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German speaker to talk about WWII crash of Riverside pilot
Manfred Römer 2017.jpg
Manfred Römer

A German native with World War II ties to Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville is set to speak at the school Thursday.

As a child living in Nazi Germany in 1945, Manfred Römer witnessed the crash of a U.S. Army Air Corps P-51 fighter plane in a heavily wooded area east of Hamburg.

The plane, it would be discovered later, was flown by Lt. John W. Herb, who graduated from Riverside in 1941.

“The aircraft or remains of the pilot were not identified or recovered after the war,” according to an announcement of the program on Riverside’s website.

Manfred Römer presentation

What: German native to talk about World War II crash of Lt. John W. Herb, a Riverside Military Academy graduate, and life growing up in Nazi Germany

When: 10:30 a.m. Thursday

Where: Riverside, 2001 Riverside Drive, Gainesville

Noteworthy: The event is open to the public at no charge. Go to the Sandy Beaver Center for Teaching and Learning to get seated in the Cervantes Theater.

The event is open to the public at no charge.

“About three years ago, Mr. Römer, then 74 years old, visited the site and discovered evidence of the crash,” according to the announcement. “American and German authorities were summoned to excavate the scene, and the remains of the pilot were found nearby.”

A Riverside ring with Herb’s initials inscribed was found on the pilot’s finger.

Herb’s remains were returned to the U.S. and buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

According to Riverside, Römer also will talk about how he lost his father on the Eastern Front during the war, as well as life under the Nazi regime.

The presentation will be translated by Rudi Kiefer, a German professor at Brenau University.

Patti Herb, an Ohio resident whose father-in-law was John Herb’s uncle, talked to The Times in a June 2015 interview about her relative’s ordeal.

“It’s just a remarkable story and we never, ever thought he would be recovered,” she said.

“Nobody ever knew where he went down. All we knew was that he was missing in action and his parents were absolutely devastated — that was their only child.”

Herb was quite the family legend, with mystery shrouding much of his life and death, down to the name painted across the front of his plane, Mary Lou.

“When my husband was growing up, all he heard was stories (about John Herb), who was an only son, was very bright and got a scholarship at (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and went to Riverside. And he went off to be in the war.”

John Herb excelled at Riverside, playing sports, performing in the band and working for the yearbook, “Bayonet.”

Herb, beaming in his yearbook photos with his dark hair slicked back, was known as “Herby” as a high school senior and “Herbo” as a postgraduate — a program Riverside sponsored in those days.

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