Monument dedicated to the operators of a 88mm cannon, part of 7AA regiment, 86th battery, who died on the 1st of August 1943 in Corlatesti village, near Ploiesti. The battery’s cannons were placed between the border of Berceni village and the Ghighiu Monastery. A unique circumstance made a B-24 plane, named Old Baldy, crash on top of this cannon. The plane was flown by John J. Dore and had just bombed the Astra Romana refinery. The operators of the 88mm cannon, under the command of captain Istrate Corneliu, commander of the 86th battery, saw the bombarder approaching at low altitude in their direction; they opened fire from a small distance after programming the projectile to explode at a distance of 500m. The crew of the B-24 plane saw the ground-to-air battery at the last moment and tried to open fire on it with the on-board machine guns. At the same time, the battery’s commander ordered fire. The projectile smashed through the front part of the plane and exploded on the inside. The plane continued flying for a few hundred meters and then it fell on the ground-to-air battery’s position, killing all the operators of the 88mm cannon that shot at it. Also, the entire crew of the B-24 Old Baldy bomber died on the spot. The bomber’s crew was composed of: Pilot Lt. John F. Dore, Second Copilot Lieutenent John B. Stallings, Second Navigator Locotenent Frank Worthington, bomber Joseph Finneran, Sgt. Max Lower, machine-gunners Sgt. Ray Gleason, Joseph Iosco, Jones Wesley, Frank Norris and Stanley Packe. The 88mm cannon operators were: charger soldier G. Bala, shooter soldier first class Ion Garlan, soldiers Alexandru Partica, Constantin Disdedea, Tudor Ghiaur, Paun Ozel.
Another missing member of the Dore crew, T/Sgt Max W. Lower, 345th Bomb Squadron, 98th Bomb Group, aboard B-24D-30-CO Liberator 42-40102, “Old Baldy” has been identified, according to a 14 November 2019 press release from the Defense POW/.MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).
T/Sgt Max W. Lower, radio operator on “Old Baldy” shot down during Operation Tidal Wave (Courtesy DPAA)
T/Sgt Lower, radio operator on the crew, went missing the day of Operation Tidal Wave, the 1 August 1943 low-level raid on the oil refineries at Ploiesti, Romania. “Old Baldy” was in the fourth wave over the target, White IV/Astra Romana and third ship in from the left end.
Michael Hill’s “Black Sunday” book on pages 92-93 describes the final moments: “OLD BALDY went into the smoke hopelessly on fire from the wing back. The pilot, Lt. John Dore, kept her in the air long enough for the bombs to drop into the conflagration. The burning ship lurched upward in a bid to gain altitude. The plane started to fall off on the right wing and slid towards the ground. The pink ship crashed beyond the refinery fence, killing the entire crew.”
In Roger Freeman’s “The Ploesti Raid: Through the Lens” book, page 128, the author succinctly states: “…Flown by 1s t Lieutenant John J. Dore, Jr and crew (10). Briefed to fly No. 5 in the left element of the fourth wave attacking White IV. Hit by flak and caught fire. Reported to have crashed on a Rumanian-manned gun emplacement a few miles beyond the refinery. Six members of the gun crew and all ten airmen. Only four bodies identified.”
The Dore Crew of “Old Baldy” in a photo taken some time before the Tidal Wave mission. T/Sgt Lower is kneeling at the far left (B24bestweb.com)
As discussed in a previous post at link below (Finneran), Old Baldy was taken under fire by a Romanian 88-mm anti-aircraft gun after clearing the cauldron of White IV. Struck by the gun, Dore piloted his mortally wounded aircraft into a crash atop the gun that hit him and his crew, killing the entire gun crew as well as all of “Old Baldy’s” crew. Today, a monument to the Romanian gun crew stands on the site at Corlatesti, a few miles south of the refinery.
Monument to the Romanian gun crew lost in the shoot-down of “Old Baldy” near Corlatesti. Note the Ploesti refinery in the distance (Source: Posting by “Cantacuzino” in the Romanian Military History Forum)
After the raid, the Romanian government recovered 216 bodies of fallen B-24 crewmembers, but only 27 could be identified. Those who weren’t identified were buried in the Hero Section of the Bolovan Cemetery at Ploiesti. After the war, theses bodies were exhumed and transported to the American Military Cemetery at Neuville-en-Condroz, Belgium. Anthropological and DNA analyses were used to identify T/Sgt Lower’s remains. The DNA work was enabled with help from T/Sgt Lower’s two surviving siblings, a brother and a sister.
As T/Sgt Lower’s name is listed among the 1,409 names on the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery in Italy, a rosette will be placed by his name showing that he has now been accounted for.