Sergeant Ralph Wenz became Sutton's sixth war casualty of World War II when he died
in the crash of a B-24 Liberator bomber on a hilltop in the Yukon-Charley River
National Preserve in Alaska on December 21, 1943. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. L.
C. Wenz were initially informed that the aircraft and their son were missing
after departing the base at Fairbanks.
Wenz remained in “missing” status for some time.
Staff Sergeant Ralph Wenz - killed in aircraft
crash in Alaska December 21, 1943
mission of the flight was to test a procedure to feather the propeller. Only
five men were on board for this flight including an officer who was listed as a
crew encountered a thick fog that restricted their horizontal visibility just
as their instruments failed. The plane went into two spins which the pilots
were able to correct but as a third spin began the pilot called for the crew to
bail out. Only the co-pilot 2nd Lieutenant Leon Crane and the Crew
Chief Master Sergeant Richard Pompeo were able to get out of the plane before
Crane and Pompeo made it out of the plane through the bomb bay doors. Lt. Crane
saw Pompeo drift over a ridge but he was never seen again. Crane had cold
weather gear but did not have gloves as he landed in the mountains of Alaska,
in December. He found a series of trapper cabins where he found more cold
weather gear and food. It took him weeks to cover 75 miles where he found an inhabited
home where he was given a dog sled ride to a settlement where a mail plane
brought him back to his home base in mid-March of 1944, almost three months
Crane led rescue workers back to the plane where the bodies of the propeller
specialist 1st Lt. James Siebert and the radio operator S/Sgt. Ralph
Wenz of Sutton were found in the plane. There was no sign of MSgt Pompeo or the
pilot 2nd Lt. Hrold Hoskins.
Sergeant Ralph Wenz’s body was recovered and he was buried in Alaska.
was an experience flyer having flown mail in Alaska starting in 1939. He joined
the marines after the Japanese attacked Dutch Harbor and was assigned to
instruct army pilots in the hazards of flying in sub-zero weather in the North.
His last visit to Sutton was in mid-August of 1943 when he had ferried a B-29
to California after test flights in Alaska.
Air Force historian at Elemendorf Air Force Base in Alaska had previously
worked as the park historian for Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve and had
visited the crash site first in 1994. He became interested in the site and on a
later visit he found metal objects in the burned wreckage of the plane. He
instigated further research and in 2006 searchers found human remains near the
wreckage. A DNA test with Lt. Hoskin’s brother led to positive identification
of the pilot’s remains.
Wenz’s pilot, 2nd Lt. Harold Hoskin was buried at Arlington Cemetery
on September 7th, 2007.
M. Hofmann graduated from Sutton High School in the spring of 1942 where he was
an impressive student and representative of the school and the community.
held three minor offices in the Future Farmers of America of Nebraska before being
elected president of the state organization for 1942-1943. He was selected to
Boys’ State and was a winner of a prestigious Union Pacific scholarship. He was
the state’s representative at the National Youth Foundation Camp at Shelby,
Michigan for the F. F. A.
Paul M. Hofmann - February 3, 1924 - December 15, 1944
headed off to the University of Nebraska Agricultural College where he was a
member of the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and was active in campus activities.
He signed up for officers’ training with the campus ROTC program but was
inducted into the armed forces on March 27, 1943 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Hofmann’s early army training he was selected to attend a cadet program at the
University of Indiana and the University of Cincinnati but that program was
discontinued. He was soon at Camp Campbell, Kentucky driving tanks.
was assigned to the Third Army where he was believed to have been with Patton’s
tank corps at Bastogone, France. His letters home indicated he had been in
Marseilles, Lyon and Dijon France before his tank unit became engaged in action
on the western front.
First Class Paul Hofmann, son of Mr. and Mrs. Karl F. Hofmann, became the tenth of Sutton’s sons to give his life in
World War II when he was killed in action on December 15, 1944 at the age of