Holux Overview 4: Contacting Pilot Families
Daughter Sharon Berube and Donald Kitzman (Easter 2019)
Contacted Family of Benjamin Brew
Via Internet research, I was able to contact David von Rinteln, a nephew of Benjamin Brew, in January 2016. (David’s mother was Benjamin Brew’s step-brother. David’s mother is deceased, but her two younger brothers -- now in their late 80's -- remember Ben). David has carefully researched his uncle Benjamin, including visits to his memorial in England. David provided me with additional photos of Ben, and information about the P-47 training accident in the Irish Sea (off the coast of England) that took his life on July 23, 1944.
I met with David in February 2016, and turned over care of the watch to him. To paraphrase the Patek Philippe ads, “You never actually own a watch…you just take care of it for the next generation”. I am so happy to have come across this watch, and that I am able to entrust it to Benjamin Brew’s family. I hope that this will help to keep his memory alive.
Contacted Family of Ben Higgins Jr.
Ben Higgins Jr was a native of Dahlonega, GA, and his family honored his bravery with a memorial grave marker in the local cemetery. In July 2019, I contacted the Dahlonega library, which put me in touch with Jimmy Anderson, the former postmaster and Past President of the Lumpkin County Historical Society. Through Jimmy, I contacted Ben Higgins’ niece Joyce Higgins Westmoreland and nephew Kenneth Higgins. Kenneth was able to provide a great deal of information about Ben (Kenneth’s father and Ben were brothers). Kenneth was not aware of the Holux wristwatch, nor was there any information about the other five pilots. (I did find out via Donald Kitzman's daughter that Ben and Donald Kitzman were both in the same training class at Chico Air Field in Oct 1943.)
Contacted Donald Kitzman and His Family
In August 2019, I found the address of Sharon, Donald Kitzman’s daughter Sharon, and wrote her a letter about the Holux watch. To my enormous surprise, she emailed back:
“Hello Bob, I am thrilled that you reached out to me regarding my father‘s World War II military watch. I would like to speak with you in the next few days. I’m currently on a business trip. I’m please to tell you that my father is 96 and still alive. He very interested in this message that you sent me. His recollection of events during that era are very vivid."
I have been in continuous communication with Sharon and her husband Bob, who provided me with a wealth of photos and newspaper articles about Major Kitzman -- a charter member of “The Greatest Generation”. Kitzman was a B-17 co-pilot in WW2, and was shot down in a daylight raid over Germany in November 1944. He spent the next six months in a German POW camp, and was liberated by Patton’s troops in May 1945. Continuing his career as an Air Force officer, Kitzman served his country for another twenty years, flying B-29s, B-36s, and B-52s for the Strategic Air Command.
In September 2019, Sharon arranged for me to call Major Kitzman at his assisted living facility in Oregon. Don was very clear about his pilot training in California and at Douglas Army Air Field (AAF). He knew his date of graduation (Jan 7, 1944), his Army service numbers, and a tragic plane accident that killed one of his Douglas classmates. However, he did not recognize any of the five names on the Holux watch, including Charles Mapes, who I believe was also in his 44-A Class, and Ben Higgins, who trained with him at Chico CA Air Base.