I am Tom Freeland, a lawyer in Oxford, Mississippi. The picture in the header is my law office. I'm on Twitter as NMissC

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An Oxford Memorial Day Story: The Duke Brothers in the Air Corps

Three Duke brothers from Oxford were flying in World War II.  According to David McElreath on Facebook, the oldest brother, Homer Duke, served throughout the war as a gunner on a B-17.  Lt. Andrew Kendell Duke died in the crash of his P38 in Australia on August 9, 1943.

The third brother, William Duke, died in Europe.

Depicted above are the crew of the B-24 Iron Duke.  Kneeling are William Duke of Oxford, Mississippi  pilot, and Archibald Monroe of Batesville, Mississippi, co-pilot.  Standing are Baldamore Garcia , Albert Lucas, Charles Gretz, Carl Johnson, Chuck Frazer, Alessandro Panarese

On February 22, 1945, the Allied forces commenced Operation Clarion, intended to finish off German rail and communications.  As a part of that mission, Lt. William Duke of Oxford, Mississippi with co-pilot Lt. Archibald Monroe of Batesville were flying a B-24.  Hit by flack, the plane first limped out of formation and then, an easy target, was hit again and crashing.  The crew parachuted out.  One died of wounds in the fall, but the other nine survived.  Lt. Duke, Lt. Monroe, and a third, Srgt. Charles Frazer, were captured by the Bieber, Germany police, and were murdered by them; the other crew members survived, captured by the SS and other military units, and ended up in Stalag Luft III.  They survived the war.

A 458th Bombardment Group website describes the fate of Lt. Duke, Lt. Monroe, and Srgt. Frazer, and describes the post-war trials:

Lt. Monroe was captured by two Bieber policemen.  En route to Offenbach police headquarters an air raid warning sounded, and the three men went to a shelter that also housed a fire station.  Inside, the assistant police director, Josef Kiwitt, fire chief, Paul Nahrgang, and two of his assistants, Bernard Fay and Phillip Hammann were present.  They began a whispered conversation, during which Kiwitt ordered Monroe shot.  Access to the shelter was limited to two doors.  Monroe was provoked into leaving the area, after allegedly striking Fay, then ran toward the street.  Fay began yelling, “Halt” while firing his pistol into the air.  Meanwhile, Hammann went out the other door carrying a rifle.  He fired three shots at Monroe, killing him instantly, “while trying to escape”—still wearing his heavy flying suit and fur-lined boots.  The body was then taken to Offenbach police headquarters.

Lt. Duke was captured near Bieber and carried to the police station.  He asked for and was given something to drink, then permitted to smoke.  Shortly, Hans Eichel, Offenbach police director, and Josef Kitwitt arrived.  They strongly rebuked those present for allowing Duke such privileges.  More conversation followed and Duke was sent to an army post in Offenbach to be held as a POW.  On the way there, Sgt. Herman Moller, Bieber police, shot Duke “while trying to escape”—in his heavy flying suit and fur-lined boots.  His body was also taken to Offenbach Headquarters.

Insufficient material evidence prevented a trial being held in Sgt. Frazer’s death.  However, records told of his plight.  He hid well until Sunday, 25 February, but became weak and cold from lack of food and water.  Church bells began ringing in the early morning and Frazer moved toward them.  He saw a Catholic church in Bieber and went there, hiding in a shed at the rear of it.  Finally Frazer approached Chaplain Mathias Felder for assistance, but some of the parishioners were in the church after Mass due to an air raid warning and saw the American flier.

The people started a heated squabble about Frazer, and the chaplain had no choice but to turn him over to the police (because of alienation between the Church and Nazi Party).  On the way to Bieber’s police station, Felder told Frazer of Duke’s and Monroe’s fate and expressed the hope that his would be different.  Stenographer Liesel Blummer was at home when police Lieutenant Kurt Anfall (fictitious name to protect innocent family members) came and ordered her to headquarters to record an interrogation of the captured airman.  She had heard him express his regret for not being present on Thursday when the others were captured.  A Luftwaffe officer was at the station as she arrived, but Anfall refused to release Frazer to him for transfer to an army post.  Instead, he began accusing the padre of giving aid and comfort to a prisoner.

The lieutenant failed in his assertions, however, and Chaplain Felder was allowed to return to his church.  Anfall ordered one Lieutenant Blum to bring a motorcycle to the nearby sports field, stating he would go no farther with the American.  Anfall marched Frazer to the field, shot him, got on his motorcycle and rode away.  The body lay there all day, and was carried to Offenbach headquarters that evening.

The decisions of the Dachau court were that Hans Eichel, director of Offenbach police, was responsible for the death of Lt. Monroe.  His aide, Captain Josef Kiwitt, was responsible for Lt. Duke’s death.  Both denied the charges unequivocally.  However, they were convicted for their atrocity.  On 15 October, Kiwitt was hanged, and on 3 December 1948 Eichel paid for his crime in a like manner.

Paul Nahrgang was sentenced to five years in prison for the Monroe case.  Bernard Fay received the same sentence.  Both were paroled early.  Phillip Hammann received a fifteen year term and died in prison of natural causes on 30 July 1947.  William Albrecht, Bieber police chief, was also charged with the shooting of Duke and received a death sentence, but he was granted clemency with a fifteen-year prison term.  He was paroled on 9 December 1953.  Bieber police sergeant Herman Moller was charged with actually shooting Duke.  His sentence was death, but he was also granted clemency with a fifteen-year term.  Moller was paroled 23 September 1954.

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