Hiking and wreck hunting in the Spessart
- by Manfed Rassau 2017

Hiking and wreck hunting in the Spessart
- by Manfed Rassau 2017

The Spessart region east of Aschaffenburg invites you to take long walks in centuries-old beech forests.
No matter at what time of year.
Strangers are said to have already lost their way. There is always something new to discover.
WhetherDeer in the Hafenlohrtal or memorials along the donkey trail


Cartridge cases caliber 0.50 after 70 years
Photo: M. Rassau
Otmar Väht (left) with B-17 machine gun
Photo: O. Väht
How do casings of the caliber 0.50 from the 2nd World War come to Weibersbrunn, I asked myself.
The spry Weibersbrunner Otmar Väht, who has remained young with 86 years, showed me a photo from his youth.
It was taken in 1944 in Weibersbrunn at the Weißenstein.
Clearly a machine gun from the tail stand of an American "Flying Fortress" B-17 F.
The postal plane crashed in 1932
Photo: pallas.be
No one knew where the wreckage came from.
So I looked for people who still had memories of those times when American bomber swarms flew high over the Spessart with a gruesome hum and deadly cargo.
Almost all of them told me at once of a German mail plane that crashed at Echtersphal before the war.
After 80 years, hardly anything could be learned about the course of events.
In an issue of the "Spessartbund" from November 1932, I found in 2013 a harrowing report by the Aschaffenburg reporter Max Brech (1887-1958) on the crash of the Junkers F13 D-724.

I found this so enlightening and shared my findings on the aircraft forum.
The memorial cross for Uffz. Braun
Photo: M.Rassau
At the Eselsweg in the direction of Dammbach should be the cross of an airman killed in the war, I learned further. With the mountain bike I needed from Weibersbrunn a good hour until I had found the place right next to the hiking trail.
A cross guarded with a steel helmet and a copper plate. On it the name of the German fighter pilot Ullrich Braun, who perished here in 1943.
But the date did not match my findings. After several days of searching I met Willibald Kempf in Dammbach. He was the initiator of the memorial. I promised to ask the WAST Berlin for details. When I finally had the official result after many weeks, I drove again to Mr. Kempf and handed him my facts. He gave me, because I lived in Weibersbrunn, a photo taken with unknown date near Weibersbrunn.

A whole family, apparently on a Sunday walk, posing on a piece of wreckage. On it was clearly visible a large letter D.

D, like Germany, I thought. This is the wreckage of the mail plane D-724 I thought and had soon forgotten.
Mr. Adam Roth also told me in 2012 about wreckage from a US bomber that was lying on Beerwaldstraße in 1944. As a child he had removed a machine gun there with his buddies and later buried it in the forest. Not far from the Echtersphal excursion restaurant, south of the old federal road to Würzburg, the traces of an airplane crash could still be made out with the naked eye 70 years later. The internet made researching documents on American losses in WW2 much easier. I could quickly learn from the US archive documents that during the air raids of the US bombers on the strategically important ball bearing factories in Schweinfurt several "Flying Fortress" bombers had fallen from the sky over the Spessart forests. This happened at Waldaschaff, Keilberg, Bischbrunn, Straßlücke, Glasofen and also at Weibersbrunn. Soon after that I got to know Mr. Fleckenstein. The young retiree born in 1927 told me how he as a young forest worker experienced the crash of a German airplane in the Karlsbuch below the Geiersberg. There were two dead, he remembered.

I learned during my initial research that two other aviation archaeologists had been dealing with this issue for some time.
One of them was of the opinion that at that time during the test of a German secret weapon on the highest point of the Spessart, the Geiersberg, his own airplane had been shot down by mistake.
Another researcher held the thesis that an aircraft of the type JU 188 had crashed here during testing.
Memorial stone at the Geiersberg
Photo: M.Rassau
From the rest stop at the highway BAB 3 Rohrbrunn there is a beautiful hiking trail through ancient beech stands to the crash site.
Remains of two wristwatches
Photo: M.Rassau
Hard to believe what collectors could still discover in the dry foliage after so many years.
This prompted me to make inquiries. Again, I consulted the Berlin information center. As a result, I received the official answer in 2013, that at the Geiersberg on July 4, 1944 a JU 88 G-1 had crashed during a training flight and two aviators were killed.
If you want, you are welcome to have a look at my internet article about this in Flugzeugforum.de.

