Richard Charles “Dick” Huebotter

Richard Charles “Dick” Huebotter

Birth
Davenport, Scott County, Iowa, USA
Death 14 Mar 1998 (aged 75)
Placentia, Orange County, California, USA
Burial Fullerton, Orange County, California, USA
Plot Section: San Rafael, North Wall, No. 73
Memorial ID 192621640 View Source

Richard “Dick” Huebotter was born 18 August 1922 in Davenport, Iowa to Gertrude Anna “Neff” Huebotter and Carl Frederic Huebotter. He had one sister Kathryn, and two brothers William and Robert.
By 1935 the family had relocated to Santa Monica, California. Dick now 17 was finishing his senior year of high school, and working for a restaurant, followed by a couple years employed at Douglas Aircraft as a sheet riveter.

On 11 February 1943 Dick enlisted in the Army Air Forces (AAF) entering service at the Santa Ana Army Air Base, Costa Mesa, CA as an Aviation Cadet, Army Serial Number: 19129898. Dick was washed out of pilot and air crew participation due to poor eye sight. Dick was then transferred to the Fresno Army Air Forces Training Center, CA for further assessment and future AAF ground assignment. Knowing he had another physical exam coming up Dick memorized the eye chart and following this exam qualified for areal gunnery training. This training took place at Las Vegas Army Air Field, NV. Upon graduation from gunnery school Dick was sent to aviation mechanics school at Sheppard Field, Wichita County, TX. Upon completion here Dick was transferred to Alexandria Army Air Base, Louisiana; a replacement crew and combat crew training base.

At Alexandria, AAB, Dick was introduced to the B-17 crew he would serve with once deployed to the European Theater of Operations within the Eighth Air Force, specific assignment not yet declared. This original crew consisted of the following members: 1st Lt. Dean Allen, (P); 1st Lt. Charles Rapp Jr., (CP); 2nd Lt. Charles Donahue, (N); 1st Lt. Michael Vlahos, (B); T/Sgt Harvey Purkey, Jr. (ETTG); T/Sgt Robert Newsbigle, (RO); S/Sgt Eugene LeVeque, (BTG); S/Sgt Richard Huebotter, (WG); S/Sgt. Charles Reinartsen, (WG); S/Sgt. James “Rae” Carey, (TG).

After several months of combat crew training at Alexandria this replacement crew departed for England aboard an ocean liner troopship for a 14 day voyage. Upon debarkation at Liverpool in early June 1944 this Dick and his crew were assigned to the 368th Bomb Squadron, 306th Bomb Group, Eighth Air Force operating from RAF Thurleigh, USAAF Station 111, located near Bedford, Bedfordshire, England.

On 26 August 1944 Dick was flying with an adjusted Dean crew with replacements aboard B-17G-40-VE-42-97946, named "Hard To Get". The target for today was the synthetic oil refineries at Gelsenkirchen, Germany; about 38 miles east of the Dutch boarder. The crew this day was as follows, with inclusion of their final fates:

1st Lt Dean Courtney Allen (P), ASN: O-759675 (Georgia) POW; Stalag VII A /RTD/EUS

1st Lt Charles U Rapp, Jr (CP), ASN: O-705426 (Pennsylvania), KIA, near Budberg, Germany

2nd Lt Charles Howard Evans, Jr (N), ASN: O-716290 (Pennsylvania), POW/Murdered; Groß-Gerau, Germany

1st Lt Michael L Vlahos (B) ASN: O-703540 (Ohio), KIA, near Budberg, Germany

T/Sgt Harvey J Purkey, Jr (ETTG) ASN: 16113858 (Michigan) POW/Murdered; Groß-Gerau, Germany

T/Sgt Robert B Newsbigle (RO) ASN: 33355040 (Pennsylvania), KIA, near Budberg, Germany

S/Sgt Eugene Wallace LeVeque (BTG) ASN: 39135725 (California), KIA, near Budberg, Germany

S/Sgt Richard Charles Huebotter (WG) ASN: 19129898 (California), POW, Stalag Luft IV, & Stalag Luft I /RTD/EUS

S/Sgt James Raeburn “Rae” Carey (TG) ASN: 19076562 (Oregon), POW; Stalag Luft IV /RTD/EUS

Regarding this final mission the following is an excerpt from the postwar witness statement by Dick Huebotter related to the questionnaire sent him in regard to Missing Air Crew Report No. 8464, and the loss of B-17G, Serial Number 42-97964, named “Hard To Get” and its crew that day. This letter response was to Lt Col. John J. Smith, Chief Notification Section; dated 26 Feb 1946.

