Original U.S. WWII B-17 Stalag Luft POW 560th Bomb Squadron Waist Gunner Grouping
Original Items: One-of-a-kind set. Technical Sergeant Kenneth Bonnar (ASN 15335540) served with the 388th Bombardement Group, 560th Bomb Squadron, 8th Air Force. Sgt. Bonnar flew on a B-17 and shot down by fighters and exploded and crashed near Odense, Denmark on a mission to Poznan, Poland on 20 February 1944 in B-17G #42-31126. Some crewmen baled out and others were blown clear by the explosion. Sgt. Bonnar bailed out by parachute sustaining broken feet upon landing. He was captured and became a POW in Stalag Luft 1, transferred to Stalag Luft 2, transferred to Stalag Luft 3, and finally Stalag Luft 6 when the Russians came in and liberated the camp. He was one of the “Kriegies” that survived the Death March.
"The Death March" refers to a series of forced marches during the final stages of the Second World War in Europe. From a total of 257,000 western Allied prisoners of war held in German military prison camps, over 80,000 POWs were forced to march westward across Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Germany in extreme winter conditions, over about four months between January and April 1945. This series of events has been called various names: "The Great March West", "The Long March", "The Long Walk", "The Long Trek", "The Black March", "The Bread March", and "Death March Across Germany", but most survivors just called it "The March".
Kenneth Howard Bonnar's (nickname Kenny) parents were Mr. Howard and Mrs. Bonnar; Kenneth also had a brother named William Bonnar. They lived in Hammondsville, Ohio. Kenneth attended Hammondsville grade schools and Irondale High School and was employed by the McLain Fire Brick Co. before entering Army Air Forces. Kenneth was married with Mrs. Hazel Bonnar. He registered at his local board office in Hammondsville, Jefferson, Ohio on 16 October, 1940.
Kenneth H. Bonnar entered the service in November 1942. He also had a brother in the service. About 1942 Kenneth received his silver wings, the rating of an aerial gunner in the army air force and was promoted to the rank of sergeant. Around that same time he also graduated from a course in aviation mechanics at the North American Aviation factory school at Inglewood, California.
Sgt. Kenneth Bonnar went overseas in November 1943, he was a waist gunner on a B17 Flying Fortress. He served with the 388th Bomber Group - 560th Bomber Squadron. His B-17 was shot down by fighters and exploded and crashed near Odense, Denmark on a mission to Poznan, Poland on 20 February 1944. He bailed out in a parachute but had a rough landing.
His crew that day were as follows:
Pilot: Rich Reed (KIA)
Co-pilot: Wyman Osness (KIA)
Flight engineer/top turret gunner: Bill Morse (KIA)
Navigator: Don Jacobs (POW)
Bombardier: Chas McColleste (POW)
Radio Operator: Harmon Jones (POW)
Ball turret gunner: Bill Rowling, (POW)
Waist gunner: Ken Bonnar (POW)
Waist gunner: Ben Ferrici (POW)
Tail gunner: John Chinni (POW)
Below is a recounting of the crash from this wonderful website
B 17G 42-31126 crashed near Bellinge 20/2 1944. The aircraft belonged to USAAF, 8 Air Force, 388 Bomb Group, 56o Bomb Squadron. T/O Knettishall. OP: Posen.
Take off from Knettishall at 06:00 to rendezvous with other bombers at 07:00 English time. They were flying over Denmark at 10.000 feet in a loose formation when they were attacked by German fighters and Flt. Engr. T/Sgt William T. Morse was killed by a 20 millimeters round thru his chest. 42-31126 received several hits and control of the elevator was lost.
Pilot 1st Lt Richard F. Reed gave the alarm to bail out and opened the bomb bay doors as an exit for himself and Co-Pilot 2nd Lt Wyan E. Osness. Osness however dropped down to the navigators hatch instead of using the bomb bay exit. He was unable to open the hatch and called for Navigator 2nd Lt David D. Jacobs to assist him. Jacobs threw his weight against the door and left the aircraft with it. Osness next signaled Bombardier 2nd Lt Charles W. McCollester to bail out before him. At this time the right wing erupted in flames and the aircraft went into a spin throwing McCollister out and pinning Osness to the aircraft.
