- The Monument at the Roadside
- History of the American B26 bombers, which crashed at
December 23, 1944 near Demerath and Steineberg. Researched and written by
Hermann-Josef Stolz, Mehren, Germany.
- The monument was disposed as a memorial to the crew, but
also as a memorial against war and forgetting. It also reminds of the people
of Demerath, who had the courage to bury the dead as required by their
Christian belief, although this was forbidden by the Nazis.
- What happened then at this December 23, 1944 - one day
- After the bad weather, which remained over the whole area of
the front since the December, 16 1944 had gone sometimes the sun was
breaking through the clouds. Therefore on this Saturday the air activity was
more than seen in many weeks by the allieds. The 9th Air Force was told to
eliminate the railways and the supply-roads behind the front. At this time
railway still was a very important potential to supply the forces at the
front. This day is known as "Black Saturday" in history of the 9" Air Force
because they lost 36 B26-Marauder bombers only at this day over the Eifel
- The plane which was shot near Demerath. It's nickname was "DRAGGIN LADY"
- 1. 1st Elmar R. Borden
- 2. Capt. Mont F. Stephensen
- 3. S/Sgt. Lynn E. Rose Jr.
- 4. T/Sgt. William E. Bower
- The 397th Bomber Group with their B26 Marauder bombers were ordered to
destroy the railway bridge near Eller which led over the river Mosel. 33
bombers started this morning out of its base Peronne in France in order to
destroy their most important goal. The first bomber squadron lost 3
airplanes over the goal area by very violently and exactly shooting Flak
fire. It was the second squadron, which was attacked by approximately 50
German hunters while their bombs fell on the goal. Seven bombers were shot
in the process of the fights. Two B26 crashed near Demerath and Steineberg.
- The only still living crew member Paul W. Lefever of the airplane crashed
near Steineberg had reported the following to me: "... After we attacked the
goal for the first time, my turret was destroyed and fell into the
ammunition chute. My radio telephone system was also destroyed, so I did not
know, which destruction was further on. On second attack wave our airplane
was burning. When I came forward from the rear range, the radio operator had
already jumped off. I also jumped afterwards out of the airplane. Since
there were many airplanes around in the air, I made a free fall from 8,000
to 1,000 feet (2.400 to 300 meters). At touchdown I broke my ankle and had
some more breaks in my leg, which I still have today. An SS Panzerjager man
(Tank Hunter man) took me to a small village. I believe it was Steineberg."
- Two crew members fell dead with the airplane. They were buried in the
proximity of the crash spot. The four other crew members could jump off
using their parachutes and became POW's. The pilot had suffered heavy burns
so he succumbed to his injuries on January, 3 1945 in the military hospital
in Siegburg. Fewer luck had the nine crew members of the B26 that crashed
near Demerath. They had all been killed within the crash.
- Pilot: Capt. Stephensen Mont F., 27 years old
- Copilot: 2nd Lt. Grappes John L.
- Navigator: 1st Lt. Kinney Robert J., 28 years old and married
- Bombardier: 2Lt. Borden Elmar R., married
- Gee-Operator: 1st Lt. Grundman Laverne F.
- Engineer- Gunner: S/Sgt. Rose Lynn E. Jr.
- Radio-Gunner: T/Sgt. Bower William E.
- Armourer-Gunner: S/Sgt. Watson Harry H., married
- Engineer-Gunner: S/Sgt. Galati James V.
The airplane impacted south of the village at a mountain and broke apart.
- An eye-witness described the aerial combat as follows:
- "...One day before Christmas, it was nice sunny weather and snow; bombers
flew over Demerath and Steineberg. Suddenly a German hunter flew from way
down through the bomber formation. Immediately a burning bomber crashed near
Steineberg, a short time later the second crashed, which impacted behind
Demerath. The German pilot jumped off its destroyed machine with the
parachute. He was hurt at his head. The airplane impacted behind Steiningen.
The German pilot after his landing visited the crashing spots of his own
machine and those of the two bombers...."
- When on February 1, 1946 an American excavator command exhumed the two dead
bodies of the bomber crashed near Steineberg, they found a cross with the
inscription on the grave: "Here are lying two American pilots". The two dead
ones, which were transferred later to the U.S.A, were Bomb Contactor F/O
Gummings Benjamin B. and the 25 year old Flight Engineer T/Sgt Ahlgreen
Elwood R. The people of Demerath buried the dead bodies at the edge of their
- The later Mayor took the identity discs of 7 dead crew members. From the
other two (Stephensen and Grundman) he had only found their paybooks. He
delivered these deduction things later to the city hall of Gillenfeld.
- In May 1945 the 9 dead ones were exhumed and transferred to the American
Military Cemetery Hamm in Luxembourg. Four of the nine were later
transferred from there to the U.S.A.
- The airplane wreck was still lying at the crash spot even some years after
war has ended. And many people of Demerath went there in order to find
- For many people WWII is a long time ago, many who experienced it aren't
alive any more, many things are forgotten.
- But even nearly 60 years after the end of the war there are still people,
war veterans and survivors, who are on search for answers on many different
questions. These answers would make it possible to close a chapter after
- During my investigations about the air war in the Eifel area I came in
contact with the survivors of Pilot Capt. Mont F. Stephensen and Bomb
Contactor 1st Lt. Elmar R. Borden.
- They were very pleased about the fact that I could help them clarifying the
circumstances of the death of their relatives. They were still more
surprised and agitated about the fact that in the proximity of the crash
place an intending small monument for the crew was established.
- What finally remains is the certainty that I have given the answers to many
questions to survivors, and that I have found new friends in the U.S.A. And
the certainty for the Americans, that their death relatives are not
forgotten. Because the worst which could happen to the millions of dead of
the World War is being forgotten.
- If the last war veteran and the last time-witness of the war deceased then
World War II will only be history and it remains preserved only which will
be located in the historical books about the large battles.
- But what happened in so many small places will just be saved for later
generations if it was written down before the last eye-witness has died.