<bgsound src= "sentimentaljourney.mid" loop="1"> MY SEARCH FOR DENIS J. ALISON
By:Martin Kösters

      This isn't an easy story, it is more like a mystery. Let me tell you how I became involved with this research:

      In 1992 the chancellor of our local history club asked me to find out more about the war, especially the air war here in Legden. I have been interested in this for a long time (I joined the German Air Force as a SAM-operator).

      So, I made my way to the local archive at the town hall. Between a number of sheets I found a letter from Henk Jansen and Jaap Vermeer, from Putten, the Netherlands, where they asked for further information about Denis J. Alison. I got in contact with them and we later met in Holland. They believed for a long time, that Alison had tried a forced landing there and reached the ground safely. The mistake was that they always mentioned that it happened on 1 Nov. 1944. So Pilot that reached the ground there was believed to be Denis J. Alison. They got in contact with Lt. Alison`s brother, Thomas and he sent them pictures of Denis. The researchers showed the pictures to a man who helped this pilot in those days and he was very sure that he had seen Lt. Alison. (Note: Lt. Alison was very tall and the Dutchman remembered that the civilian clothes he provided were to short for the pilot.) The problem with this story is that the above mentioned incident did not happen on 1 Nov. 1944. This is the story up to 1987. At this time Lt. Alison was listed as M.I.A at the wall of missing at Margraten.

      In an attempt to find out more, the Dutch researchers wrote to the lord mayor of Legden. He informed them that all Allied casualties were reburied and reintered by order of the British authorities on 17 March 1947, at the Reichswald War Cemetery. I gave Henk Jansen the names of the airmen who died in Legden and told him Alison was the only USAAF serviceman who died here.

      Henk Janssen died a short time after this.

      One of the main problems in this story is that the U.S. authorities wouldn't accept the detailed documents because they were "Nazi ones". However, Thomas Alison sent me a copy of the already mentioned examination. Two graves in Cleve were opened and the remains, which were discovered to be those of F/Sgt Donocik, of the 315th (Polish) R.A.F. Squadron. Domick was shot down on 21 Feb.45, here in Legden and died in his Mustang II (400 meters from place where Alison crashed). The second evaluated remains were identified, based on dental characteristics, as those of AG Sgt Davidson, R.A.F. Davidson was the last to be buried before Alison and Donocik was laid to rest later on (he was the last killed airman here). The U.K. has granted no further investigations since that time.

      This leads us to the question of what happened to Lt. Denis Alison on 1 November 1944:

      After the 77th FS took off at 12.08hrs from King's Cliffe, they met their "Big Brothers" of the 2nd BD at 13:15 W/Egmond. At 13:40, 143 Bombers dropped 1000 leaflet bombs. They all reached their assigned targets, two plants at Gelsenkirchen, without incidents and they set out for a sweep, looking for ground targets in Hannover/Kassel area, but returned without results.

      If you have a look on the Encounter Report of 77th. FS pilot Lt. Raymond Flowers (seen at left) you will notice that his flight observed contrails at about 13:50, but they didn't catch up with the aircraft creating them. This was in the vicinity of Güterloh, Germany -- not too far away from the Jet-fighter bases Achmer and Hesepe. It appears that they spotted the jet a short time after its take off. So they returned to escorting their bombers.

      Capt. Michael. J. Jackson (486th), "Platform leader", reported that he had seen heavy twin contrails at 5 'o clock as they were in the vicinity of Enschede, Holland. (This would seem to indicate it was undoubtedly a Me- 262, not a Me -163 " Komet" or, as the Germans called it, "Kraftei") as many believe. That was at approx. 14:30. He immediately called out on the radio that there was an enemy aircraft bearing down on a number of P-51´s. This most likely is the call that Capt. Herbert (Alison's flight commander), had heard on his radio, as mentioned in Syd Edwards' account and the Dallas Morning News.

      After that the engagement began and the Me -262 was shot down ,after a very hot pursuit, six different pilots claimed this victory, which was later awarded to Lt. Groce (63rd.FS) and Lt. Gerbe (486th.FS)as shared. The Werknumber (Serial-#) of the Me-262 was 110386. The Pilot, Oberfähnrich Willi Banzhaff, had bailed out. Several pilots of different Squadrons took pictures of him in his chute and of the spinning ship, which was going down. A number of pilots also followed the unmanned aircraft firing at it the whole way.

      Not long after the engagement began, Lt. Alison was found to be missing from his No.4 Position in Yellow Flight and nothing was heard of him again. Pilots of the 352nd reported that they saw a P-51 going down in flames, but they did not note a chute being seen. Alison's P-51, "Hookin' Bull" crashed 4 km northwest of Legden, in the vicinity of Ahaus at 14:14. His last noted position was 52° 14`N - 06°53È, altitude. 31000feet (This represents actually a position over a waterway at Enschede.)The distance from Enschede to Legden is about 30km, from the last mentioned point to the crashsite it´s a distance of approx. 35km.

The area around the crashsite.

      An eyewitness, who has since died, told me that Alison's Mustang turned around their farmhouse at the last moment, just before it touched the ground. They actually worried that the plane would crash into their house and all would be over. It seems that he may have tried a forced landing, and actually it should be noted that the Mustang didn't "drill into" the ground. Another eyewitness told me that he had seen the Mustang in flames breaking through the cloudbase, just 5 km in front the crashsite. The burning wreckage lay on the surface. You can see the exact place still today ( see photo above) because at that place where Alison crashed, nothing will grow anymore.

      Lt. Alison was removed from the wreck on 3 November 1944, his body had been very badly burned. He was identified via his dog tags (803433 T 42 43 /3) and was buried at the same day at the local churchyard. (this is shown in a German police report). The armament of the Mustang was removed and reconstructed at another nearby Farmhouse, by German armed forces.

      On 17 Nov., 1944, the Luftwaffe sent a message to the USAAF with all details, so it is very unlogical to me why, after all the years, Lt. Denis Alison is still listed as an "MIA".

      On 17 March 1947 the graves of the Allied airmen who died here in Legden, where opened on the order of the R.A.F. in Krefeld. All bodies were moved to the Reichswald War Cemetery near Cleve. It would appear that Lt. Denis J Alison is buried beside the R.A.F. servicemen, without his name. No other Allied servicemen were buried here in Legden, so all bodies were moved to Cleve. The British ground troops who were killed here, weren't buried on the churchyard and they were moved to Cleve at a later time. So Lt. Alison must be still there, although only a new examination would clearify this. My goal is to give him his name back.

      In Memoriam Henk Janssen, Putten, Holland

An article written by Kösters on 1 November, 1994



(Photographs courtesy of Martin Kösters)

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