Goering’s Mormon Brother in Utah and USAAF Bomber Pilot Nephew

bomber crewMy most recent drivetime audio book was The Great Escape by the late Paul Brickhill, an Australian journalist, fighter pilot, and prisoner in Stalag Luft III. Hermann Goering, head of the Luftwaffe and Hitler’s second in command, figured in the background of the events Brickhill chronicled, and I was curious to learn a bit more about him. Though a gallant and courageous fighter pilot in the first World War, he joined the Nazi party in 1922, was condemned at Nuremberg to hang for his war crimes, and took his own life using cyanide hours before he was to be executed.

One curious detail is his American nephew, Werner Goering. During the war, the FBI investigated him for months before deciding it would be safe to allow Werner to be a bomber pilot. As a precaution, the FBI also investigated the man who would be his co-pilot, Jack Rencher. Rencher, an excellent marksman with a pistol, was asked if he would volunteer to shoot Werner should Werner try to land in Germany, which assignment Rencher accepted. Rencher says he and Werner Goering got along well.

Werner Goering was born and raised in Salt Lake City, which caused me to wonder if he were a Mormon. His co-pilot wrote that Werner “did not smoke, drink, swear, or chase women,” which is suggestive, but Mormons aren’t the only clean-living young men. Rob Morris, a high school history teacher in Ammon, Idaho, devoted a chapter of his book Untold Valor: Hidden History of the Air War Over Europe in World War II to Werner Goering and his bomber crew. “A chance encounter with Mormon missionaries set one of Herman Goering’s brothers on a different road in life. [Karl] Goering and his wife moved from Germany to the Mormon Zion of Salt Lake City, Utah.” (Page 167.) So, it looks like Hermann Goering’s brother and sister-in-law were probably Mormon converts. Among the suprising aspects of this is the Goerings’ aristocratic upbringing; not many people who grew up living in castles become Mormon proselytes.

Another detail is that the Wikipedia entry on Werner Goering gives his mother’s name as Atela, apparently taken from 1930 census records. The only Goering that the Social Security death index has for Utah is Adele Goering who was born September 13, 1885, and died in Salt Lake City in December 1981. Rob Morris credited Werner Goering and Jack Rencher among the veterans who contributed to his book, so those octogenarian aviators were still with us as of three years ago.

Hermann and Karl’s other brother, Albert Goering, is also a curious figure. He was an anti-Nazi, though he and Hermann were close. Albert used his protected position to save many Jews and Czechs. The contrast makes Hermann Goering’s crimes seem all the more optional; a choice; a horrifically wrong, evil choice.

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About John Mansfield

Mansfield in the desertA third-generation southern Nevadan, I have lived in exile most of my life in such places as Los Alamos, Baltimore, Los Angeles, the western suburbs of Detroit, and currently the northern suburbs of Washington, D.C. I work as a fluid dynamics engineer. I was baptized at age twelve in the font of the Las Vegas Nevada Central Stake Center, and on my nineteenth birthday I received the endowment in the St. George Temple. I served as a missionary mostly in the Patagonia of Argentina from 1985 to 1987. My true calling in the Church seems to be working with Cub Scouts, whom I have served in different capacities in four states most years since 1992. (My oldest boy turned eight in 2004.) I also currently teach Sunday School to the thirteen-year-olds. I hold degrees from two universities named for men who died in the 1870s, the Brigham Young University and the Johns Hopkins University. My wife is Elizabeth Pack Mansfield, who comes from New Mexico's north central mountains and studied molecular biology at the same two schools I attended. We have four sons, whose care and admonition, along with care of my aged father, require much of Elizabeth's time. She currently serves the Church as Mia-Maid advisor, ward music chairman, and choir director, and plays violin whenever she can. One day, I would like to make shoes.

10 thoughts on “Goering’s Mormon Brother in Utah and USAAF Bomber Pilot Nephew

  1. Interesting stuff, John M. To get a fascinating picture of Hermann Goering, I can recommend “Nuremberg,” starring Alec Baldwin and Brian Cox as Goering. (Cox plays the bad CIA guy in two of the Bourne movies and is really quite charismatic and frightening as Goering). I wonder if any of the Goering descendants are still active, and perhaps some of them are even reading this blog?

  2. Should I forward this to Mike Huckabee? It seems like the kind of thing he may take a shallow interest in.

  3. I used to live in a ward with a man who was a missionary in Germany at the time the Nazis took over. He said the Goering family relationship gave them some protection until it was clear that it no longer possible or safe for the missionaries to stay. He told some very interesting stories of his missionary experiences during that time.

  4. Hi,John. This is Rob Morris, the author of Untold Valor.
    I would be happy to entertain any questions you or your readers may have.
    As far as I know, both Mr. Rencher and Mr. Goering are still alive. I spoke with Mr. Rencher only a few months ago.
    There is more to the story, but I am sworn to secrecy until the deaths of both Mr. Goering and Mr. Rencher, both of whom I interviewed.
    By the way, my book was picked up by a large publisher, and re-named ‘Untold Valor: Forgotten Stories of American Bomber Crews over Europe’. The old edition you mention is no longer in print, but the new one can be picked up on Amazon or any online bookseller. It has been one of the top selling aviation books for the past year.
    Rob Morris

  5. @rob morris [Visitor]
    I have a question for Rob Morris. It may seem weird, but I was wondering if you know if he went to Canada after the war?


    PS I”m triyng to find your book in Quebec but it”s not easy!

  6. Dear John Mansfield and/or Rob Morris,

    Please contact me for an interesting twist to this story.

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