"It was August 26, 1944. Our target was Gelsenkirchen, Germany. We had no trouble on the route in. We reached the I.P. at scheduled time and were on the bomb run when we were hit by flak. The first burst hit our left wing and knocked off most of the other section. The second burst struck the bomb bay and started a fire. The third burst hit in the waist and a fire was started there also. I went for the small “foamite” extinguisher. Looking over my head I saw all of the control wires in a jumbled condition. The fourth burst hit the right wing and knocked out numbers three and four engines. This all happened rapidly. The pilot gave the order to bail out. The co-pilot was at the controls. The pilot said to him "Get out Chuck" but the co-pilot answered, "I've got the controls. I'm flying the ship. You go and I'll follow." From the statements of the crew members in the forward part of the ship I believe they left in the following manner; navigator, bombardier, engineer, pilot. As I left the ship I could feel it falling off on its left wing. The crew of the ship whose wing we were flying on that day were shot down about a month later and we met them in prison camp. They said they watched our ship after it was hit. They saw several chutes and then they said the ship seemed to fall apart but it did not look like there was an explosion. The report turned in back at the base was that four chutes were seen. I landed in the Rhine river and was picked up by a German in a row boat. He towed me ashore and I was taken into custody by a German soldier. He took me to a small shack which was some sort of a headquarters for a flak gun crew. Here I met Lt Evans. He had on his officers greens under his heated suit and G.I. shoes under his leather flying boots. He gave me his flying suit and boots and I took off my wet clothes. We remained there until about 1730 hours. A German officer then came with two soldiers in a truck. This truck was used to go around to various spots and pick up parts of our ship. Our first stop was in a field and a car came up pulling a trailer carrying a casket. The soldiers went into the field behind some trees and came back carrying some clothes. I recognized Lt Vlahos “bunny type” heated flying suit. We then went over to where the nose of the ship had landed in a back yard. They ordered Lt Evans out of the truck to go with them, but told me to stay as I was injured and unable to walk. When they returned Lt Evans said they had made him help them remove Lt Rapp’s body from the flight deck. They also brought the G´ box, the servo unit of the auto-pilot all badly smashed and several rounds of fifty caliber ammunition. We then went on further and picked up the life raft, the dinghy radio, some radio tuning units, the spare chute from the waist, a jacket I recognized as Sgt Newsbigle’s and the black flying shoes of the ball turret gunner, Sgt LeVeque. There were also two more caskets. From there we went to a headquarters building where we picked up Lt Allen. He said he had been with Sgt Purkey and Carey until they had brought him there for treatment for his ankle. We then drove to an airfield where we saw Sgt Purkey and Carey. We spent the night here in jail, one man to a cell. The following day three guards came after us. We had to walk into town. Lt Evans and Sgt Purkey assisted me. We went to the station and were waiting for a train when the air raid sirens blew. They took us into a bomb shelter. We could hear the ships overhead and bombs dropping. After the raid we went back to the station and boarded the train. This was just after midday. We rode this train to Cologne. Here we went into a Wehrmacht canteen and ate our supper. We boarded another train and rode to Wiesbaden. There we were delayed about two hours waiting for another train. It was about 2:00 AM when we left there. This is when Lt Evans and Sgt Purkey decided to escape. At a small station we stopped and as the train started rolling again they opened the door and escaped. The guards were asleep, but when the door slammed shut they woke up. The train was rolling and they could do nothing. We stopped at the next station and they telephoned the situation. We got the next train back. When we got there the infantry was out with shovels and clubs to beat the bushes. We waited there for some time, but it was getting late so we got the next train for Frankfurt."

Regarding the Sgt Purkey and Lt Evans escape attempt they did not make it very far after their escape from the POW train at Wiesbaden. They only traveling about 10 miles / 16 km southeast before being captured again at Trebur, Germany on 29 August 1944. Lt Evans and Sgt Purkey were then transported about 3 miles / 5 km to Groß-Gerau (English Gross-Gerau) and paraded down the main street being beaten with sticks, stones and fists by angry Nazi civilians who had recently been bomb by allied aircraft. Then Sgt Purkey and Lt Evans were murdered in the closed courtyard of the city hall. The Groß-Gerau chief of police and another man were convicted of these murders. Case No. 12-793 (US v. Nikolaus Fachinger and Heinrich Flauaus) Trial concluded 3 Aug 1945; both Nazis were convicted of this war crime being sentenced to death by hanging. For trial transcript see:

https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/dachautrial/fs59.pdf

S/Sgt Richard Charles Huebotter was held by the Nazis at Stalag Luft IV, Gross Tychow, Pomerania (now Tychowo, Poland). Luckily because of Dick’s injuries he was transfer to Stalag Luft I, near Barth, Germany on the Baltic Sea north coast. On 1 May 1945 the camp was liberated by advancing Soviet troops. Between 13–15 May, the camp was evacuated by American aircraft in "Operation Revival". American POWs were sent to Camp Lucky Strike north-east of Le Havre, France, before being shipped back to the United States about a month later. Arriving back at his base of enlistment, Santa Ana Army Air Base, Dick was honorably discharged in Oct 1945.

In January 1946 Dick started his career in banking as a cashier/teller with the Security Pacific National Bank, branch in Santa Monica. On 30 July 1947 Dick married Dora Elizabeth Carroll they had two daughters together Nancy and Connie. In 1963 Dick relocated to the branch in Placentia, Orange County, CA. Successive promotions and education followed. In 1971 Dick graduated from the Southern Graduate School of Banking, SMU, Dallas TX. Dick retired in January 1986 as Vice President of Operations for Security Pacific National Bank. Dick died 14 Mar 98 of Pulmonary Fibrosis, at age 75 in Placentia, CA.

Richard "Dick" Huebotter video interview of his life and Army Air Forces service; in his own words, 30 minutes:

https://archive.org/details/TheGunnerRichardHuebotterVTS011

S/Sgt Huebotter: Awards and Commendations include but are not limited to:
The European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
Air Medal w/3 Oak Leaf Clusters
Purple Heart Medal
Good Conduct Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Prisoner of War Medal
306BG; Distinguished Unit Citations: Germany, 11 Jan 1944; Germany, 22 Feb 1944 (all members eligible to wear)

Bio by Scott Muselin: Vindicator I