Saturday, November 24, 2012

The tale of a man who thought he was Göring's nephew.

USAAF Captain Werner Goering piloted a B-17 over Germany in 1944 and 1945 with the 303rd Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force, firmly believing that he was the nephew of Hermann Göring, the infamous German Reichsmarschall and commander of the Luftwaffe. Not only was Captain Goering certain he was Hermann's nephew, but so was the FBI. This led to the FBI assigning Captain Goering's co-pilot, First Lieutenant Jack Rencher, with the task of killing Captain Goering if he was forced to crash-land in occupied Europe or if he would desert to the German side. Goering was not at any cost enable the Nazis to stage a propaganda coup.

Werner Goering was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1923. His parents had been converted by Mormon missionaries in Germany and convinced to move to Salt Lake after the First World War. Werner Goering volunteered for service in 1941, but his career was halted due to his supposed relation to Hermann Göring. He was eventually allowed to deploy overseas, but only with Jack Rencher as his co-pilot. Goering and Rencher were quite friendly, but their friendship was tested to the extreme when they nearly were shot down on November 21, 1944, during a mission to the Leuna chemical complex in eastern Germany. Their B-17, Teddy’s Rough Riders, was hit by flak fire, knocking out two engines gone and numerous holes in the aircraft. As the aircraft slowly limped home. Rencher waited for Werner to give the command to bail out; once he did, Rencher would have to assassinate Werner and take control of the aircraft. At the last possible moment, the men spotted the English Channel, and they returned safely.

As it were, Goering was actually not related at all to his German namesake. Werner's father had simply used Hermann's name to impress his neighbors of the German community in Salt Lake City. Werner Goering lived with this myth until fairly recently, when author Stephen Frater wrote about this odd story.

Rencher to the left, Goering to the right.

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