Before the spin Right waist Gunner S/Sgt Benjamin E. Ferrici had tried to bail out of the waist hatch but his chute had hung up in the hatch handle. Left Waist Gunner Sgt Kenneth H. Jones and S/Sgt William J. Rowling released him and then bailed out themselves.
The tail now broke off and S/Sgt K H. Bonner left thru the opening. Tail Gunner S/Sgt John J. Chinni managed to free himself from the tail and landed safely in his parachute.
The aircraft exploded and knocked Reed unconscious. When he came too he found himself falling thru the space and opened his chute. He landed safely where he met with the rest of the survivors.
The wreck fell around the farm “Lykkessæde” near Bellinge on the island of Fyn (Funen) at 12:19 hours Danish time and Feldwebel Heinz Hanke of 2./JG 11 was credited with the destruction of the B 17.
The dead bodies of Co-Pilot 2nd Lt Wyman E. Osness and Flt. Engr./ Top Turret Gunner T/Sgt William T. Morse was found with the wreck. Osness was found 100 meters south of the farm while Morse was found with his turret and the front of the fuselage150 meters south west of the farm.
The bodies were by the Danish police taken to Odense County and City Cemetery. On 21/2 at 17:00 hours they were moved to the chapel at Heden and on 22/2 1944 at 07:00 hours the Wehrmacht moved them to their graves at Odense Assistens Cemetery. Oberleutnant Langhagen gave a short speech before the coffins were lowered into the graves. This was done without ecclesiastical assistance but after that the Germans had left a Danish priest officiated at the graveside ceremony. Their remains were disinterred on 30/4 1948 and were evacuated to the American cemetery at Neuville en Condron in Belgium by the US military. Today they both rest in USA.
Chinni, Ferrici and Rowling was captured near Bellinge around 13:30 hours by a patrol from 1 st. Comp. D IV, Odense. Rowling was picked up by Police Constable Clemens-Pedersen on the road between Brylle and the Assens main road. The flyer had hurt his hip and was placed in Clemens-Pedersens police car. It was Clemens-Pedersens intention to get the flyer out of the area but after a short while they were stopped by a German patrol. When they saw Rowling they placed a guard in the car and told Clemens-Pedersen to drive to a farm near the crash site. Here Rowling met with his two comrades. Clemens-Pedersen however managed to get the Germans permission to call a Doctor to treat Rowlings wounds.
Bonner and McCollister stayed free until 23:00 hours when they were captured near Tommerup by Germans of 4.Comp. C VI. Odense.
Jones, Reed and Jacobs managed to stay at large until 23/2 when they at 11:00 hours were captured by Soldiers from 2nd Comp. Battl, Faaborg.
After interrogation at Dulag Luft Oberursel near Frankfurt Reed, Jacobs and McCollester was sent to Stalag Luft I Barth. Bonner was sent to Stalag Luft IV Gross Tychow while it is not clear where Ferrici and Jones were sent.
Chinni and Rowlings were sent by cattle car to Stalag Luft VI Heydekrug where Chinni was given number 1499. In July 1944 they was evacuated by ship to Stalag Luft IV Gross Tychow where they arrived on 18/7. On February 6th 1945 the prisoners were evacuated by foot and marched for 55 days to Stalag 357 Fallingbostel. They marched through snow, freezing rain and freezing weather and at night they were warehoused in barns with no heat or blankets. Chinni contracted pheumonia and was airlifted to England after they had been liberated by British troops probably on May 2th or 3th 1945.
"Kenny", at that time 28 years old, received his Purple Heart for injuries he sustained when he parachuted out of his plane. He had fractures in both his feet, but still walked in the Death March (he was one of the "Kriegies" that survived the Death March) and would receive blows from the butt of the German soldiers’ guns when he would stumble leaving him with permanent disabilities, but he never gave up.
Sometime after Sgt. Kenneth Bonnar was captured he was taken to Stalag I in Barth Germany. In an article from Sgt. Bonnar's hometown newspaper in Ohio from 1944 appeared an article stating: "Two district Airmen lost in Nazi raids" (copy of article is included).
While Kenneth was a POW, Mrs. Bonnar was presented the Air Medal with one Oak Leaf cluster awarded to her husband, Sgt. Kenneth Bonnar, in a ceremony at Lockbourne army air base at Columbus. The citation accompanying the award reads: "For exceptionally meritorious achievement while participating in 10 separate bomber combat missions over enemy occupied continental Europe. The courage, coolness and skill displayed by this enlisted man on these occasions reflect great credit upon himself and the armed Forces of the United States."
