Missing in action

The " McAllister" Case


A reconstruction of the death of Lt. Lee Anthony Mc.Allister Jr., who survived the shoot-down of his B-25, only to be executed as a "criminal" by the Germans not far from Valdagno (Vicenza), Italy.

By Maurizio dal Lago and Giuseppe Versolato

During the 2nd. World War a large number of allied aircraft were shot down by antiaircraft fire (flak), or in dogfights with German and Italian fighters. Many were shot down while attacking the bridges and roads along the Adige River Valley, or the Brennero Pass railroad, where the Wehrmacht's anti-aircraft fire was particularly efficient. Many of the crewmen who parachuted were captured by German troops. Other airmen were rescued by the partisans operating in the area and were helped back across the lines to rejoin their comrades. Such partisan groups were often supported in their efforts by allied organizations, such as S.O.E. (Special Operation Executive) and O.S.S. (Office of Strategic Service).

The following pages tell the story of an American bombing mission which occured on December 10th,1944, over Dolce', a small village in Veneto region of Italy. It is also the story of two B-25 crews who parachuted over the Lessini mountains, between the Chiampo and Agno Valley, after their aircraft was brought down by German flak.


Mission No. 716

At dawn on December 10th, 1944, twenty-two B-25J aircraft of the 12th Air Force's 310th.Bomb Group took off from their base close to the village of Ghisonaccia, on the eastern coast of Corsica Island. After taking off, they proceeded in a north east direction toward the Italian region of Liguria. Mission 716 had begun. Its target was a bridge on the river Adige, not far from Dolce', in the Lagarina Valley.

Ten of the aircraft were part of the 380th Squadron and twelve of the 428th Squadron. Since the target was "hot", or very dangerous, four "anti-flak" aircraft were in the formation. The bridge was in fact the most important link between Germany and Italy, through which all troops, supplies and Italian industrial products were carried. The area was heavily protected by German antiaircraft guns and therefore feared by allied bombers. Each "anti-flak" aircraft carried twenty-two 100 pound 'WP' (white phosphorus) bombs, while the rest of the aircraft in the formation each carried four 1000 pound 'M65' bombs.

The formation flew over Levanto (Liguria) and then proceeded to Garda Lake. The I.P. (initial point) was over Gardone, on the western side of the lake. The "anti-flak" aircraft were leading, followed by the bombers. The "anti-flak" aircraft's mission was to destroy the antiaircraft emplacements. The "anti-flak" aircraft therefore had to precede the other bombers, especially in the case of the low flying medium bombers such as the B-25J.

For most of 1944, "anti-flak" B-25 aircraft had used 128 pound 'M1' fragmentation bombs, but these missions had poor results. As the anti-flak aircraft approached the target, the artillerymen would take cover, leaving the guns silent and therefore difficult to spot. As soon as the fragmentation bombs had exploded, the artillerymen jumped back to their guns, ready to shoot at the incoming bombers.

By the end of 1944 a new strategy had been devised and the "anti-flak" aircraft were loaded with phosphorus bombs. The phosphorus bomb's fuses were timed differently in order to explode either 300 feet above the gun emplacements, or on impact with the ground. The mid-air explosions resulted in thousands of burning fragments descending over the enemy troops; the same occurred for impact explosions, but in this case against the antiaircraft emplacement. This new tactic resulted in keeping the artillerymen under cover for a longer time, enabling the bomber formations to drop their bombs, less threatened by flak.

Unfortunately on Mission 716 things did not go as planned.


B25s over Cittedella
Bombs Away!
B-25s of 310th Bomb Group's 379th and 380th Squadrons on bombing run over Fontaniva's Padua RR bridge. The RR connects Vicenza and Treviso. Also visible are the Brenta River and Cittadella.

The "Donna Marie II " B-25J

The 428th Squadron's Mission Report, filed after the mission states:

"excellent bomb concentration on RR tracks slightly north of target, other bombs cut tracks to the south and some direct hits on the RR fill. The "anti-flak" aircraft reported some hit over the gun siting" (but without knocking them down). "Flak over the target: moderate to heavy, accurate. Two aircraft lost, four aircraft hit and one man wounded."

