https://edmontonjournal.com/news/local- ... crash-site
Researchers are trying to locate surviving family members of a downed airman from Alberta who died when his bomber crashed in southwest Germany during the Second World War.
Sgt. John Peter Heinig, who hailed from the tiny town of Ryley in central Alberta, was one of seven aboard the doomed four-engine Halifax that was shot down south of Ludwigshafen and Mannheim on the night of Sept. 5, 1943.
Heinig was the mid upper gunner on the plane.
The plane was part of the 10 Squadron Royal Air Force based in Melbourne in the United Kingdom and was one of 600 aircraft that swarmed the area that night.
Erik Wieman, who is a lead researcher with the group IG Heimatforschung Rheinland-Pfalz, said his organization wants to make sure all of the families are aware of their crash site ahead of a ceremony next year which will see a memorial stone erected at the location.
“Often descendants do not have any details about what happened and where. We want to change that,” he said in an email from Germany.
“We also want to make these sites public, also through a memorial at the site, because passers-by often do not know about the historical relevance of these sites and fields. In our eyes they are not only fields. These are special fields.
“And we do not want their names, the names of the airmen, to be forgotten. They paid the highest price for their country.”
Heinig, who was 20 years old when he died, was one of two Canadians that accompanied five English airmen on the flight. All the men died when the plane burst into flames after it crashed in a field after being shot down by a German night fighter and anti-aircraft guns.
Their remains were buried in a cemetery in a nearby town of Waldsee but after the war they were exhumed and reburied in an Allied graveyard in Rheinberg in the north of Germany.
The plane wreck was removed and was largely lost from public consciousness, Wieman said.
Wieman heard about the site in 2015 and began researching the plane and the airmen. He has contacted family members of all seven men but he believes there could be more out there who are unaware of the site and the story.
Heinig was the son of Max Hugo and Elizabeth Heinig. The family also has ties to Manitoba.
“We often speak to witnesses of the Second World War. They often have crucial information that make it easier to find these crash sites,” he said.
“In a few years it will be much more difficult to find these sites because there will be no more eye witnesses left. So we try to find as many sites as possible, before they are forgotten forever. Our main goal is to find these sites, inform the families and plant a memorial stone.”
The crash site has been reported to the State Conservation Office and is now protected, he said.
Relatives of Heinig are asked to contact Wieman at firstname.lastname@example.org.