Kenneth and his brother, William (who also served in the US military), both received a certificate dated January 30, 1944 for honoring Kenneth Bonnar and William Bonnar each stating that his community and country were proud of his sacrifice and "will prove to be a vital factor in our inevitable victory".
From Stalag number 3 Kenneth sent a POW-postcard to his mother home in Ohio. The postcard is dated May 29, 1944; his mother received the card on September 11, 1944. Kenneth wished everyone well and not to worry about him. A copy of the card is included.
A lot of the prisoners in the camp or at least in Kenneth's barracks, which was at this time Stalag #6, took their dog tags and outlined them on a piece of paper and then wrote their names and addresses inside the outline of their tag. Most of the soldiers came from all parts of the USA, but also a few French soldiers were listed. A list was given to every POW so that after the war they could try to keep in touch. There are over 100 names and addresses on the paper. After the war Kenneth kept these sheets of paper in a wallet and seldom removed them.
In May 1945, the war department informed Mrs. Bonnar that her husband, Sgt. Kenneth Bonnar, 29, had been liberated from a German POW camp by the Russians. Sgt. Bonnar was at that time in a rest camp in France waiting transportation home.
Kenneth's capture was first reported to the International Committee of the Red Cross on February 20, 1944, and the last report was made on June 8, 1945. Based on these two reports, Kenneth was imprisoned for at least 474 days (1 year and 4 months). The average duration of imprisonment was 363 days.
T/Sgt. Bonnar was a Purple Heart recipient for injuries he sustained when he parachuted out of his plane. He had fractures in both his feet, but still walked in the Death March and received blows from the butt of the German soldiers’ guns when he would stumble leaving him with permanent disabilities, but he never gave up.
On January 24, 1946 T/Sgt. Bonnar received his Notice of Classification Discharge Card. January 26, 1946 "Kenny" received his Report of Separation Honorable Discharge. On one side it lists his vitals, military history including all his awards, the opposite side is his official discharge from service.
As many POWs he rarely spoke of his combat experiences over the skies of Europe or his incarceration in several German Prisoner of War camps. He lived with physical aftereffects from being a prisoner of war, but rarely complained.
T/Sgt. Kenneth Bonnar did not receive his Prisoner of War Medal Set until 1987. The POW medal was not authorized until it was approved by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, the POW Medal was created with a grandfather clause making it an approved award to all former Prisoners of War since the beginning of World War I.
Kenneth Bonnar's widow on May 18, 2000 received an envelope from the White House with accompanying a letter and certificate. The letter states that the President has requested that the enclosed certificate be sent in memory of her beloved deceased veteran. The certificate states, "The United States Of America honors the memory of Kenneth H. Bonnar - This certificate is awarded by a grateful nation in recognition of devoted and selfless consecration to the service of our country in the Armed Forces of the United States," signed by President Clinton.
Included in this incredible grouping are the following items:
- Original U.S. WW2 size 38 named Ike Jacket featuring sterling silver aerial gunner wings. Medal ribbons as follows: Air Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heater, Good conduct medal with POW bar, American Campaign Medal ribbon, European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one bronze battle star, WWII Vicotry Medal. Technical Sergeant Chevrons on both sleeves, 8th Air Force Patches and 3 year service stripe on left sleeve with 3 bars for a total of 4 1/2 + years of overseas service. The right sleeve bears and Aerial Mechanic patch.
- Original U.S. WW2 overseas garrison cap in size 7 3/8 with Air Corps piping.
- Original book titled Service Record World War I and II Irondale, Ohio and shows a picture of Sgt. Bonnar and outlines his service in WWII
- Copy of Bonnar POW Image
- Copy of article from hometown newspaper dated May 29th, 1945 announcing the release of Bonnar as a POW.
- Copy of Bonnar's Honorable Discharge.
- Copy of the postcard Bonnar sent from Stalag Luft III 3 to his mother home in Ohio. The postcard is dated May 29, 1944; his mother received the card on September 11, 1944. Kenneth wished everyone well and not to worry about him.
- Copies of multiple photos including Bonnar wearing this very Ike Jacket, him and his crew, photos of the crashed B-17, etc...
A truly breathtaking story of one of WWII's noble airmen who was forced to survive more than a year in the hands of the German POW camps.
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