One of the two B-25J aircraft shot down was the "anti-flak" formation leader. The aircraft, serial number 44-29937, whose name was "Donna Marie II", was hit by flak just prior to bomb drop. Despite being hit by enemy fire, they managed to complete their bombing run. Minutes later the aircraft lost power to an engine and crashed on the Lessini Mountains. The pilot of the "Donna Marie II" was Lt. Lee Anthony McAllister Jr. His crew was formed by 2nd.Lt. Derrill C.McMorris, (copilot), Capt. Jerry M.Baraniuk (bombardier), Sergeant Leonard J.Raple (tail gunner), Master Sergeant Robert E.Baccus (gunner-radio operator), and Master Sergeant Ernest C.Thompson (dorsal turret gunner).

McMorris later stated that his plane left the formation just over the I.P. in order to drop their bombs singly. After being hit and with the intercom unserviceable, there was no way to communicate with his crew. Some hits went directly into the bomb bay, igniting the phosphorus bombs, resulting in a dense smoke and preventing the crew from seeing each other. Fortunately, they managed to open the rear escape hatch and the gunners bailed out. McAllister signaled to McMorris to abandon ship, then he and Baraniuk went out through the forward hatch. McAllister, was the last person to leave the plane.

Other crews in the formation observed the "Donna Marie II's" plight. They reported seeing the flaming plane falling and crashing against a slope of a mountain, south east of Recoaro village at 11.06 AM. The plane was also seen by Mr.Candiago, a City Hall staff member in the nearby town of Altissimo.

Mr. Candiago recounts:

"At 11.30 AM an allied airplane went down near Campanella. At first it seemed to fall right over our houses... and it was very frightening, to see the flaming plane leaving a sickle-like trail of smoke, turn around the mountain, then suddenly point towards us. Then a large flame, a blast, and a black cloud of smoke rising from Campanella."

Don Giacomo Tonin, the parson of Castelvecchio parish, recorded in his register, on the same day

"Today a formation of American aircraft flew over us. In the sky above, one airplane caught fire and crashed at Campanella. The airmen descend by parachute over Campofontana."

These airmen landed in the Chiampo Valley. The Germans would capture all but McAllister within a day.

Capt. Baraniuk was hurt on landing, was captured and soon hospitalized in a German field hospital. On the 13th. of December he was taken to the Mantova hospital and later was transferred to Neurnberg-Landwasser concentration camp.

McMorris was captured the day after the crash at 08.00 AM two km. north east of Selva di Progno near the village of Durlo. Between the 11th and 13th of December 1944, McMorris was reported to be in Verona allied prisoner's camp, together with his three companions, Baccus, Raple and Thompson. Based on German documents dated January 11th.1945, they were all later moved to the "Dulag-Luft West" concentration camp in Germany.

McAllister was instead rescued by a patrol of Italian partisans. They were members of the "Stella" Brigade. A partisan code-named "Tigre" recalled:

"The pilot was not in good condition; he had inhaled smoke from the fire and he could not even speak".

"Catone", the code name for the political member of the brigade, stated that McAllister could not walk because he had hurt his right foot. McAllister was carried on a kind of sledge and taken to Molino di Altissimo. He spent his first night hidden under wine barrels in a Mr. Antonio Cavaliere's cellar. After a medical examination by the local doctor, Mr. Cavaliere took him to his house. On December 19th, "Catone" sent his superior, "Jura", the dog tag and I.D. of the American pilot, to forward to the Allied Headquarters, so as to inform them of McAllister's rescue.


The "El Lobo III" B-25J


The other downed plane, a B-25J serial number 43-27693, was "El Lobo III" of the 380th Squadron. This aircraft had been in formation behind the anti-flak aircraft. The group's mission report read:

"Lt. William B.Berry's aircraft was hit by flak over the target just after bombs away. It was hit at bombing altitude and momentarily out of control, but was eventually able to level around 5000 Ft. on 094° track. Last seen by Vestenanuova village. No chutes seen."

Lt.Berry had in his crew, Lt. Philip W. Newhouse (co-pilot), flight officer William C. Hunt Jr. (bombardier), private Ernest Young Jr. (tail gunner), corporal James Noaker (radio-gunner), sergeant William H.Krob (turret gunner).

