Airwar over Denmark

Airwar over Denmark

 By Søren C. Flensted


1939-1940 Updated 9/4-24
1941 Updated 28/4-22
1942 Updated 17/8-23
1943 Updated 15/4-24
1944 Updated 15/4-24
1945 Updated 4/12-22

1940 New 30/11-23
1941 New 23/7-21
1942 Updated 19/3-24
1943 Updated 28/1-23
1944 Updated 23/7-23
1945 Updated 16/7-23

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B 17F 42-5862 ditched in the North Sea 25/7-1943.

The aircraft belonged to USAAF, 8 Air Force, 100 Bomb Group, 350 Bomb Squadron and was coded LN-?
T/O Thorpe Abbotts. OP: Warnemünde / Kiel.

The primary target of the day was Warnemünde but due to the weather the secondary target being Kiel was attacked. Over Kiel they were met by heavy flak and 42-5862 which the crew had christened “Duration + Six” was hit.
While returning over the North Sea it became necessary to ditch the plane and all except Pilot Captain Richard Carey and Co–Pilot 2.Lt William J. Styles were assembled in the radio room when the plane hit the water.



Pilot Captain Richard Carey.


 (Linda Berkery nee Styles)

Co–Pilot 2.Lt William J. Styles.


        (Judy Moore)

Tail Gunner S/Sgt Maynard T. Parsons, April 15 1943.


          (Judy Moore)

Tail Gunner S/Sgt Maynard T. Parsons.


 (Linda Berkery nee Styles)

Tail Gunner S/Sgt Maynard T. Parsons.


 (Linda Berkery nee Styles)

Waist Gunner Sgt Robert D. Lepper


 (Lou Ann Berman via Linda Berkery)


After the landing Waist Gunner Sgt Robert D. Lepper and Tail Gunner S/Sgt Maynard T. Parsons managed to get out of the top hatch even thou they were both wounded. Also Carey and Styles managed to get out before the aircraft sank.
When this happened Bombardier 2.Lt William E. Griffith was seen trying to get out thru the top hatch but went down with “Duration + Six”.

The following crew members died and have no known grave. Radio operator T/Sgt Steven S. Kopczewski, Engineer T/Sgt Lester I. Berg, Waist Gunner S/Sgt Charles J. Mayville and Ball Turret Gunner S/Sgt Norman C. Eddy.

Navigator 2.Lt Calvin H. De Fevre and Bombardier 2.Lt William E. Griffith also perished and rest in USA today.

The ditching had happened at 18:00 hours approx. 75 miles southwest of Esbjerg. Skipper Svend L. Petersen of fishing vessel E 475 of Esbjerg had only just set his trawl when he saw the aircraft ditch. He left the trawl and set course for the plane. Upon reaching the place where the B 17F had ditched they could take the four survivors onboard. Carey and Styles were unharmed while Lepper and Parson were badly injured. Lepper having broken both legs and both wrists.


             (Judy Moore)

Waist Gunner Sgt Robert D. Lepper laying down wounded on the Danish fishing vessel. Captain Carey watching.


 (Linda Berkery nee Styles)



 (Linda Berkery nee Styles)

Richard Carey and William J. Styles on boat.


 (Linda Berkery nee Styles)

Richard Carey and William J. Styles on boat.


The fishermen dressed the wounds to the best of their ability, picked up the trawl and set course for Esbjerg where they arrived on 26/7 at 13:20 hours.

The pilots were picked up by the Wehrmacht right away, while the wounded men were left under guard on the pier for two hours. A Danish ambulance arrived to take the flyers to the hospital but the Germans would not allow this.

Only after two hours did a German ambulance arrive to pick up the wounded. Via German lazaretts in Denmark they were sent to the lazarett in Schleswig, Germany.

Afterwards Leppers was sent to Stalag IXc Molsdorf where a hospital was found. Medications were very scarce. Leppers lungs were full of fluid and a Polish doctor attended to that. He found two wooden straws, the size of drinking straws and pushed them through Leppers skin in the lower back area and drained the fluid thus saving his life. Leppers legs was treated by help of makeshift splints made from boards from a bunk. He layed with that for six weeks and could not move. Afterwards he was sent to Stalag XVII Edelbach where also Parsons was sent. Lepper suffered from a limp for the rest of his life due to the rather poor medical treatment.


 (Lepper daughter via Linda Berkery nee Styles)


Leppers german POW ID

The two pilots were both sent to Stalag III and Stalag VIIA.



From ” Vestjyden” no 10 page 4. Issued by the Danish Communist party, Esbjerg August 1943.

