in the sea because it came down on a sand-ridge named 'Spiek' with only 1,20 meter of water there (4 ft). This was right in front of 'the Horst', a German light FLAK training range (13mm, 20mm and 37mm). They used this stretch of water to shoot on floating targets pulled by small tugboats. Near the wreck it was to shallow for a large recovery ship (as the German BP36), therefore the wreck was not recovered as was the normal procedure for the scrap metal. But they must have removed some of the wreck with smaller boats, run it flat, shot it up (target practice) or demolished it with explosives to get their firing range clear again, because the wreck was smashed further and went under. That action may have caused that the body of pilot Holcombe was released from the wreck and washed ashore on 28 April 1944.

After the German action in February 1944, the flat remains were not visible anymore in the murky water. Away from shipping lanes, on a shallow, it was forgotten. It probably became a seaweed bank. Direct after the war in May 1945-1946, some fishermen 'harvested' the fish in the former restricted zone, losing some nets on it, but left the area (at least during day light) in 1946 when the Dutch Army took over the German installations on 'The Horst' and re-used it as .50 caliber practice range until 1964. The Horst is now a highway-exit and beach. Two German bunkers are still visible.


Wet reconnaissance 1968
The sea here was diked in 1965 (polder named 'South-Flevoland') and in 1967 the water was pumped out. Some items of the wreck came in view and then the location was marked (a cross with No. 145) on the map for the first time. In 1968 the water level became low and the Dutch Airforce Recovery Team (Mr. Gerrit Zwanenburg) went to the location with a small rowing boat and was able to walk around the circular debris-field and could identify it with help of the USAAF thanks to an engine-number. On the map the wreck-location no. 145 received a circle around the cross meaning 'identified'. The photos of this year show the rowing boat (the 'Moby'), two men inspecting the site (Van de Graaf and Zwanenburg), an upright standing propeller-blade, two damaged tires, photos of tire-profile, a flat laying .50 cal. Browning machine gun with muzzle-flame deflector and a wooden sign in the water stating 'Gevaarlijk - Explosieven' ('Danger - Explosives'). This frail sign regulary fell over. 

Dry recovery 1970
Two years later in 1970 before and during the full (dry) recovery, photos show the same items in the wet sand or later in dry land. A small aluminum plate with '42-30280' was found. Photo 1970 of the debris-field on dry land, color photo:       The excavation finished 23 August 1970. Today the crash site is located in a forrest near the RCN-Bungalowpark, Dasselaarweg, Zeewolde. A monument is there to commemorate Lt. Holcombe and the crew of two other aircraft crashed nearby.

Dutch Army Grave & Casualty ID Sgt.-Major Arie van de Graaf and Dutch Airforce Recovery Officer Gerrit Zwanenburg (with cap) on site August 1970. The sand of former sandbank 'Spiek' is well visible. The .50 cal. cartridge-belt is from the wreck, but the many bullet heads found here were 1942-1964, when the sea here was a shooting range.

Pilot 1Lt. Ralph W. Holcombe
In the last minutes of the flight, a crew member came up to Holcombe in the cockpit and asked about 'the bailin out'. Holcombe shouted back: "Get the hell out!" (MACR). After two months (28 April 1944) Holcombe washed ashore (or brought in recovered by a boat) in Spakenburg, 11km southwest of the crash location. Bunschoten-Spakenburg meant burial in the Allied Plot in the Amersfoort-Leusden Zuid 'Rusthof' Cemetery. Holcombe was buried there on 3rd of May 1944. Exhumed by an US Quartermaster Grave Recovery team on 11 March 1946 and reburied in US Centralization War Cemetery "Netherlands" in Margraten near Maastricht. He rests there today in plot H, row 16, grave 4. He is commemorated on the monument at the crash location in Zeewolde.

2Lt. Barret and Sgt. Long
Barret and Long saw each other back in a (civil) jail in Amsterdam, being arrested by the Germans near where they jumped and brought to Amsterdam for first interrogation. Sgt. Long had broken his ankle in the parachute jump. We believe that all POW of this crew were taken to Amsterdam after capture and from there were moved by train to Oberursel (Frankfurt) for more thorough interrogation. Co-Pilot 2Lt. John W. Baber stated later that he saw Sgt. Kennedy, Blake and Martin at the DuLag in Frankfurt.

The four evadees. 
They were lucky to have landed in wooded area around Uddel and Ermelo. Lt. Charles A. Haupt (Queens, NY) landed in a tree and could trade some clothes with people he came across. He felt confident enough to go in a small Dutch store to buy some food and drink. But the clients stared at him and the man behind the counter asked "are you a German officer?". Haupt sensed trouble and replied loudly "Jawohl". Outside he went around a corner and ran for some time. All four were helped by Dutch civilians and eventually the Dutch underground set them on the first leg of the the escape line to Spain. The assembly and start point of the line was in Brussels (Belgium) and the first step was to get them there. The journey to Brussels was very dangerous and could take weeks or months.

From their location in the Netherlands (250km north of Brussels) they were put on trains via Arnhem, Amersfoort and Eindhoven (Punches had a false ID as Dutch druggist from Amsterdam = chemist/drug store owner). East of Eindhoven their names were recorded in the (famous) safehouse farm 'De Zwarte Plak' (Poels family), situated in a hamlet named America. Via safehouses in Venlo and Roermond they crossed the Dutch/Belgium border over the Maas-river at Maaseik and through East-Belgium they were moved south via Neeroeteren and Maasmechelen to Luik (Liege). On the 27th of May 1944, Captain Gerald Binks was arrested there and became POW (German arrest documents are in the MACR). Because of the Normandy invasion on June 6th 1944, Punches, Booth and Haupt could not reach Brussels anymore and had to stay in Liege were they were liberated by US-troops in September 1944.


- Flight log of crew member 2Lt. Joel D. Punches, typed on his base in England Sept. 1943 until 21 Feb. 1944 (his above 25th mission) and his post war letter.
        Spoken version this Flight log on YouTube: 
- Book 'In de schaduw van de glorie' by Mr. S.L. Veenstra (RNLAF), 1992.  
- Book 'Vriend and Vijand' Memoires Mr. Bert Poels, 1977.
- Newpaper articles 1967-1970
- IJsselmeer recovery map collection ZZairwar
- Photos remaining German bunkers on the Horst: 
- website Zeeschouw BU

© ZZairwar (Zuyder Zee Air war)