Danish WW2 Pilots

Erik Christiansen

(1915 - 1944)

S/Sgt Erik Christiansen was one of the more than 30,000 Danish-Americans who were mobilized during the Second World War. He was trained as a flight engineer and served in the Ninth Air Force. He was killed in action on 23 December 1944 during an attack on the Ahrweiler railroad viaduct.

Erik Christiansen was born on 10 December 1915 in Frederiksberg, Denmark. He was the son of merchant Maximilius Christiansen and Dagmar Christiansen (née Therkelsen).[1]

The family emigrated to the USA in 1916, arriving in New York on-board the SS Frederik VIII on 24 May 1921. They settled in Los Angeles, California.[2] Christiansen’s father became a railroad mechanic in the Los Angeles Railroad Corporation (later Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority) and remained so for thirty years.[3] Christiansen’s father, and thereby as his son also Christiansen, were naturalised on 9 March 1934.[4]

Christiansen enlisted in the US Army (Air Corps) on 21 October 1941 in Presidio of Monterey, California. I have no further information on his training. He was posted overseas to 391st Bomb Group, 573rd Bomb Squadron in September 1944. The group operated from Roye-Amy Airfield (A.73) in France from that point.[5]

The Ahrweiler Railroad Viaduct

On 23 December 1944, thirty B-26 Marauders from 391st Bomb Group were detailed to attack the railway viaduct at Ahrweiler in Germany (Mission 203). This was the first time in two weeks that the weather had permitted an operation at all, and it was carried out as a pathfinder mission as there was cloud over Germany. The force failed to rendezvous with the fighters, but pressed on without fighter cover.

Christiansen was flying as engineer in B-26 C (T6-T, 42-107747), which was number 3 aircraft in the lead flight of the second box of the formation. The captain and pilot was 1st Lt Clayton S. Abraham (O-751078). The aircraft bombed at 1200 hours from 11,500 feet. The results from the bombing were good.

Three minutes after bombs away the aircraft was hit by enemy fire. Fifty to seventy-five Fw 190s and Bf 109s—most likely from IV.(Sturm)/Jagdgeschwader 3 "Udet”—attacked[6] the formation. Co-pilot, 2nd Lt Verne H. Bovie (O-715700), who was at the controls of the aircraft recalled that

The aircraft began spinning immediately after we were hit—we were hit very hard in and around the tail of the ship—It became uncontrollable—Lt Abraham and I tried to make contact with the crew members in the tail, but were unable to do so. I was ordered to bail out—which I did through the nose wheel well—after I bailed and just before my chute opened I saw a chute directly above me. I lost sight [of] it when mine opened—and never saw it again. I suppose it to be Sgt Murphy [as] he is not buried with the rest of the crew.[7]

In the B-26 Oh Frankie (T6-C, 42-107806) the tail gunner, Cpl Francis N. Latini (12219593) was one of the eyewitnesses to the events:

I saw 42-107747, a silver plane, which had all 3 gears down and it's two engines were going up in smoke. It appeared to be under control but slowly losing altitude. On its way down two FW 190's were following it down, but didn't seem to be attacking it. I was unable to see any chutes. I eventually lost sight of it, because I was observing other parts of the action.[8]

The aircraft crashed between Udler and Brockscheid, 5 miles south of Daun in Germany.[9] Four of the crew—1st Lt Clayton S. Abraham (O-751078), S/Sgt Woodrow Wilson, T/Sgt Floyd R. Lemon (150117620) and S/Sgt Erik Christiansen (39012577)—were killed in action. 2nd Lt Verne H. Bovie was captured and became prisoner of war in Stalag 4B Mühlberg, Sachsen.[10] S/Sgt Melvin E. Murphy (13115935) did indeed bail out and survived. However, he was captured and along with three other American prisoners of war he was executed by German soldiers and police officers.[11]

Christiansen was initially buried at the Nécropole nationale de Luynes in Aix-en-Provence in France. He was repatriated in 1949 and is buried at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego (Section G Site 772).[12]


[1] DNA: Parish register, Frederiksberg Sogn.

[2] Ancestry: U.S. Federal Census, 1930.

[3] RTD Flyer, 9 July 1971 (accessed on 4 January 2020 via Google cache of RTD_Flyer_1971_Jul9.pdf).

[4] Ancestry: U.S., Naturalization Records, 1840-1957.

[5] 391st Bomb Group, https://www.391bombgroup.org.uk (accessed on 4 January 2020).

[6] Weal, J. (2012). Luftwaffe Sturmgruppen.

[7] NARA: Missing Air Crew Reports (MACRs), 1942 - 1947, Record Group 92, #10667.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Aircrew remembered, http://aircrewremembered.com (accesses 4 January 2020).

[10] Ancestry: World War II Prisoners of War, 1941-1946.

[11] Aircrew remembered, http://aircrewremembered.com (accesses 4 January 2020).

[12] Ancestry: U.S. National Cemetery Interment Control Forms, 1928-1962.