2nd Lt. Samuel Elwood Artzer Bombardier 721st Squadron, 450th Bombardment Group
(Heavy), 15th Air Force, was born in
Jackson County, Missouri near Independence, on August 20, 1916.
During the early years of his life, he lived in an orphanage. At age 5, he was
Mr. & Mrs. Jake Artzer. He grew up on a small farm near Independence.
Sam attended school through the tenth grade.
From 1936 to 1937, he worked as a
sales clerk in a grocery store.
He enlisted in the Army on August 18, 1937 at
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Sam completed his first tour of duty and re-enlisted
on August 17, 1940. During 1940 and 1941, he was stationed at Ft. Robinson,
Nebraska. While stationed there, he met Jane Elizabeth McGannon of Chadron,
Nebraska. At the beginning of the war, Sam applied for Officer Candidate
School (OCS). Since he was in the Quartermaster Corps at the time, Sam was
sent to OCS at Ft. Francis E. Warren, Cheyenne, Wyoming. On July 2, 1942, he
was discharged from U.S. Army in order to receive his commission as an officer
in the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. on July
3, 1942. He was sent to Camp Butner, North Carolina for further duty.
On September 26, 1942, while at Camp Butner, Sam and Jane were married at the
camp chapel. Sam served at Camp Butner from July 16, 1942 till Dec. 1, 1942.
At that time he was accepted into the U.S. Army Air Force and was sent to
Midland, Texas for Bombardier's school. Jane was able to accompany him there.
Upon completion of his training, he was ordered to Almagordo, New Mexico and
assigned to the 721st Squadron, 450th Bomb Group (H). Jane was not able to
accompany him, so she returned to Nebraska. She made her home in Omaha for
On October 30, 1943, Sam and Jane's only child, Karen Lee Artzer, was
born. Sam never had the opportunity to hold his daughter in his arms, but
while on his way overseas, he was able to call home and heard Karen crying.
The crew Sam would serve with
assembled and trained at Almagordo, New Mexico.
They received their orders to go overseas on November 19, 1943. They departed
from Morrison Field, Florida on December 2, 1943 and arrived in Manduria, Italy
on December 20, 1943.
Their first mission was to Mostar, Yugoslavia on January 14, 1944. Their plane
was badly damaged by flak over the target and was barely able to return to the
coast. The crew thought they would have to ditch the plane over a small island
but were able to regain enough control to attempt to fly across the Adriatic to
Italy. An escort of two P-38 Lightnings flew with them. As they approached
the spur of Italy, the plane became uncontrollable and crashed. The Pilot,
Jack Graham and the Co-Pilot, Harry Feltenstein, were trapped in the cockpit
but were eventually freed. Graham's arm was crushed and he would not fly
again. The remaining crew continued to fly but with different pilots assigned
This crew may have participated in the raid on Ragensburg, Germany on Feb. 22,
1944. The following day would prove to be their last mission. On Feb. 23,
1944 the target was Steyr, Austria. On that mission, only nine men of the crew
were assigned to a B-24 named "Stardust". Somewhere over Kematen, Austria as
the formation flew southwest toward the target, their plane was attacked by a
ME-109 piloted by Otto Haas. The ME-109's machine guns apparently killed the
entire crew in the front of the plane as it made its attack. A few moments
later, Otto Haas was also killed. The crew in the back of the plane bailed out
and survived. "Stardust" came to rest in three sections near the village
below. The Pilot, Co-Pilot and Top Gunner were found with the main section of
the plane near the village. The front nose section of the plane came to rest
on a hill to the north. This was where the bodies of Sam (the Bombardier) and
Hugo Paggi (the Navigator) were found. The Austrians buried the five in a
common grave at the Steinerkirchen Church. In 1945, the U.S. Military removed
the bodies for reburial either in Europe or back in the states. Sam was
reburied in the U.S. Military cemetery at St. Avold, France.
(Footnote: Sam's daughter Karen married Chauncey Jerry Linn on September 3,
1966 in Chadron, Nebraska. On April 1, 1967, a son James Eliot Linn was born
to the couple. This is Sam's only grandchild. On July 26, 1968, Karen died
after a long battle with cancer.
In 1999, Jerry and his second wife Janet went to Europe to visit Sam's grave at
St. Avold. They also went to Pichl bei Wels and Kematen, Austria to visit the
site of the crash on 23 February 1944. Two sisters of Hugo Paggi and their
husbands also arrived to visit the area. The American visitors were greeted
warmly by the people of these two small villages and were able to hear the
accounts of eyewitnesses of that air battle 55 years before.)