On 8 May 1945 the war in Europe was nearly over. American forces had liberated the concentration/labour camp at Ebensee three days earlier. Twenty P47’s (five flights of four aircraft) embarked on an aerial demonstration/morale boosting flight over the POW/concentration camp at Ebensee. (Ebensee was an ancillary camp to Mauthausen Concentration Camp – the labour was used to build tunnels in the mountains and 8500 inmates died there). All aircraft were fully armed but no bombs were being carried. Yellow Flight consisted of Yellow Leader Lt Eastman (K4-C) with Lt Mohr (K4-S) wing- man and Element Leader Lt Cecil (K4-A) with Lt Olthoff
Doug Eastman remembers the trip well.
“We left Kitzingen around 9:00 am and maintained approx 220mph on our flight to Ebensee. The later portion of the flight through the Austrian Alps was uncommonly beautiful. As we approached Ebensee, I noticed a few tall stacks within the town. These stacks and the fact Henry (Mohr) elected to fly lower than the rest of the flight made ‘buzzing’ the town at very low altitude unsafe – so we maintained a couple of hundred feet until over the lake. After crossing the shoreline and moving out over the lake we, as had been planned, broke formation, fanned out then dropped down to within a few feet of the water. A small sailboat was in view a bit to the right of my intended flight path. The boats occupants apparently thought they were about to be run over and proceeded to jump overboard. It was, at the time, somewhat comical. I then saw out the corner of my eye a commotion to my right so I pulled up a little and looked over. I saw Mohr’s aircraft bounce up from the water and come down again, hit the water and begin to sink. We circled the crash site and saw Mohr thrashing about in the water and watched the plane sink out of sight. We headed home to Kitzingen and reported the crash at the debriefing”.
It seems Yellow 2 had to go wide to miss a chimneystack over the town of Ebensee. With the other three heading across the lake, Mohr was trying to catch up and return to his position when disaster struck. Flying at 230mph, the propeller touched the water and was wrecked. The P47 hit the water in a cloud of steam and spray, becoming airborne again before coming down onto the lake surface. There was little time for ‘29150 to float, she was already on her way down as Mohr was trying to get out. In the water, he did not have a Mae West or a dinghy but the parachute pack initially kept him afloat. Gradually this became waterlogged and he began struggling to stay afloat.
Two girls broke into a boat shed and procured a rowing boat and proceeded to row to the crash site. A boy in another boat followed. By this time Mohr was at the point of drowning, his parachute pack had sunk and he was going under with it. At the same time his young rescuers arrived and thrust an oar into the water, which Mohr immediately clung to before losing consciousness. It is not clear whether the three pulled him into the boat or held him on the side, but Mohr remained unconscious. On the shore we was taken to a German hospital where he became the last MIA of the 9AF, at least for a few hours. He was liberated later and sent to an American military hospital as the war in Europe ended.
HISTORY IS MADE
‘29150 became the last P47 combat mission loss in the ETO and this ironically led to its survival. During the summer of 1945, a large part of the surviving P47’s were unceremoniously scrapped, although the surviving nineteen P47’s from the 511FS were flown to an airfield near Paris and delivered to the French. Its loss on 8 May has meant ‘29150 is undoubtedly one of the most historic P47’s in existence.