Thursday, April 13, 1944 – “Germans have taken down 2 American Bomber planes. A few crewman safely parachuted. One bomber crashed into the Red Lake. Second bomber broke in half, one half is in the lake, the other fell on the ground on the north side of the lake.”
The above statement comes from the partially preserved records of Marketa Kolomban from WWII. The records are kept in the archives of the Franciscan Monastery in Imotski, Croatia.
Eyewitness Reports described a large formation of Allied Aircraft returning from a bombing mission. (Hungary or Romania.)
Heavy fire erupted between the Allied Aircraft and the German Anti-Aircraft Units.
The NDH Headquarters reported: “Split, Omis, Makarska, and Metkovic were bombed. Enemy airplanes bombed Podbablje near Imotski. 2 enemy planes were shot down. 5 airmen who escaped by parachute have been captured. (B5/26, 837/848)
2 Liberator type American Aircraft : 4 engine : B-24 (4 engine) bombers were hit.
One Liberator lost it’s wing, sending the plane into a spiral. No one was seen jumping out of the plane.
The second Liberator, ignited after being struck. 5 crewman parachuted and survived.
Both planes fell into the Red Lake along with their crew.
The only exception is part of the wing that fell on the northern edge of the lake.
To date the American Embassy or Military Representatives of the United States have never shown any interest in the downed B-24’s or the missing crewman.
Allied Veterens of the fallen 15 whose tomb lies at the bottom of the Red Lake have never come to commemorate and honor those lives lost.
Declassified Military documents and reports may hold the answer.
MACR ( Missing Air Crew Reports) for April 13, 1944, reveal the names of the airman on board the 2 planes that went missing.
Mission # 20- Lead Warren :WWII Mission of the 459th bombardment Group to Budapest, Hungary A/D on 04/13/1944.
- B-24 Model H-10-DT : Plane serial number 41-28675 : M.I.A. (Missing in Action)
- Kenneth Magrath, Pilot (K.I.A- Killed in Action)
- James Manuel, Co- Pilot (K.I.A)
- Paul Hawks, Navigator (M.I.A- Survived plane crash, last seen by Robert Nelson)
- Kenneth Foley, Engineer/Gunner (K.I.A)
- Benjamin Evan, Radio Gunner ( D.O.W. – Died of wounds)
- Robert Nelson, RW/Gunner (P.O.W.- Prisoner of War- Survived plane crash)
- Waymon Steakley, LW/Gunner (K.I.A)
- Hugh Cowart, Ball Trt Gunner (K.I.A)
- William Burch, Tail Trt Gunner (M.I.A- Status unknown)
The men who perished on April 13, 1944 and came to rest on the bottom of the Red Lake, have a Mass Burial Tomb at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in Saint Louis.
It would be nice to see a commemorative plaque placed at the Red Lake to honor the fallen hero’s of WWII.
I plan on visiting the Red Lake in July 2019 and will place flowers to pay tribute the veteran’s.