Flight Officer Ralph E. Hamilton: 8th Air Force, 78th Fighter Group, 83rd Squadron (P-51, “Debra Del“) Escorting B-17 “Flying Fortress” bombers on a mission to Nürnberg, Germany, Hamilton’s P-51 Mustang was shot down by anti-aircraft fire while strafing a train near Crailsheim on February 22, 1945 at 12:15 hours. His engine lost coolant, and he decided to bail out five minutes south of the town. He popped the canopy and pushed off after slowing the plane down, but he clipped his ankle on a rear stabilizer and tried to escape to the Swiss border with this injury. He was captured and taken prisoner, initially taken to Dulag Luft West at Wetzlar, a transit camp near Frankfurt. Before he was taken to Dulag Luft West, his captor, a Luftwaffe airman, took him drinking and even home to meet his parents! Hanns-Claudius Scharff, son of Auswertestelle West’s “master interrogator” Hanns Scharff, said he thinks Ralph’s captor was an interrogator using techniques common to his father to get information. After his visit at Oberursel, Ralph eventually transferred to Stalag 7A near Moosburg, which was eventually liberated by Patton’s 3rd Army at the end of April, 1945.
MISSING AIR CREW REPORT (MACR) for F/O Ralph Hamilton: 12681
MISSING AIR CREW REPORT (MACR) for F/O Charles R. O’Brien Jr, who filed the report on Ralph and was kind enough to provide coordinates in his handwritten notes that don’t appear in the official report. O’Brien’s P-51, “Green Eyes,” was shot down four days after Ralph was shot down. He apparently survived the landing but was killed for unknown reasons while German custody: 12761
O’Brien’s notes: observer field notes. I plugged these coordinates (49°S, 10°12’E) into Google Earth and found the marshalling yards Ralph was shooting at when he was hit and the area in which he is likely to have bailed out. Crailsheim marshalling yards. (Note: The correct longitude is 49° N)
O’Brien went down near the village of Oldebrook, Netherlands–about 14 km SW of Zwolle:
Ralph’s report on the downing of Lt. Jack LaGrange is included in LaGrange’s MACR.
Lloyd Eadline was Ralph’s roomate at Duxford. Eadline was killed two days after Ralph lost his P-51 in Germany:
- Ralph drew this cartoon of Lloyd on the back of this photo. The swastike represent a kill Eadline made in Sept. 1944
* F/O= Flight Officer