The crash of C-47 # 42-100879  75th Troop Carrier Squadron

 

1. September 19, 1944

Operation Market Garden was in full swing on Tuesday September 19, 1944. The 75th Troop Carrier Group was involved in transporting the 101st Airborne Division towards the Eindhoven area. The squadrons, as all other squadrons of the 53rd Troop Carrier Wing, had transported troops of the 101st to the area on September 17 and 18. The drop zone and landing zone used was situated north of Son in the triangle area of Son-Best-Sint Oederode.

On Tuesday the squadron was ready for another trip to the LZ near Son. They would be towing gliders with elements of 1st Battalion 401st Glider Infantry Regiment, elements of Division Artillery HQ and elements of 81st Anti-Aircraft & Anti-Tank Battalion.

That Tuesday proved to be a difficult day for the Troop Carrier men. The weather was terrible and 90 out of the 305 glider failed to reach the LZ. Over 15 C-47s failed to get back to England; due to crashes, crash-landings or emergency landings.

 

One of those C-47s that failed to return to England was C-47A 42-100879. The plane was crewed by:

1st Lt. Romie Alexoff (P)

2nd Lt. Leonard S. Osborne (CP)

T/Sgt. Hans A. Brunisholz (CC)

S/Sgt. Orville H. Thompson (RO)

 

Capt. Charles L. Power witnessed the crash:

On September 19 while making the return flight from the LZ to the IP, I was flying a position to the right and behind the main formation. Because of lowered gear the formation was pulling away from me. The first sign of enemy AA was when Lt. Alexoff’s plane was hit. One engine was hit and started smoking. The ship immediately pulled out of the formation in a steep dive to the left. The dive was continued for several hundred feet, and then a steep descending spiral was begun. I was in a position to watch the plane from the time it was hit until it struck the ground. The plane never stopped its steep spiral and was last seen when it hit the ground and exploded. Except for brief seconds I watched the plane all the way down and saw no parachutes. It is my opinion that the entire crew was in the ship at the time of the crash. I called the pilot by RT when he was hit and received no answer. I believe the ship received a direct hit.

The crash location as reported was Turnhout, Belgium.

 

Photo above shows the C-47 that crashed at Rhoode. This photo was taken before the Normandy invasion. There are no invasion stripes yet. And the squadron code has not changed yet from SH into CK.

2. Research part one

 

In the end of the 90s I started my own research to the Troop Carrier C-47 losses. Two men had described some losses in the Dutch book “Luchtbrug Market Garden”. They used the Missing Air Crew Reports and, unfortunately, forgot to do an in depth research. Still, the book was a nice start for a research. As the authors of that book did, I ordered the MACRs for almost all the Market Garden crashes. That means, those that exist. 25% of the lost C-47s have no MACR.

With those MACR I went into the ‘field’. A good research needs field work as well. Searching for eyewitness accounts in Holland and Belgium was needed. As was the help from local researchers. In 2001 I got in touch with Luc Cox, a Belgium researcher.

Together we worked on some of the C-47 crashes that occurred in Belgium. And we were able to solve some mysteries. One of those was related to the crash of  42-100879.

In an e-mail dated 29 July 2003 Luc wrote me:

A C-47 at Oud Turnhout. The plane was lying in a small stream. No date nor other details are known. The glider landed in the area as well.

Such small notes triggered me and I needed to know more about it. At that moment I was already thinking of the Alexoff crew. But needed more details. I learned from Luc about his eyewitness, Mr. Vueghs.

Mr. Vueghs had worked with C-47s in Belgium Congo. He was someone who could recognize parts of that plane. In an e-mail dated 12 October 2003 Luc wrote me that Mr. Vueghs “picked up pieces and realized that these were human remains”.

Again it was told that the glider that landed in the area was towed by the c-47s that crashed.

At that moment, I had worked hard to get the jig-saw puzzle of the C-47 crashes complete. And it was in a stage that I was 100% sure that the Oud Turnhout C-47 crash was the one flown by Lt. Alexoff and his crew.

I visited the area myself hoping to find more details from people who lived there.

I talked to two persons who remembered things.

Mr. Victor Berrens told:

A plane crashed near the chapel. It approached from the south. This happened shortly before the area was liberated. Two casualties were buried by the Red Cross of Turnhout.

I haven’t seen any of the casualties inside the plane, but one was near the aircraft.

Mr. Eugene van Erk lived opposite the mentioned chapel. He confirmed the crash location and casualties near the aircraft. He also mentioned that one crew member was buried near the Nieuwe Staatsbaan. This is the Oud Turnhout – Arendonk road.

 

Airborne Troop Carrier - Alexoff crash 2
Airborne Troop Carrier - Holland