"El Lobo" had dropped its bombs over Dolcè and had just started evasive action to avoid enemy flak, when Newhouse saw another B-25 (McAllister's plane), some distance ahead with lots of black smoke coming from one of his engines. The co-pilot called the crew to watch for parachutes, but suddenly three distinct jolts bounced his plane, which then dropped its right wing. Once again the flak had found its target.

Despite the direct hit, "El Lobo" managed to fly for another five to six minutes, the same time as for "Donna Marie II". When the plane became uncontrollable, Berry shouted, "BAIL OUT".

First to go, at 11.04, was Sgt. Krob, followed by FO. Hunt and Lt. Newhouse. The last one out was Lt. Berry. Before bailing out, Newhouse looked toward Noaker and Young's positions, but didn't see anyone; he thought that they had already bailed out. Instead they were both dead, having been killed by flak on their first and only combat mission. Their bodies were found by the Germans among the aircraft's wreckage on the top of the Marana Hill, as reported by the Recoaro mayor on June 24th, 1945. They were buried on December 15th, 1944 at Fongara.

Krob, the other gunner was captured by the Germans and was reported at Verona's Prisoners Camp on December 12th,1944. He was later moved and on Jan.24th, 1945 was reported at "Dulag-Luft West" camp in Germany.

ElLobo Crash Site
Crash Site of El Lobo III. Photo taken in 1999.

The partisans rescued Berry, Hunt and Newhouse. The story of Hunt's rescue is still unknown; what we know for sure is that he was rescued by the partisans and taken alone to the English mission of "Freccia".

Berry and Newhouse in fact stated to have seen Hunt "up on the hills close to Schio" ten days after the crash, on December 20th, 1944.

How Berry was rescued is also not clear but, he was able to join Newhouse soon after his rescue. We know Newhouse landed along the Chiampo Valley. As soon as he touched the ground a dozen people surrounded him. A woman approached him indicating to him that he was bleeding from his head and hand. She took him to her house and treated his wounds. Some time later two partisans came and took Newhouse into the woods, preceding the Germans by just a few minutes. "Catone" was soon notified about the three American airmen's rescue and he tried to contact them

"to send them to the English mission Dardo, from where they would be sent to the Freccia mission. As I arrived at the "Giorgio Veronese" battalion, two of them had already been sent to their proper destination, while the third one, Lt.McAllister was kept by a family because of his sprained ankle."

As is noted above, the two airmen staying with English Maj.Wilkinson, were joined their friend Hunt. Soon after though, their roads diverged again. Hunt managed to rejoin his unit in March 1945 after crossing into Switzerland. Berry and Newhouse went to the east, trying to reach Yugoslavia, but couldn't go further than the Italian region of Friuli, where they got in touch with Paul Newton Brietsche's English mission. There they stayed until the end of the war. On May 17th 1945 Brietsche recomended Berry for a medal.

The Snowdrop's colour

If this was the fate of eleven of the men, what was the fate of the twelfth?

Towards the end of December Catone, told Jura

" the American pilot has recovered. He will soon be taken a location near Recoaro Terme, so that he might reach the English mission."

This time, however, Catone couldn't count on mission Dardo's support, but only on brigade commander Jura's help to transfer Berry and Newhouse, as he was forced by a German round up to leave the Agno valley.

During this period, Jura stayed with his unit "Romeo" in Recoaro Terme area, where from September 1944 the O.B.S.W. (Oberbefehl Süd West /S-W High Command) was based, together with Kesserling's Army Corps Headquarters.

Prepared for his journey, on December 28th, McAllister departed from Molino di Altissimo, escorted by Catone and Amleto (Mr.Cavaliere's son). He was wearing a civilian suit and coat over his uniform. On December 31st. they arrived at a meeting point near Recoaro, but nobody was there. Jura and his unit had had to leave the area due to a sudden round up of partisans by the Germans. The group spent 1944 New Year's Eve hidden in the woods.

