In August 2007, I took a European vacation to a memorial service for B-17 veterans in the Czech Republic. My uncle,
James A. Weiler, was a 22-year old pilot of a B-17 when killed in action over the White Carpathian Mountains on Aug.
29th, 1944. It was the worst loss of U.S. Airmen in a single battle. In 15 minutes, nine B-17's, one B-24, and 100 airmen
were shot down with 41 killed. All but two of the 59 survivors were prisoners of war. The local townspeople held
memorial services at the various crash sites as they have for the past 63 years, vowing never to forget. One of the
sites is in the City of Slavicin, Czech Republic. It also happens to be the geographical center of Europe, equidistant
from all the major countries. What better place to fly the MBC burgee than the crossroads of Europe!
|Todd Weiler's Search for his Uncle
|I also traveled to Houston for a reunion where I was officially made the co-historian of the 2nd Bomb group.
I have been successful in helping Czech historians locate U.S. families of B-17 veterans so their stories can be
published in an upcoming book about the great air battles over the Czech Republic. I spent the first evening in
Houston looking through history books and discovered more information about my Uncle Jim's flight. I found
pictures of the craters on a Czech farm where the bombs were salvoed before the crash and photos of the fighter
that shot down "Mary" – a mystery name until we discovered that it was listed on the German fighter report.
The report was written the day of the battle and was just what I had hoped to find. In addition, during the trip,
I was lucky enough to get a B-17 ride with two B-17 vets.
|December 10, 2007
A strange thing happened this weekend. A small miracle happened.
As some of you know for the past two years I've been sharing information with my Czech friends about my
Uncle Jim's career as a B-17 pilot. One of the things we have been struggling with is any pictures of Jim.
Tragically, in his last letter home before he was killed he mentioned he was going to buy a camera now that he
had a ration ticket and some money to do so. He never got the camera and we never got any pictures.
While I've been caught up in trying to catch-up with my Czech friends and others in learning my WWII Air
Corps history, I put off going through all of my father's things since Joe passed away in July 2005. In a way,
without my father's passing, I might never have gotten to meet Svat or Roman my Czech friends. My dad would
have likely not understood the letter and possibly simply tossed it away. Any rate, fate was in our favor and
again this weekend, a small miracle happened.
Jan my wife was on me to clean off the living room table in preparation to have some guests come over. In the
process we were moving around the many boxes containing my dad's things I hoped to fully inventory in the winter
months ahead. One of the items Jan found was a large manila envelop. On it was hand-written, "Picture of Crew.
Abbreviations and duty Codes." Also, "B-17-G 44-6164 COMBAT CREW, Pilot Weiler, J.A." It has a return postage
heading, "War Department, Army Air Force." It has crossed out text which reads, "Commanding Officer ATC Station
of Departure". Below that crossed out is "This envelop contains airplane shortage list." On the top there is a heading
that is either highlighted or crossed out "For Inclusion in PE envelope". I suspect that means Personal Effects.
Below are the two gems I found in the envelop. Clearly this is one of the crews Jim flew with. For my non-family
friends, Jim is bottom row front, second from left wearing dark officer's hat. I suspect the officers are wearing the
hats with the clenched eagle emblems. They are all wearing their Colt 1911 45 cal. side-arms in the "brownie belt".
The 10 members suggest this is a B-17 crew as that is the correct number of crew per plane. Notice Jim's right wrist.
Yes, that is the famed silver bracelet! I'm kind of at a lost for words to express how I feel about finding this. It's like
finding the holy grail. Svat and I just a few weeks ago were lamenting how sad it was we don't have a crew photo.
Lo and behold this appeared. Thanks for the Christmas present Jim. It is awesome!
|Now that I feel like Indiana Jones or Nicholas Cage in "National Treasure" another mystery is solved and another
begins. Who are the other people in the photo? When and where was it taken? My first thought is possibly New
Mexico since they are rolling their sleeves up from the heat. The ground looks arid. More questions to answer.
No other clues on the photo or in the envelop.
Also in the envelop is Jim's graduation certificate making him a pilot of a B-17. I am told, Jim's brother Harold "Doc"
Weiler pinned Jim's wings on at his graduation. Harold was a Naval flight instructor serving in Oklahoma.
Interestingly, next week will be the 64th Anniversary of Jim getting his first set of wings.
What great timing to find this stuff.
I haven't have time to clean up the scan like a want to, but wanted to get this out to you all as soon as possible.
