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Searching for Purple Heart Awarded to Perry W. Wolfe - K.I.A. 3 Mar 1945

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Hoping to locate my great uncle's Purple Heart which we believe was unintentionally sold at an estate sale of one of his siblings.  He was the co-pilot of B24J Liberator 44-48844 which was shot down over Madgeburg, Germany on 3 March 1945.

2LT Perry W. Wolfe
ASN:  O-558011
8th AF - 445th Bomber Group - 793rd Bomber Squadron (H)
KIA:  3 March 1945  Madgeburg, Germany

I have a rather thick stack of documents that were sent to his sister in 2008.  Many of the documents pertain to the Army's investigation into the whereabouts of his remains in 1956/57.


Information pieced together through the investigation found that supposedly a local German farmer (Waldemar Scherz) came across the burned remains of an aircraft crashed in a field near Rothensee, Germany in which he found two bodies.  He removed the bodies from the wreckage and returned to his home and reported them to the local police.  Three days later two German police officers arrived and directed the removal of the remains. 


Attempts were made to contact these police officers but one had passed away and the other had moved away.  However, the widow of the deceased officer (Louisa Arendt) was interviewed and stated that her deceased husband was buried in the adjacent grave to the two Americans whose plane crashed on 3 March 1945.  She also provided a hand drawn map of the Westenhusen cemetery indicating the location of their graves to her late husbands.  Mrs. Arndt also remembered that in 1947 a team of American soldiers came and removed the remains of the American soldiers.


From here things get a bit sketchy as information in recovery documents dating from 1946/47 greatly differ from those from the 1956/57 investigation.  The 56/57 investigation documents state that cemetery records showed no American remains were ever buried there and that all of the "unknowns" in the cemetery were known to be eastern laborers or Soviet soldiers.  However, according to the 46/47 documents the remains of 20 Americans were recovered from the Westenhusen cemetery, 10 of which were identifiable via dental records or dog tags - five of which were the remains of Perry's fellow crew members.  It was concluded at that time that Perry's remains were most probably one of the 10 sets of remains that were unidentifiable.  Perry's name adorns the Wall of the Missing at the American War War Cemetery in Magraten, Netherlands.


Now for another plot twist...


In January of 1956 an East German by the name of Walter Nitschke contacted the Consulate General with information on the body of Perry W. Wolfe.  Here is the information he gave to the consulate:



Nitschke said he arrived in the West Zone with an interzonal pass but did not intend to return to the East Zone.  Nitschke said that while he was hunting near Madgeburg in September or October 1955, he found the remains of the body of what appeared to be an American airman.  He was told by some local inhabitants of the area that a four-engine plane had been set down there in 1944.  He found only some scorched aluminum parts since most of the plane had reportedly been removed by the scrap concern of the V.E.B. Schrott, Madgeburg.  

According to Nitschke the remains of the body and plain were between Rotensee and Glinnenberg at a point about 300 meters from the river towards the canal.  Nitschke said he saw a few bones of the forearm and part of a scorched skull.  Near it was a piece of cloth with a zipper which looked as though it had been a part of an aviator's flight suit.  Next to the bones he found the enclosed identification tag (dog tag) which bears the following information:


Perry W. Wolfe
O558011   T44  O




Nitschke said he buried what remained of the body and put a battered steel helmet, which he though must have belonged to the airman, on top of the grave.


I have this dog tag in my possession (photos below), which was returned to his sister Ida May in November of 2008 along with a copy of his complete IDPF which contained all of the above mentioned documentation.  I have my doubts about Nitschke's story and the authenticity of the dog tag, but at this point it would be all but impossible to try to investigate further.  Part of me even wonders if maybe he was the other German police officer that collected the two bodies from the farmer that later moved away and he'd kept the dog tag as a souvenir.  

Regarding Perry's PH, I have found a cached image where it was listed online for sale back in 2012/13 as part of a set that included the PH for Charles P. Flanzer who was part of the same crew and killed on the same mission.  Copy of image from that listing is attached.

2nd Lt Perry Wolfe Dog Tag2.JPG

2nd Lt Perry Wolfe WWII Dog Tag.JPG


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That is an amazing story. I cannot speak for the wearabout of the purple heart, however I do remember when the set came up for sale.The dog tag is original and did belong to Lt. Wolfe, quite a piece of history. I would encourage you to share this story either in the medal section or the ID tag section to get a little bit more circulation. I wish you luck on your quest, and I hope his medal finds its way back to you.

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That listing is a listing from www.militaryaviationarticfacts.com - Dave I believe is the gentleman that runs that website.  I have bought things from him in the past - he may be able to point you in the right direction.   Good luck on your quest, I am sure you will find that although it may have been sold unintentionally, as military collectors and preservationists, I suspect it is being cared for greatly.  Again, good luck on your quest.


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