John "Jack" M. Magee was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1920. He enlisted in the Army in December of 1941 hoping to become a pilot. Jack was training at Jefferson Barracks in Missouri when he met his future wife Dorothy Strauser at a Saint Louis Cardinals baseball game in 1942. After training at Maxwell AFB in Alabama, Jack moved on to Selmon Field in Louisiana to train as a radar navigator. Jack continued his training at Langley Field in Virginia. In the winter of 1944 Jack and Dorothy were married at Langley. 2d Lt Magee departed the states in May of 1944. He served as a radar navigator in the 825th Bombardment Squadron, 484th Bombardment Group, in fffeEuropean Theater.-On 16 June 1944, 2d Lt John M. Magee was temporarily assigned to fly with a B-24 and crew of the 756th Bomb Squadron, 459th Bomb Group in a bombing mission against ~he Nova Schwechat oil refinery at Vienna, Austria. He boarded B-24H-15-DT, serial number 41-28771, piloted by Capt Henry C. Reed, stationed at Giulia Number 1 Airfield, near Cerignola, Italy. This aircraft served as the deputy lead of the bombing group. Available records do not explain the reason for 2d Lt Magee's participation in this mission or his role on this aircraft, as two other navigators were aboard. 2d Lt Magee was on his very first combat mission but another navigator on board, 2d Lt Olszanowski was on his 50th and presumably 2d Lt Magee was there to observe the workings ofthe "Mickey" navigation system from an experienced operator. Nonetheless, the B-24 carried a total of eleven crewmembers on the mission.
As the aircraft approached the target, the bomb bay doors opened for the strike. However, eyewitnesses saw the bomb bay doors close before the bombs had been released. Either the bombardier was unaware that the doors had closed or the crew was unable to prevent the mechanical release of the bombs at that moment, but bombs crashed through the closed bomb bay doors. The accident caused a fire within the aircraft. 2d Lt Magee called for a flak suit to try to smother the flames. However, the fire proved too intense and during his efforts 2dLt Magee sustained burns to his leg.
The order was given for the crew to bail out of the burning aircraft. An eyewitness in another bomber, 1st Lt Walter G. Cannon, reported that fire was seen in the forward bomb bay and that the stricken aircraft slowed and fell out of formation, but continued under apparent control. This allowed the crewmembers time to grab par~chutes and find exits. Flames in the bomb bay made some of the men hesitate to jump but at least ten of the crewmembers bailed out safely. Only the fate of 2d Lt Magee remained unclear.
Some of the crew saw him during the evacuation of the plane, and two of them either called out to him or otherwise alerted him to jump from the aircraft. They believed that 2d Lt Magee did not escape the aircraft either due to his injuries or because of a damaged parachute. Whatever the reason, when last seen by his crewmembers, 2d Lt Magee was still inside the burning aircraft.
The ten surviving crewmembers parachuted into enemy territory around Kittsee, Austria, where all were captured and sent to prisoner of war camps. The War Department received
reports of the capture of these ten men, but received no word about 2d Lt Magee. With no evidence that he survived the incident, the War Department issued a presumption of death for 2d Lt Magee twelve months after his disappearance.
The American Graves Registration Command (AGRCl, U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps, was the organization charged with the recovery and identification of fallen u.s. service personnel after World War II in the European Theater of Operation. Personnel from the AGRC traveled to
Kittsee, Austria in 1951 to investigate the loss of 2d Lt Magee. They learned that only one aircraft crashed in that area in the summer of 1944. Eyewitness descriptions of the plane crash were consistent with details of the loss of B~24H, serial number 41-28771. locals explained that the aircraft crashed at a dairy farm in Petrzalka, Czechoslovakia, only three miles from Kittsee.
A local farmer, Mr. Josef Lakatos, told AGRC investigators that he saw only one person
parachute from the aircraft just prior to the crash. The man landed safely but was quickly captured by the Gestapo and questioned. Mr. Lakatos explained that the prisoner refused to answer any questions and was shortly thereafter taken away. Mr. Lakatos visited the aircraft wreckage and found items such as chocolate and cigarettes, but did not find any human
remains. Mr. Lakatos's wife saw the captured airman and described him as unusually tall with
blonde hair and apparently injured in the left leg. When Mrs. Lakatos was further questioned
regarding the captured airman's height she pointed out a man present at the interview that
was 5' 10" tall, and stated that the captured airman was as tall as that man.
A third eyewitness told the AGRC team that the captured airman was between twenty-five and twenty-seven years old, tall and slim, had blonde hair and blue eyes and was a Lieutenant. These eyewitness descriptions are consistent with details from 2d Lt Magee's IDPF records.. These records state that he was 24 years old, 5' 10 W' tall, 143 pounds and had blonde hair and blue eyes. Also the description of his injured leg by both his crewmembers and the eyewitnesses on the ground also seems to be consistent.
While the AGRC investigative team found important information about the crash of a large aircraft around Kittsee and the possible capturl? of 2d Lt Magee, none of the local residents knew where the Gestapo had taken the captured airman, or what happened to him otherwise. Furthermore, the AGRC team found travel to and from Czechoslovakia restricted due to Cold War political reasons and could not carry out a full investigation at the reported crash site.
~tffieclose of fne AGRCinvesfigatiol"l, the lead ihveshgafor concludea that based -upon the information gathered from local residents, "it is believed that the captured airman is Lt Magee, and that he was removed by the Gestapo to their headquarters and at some later time was disposed of by the Gestapo instead of being turned over to the proper military authorities". Since no further information could be collected from Czechoslovakia, and with no other leads to pursue, the investigator recommended that the remains of 2d Lt Magee be declared nonrecoverable. ON 15 March 1951, after reviewing the investigation findings, and after failing to associate 2d Lt Magee with reported burials or unidentified remains recovered in the Austrian and Czechoslovakian areas, an AGRC board of officers approved the recommendation and declared his remains non-recoverable.
Second Lieutenant John M. Magee was awarded the Air Medal and the Purple Heart, and today is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at Epinal American Cemetery, in Epinal France.
Entered the Service from Pennsylvania.
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