Hope to find more treasure this winter. The story keeps growing.
Moral: Never grumble about doing a task...there could be a pot of gold waiting at the end!
|December 14, 2007
Just a note to say within 24 yours I was able to learn the location of my Uncle Jim's Combat crew photo.
The answer came from the other side of the world thanks to the Internet. My friend Svat forward it to a Czech
author he is working with and they found a similar photo very quickly.
The location is confirmed as HUNTER FIELD AFB, SAVANNAH, GEORGIA.
|February 18, 2008
This story just keeps growing. You are going to like this one.
Last week I might have mentioned that I got a call from a B-17 Vet Morrie Yellen. What a fateful call that was. For the
past two and a half years since I learned the real WWII story of my Uncle James A. Weiler, we have all been using the
database from the 2nd Bomb group to figure out who flew with whom. I tried to check out Morrie's story. What I
couldn't figure out was why Morrie's story about Uncle Jim waking him up for his first combat mission did not sync
with Jim's flight record?
For those that haven't heard, Morrie is the first veteran I've found that has a direct memory of Jim. Morrie called me last
week after seeing my name as a new officer in the 2nd Bombgroup newsletter that came out this month. Morrie said he
remembers Jim because Morrie overslept for his first combat mission. Instead of getting court-martialed, Jim calmed
him down, got him on the plane and encouraged Morrie to just follow along. Since they dropped on the lead plane's
bombardier, Morrie was safe. Morrie said they later became friends because they lived so close together (about 30
miles). He said Jim was really a great guy and Morrie had nothing but praise for Jim.
But something was wrong. Jim's first combat mission was listed as #225 to Montpelier, Fr. Secondly, my Aunt Mary's
family funeral card for Jim said he died on his 26th mission. I assumed the card was wrong and the 2nd bomb data
was correct. It was...until Loy Dickinson reminded me of how to use the (*) as a wildcard while searching the database.
By the way, he was the navigator on that first combat mission for Yellen and Jim was the co-pilot!
So now Loy confirmed the mission happened. Why couldn't I find it in Jim's record?
Locating Morrie (Morris Yellen's) record was the key and what a surprise. There it was...the co-pilot's name (Weller, J
A). It was misspelled! So how many other missions did pilot WELLER fly? BINGO! Now I've added six more missions
to Jim's list for a total of 19. So we now are closer to the 26 that was mentioned on the funeral card.
Next, I spent an hour at www.2ndbombgroup.org running wild cards on the various ways to spell WEILER
and could not find any more. Although I swear early on I thought a saw a spelling WEILLER) with two L's.
I wasn't able to find it again. Perhaps the other 7 missions are buried elsewhere. Some missions to
dangerous targets were counted as doubles. Perhaps that is the origin of the 26 number?
Wow! Never would have found Jim's other missions without a call from Morrie!
The new numbers work well as they show Jim flew just about every other mission with only a few back to back.
It also made no sense that a new pilot would fly just two missions and be promoted to pilot on the third mission.
Now it makes sense. And all this time it was right under my nose! Words cannot convey how I feel right now.
Another big break! And the good news keeps coming!
Today I also got an e-mail from Roman Susil in Czech Republic who made contact,
well ...you can read Roman's e-mail for yourself.
Todd, as you probably know I´m a member of the forum at www.ww2aircraft.net, where my nickname is SEESUL.
Few days ago I got a message from one women from Georgia state that found me on this forum. Her name
is Ramona Bartos. She told me that she got married to a Czech guy, who´s father lived in Pitin, near Bojkovice
and also very close to Krhov. So in fact her father-in-law saw both Weiler´s and Tune´s B-17's falling
down from the sky as a 10 year old boy! He´s still living and lives in Chicago.
Unbelievable! More pieces keep falling into place. I'll contact her shortly. Now I have TWO reasons to go to Chicago,
1) visit Morrie and 2) a possible eye witness to Jim's crash. This is another great day!
I'll work with the 2nd Bomb officers to get the Weller J A fixed.
I know there are other data base corrections pending. One more for the list!
Finally, for those that I might have missed, John Adair was a waist gunner KIA on Jim's plane on mission #263.
Here is the post from Roman again about a hat being found!
Last Sunday I was in the Mike Zitnik´s museum in Sanov, CZ to see what´s new and found out that he has
something what especially Todd Weiler and Perry Giles will enjoy. In the show case dedicated to the machine
crashed near Krhov he has an aviator´s hat. One of the local people found this hat on the field where the machine
hit the ground and took it home. He noted the name of the airmen who wore it and put the hat into the envelope.
