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1st Lieutenant William A. Rautenbush, KIA May 8 1944 near Verden, Aller

with 4 comments

crash site

crash site

Where the marshland starts passing over into the Geest, near Hohenaverbergen, an elevated and drier landscape not far from the Aller river south of Bremen, there is a site they call the “Fliegergrab”, literally a pilot’s grave. On May 8, 1944, an American fighter pilot crashed there after an air battle and died. The place there is humid, and his plane went deep into the ground and left a crater.
According to the data I found on the internet, he either flew a P-47 Thunderbolt or possibly a P-51 Mustang (which had a much wider range than the former).

Lt. Rautenbush’s unit was the 375th Fighter Squadron, 361 Fighter Group. The P-47 Thunderbolts had proven rather inefficient in protecting the bombers in Germany’s and its occupied regions’ airspace, because of their narrow range. The fighter squadrons therefore started using P-51 Mustang pursuit planes in early May. Lt. Rautenbush was involved in the downing of a JU-188 night flight pursuit plane at the time. When the squadron flew their first mission all with Mustangs, Lt. Rautenbush had already lost his life.

Lt. Rautenbush memory

Lt. Rautenbush memory

I’m guessing that the 361 FG accompanied the 8th Airforce (B-17 bombers) into the airspace of the German Reich. Air battles were routine above the Aller Valley at that time.
Lt. Rautenbush’s unit was possibly part of the Mighty Eighth that raided German industrial centres at daytime. I don’t know of any high-range flak in this rural area in May 1944, so Lt. Rautenbush’s likely adversary was a Messerschmitt or a FW-190.

After recovering them, his remains were buried on the American Military Cemetary in the Ardennes.


Written by taide

July 20, 2008 at 8:28 pm

4 Responses

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  1. […] by Dr Peter Clasen, a physician with interest in local history, with further information about Lieutenant Rautenbush – Verdener Heimatkalender, 1990, pages 198 – […]

  2. Hello,

    I come from the village, where is the pilot’s grave. I was and am very often at this point because I am very interested in the story. I think it’s great that it is reported on the Internet about it.



    September 1, 2009 at 2:28 pm

  3. Thanks for commenting, Soenke. fliegerschicksale.de has some related information, too. They name a P-47D as Lt. Rautenbush’s plane, which looks unlikely to me, because the plane’s range was rather short.


    September 5, 2009 at 1:35 pm

  4. Taide,

    all information comes from offical documents. According to MACR 4539 it was a P-47D-11RE, Serialno. 42-75555.


    November 16, 2009 at 10:16 pm

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