WW2 bomber downed on the territory of former Yugoslavia

I'm looking for the information about downed USA bomber of WW2 on the territory of the former Yugoslavia (now Bosnia and Herzegovina). I know it was a mission of bombing oil refinery in Ploesti, Romania and I assume it was B24 Liberator. The crew was rescued by Tito's partisans. I even have a photo of the crew with the local population. It was from the summer 1943. And I even have a part of the plane that my late grandfather brought home from the crash site.
I would like to contact one of the descendants of the crew members or donate this part of the plane to one of the American museums.

  • Maximus700,

    Hundreds of U.S. bombers attacked the Ploesti oil installations between November 1942 and August 1944, when the Soviet Army occupied the the oil fields and refineries.  You mention that the aircraft in question was a B-24 Liberator and was shot down in the summer of 1943, presumedly during the Operation Tidal Wave mission of 1 August 1943.  You also mention that the crew was rescued by Tito partisans. 

    The Tidal Wave force lost over 40 bombers over Romania during the mission.  The Army Air Forces reported that of the 400 plus crew on these downed aircraft, only four were rescued by partisans.  All the rest were either killed or captured.  So if the picture of the crew has more than four crewmen, then they may have come from one of the many other bombers shot down on Ploesti missions later in 1943 or 1944. 

    The best way to establish the identity of the aircraft among all of the bombers shot down over Romania may be found in the wreckage your late grandfather found.  Each U.S.Army Air Force aircraft has a data plate that identifies the aircraft type as well as its Army serial number.  That data plate would most likely be located in the area of the cockpit.  Once the aircraft is identified, then there is a chance to identify the crew.  

    I hope you find this information useful.

    A. J.

  • Dear Mr. A.J.,

    Thanks a lot for the info you shared with me. I did some further research on this event and realized that I got the date wrong (which is always the most important thing) :-)

    The plane crashed on July 20, 1944, over northern Bosnia and Herzegovina, and 5 crew members were saved. You can check out the picture attached.

    Unfortunately, I only have a very small part of that plane, so I can't conclude anything more from it. I'm not even sure if it was a B24 Liberator; that's just my guess.

    Is there a central registry somewhere with all the downed planes during World War II or something similar?

    Do you have any idea where I could research this in more detail?

    Thanks in advance,

  • Maximus700, 

    The U.S. Army Air Forces Command responsible for the strategic bombing campaign in southern Europe was 15th Air Force, with bombers flying from airfields in the Foggia, Italy area.  15th Air Force had five Bombardment Wings (Heavy), the 5th (B-17), 47th (B-24), 49th (B-24), 55th (B-24), and 304th (B-24).  Each bomb wing contained 3-4 bomb groups ( the B-17 equipped 5th had six bomb groups), and each bomb group usually had three squadrons.  Each squadron could have 8-12 aircraft.  

    On 20 July 1944, 15th Air Force sent 450 bombers against aircraft and engine factories at Friedrichshafen, Germany and the Luftwaffe airfield at Memmingen, Germany. Bosnia-Herzegovina would have been to the east of the flight path of an aircraft returning from southern Germany to Italy; however, a damaged bomber would have sought any level ground on which to crash land, even if it were miles out of the way.  The aircraft you seek is a casualty from that mission.  Unfortunately, identifying a specific aircraft on the mission is a difficult task.  Unlike 8th Air Force missions, which have been covered extensively over the years, there are few specifics on 15th Air Force missions readily available to the public.  I have not been able to find more specific information—I presume all of the 15th’s bomb groups contributed aircraft to the mission.  There is a 15th Air Force website out there (https://15thaf.org), but it is primarily a veterans’ website and has information on few missions.  The Air Force Historical Research Agency (https://www.afhra.af.mil) maintains the mission reports for 15th Air Force, but without more specific information about the bomb wing and the bomb group, it would be a long and frustrating  search to find a specific plane and crew.

    I wish I could be of more assistance.  Good luck on your research project!

    A. J.

  • Below is a list of US Amy Air Forces bombing missions during July 1944, to Ploesti.   There were no bombing missions to Yugoslavia on July 20, 1944.   If you have the names of the crew members or the plane's number, you can obtain the Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) from the National Archives.  Searching by crew member name and/or plane number is much easier than trying to find information by the date of the crash.  Please note that both B-17s and B-24 bombers were used on most missions.  Do you have some reason to think that the plane is a B-24?

    U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II Combat Chronology 1941 - 1945

    Compiled by

    Kit C. Carter Robert Mueller

    SUNDAY, 9 JULY 1944



    (Fifteenth Air Force):In the Fifteenth's first Pathfinder-led mission, 222 B-17s and B-24s bomb Xenia and Concordia Vega oil refineries at Ploesti, Rumania; P-38s and P-51s fly escort; other P-51s sweep the Ploesti area during the attacks; the bombers and fighters claim destruction of 14 of the 40-50 opposing fighters; 6 AAF aircraft are shot down.