After this man passed away, think in 90´s, nobody knew about this hat. 4 years ago relatives of this man found
the envelope and gave it to another citizen of Krhov and told him to give it to some museum. Mike Zitnik visited
Krhov few weeks ago and they gave him this envelope with that hat. So today the hat is in his museum.
Why in the "Krhov" show case? On the envelope there was written JOHN ADAIR!!!
John was a right waist gunner on this machine and was KIA that day...
So if you wanna see the museum in Sanov, go to
you only have to be registered there as this is a forum, but it´s very easy
If you wanna know more about John H. Adair go to
Perry Giles from Waxahachie, TX, is that man who brought John Adair´s story back to light last year.
Thank you Perry!!!
Greetings from Zlin, Czech Republic
So there you have it. I have high rez pictures of the hat to add to my collection now.
A monster post, but all the details that have been developing over the holidays and more.
Stay tuned for the next installment! Now, I've got to go and shovel more snow. Ugh!
|February 22, 2008
Just got this today. Here is the latest discovery of another eye-witness account of the battle on
Aug 29, 1944. It came with four PDF's of a related story about how a squad of Americans went
behind enemy lines and helped set the cease fire in Czech Republic ending WWII with the Germans
(great story!). E-mail me if you want those files as some recipients of this are on dial-up. The four
files are about 2-3 MB each written by Ramona Bartos and her husband.
Rather long, but good detail here about that August day 1944.
Can you remember what you did as a 10-year old?
Enjoy, Todd Weiler
Date: Fri, 22 Feb 2008 09:58:44 -0500
From: "Ramona Bartos" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "Todd Weiler" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Re: New Find! Six more missions for Jim!
Cc: "Roman Susil" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
It is indeed wonderful to hear from you, and I appreciate you contacting us.
My husband and I had always heard stories from his father Zdenek Bartos and uncle Jan (Jenda) Bartos who
grew up in Pitin (the village to the northwest or so of Krhov) about downed American planes during the war.
(For Roman's benefit, my father-in-law's father was Frantisek Bartos, who played the organ in the village church
of St. Stanislav, and painted landscapes of the area in his free time. Frantisek Bartos was the son of Antonin
Bartos from Pitin, and Rozalie Vrbova from Sanov. Frantisek Bartos was married to Matylda Mikesova, who
was the daughter of Jan Mikes from Luzna and Marianna Borova from Slavicin-Mladotice;
she was born in Vienna, though, and spoke German fluently.)
From my father-in-law and uncle, we had heard specifically the story of an American flyer who was
about to be rounded up by the Germans, and who took off his ring and gave it to a villager standing nearby
(but not in Pitin), and a mass grave of Americans from a plane crash (this is the grave that was in Sanov).
We'd also heard of a plane that crashed with an extremely loud explosion (this was your uncle's ship), and
dogfights over the White Carpathian mountains. As a boy, my father-in-law remembered the large "vics" of
American bombers passing over Pitin, appearing always about 10 am. He said they always seemed to turn in one
direction or another over Pitin, and so my husband I believe that Pitin was an IP, or initial point for the bombers.
On a map, Pitin is easy to spot -- an S-curve railroad encircling a church on a hill.
click onto "letecka", and you can see an aerial photo of the town and the entire countryside,
including Krhov to the southwest.)
My father-in-law escaped from Czechoslovakia in 1953, and came to the US, settling in Chicago.
As a result, he himself never knew the details of exactly who these Americans were, and after 1948,
it was not exactly politic to discuss it.
I spoke to him last night about his memories, and he apologizes he cannot remember more but
he says more comes back to him the more he thinks about it:
in August 1944, Mr. Bartos was 10 1/2 years old. As usual, upon sighting or sound of the first bombers, school was
dismissed about 10 am. (The nearby town of Bojkovice, which had a German Mauser factory, had been aerially
bombed. I believe that the concussions from the blasts caused the boards that his father had nailed over windows
to come loose; they fell on his cat, killing her.) The idea was that if Pitin were bombed, or a plane crashed in the
vicinity, if it were to fall on the school, all the children would be killed; if school were dismissed, the kids would be
scattered around the town, and more likely to survive. Mr. Bartos calls this time the "most important of the war"
because he got let out of school early for quite a long time! As he said, not having to go to school is what you
appreciate when you are 10 years old, and not so much the reason why.