On July 26 the fishingboat “Bertha” E 475 arrived in Esbjerg fisher harbor with four american airmen, of whom on had broken both legs. One of which had an open fracture with the bone sticking out. He also had broken both wrists. The fishing boat crew had made splints from fish crate wood.

The aircraft had ditched into the sea on 25. at 17:00 hrs in close vicinity of the fishing boat. When the boat arrived in the harbor an ambulance had arrived and the ambulance crew started to take care of the wounded man. When they were putting him on a stretcher, the Germans showed up and forbid the crew to remove the man. This was the limit for the spectators and they protested loudly against this brutal order. The Germans turned into a rage, and a blow in a whistle called more Germans to the place and these attacked the Danes. One was hit with a rifle butt on the shoulder while several were kicked and beaten, and one even had a revolver pressed against his stomach. The spectators backed off a little awaiting what would come next. After 2-two- hours waiting time a German ambulance arrived and took the wounded airman, who was lying on the boats deck with them.

The wounded man who had been on the way to the harbor for 14 hours, now had to wait for another two hours. And while the poor wounded man was lying there, a German officer strutted around smiling cynical whenever the wounded groaned.

The brutality that the Germans showed towards a wounded and helpless opponent emphasizes yet again their cowardice and sadistic tendency.

It is comforting that the moment of encounter is coming soon, and then the German beasties will be paying the bill with interest and interest’s interest.

We all agree to this.



 (Linda Berkery nee Styles)

Click on image to enlarge (Link will open in a new window)


After the war Styles decided to try to find the fishermen who had saved him and his fellow Americans.

 (Linda Berkery nee Styles)

Click on image to enlarge (Link will open in a new window)

Styles managed to get in touch with the fishing boat crew with the help of "Vestjyden" newspaper.



March 2017 Linda Berkery E-mailed this site with pictures and information about her father and asked for help to find relatives of the fishermen who had saved her father. An e-mail was sent to "Jyske Vestkysten" who wrote about Linda`s search.



Click on image to enlarge (Link will open in a new window)

75 years later: American family searches for Danish fisherman

More than 70 years after the end of the second World War, an American family is reaching out to the people of Esbjerg in search of the Danish fisherman, who saved their father’s life.

ESBJERG: It’s the 25th of July 1943. Skipper Sven Lundager Pedersen and his crew onboard the fishing boat E475 Bertha is placed somewhere in the North Sea of the coast of Esbjerg, fishing for the catch of the day. Today, in the sky above them, it’s not only seagulls who follows them, but two American B-17 planes. What neither the American pilots, nor the men on the fishing boat, know is that their actions the next 24 hours, will have an influence on future children and grandchildren in America.

My dad never spoke much about what happened during the war, but he did always speak very fondly about the Danish fishermen and particularly the Danish skipper, who saved their lives, Linda Styles Berkery, writes, who is the daughter of co-pilot William J. Styles, who was onboard one of the American planes.

Fateful crash

Lieutenant William J. Styles and pilot Richard Carey are in charge of flying one of the American planes, which is a part of a larger formation, when it for unknown reasons suddenly suffers engine problems. They lose control of the plane, and it crashes into the ocean not far from Sven Lundager Pedersen’s boat, but about 80 kilometers from the coast of Esbjerg. It’s a matter of life or death for the American soldiers, who are floating around the wreckage in their life vests.

From his fishing boat, Sven Lundager Pedersen has observed, what has happened. He makes a quick decision, and fishes the American soldiers out of the ocean and onto his boat. Two of them are injured, and one has both broken arms and legs. Six people don’t make it out the wreckage alive.

If Sven and his crew had not been there, my father and his crew would probably have drowned in the North Sea. But not only did they bring them ashore, they stayed with them until the ambulances arrived. Although, the story doesn’t end here, Linda Styles Berkery writes.

Unwilling Germans

The Danish crew tend to the soldiers’ wounds as best they can, while they wait for an American plane to come and pick them up. However, after several hours, Sven Lundager Pedersen realizes that he must do something, if the soldiers are to survive.

He sets sails for land, even though he knows it can have consequences for the soldiers, because from his boat, he has observed a German plane, keeping an eye on the crew from the sky above them. Sven Lundager Pedersen arranges for a different boat to sail ahead, giving ambulances notice of their arrival. However, there are others there to welcome them, when they arrive ashore on July 26th 1943.

The Germans would not let the soldiers onboard the ambulances, but the Danish people on the pier protested. In all ended with the soldiers being transported in a German ambulance to a hospital in Schleswig, Linda Styles Berkery writes.

