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Colonel Ihlefeld – just another Ejection, 1945

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

A physician from Verden or around, Peter Clasen, researched the crash site of a Messerschmitt BF 109 K, about five kilometres from the crash site of Lt. Rautenbush one year earlier (see related story above). The ME 109 crashed between 12 and 13 h on 10 April, 1945 and bogged into the Neddenaverbergen farmer’s swampy grassland. Eyewitnesses saw no parachute, and it was assumed that the pilot had been killed.

— Update: An alternative version is that Colonel Ihlefeld bailed out on 8th May 1944 near Langwedeler Moor instead – see Jabo’s comment. —

In an account published by the Heimatkalender Verden, Dr. Clasen describes how he made the search for the plane his concern, and how he and others tried to dig the machine up several times in the 1970s. As water ran into every excavation very quickly, several tries to locate the cockpit failed.

On 7 April 1945, some 70 young German pilots, poorly trained, had lost their lives in a big air battle. The Messerschmitt in question crashed three days later in another operation. As it turned out after the cockpit was finally found in 1983, without human remains or a parachute, and the seatbelt open, the pilot was Colonel Herbert Ihlefeld, still alive.
According to Clasen’s article, some 80 German planes fought against American bombing planes that came from the direction of Berlin on 10 April 1945. The German pursuit planes started from Stade and Rotenburg/Wümme. Above the Teufelsmoor (“Devil’s Moor”) they met the Americans and attacked them from above in an altitude of 7000 to 8000 metres.

More than 30 American bombers are said to have been lost during this attack, two of them shot down by Ihlefeld. As it befits a kick-ass pilot like him, it took 12 Mustang pursuit planes to down his plane. Take that bit of the story with some salt, if you like.

Old Post Office, Verden

Old Post Office, Verden

Anyway, Ihlefeld parachuted into a field near the village of Luttum, from a remaining height of his plane of about 400 metres. He then sort of hitchhiked to Verden, where he was taken to the Postal Office next to the train station, where 25 American pilots were held. (My guess is that they were held there as a tacit retaliation by their guards, as the train station was the main target for British fighter-bombers.)

The author in the Heimatkalender (something like “local home calender”) is struggling with his apparent contempt for the war as deemed politically correct on the one hand, and admiration for the colonel (who had allegedly downed 130 planes himself, the first of them during the Spanish civil war in the 1930s on the other – on the side of the Fascists, of course). After finding the empty cockpit in 1983, the author and his team concluded with delight that the Lord had resurrected, and found out about his identity and whereabouts soon after that.

All combined, Ihlefeld apparently survived being shot down eight times during some 1000 combat missions – the one near Neddenaverbergen and Luttum included.


Written by taide

August 24, 2008 at 6:56 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Mr Clasen is a little bit wrong. Colonel Ihlefeld crashed in the vicinity of Verden, but not in April 1945. He bailed out on 8th May 1944 near Langwedeler Moor from low altitude. Target for the 8th USAAF was Berlin and Brunswick. Ihlefeld was back in the air 2 houres later as the bombers return from their targets.
    The Me 109 crashed on 7th April 1945 and was flewn by Sergeant Bohnke who was Volunteer in the Command “Elbe”. The order was to bring down the Bombers by ramming. Bohnke was shot down and bailed out. The chute failed and Bohnke was found death. He is buried in Walsrode.

    Ihlefeld who was since May 1944 wing commander of the JG 1 was in April 1945 in Graz/Austria and Usedom/Eastern Germany, from 8th April 45 the Staff was in Ludwigslust for training on Me 162 jets. It is impossible that Ihlefeld was shot down on 10th April 1945.

    Kind regards from Verden



    December 20, 2009 at 8:29 pm

  2. Hi Jabo,

    thanks a lot for the update. Your website and crashsite database is a commendable resource, btw.
    Merry christmas, and greetings from Verden to Verden
    Tai De


    December 22, 2009 at 10:03 am

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