The Last Battle of John Hascall

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In the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten lie the graves of 8,301 Americans killed during World War II. In Plot H, Row 8, Grave 9 rests John Sherman Hascall. His story, like all the others, is far too short.

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John was a Husky, graduating from Michigan Tech in 1939 with degrees in mining engineering and geology. He was in ROTC, a member of Theta Tau, on the staff of The Lode, and a standout on the hockey team. It’s not surprising he chose Tech; his father Carleton Hascall graduated in 1911 with a degree in mining, and brother Carleton Jr. preceded him by two years, graduating in 1937 with a metallurgical degree.

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John moved west after graduation, working for the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company before enlisting in the United States Army Air Forces on April 7, 1942—like so many of that time, putting the freedom of others before his own.

A 2nd lieutenant in the 77th Fighter Squadron, 20th Fighter Group, John flew P-38s on bomber escort missions. After 18 months of service, he would take his final flight. Accompanying B-17 bombers from Kings Cliffe, UK, to Bremen, Germany, he was shot down by German pilot Lt. Leopold Munster, November 29, 1943.

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An eyewitness, J. J. Van der Luur from Steenwijk, a fighter with the Dutch resistance cycling through the area, saw John’s damaged plane appear through the clouds and fall near Schutsloterwijde, a small lake near Belt-Schutsloot in north-central Holland. Bailing successfully, John landed in the middle of the lake, strong winds blowing him across its surface. Struggling but ultimately unable to remove his tangled parachute, John drowned. Local residents rushed to save him, and a doctor spent three hours trying to resuscitate him.

In a letter to John’s family, Van der Luur described those final moments.

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“He lied there, just quietly and not wounded or damaged at all. His face was calm and nothing of fright or something like that was in its expression. It was just as if he slept after a tiresome job.”

 

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