A happy ending

William J. Styles sits as a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft III near Sagan in Germany and Stalag VIIA in Moosburg, Germany, for several years, before he’s set free when the war ended. He returned home to America in June of 1945. Here, he meets his wife and has four children, including Linda.

The rest of her father’s history she knows. What she doesn’t know is, what happened to Sven Lundager Pedersen and his crewmembers Oluf Viggo Pedersen, Søren Peter Sørensen, and Viggo Bohne Skouenborg.

There are so many questions, I would like to ask their families. Have they heard the story before? Have they heard about the letter, and did my father ever write Sven back, Linda Styles Berkery asks herself.

Letter from Sven

The letter, Linda writes about, is one, which Sven Lundager Pedersen wrote in 1949 to her father. She accidentally found it last month. Since, she has been gathering more information about the American pilots and the Danish fishermen.

What Sven wrote was in Danish, but we have since had it translated. The letter states that Sven wanted to know what had become of my father, and how the crew was doing. It really touched me, and I had to find out, what had happened, Linda writes.

From the address on the letter it appears that Sven Lundager Pedersen lived on Haraldsgade 7 in Esbjerg. Linda explains that she wants to donate the letter to a museum, who would want to put it on display. However, most of all, she hopes to give it to Sven’s family.

Our families are connected in such a profound way due to what happened on July 25th 1943. I truly hope that we can find Sven’s family, Linda Styles Berkery writes.

If you are related to or know the family of Sven Lundager Pedersen or any of the other crew members onboard E475 Bertha, JydskeVestkysten would love to hear from you. Please contact us via e-mail: or by phone: 76413209. ( No longer applicable, see below)

Facts about the pilots:

Onboard the American plane was: pilot Richard Carey, co-pilot William J. Styles, private Robert D. Lepper, and sergeant Maynard T. Parsons.

William J. Styles died in 1975 and had four daughters and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Richard Carey lived until 1970 and had nine children.

The families of William and Richard has since connected via the internet. Now, they are both searching for the Danish fishing crew from Esbjerg.




Click on image to enlarge (Link will open in a new window)


Click on image to enlarge (Link will open in a new window)


Family of Danish rescuer found

An American woman’s search has had a happy ending. The family of skipper Svend Lundager Pedersen, who saved a number of American pilots during the second World War, has been located.

ESBJERG: For Svend Lundager and Kirsten Gaulshøj, the last week hasn’t been quite like any others. Thursday, their phones would not stop ringing.

I’ve never tried anything like it. People, whom I haven’t talked to I years, called me. Even people on vacation in Germany and Poland reached out to me, Svend Lundager says.

The reason for all the commotion was an American woman, searching for the family of the Danish skipper, who saved her father’s life during the second World War, when he crashed in his plane in the North Sea. Kirsten Gaulshøj is the daughter of the Danish skipper, while Svend Lundager is the namesake and grandchild.

Proud and surprised

For both Kirsten and Svend it came as quite the surprise, what their father and grandfather had done during the war.

When I think back, I do remember the story. It wasn’t something my father spoke much about, but I’m very proud of what he did, Kirsten Gaulshøj said, while she reaches for an old photo album filled with pictures of the family.

 She points at one, where her father is dressed in his finest clothing.

It is not the first time that he has saved people from drowning. I remember one day, where he came home, his hands completely dissolved, because he had been pushing them towards holes in a life raft, so it wouldn’t sink. It was at a time where he went down with a boat near Gotland, Kirsten explains.

Who was Svend?

The many experiences, which Svend Lundager Pedersen had throughout his life, took it’s toll on him. He was born in 1920 and died at an early age 40 years later.

He was an amazing dad, and we were never missing anything, but he had his dark periods, where he was a bit too fond of alcohol, Kirsten says and continues:

I have always lacked an explanation for, why he had the problems, he had. But after this, I started digging into my family’s history, and now, I understand it better, Kirsten says.

Newfound historic interest

For the family, the article and the following contact with Linda Berkery from the U.S. has made them more interested in their family’s history.

We definitely want to know more about our own family and about the other fishermen on the boat. It is interesting to find out, where you come from, Svend Lundager says.

 The family has been invited to the U.S. this coming October. Here, they are going to attend a memorial service for the American air force and the fallen soldiers during the second World War.

 Linda has shown us such gratitude, and we really want to meet her. If it can be done, we will go and visit her in October, Kirsten Gaulshøj says.



Sources: FB, AS 64-788, RL 19/472, ABMC, Roberta Focht, Linda Berkery.


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