A central Iowa man is working to turn a wartime experience a world away into a symbol of peace for the future. The story began in 1945 when John Bryner of Roland was a 19-year-old tailgunner on a B-17 headed to bomb a synthetic oil plant in Germany. A German M-E-262 fighter jet attacked the plane about 100 miles south of Berlin. He was able to parachute out of the plane, but the bomber plane crashed into a home in the town of Grossrachen and burst into flames. Citizens of the town attempted to save the crew and those in the home but the plane exploded, killing 13 Germans and the nine remaining crewmembers. Bryner was captured and sent to a prison camp. He later found out that his crewmembers had died, but knew little else as the town was overrun by the Russians and became part of East Germany. He says it was impossible for people in the town to get information out about the war until the Berlin Wall came down in 1991. He says historians then began looking for information about the crash. About three years ago he was contacted by a woman who had been asked by German historians to call him. The woman was a professor at the University of California, and she told him she had lived in Grossrachen in 1945 and saw the plane come down like a leaf falling. That call led Bryner to visit the city two years ago that Bryner says brought out all kinds of emotion. He says it was something he’d repressed in his mind, not wanting to think about it until recently. He says he was happy to meet with the people and find out what happened to his crew and put that to rest. During his visit, Bryner talked with local officials about honoring the dead. He says they talked about erecting a monument to memorialize the event as the crash was a major event in the town. He says the crash happened just about ten days before the Russians overran the town and sent many residents to Siberia. Bryner says the town’s officials have approved what’ll be called “The Peace Memorial Monument.” It’s going to be a six foot granite structure that lists the names of the nine crewmembers who died on one side. The names of the Germans killed by the explosion and crash will be listed on the other side. Another side will have a narrative about the crash written in German and English. The phrase “The Dead Plead for Peace” will also be cut into the monument. Bryner is raising the 75-hundred dollars needed to build the monument and says he’s about one-third of the way to the fundraising goal. by his Bryner’s son Doug runs an annual race from Ames to Slater and the proceeds from this year’s race on May 16th will go toward the project. You can also send donations to: The Peace Memorial Monument Fund; P.O. Box 2207; Ames, Iowa, 50010. Bryner hopes to be able to build the monument and dedicate it on the 60th anniversary of the crash March 22, 2005.
You are here: / / Roland man looks to turn past war memory into peace monument for the future