On August 29, 1944, school had been let out per usual, and he had gone home. He was sitting under a tree in the
garden (yard) of his house, which was on the main road in Pitin close to the church. He heard the bombers, and
because it was cloudy that day, he couldn't see them as clearly as usual. Then he saw planes peeking in and
out of the clouds, and he realized that it was a dogfight. Because he was sitting under the tree, he moved a
little distance away so he could see more. He also heard shooting.
At some point, he believes he saw one or two planes. The one he is sure about was the one was headed more or
less north, on fire and plummeting to the ground and passing west of the village church (St. Stanislav sits on the
hill in Pitin). He said he believes that either both or one of that plane's wings had already broken off. From what
Roman believes, this was Tune's ship that crashed near Rudice.
He also believes he might have seen the one that crashed near Krhov -- that would have mostly likely been your
uncle's plane. He remembers one plane "tumbling" and spiraling, and just one parachute coming out. He remembers
very clearly the loud explosion from the direction of Krhov, and believed it was the bomb payload exploding. A few
days later (he can't remember how soon afterwards), he and some friends (all boys about his age) went to the crash
scene. He remembered a very large impact crater there.
He went to Sanov with his mother to visit relatives (Romane: Vrbova rodina tam) there, and they saw bombs
sticking out of the ground. He remembers one was "cracked". He realizes now just how dangerous that was, but
as a child, did not appreciate the danger. Sometime later, the Germans sent people in to remove them.
He did not see Irving Thompson, who according to Roman was the only survivor from the Queen, and traveled
through Pitin, but heard about an American brought to Pitin on a motorcycle with three wheels (i.e. sidecar).
He told me in Czech that they changed the tire there, which is the same as what Roman told me. Apparently,
there was a young man present in Pitin, who had learned English in Prague, who spoke to Thompson.
He said he could not remember who they said that young man was.
The village boys went to the different crash sites after all of the fliers were either captured or buried, and picked
up the ball bearings. Apparently, the Czech kids had their own version of soapbox derby cars, and the ball
bearings made the cars go faster. People also picked up the casings from the .50 caliber shells for the brass.
Many times he saw what he called "aluminum foil" falling to the ground over Pitin from the bombers. He
didn't know the English word -- chaff -- but said he figured now that they were dropping it because they
thought the Germans were monitoring them on radar. He didn't realize there were so many planes downed that day;
he only knew about the ones in Sanov, Krhov, and Rudice.
As my father likes to say, he has become a snowbird, and is in Florida right now where it's warmer.
He'll be back in Chicago when it warms up.
We are going to contact our Uncle Jenda who lives in Brno, CZ, to see what he remembers. He is a few years younger
(8 in 1944), but was the person who told us the story about the flyer giving his ring away. He is hard of hearing, so we
will have to rely only on the internet to communicate with him. Because he stayed in the Czech Republic, he may
know more stories he heard from people who were adults at the time of the mission.
For many years, my husband and I had wanted to find out what bomber group the downed planes were from, and
what had happened to the rest of the crew. Almost as serendipity, a few weeks ago, I was looking for something on
Ebay, and came across a copy of the Mission No. 263 book. I read the description, and thought, maybe this is what we
have been looking for!?! I bid on the book, and while I was waiting for the auction to end, I started to google. And
that's how I found Roman's great posts on the WW2 Aircraft forums. And the rest is history. So a big big thanks (diky
moc!) to Roman for responding, and getting us all connected.
By the way, please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you. My husband is in the final days of
preparing for the Georgia bar examination (Romane: statni zkouska za advokati), and I took off a few days to
help him. When he finishes up next week, he will be contacting you as well; he is pretty much fluent in Czech, and
has a special interest in the American presence in Czechoslovakia in WWII (as I do). I'm attaching an article that we
wrote for WWII Magazine about an American mission to eastern Bohemia near the Polish border; information about
this mission was classified until about 10 years ago. The odd thing is that this mission passed through the town
where my mother-in-law is from (Ostromer), and her father would have seen the Americans there. He thinks it's very
strange and providential in a way that both of his parents' hometowns in Czechoslovakia have a connection to the
Americans in WWII, because neither one of them was from western Bohemia, which the Americans liberated.
We look forward to hearing from you, and Todd, hope you are not too snowed under!
All the best,