During WWII, the United States Army adopted a form to document the fate of missing air crews. Missing Air Crew Reports (MACRs) are a valuable resource that provides details, witness statements, survivor accounts, and more. The reports tell the story of aircraft that went down for various reasons, including enemy fire, bad weather, or mechanical difficulties.
A glance through the MACR collection reveals a rich collection of stories of bravery, sacrifice, and survival. Army rules dictated that a MACR be filed within 48 hours after an aircraft was officially reported as missing. While this allowed for fresh witness testimony, it also meant that the outcome for some crew members was unknown. The reports include each soldier’s military ID number. This information allows researchers to explore additional records such as the POW collection, hospital admissions, or death records.
Here are a few stories from the MACR Collection:
On November 1, 1943, S/Sgt. Evarist V. Albers and his crew from the 47th Bomb Squadron, 97th Bomb Group, took off for a bombing mission over Italy. As they neared their target, the formation encountered enemy flak. Moments later, the aircraft lurched. They had been hit and were going down! An explosion took a wing off and burned Albers’s face. They began to roll, but Albers managed to bail out. He searched for other survivors as he floated to the ground but didn’t see any other sign of life. A nearby gunner testified that he saw two chutes, one fully opened, but the other one was trailing. Albers was the only survivor of the crash and returned to service four days later.
On August 7, 1942, a B-26 Marauder loaded with seven crew and Associated Press reporter Vernon Haugland encountered a severe storm and drifted off-course over New Guinea. With fuel running low, the crew bailed out at 13,000 feet and landed in the jungle. The crew became separated and spent the next several weeks trying to escape. Haugland kept a journal of his 43 days in the wilderness. He nearly starved to death and weighed just 95 pounds when he was rescued. Haugland became the first civilian recipient of the Silver Star medal for heroism. He later published a book, Letter from New Guinea, about his experiences. Co-pilot James A. Michael and 1st. Lt. Carroll W. Casteel did not survive the ordeal. Pilot Duncan A. Seffern spent two weeks in the jungle before being rescued but died months later in another airplane crash.
Lawrence H. Lancashire served in the 93rd Bomb Group, 409th Bomb Squad, and participated in Operation Tidal Wave – the bombing of oil refineries around Ploiesti, Romania, in 1943. Lancashire was co-piloting a B-24 Bomber with a crew of 10. They were flying at tree-top level when enemy fire hit the aircraft’s engines, and they crash-landed. Lancashire was captured and spent three months as a prisoner of war. Others in the crew were not so lucky. Pilot Hubert H. Womble lost a foot and was also taken POW. William K. Little broke his leg and was trapped in the plane. While waiting hours for extrication, airplane fuel ran over his body. He died eight days later from untreated injuries and the poisoning effects of gasoline vapor. Details about other crew members are also contained in the report.