Mathias Jacob Kremer
Branch: U. S. Army Air Corps
Status: Honorable Discharge
Date of Service: 1941 – 1945
Home Town: Richville, MN
Mathias Jacob Kremer was born in Ottertail County, MN on July 24, 1916.
Mathias (Matt) married Geraldine Tobkin on September 29, 1941 in Perham, MN.
Matt was drafted into the US Army Air Corps in 1942 and served at Fort Snelling, Minneapolis, MN; Shepard Field, Odessa, TX; Scott Field, Belville, IL; Kingman Air Base, Kingman, AZ; Peyote Air Base, Peyote, TX; and Dyersburg Army Air Base, Halls, TN.
Matt’s crew was assigned a B-17 at Grand Island Air Base, Grand Island, ME.
His crew was assigned to the 358th Bomb Squadron, 303rd Bomb Group (Heavy), 1 Air Division; flying from the air base at Molesworth, England.
Matt’s first bombing mission was on September 23, 1943. It was a bombing mission to Nantes, France. His next four missions were to Emden, Germany; Bremen, Germany; Anklam, Germany; and Cosefield, Germany.
Matt’s sixth bombing mission was on October 14, 1943. The mission was to bomb the ball bearing plants at Schweinfurt, Germany. This mission was later named “Black Thursday” when the US Army Air Corps lost 60 aircraft of the 229 aircraft that were airborne. Matt’s aircraft, the Joan of Ark, was hit my enemy aircraft cannons shortly after their bombs were dropped. The enemy cannon fire killed the Tail Gunner and a Waist Gunner.
Matt later related the events…“Now the pilot couldn’t keep up with the formation, and we fell behind. That was when the Germans really came after us from all sides — left, right, top and bottom. I was firing at a plane coming in at me and it started to go down in smoke. I followed it with my turret to make sure I had gotten it. That is when a twenty millimeter shell came in behind me and went through my elbow and into my leg. Everything in the turret was bloody!”
”I turned in my turret seat so that I could climb up into the waist section of the plane with my right arm and leg. As soon as I got my eyes level with the floor of the plane, I realized that everyone was parachuting out. In the process of climbing out of the turret I had to remove my oxygen mask and we were at 26,000 feet altitude, so I needed to get out fast. I had to put on my parachute with just one hand; since my left hand was useless. I almost had it on when I was hit in the back with shrapnel from a shell. It knocked me down and I had to start over with getting the chute on my back. By now, all four engines were on fire and I knew they could blow up any time. I finally got my chute on and headed for the door. Just as I got to the door, I felt the plane start to nose dive. I jumped, and dropped about twelve to fifteen thousand feet before I opened my chute. While I was falling, a German kept circling me in a little fighter plane. When I opened my parachute, he saluted and left. By that time, I knew he had reported about where I would land.”
Matt landed in a wooded area northwest of Sindringen, Germany; approximately 30 miles north of Stuttgart, Germany. He was quickly captured and taken to an aid station in Sindringen. He was later transferred to a Prisoner of War Hospital in Ludwigsburg, Germany; which is just north of Stuttgart, Germany.
Sergeant Matt Kremer’s wounds to his left elbow and leg resulted in gangrene and his left leg was amputated. About six weeks later Matt was transferred to an American Prisoner of War Hospital at Meiningen, Germany, east of Frankfurt, Germany.
During the summer of 1944, Matt was informed that he was to be one of the prisoners that were to be freed in an arrangement made through the Red Cross. He was to be part of an exchange of badly wounded prisoners. He was put on a train to Stockholm, Sweden then aboard the M. S. Gripsholm. He arrived in New York City approximately one year after he was shot down over Germany. At the Percy Jones Hospital in Battle Creek, Michigan, Matt was re-united with his wife and son. During his stay at Battle Creek he was outfitted with a prosthetic for his left leg. He was honorably discharged on Valentine’s Day, 1945.
Matthew Jacob Kremer passed away in October 2009, and is buried in St. Joseph of the Lakes Cemetery, in Circle Pines, MN.