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Murder of
Sgt Sheppard Kerman
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Murder of Sgt Sheppard Kerman
Radio Operator on the 360th 2Lt Victor Howard Crew
Mission #248 – 28 September 1944 – Target: Magdeburg, Germany


28 Sept 44 - Pilot: 1Lt V.L. Howard, 360BS B-17: #43-37930 (No name) - Mission to Magdeburg, Germany. B-17 crashed near Ohrum S/Wolfenbuttel. Radio Operator Sgt Sheppard Kerman was murdered. (Sgt Claude McGraw, Engineer, advised that Sgt Kerman was conscious with minor wounds when he bailed out.

Sgt Kerman's parachute fouled on the roof of a two story house at Wolfenbuttel and kept swinging in front of a window. Some Germans in Army and Nazi Party uniforms entered the house and pulled Sgt Kerman into a room on the second floor. A captain ordered that Sgt Kerman be shot and killed with a pistol. All the time Sgt Kerman had his arms raised as a token of surrender. The German Captain was sentenced to death by hanging in a post-war war crimes trial at Dachau for the murder of Sgt Kerman and two others received life imprisonment. (Cases 12-1104 and 12-1104-1) per John A. Hey, Netherlands Historian.


More than 60 years after the murder, a series of curious circumstance led Sgt. Kerman's nephew Matthew Smith to pick up the trail of his Uncle's killing. In addition to attending the 303rd's Final Reunion in Arlington, Va, Smith and his wife Elvira have made two pilgrimages to Wolfenbuttel, Germany to learn more about the circumstances surrounding the slaying.

Their first trip to Wolfenbuttel in October 2007 generated an abundance of new information including the unintended discovery of two eye witnesses who lived just steps from where the murder took place. Below is the story of their trip from the Chicago Sun-Times. A story was also published in the German newspaper BRAUNSCHWEIGER ZEITUNG. You can read it here in German or translated into English. You can read it here in German or translated into English.


Uncle's heroic end
THE CHICAGO WAY | Nephew finds truth about WWII tragedy
[copyright © Chicago Sun-Times, used by permission]

January 7, 2008
BY TOM McNAMEE Sun-Times Columnist

An American soldier dangled from a parachute snagged on a building in a small German town, a crowd gathering below. Little boys jeered: "Heil Hitler!"

Across the street, a girl watched, horrified.

"He was a big, beautiful man."

She remembers that now perfectly, remembers the whole day, though it's been 63 years.

A visitor asks her: What was the expression on his face?

"He looked very sad."

Was he crying? Was there screaming?

"No, he just looked very sad."

The visitor thanks the woman. He finds this oddly soothing. Now he knows: His Uncle Shep, in the minutes before he was murdered, did not cry or scream, though he looked very sad.

The second journey to Wolfenbuttel took place in September of 2008 and featured a meeting with Mayor Thomas Pink, discussions with a new eyewitness who had followed Kerman's parachute descent and gave details about life in the wartime city and continued dialogue with Wilfried Knauer, Director of Wolfenbuttel's Memorial to the Victims of the Nazi Regime.

The main focus of the trip was to mark the 64th Anniversary of Kerman's shoot down, capture and subsequent murder on 28 September 1944. The following video, which was shot on 28 September 2008, features Matthew Smith reconstructing his Uncle's final moments from in front of the building where Kerman was killed at virtually the same time 64 years earlier.


View the Video

To download, "right-click" on the link and select "Save Target As ..." or "Save Link As ..."
File size: 46 mb - Run time: 9 minutes
Loyola Magazine's Spring 2009 Edition also writes on Smith's visit. You can view that article here.

Trial Summaries and Transcripts

File Number: US075
Review Date: 461211
Case Number: 12-1104 (US vs. Gerd Beck and Otto Weinreich)
Crime Category: War Crimes
Accused:
Beck, Gerd - Death Sentence
Weinreich, Otto - Life Sentence
Court: General Military Government Court at Ludwigsburg, Germany 460507
Country where the crime had been committed: Germany
Crime Location: Wolfenbuttel
Crime Date: 4409
Victim: POW
Nationality: American
Office: Civilians
Subject of the proceeding: An American flyer parachuted from his disabled plane over the vicinity of Wolfenbuttel, Germany. The parachute fouled on the roof of a house and the flyer became suspended before the window. The accused witnessed the flyer land and set out after him. Once helping the officer through the window the accused proceeded to shoot and kill the airman.
Trial Transcript
Gerd Beck Brief
Otto Weinriech Brief

File Number: US076
Review Date: 471029
Case Number: 12-1104-1 (US vs. Wilhelm Kanschat)
Crime Category: War Crimes
Accused:
Kanschat, Wilhelm - Death Sentence
Court: General Military Government Court at Dachau, Germany 470825-470828
Country where the crime had been committed: Germany
Crime Location: Wolfenbuttel
Crime Date: 440928
Victim: POW
Nationality: American
Office: Wehrmacht, Reserve Captain
Subject of the proceeding: An American flyer parachuted from his disabled plane over Wolfenbuttel and was captured by a search party. The accused, along with Beck and Weinreich (see US075), was present in the room where the victim was held and ordered Beck to shoot the flyer.
Trial Transcript
Weihelm Kanschat Brief

Below are letters from Chaplain Edmund J. Skoner, Adjutant Lewis C. Jurgensen, 303rd BG Commanding Officer LtCol Walter K. Shayler and a telegram received by the family of Sheppard Kerman.

– click the image for a larger view –





Long after being notified of his death, the family of Sheppard Kerman was mistakenly led to believe that he was still alive and a POW.




[Letters and newspaper clippings courtesy of Matt Smith, nephew of Sheppard Kerman]