From Bischbrunn, a hike to the Schleifmühle is a good idea. Far from any road noise, you can admire the water mill and stop there.

The owner Mrs. Thauer cooks excellently! By the way, she told me years ago that the successful fighter pilot Alfred Surau had made an emergency parachute landing here in 1943. Surau had already achieved more than 40 aerial victories. Still hovering on the parachute, he was mistaken for a U.S. airman and was fatally injured by a Bischbrunner. It is still unclear today where his Messerschmitt Bf 109 crashed.

Returning to Weibersbrunn, I sought out Mr. Fäht again. He still remembers exactly that in 1944 two US airmen were buried on the Weibersbrunn churchyard.

In 2013, in documents related to the search for missing US airmen, I found the crew list of the B-17 bomber that broke up in the air near Weibersbrunn on August 4, 1944. It was piloted by pilot Boudinot Stimson. The navigator and a gunner were killed and buried at Weibersbrunn.

As was customary at the time, the remains were moved to other cemeteries after the war. Quickly these events had fallen into oblivion.Hardly anyone had been more interested in it over 70 years. Now I had stirred up some things again. I extended my research. I found only contradictory reports about the wide trail of debris in the forest between Weibersbrunn and Dammbach.
Type plate of a B-17 exhaust
Photo: M.Rassau
Emergency switch from the cockpit of a B-17
Photo: M.Rassau
Grip plate of a US signal pistol from 1944
Photo: M.Rassau
Remainder of the dog tag of co-pilot Marion Odell
Photo: M.Rassa
Family Fröhlich from Weibersbrunn at the wreck
Photo: W. Kempf
I had learned that First Lieutenant Georg Eder's Weibersbrunn B-17 had shot the left wing of the bomber on fire with the weapons of his ME 109. The B-17 was marked with the serial number 42-97464 and below it a large white D as call sign.
This somehow sounded familiar and I rummaged through my records. I nearly jumped for joy when I found Mr. Kempf's photo again.
A white D on what was supposed to be the wing of the 1932 mail plane. It wasn't a wing at all!
It was the shredded rudder, as tall as a house and lying on its side, of Pilot Stimson's B-17!

Clearly visible the call sign.The visible numbers matched the serial number exactly. So the photo was not from 1932, but was taken Easter 1944 in the vinegar ground. Looking into the camera on the wreckage is the Weibersbrunner family Fröhlich.
Pilot Boudinot Stimson
Foto: NARA
The pilot and seven crew members survived, some injured. They were sent to German prisoner-of-war camps and were able to return home nine months later.

What happened to them, I wondered. Had they ever been back to the place where they were captured?
Today I know that in 2005 the last of the NCO crew had died. It is still unclear whether pilot First Lieutenant Stimson, born in 1923, is still alive.
Stimson was 21 when he became a prisoner of war. His 22nd combat mission was also his last.

Because of him, Weibersbrunn achieved macabre notoriety.
Stimson was a VIP. Namely, the cousin of the then US Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson.

The became famous as a Republican with his opinion that the use of the atomic bomb would be the best way to defeat the Japanese.

Ex-pilot Stimson began working in radio after the war. He continued his medical studies and began a career as a doctor.
He went on to operate a surgical practice in Massachusetts.
Unfortunately, I had to move in 2014 and could not quite complete my research.
But Mr. Kurt Schüll from Marktheidenfeld now also found interest in the Weibersbrunn area. He has continued to follow the tracks and even made more discoveries.

One mystery of Weibersbrunn is still unsolved. In 1943, an unknown dead US airman was found in the forest behind the Weißenstein.
This much is clear: He was able to save himself with his parachute from an airplane. But when he landed, he had become entangled in the ropes of the parachute and suffocated from it.
When Pastor Rönnebrink buried him, he had found no documents. It was not until 1947 that he was exhumed, which had certainly made identification very difficult.

The Spessart still holds many unsolved mysteries. Again and again one finds traces of air battles in the forest. Who continues to feel like hiking in the Spessart, still has many opportunities to learn about other crash sites from recent history.

Manfred Rassau