John L. Lenburg, was born in Gary, Indiana, on February 18, 1924, to Leo
& Mary Lenburg, in Hobart, Indiana. John has a younger sister Joan
Garber. At the age of 18 on December 12, 1942, John enlisted in the U.S.
Army Air Corps. After training Aero I.T.I in L.A., Nellis Air Force
Base, Las Vegas and Clovis, New Mexico he was made a flight
engineer-gunner and was promoted to the rank of Tech Sergeant. He was
assigned to the 460th Bomb Group, 760th Bomb Squadron, 15th Air Force.
He flew on a B-24H Liberator bomber named "Miss Fortune."
June 30, 1944 on his 36th mission his group was leading a force of
500-600 planes of the 15th Air Force on a mission to bomb an oil
refinery in Blechammer, Germany. His plane was flying the number 2
position in the high box of the lead element. Over southern Hungary in
the Lake Balaton area they were hit by 35-40 ME-210s. The plane was set
on fire and he had to bail out.
After landing he was rescued by two Hungarian soldiers from the wrath of
a group of peasants carrying scythes, pitchforks and clubs. He and the
surviving crewmembers were turned over to German military authorities.
He was sent to a Military Hospital #11 in Budapest for treatment of his
wounds and burns. After several weeks he was taken to Pestvideki Prison
in Budapest where he spent several weeks in the prison. After
interrogation he was sent by boxcar to Stalag-Luft IV prison camp in
Northern Germany. There he was put in Lager C Barracks 1 Room 3.
In winter of 1945 this POW camp of some 10,000 American and British
airmen were evacuated because of an advancing Russian Army into the
area. He spent the next three months on a forced march though Germany.
This march was an odyssey of very little food, disease and death that
covered some 600-miles. After enduring many hardships he was liberated
by the U.S. 104th Division near Bitterfeld, Germany. The march became
known as the “Black March” or the “Death March of Stalag Luft
IV.” Because of the inhumane conditions that had to be endured during
the march many of the POWs died. Capt. Leslie Caplin a captured American
flight surgeon was the medic in charge of our section known as “C”
section. He gave testimony against the camp officers and guards at war
crime hearing after the war. He was discharged from the service in
He wrote a book about his experiences in the war, entitled
“Kriegsgefangenen 6410: Pirisoner of War," which has been republished by
iUniverse. The book can ordered from the publisher at the following web
questions or correspondence should be sent to his son Jeff at
John L. Lenburg was a patriot to the end. Sadly, after a life dedicated
to his country and fellow man, he died of heart failure on November 4,
Erf's Crew (Pictured Above)
Flight Crew #3-8
1st Row Kneeling (L to R)
2nd Lt. Elder "Erf" A. Erfeldt** 0806051 Pilot
2nd Lt. Alan P. Barrowcliff 0808340 Co-Pilot
2nd Lt. Marshall J. Brown 0754876 Bombardier
2nd Lt. Matthew L. Hendricks** 0696732 Navigator (Not in picture)
2nd Row Standing (L to R)
T/Sgt. Ralph F. Wheeler* 12034660 Radio Operator\Right Waist Gun
S/Sgt. John "Jack" M. Nagle Jr. 18187526 Asst. Engineer\Nose
S/Sgt. Rube Waits Jr.* 14139369 Asst. Radio Operator\Ball Turret G.
S/Sgt. Martin Troy* 31313507 Armament \Left Waist Gunner
Sgt. Leonard "Pappy" Bernhardt** 31307804 Asst. Armament\Tail
T/Sgt. John L. Lenburg 15383056 Engineer\Top Turret Gunner
* Killed in action
* * Deceased