    SATURDAY, 15 JULY 1944



    (Fifteenth Air Force):In Rumania, 600+ B-17s and B-24s bomb 4 oil refineries in the Ploesti area and the Teleajenul pumping station; and P-51s and P-38s fly 300+ escort sorties.

    SATURDAY, 22 JULY 1944



    (Fifteenth Air Force):In Rumania, 76 P-38s and 58 P-51s begin the second Fifteenth Air Force shuttle missions, attacking airfields at Zilistea and Buzau (claiming the destruction of 56 enemy aircraft) and landing at Operation FRANTIC bases in the USSR; 458 B-17s and B-24s (with fighter escorts) bomb an oil refinery at Ploesti and other bombers hit alternate targets of the Verciorova marshalling yard, Orsova railroad bridge, and Kragujevac, Yugoslavia marshalling yard.

    WEDNESDAY, 26 JULY 1944



    (Fifteenth Air Force):Fighters on the second shuttle mission leave USSR Operations FRANTIC bases, strafe enemy aircraft in the Bucharest-Ploesti, Rumania area, and return to bases in Italy. In Austria, 330+ B-17s and B-24s attack the Wiener Neudorf aircraft factory, the airfield at Markersdorf, Thalerhof, Zwolfaxing, and Bad Voslau, and targets of opportunity in the Vienna area. Also hit are Szombathely Airfield, Hungary and oil storage at Berat, Albania. Fighters fly escort and carry out patrols and sweeps in the Brod-Zagreb, Yugoslavia and Ploesti-Bucharest, Rumania areas; bombers and fighters claim 70+ enemy aircraft shot down.

    SUNDAY, 30 JULY 1944



    (Fifteenth Air Force):300+ bombers attack targets in Hungary and Yugoslavia: B-24s bomb Duna Airfield; B-17s bomb the aircraft factory at Budapest, and marshalling yards at Brod, Yugoslavia; P-38s and P-51s escort the missions.

    MONDAY, 31 JULY 1944



    (Fifteenth Air Force):360+ bombers attack targets in Rumania; B-17s hit an oil refinery at Ploesti; B-24s bomb 2 oil refineries at Bucharest, 1 at and Doicesti, and oil storage at Targoviste. Fighters escort the bombers.

  • Thank you for posting your question on History Hub!
    Starting in late May 1943, the Army Air Forces required that a missing aircrew report be filed when a crew was lost in combat. During the course of World War II some 16,700 such reports were filed. Most of the reports contain name, rank and service number of crew members; date, place and circumstances of loss; unit to which the crew was assigned; place of origin of the flight; and some details regarding the aircraft itself. Unfortunately, not all losses are documented. If the fate of the crew was established within a few days, a report often was not filed. If a plane was lost due to an accident, a report usually was not filed. And, because it was wartime, there occasionally were lapses in completing even required reports.  

    We searched the National Archives Catalog and located the Missing Air Crew Reports (MACRs), 1942 - 1947 in the Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General (Record Group 92). This series of records may be of interest for your research and include information on the downed bomber. This series has been digitized and is available using the Catalog. If you know the name of the crew members you may want to review the Name Index to the Series Missing Air Crew Reports (MACRs), 1942–1947 to identify the report number associated with the downed bomber. There are additional indexes arranged by tail number and date which have not been digitized. If you are able to identify the plane tail number or specific date of the crash and would like to know more about these non-digitized indexes, please contact the National Archives at College Park - Textual Reference (RR2R) via email at archives2reference@nara.gov.

    The National Archives does not have the present addresses of former service personnel or their survivors on file.  Please review Locating Veterans and Service MembersLocate Military Members, Units, and Facilities and Finding Living People in the United States for information and/or resources to assist you with locating the person you seek.

    We invite you to continue the conversation with community members on History Hub, but should you have follow up questions for the staff at Archives II, please email us at archives2reference@nara.gov so that we can assist you further.

    We hope this assists you with your research!


    Textual Reference Archives II Branch (RR2RR)
    [RR2RR 23-55002-SZ]
  • My grandfather was on that flight.  He was the navigator of the plane that went down.  He survived and had to flea with the help of the local. 

  • My late uncle Lester Kielsmeier was shot down over Yugoslavia in World War II.  He was one of the pilots and survived along all but one of the crew members that did not bail out.  They were on the run for about 3 months and helped with the Yugoslavia underground. They can be found in the Missing Air Crew Reports from World War II…….