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Air Attaché in Berlin honors B-17 crash victims

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April 15, 2015 — Col David Pedersen, the air attaché to Germany, represented the U.S. Air Force and the American Embassy in Berlin March 22 on the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Peace Memorial Monument, which commemorates the crash of a B-17 in the German town of Großräschen.

"While this may only be one of thousands of similar events during the war, this peace memorial stands to remind us of all the victims of this unforgettable period in our history," Pedersen said. "We will not only remember it today, we will always remember the countless events like this that brought us together in a deep and lasting relationship."

Seventy years ago on March 22, 1945, an American B-17 was shot down by a German ME-262 over Großräschen. The plane crashed into a large house where several German civilians were taking refuge and exploded about 20 minutes after impact. Nine of the ten crewmembers died in the crash; the surviving crewmember, SSgt John Henry Bryner, managed to jump from the stricken plane.

In the house, 13 Germans perished. At the scene was a German teenager, Wolfgang Lehmann, who barely escaped the explosion of the B-17. Little is known of the event nor could it be researched since the town is located in the former East Germany. However, 60 years later in 2005, these two survivors would meet each other in Großräschen, along with the pilot of the ME-262 who shot down the B-17, to establish "The Peace Memorial Monument" in commemoration of the event and to honor the victims of WWII with a message of peace and reconciliation.