The following morning, Catone finally spotted the three men they were to redevous with. To get to where the other group was, they unfortunately had to cross a main road during daylight. This road was often used by O.B.S.W.trucks and cars and it was there that McAllister's luck ran out.

This is how Catone informed Jura about what happened next:

"Dear Jura, I imagine this morning you heard some shots along the Agno valley. These were fired from an armored truck. It was all because of us, Amleto, McAllister and me (…)". We were about to cross the main road, taking extreme care and were about to succeed, when a German car suddenly appeared. As we approached the river they started shooting at us; our life was in danger, so we all started running, except McAllister. Inexplicably he stopped and ran back towards the Germans, perhaps scared because of the shooting, but aware at the same time that he might be taken prisoner by them. We could have saved him just answering the German fire, but this might have endangered the entire area…."

Partisan Catone
Partisan Catone (Alfredo Bigonzo, on the right of the picture) the political representative of the Stella Brigade and McAllister's companion during his journey.

The Germans, took McAllister to the Valdagno prison rather than to their Headquarters, since they considered him a simple criminal, not a P.O.W. And this is how "the McAllister Case" began.

Catone, declared that McAllister was wearing a coat and a suit over his uniform. Moreover, we know that McAllister signed in, because on the prison's records he was listed (not quite correctly) as "Amo or Max Allisberg-airman". In this situation, it should have been obvious for McAllister to appeal to the Geneva Convention, nevertheless he was treated as a "bandit" until the very end. Why? Only suppositions can be made on this matter. First, the Germans might have initally believed they were dealing with a real criminal, because of his civilian clothes and his escape attempt.

Second, after having checked his identity, they might have connected him with the two B-25 crews shot down twenty days before. However, unlike the other crewmembers who died, were taken prisoner, or who immediately joined the Freccia mission, McAllister had been in contact with the partisans for nearly three weeks. Therefore the Germans likely considered McAllister as a useful source of information about the partisans and their bases.

Third, we must keep in mind that McAllister, while being transferred to the Freccia mission, passed very near to the O.B.S.W., which was at that moment the most important strategic point of the German defensive chain on the Italian front. The American airman therefore, might have been considered a spy. For some reason the German police operated with unusual cruelty in the officer's case.

Mc.Allister's detention lasted eight days, during which he was probably brutally interrogated, or even tortured. We do not know whether he revealed something of the little he knew. Surely he did not betray Cavaliere's family; however his fate was predetermined because the Germans could not acknowledge him as POW without being accused of international laws violation. McAllister could not stay alive as an American officer; he could only die as a bandit or partisan. And this was what happened.

At 3.30 PM on January 9th, 1945 two German MPs came to Mr.Alfonso Maroso's City Hall office, stating,

"We have killed a bandit, who was trying to run away along the main road". Mr. Maroso went there "exactly on the riverbed of Agno torrent".

He wrote in his records:

"I found the body of a man in his thirties, brown hair, well cut beard, a goatee, brown eye lashes and eyebrows, regular face, nose, mouth and chin, no peculiar marks, 67 inches height, wearing long military trousers, cotton underwear, military rubber sole shoes, no documents. The post mortem examination, made by the local doctor, stated that the unidentified person died around 3 PM due to bullet wounds, which entered the cervical area and went through the right eye and the left jaw."

This was an execution.

The location (the same of his capture) and the time were accurately chosen on purpose, so that the partisans, which the Germans knew to be in the mountains nearby, could see for themselves what they could expect if they were captured. The body was carried to the Recoaro Basilica and remained there for two days. Some townspeople felt pity for the dead man. One was Don Giovanni Dall'Armellina, the parson, who performed a Christian absolution. Then another unknown person, or people placed three small bunches of snowdrops between the bars of the small windows and doorstep of the improvised mortuary room, without being seen. The Germans disapproved.

Pilot Lt. Lee Anthony McAllister Jr., of Salem, Oregon, was buried at the Recoaro Cemetery on the 11th of January,1945 with no ceremony or religious service at all.

MACR n.10387 (B-25 El Lobo III), from the Air Force Historical Center,AFHRA, Maxwell.
MACR n.10777 (B-25 Donna Marie II), AFHRA, Maxwell.
Roll Microfilm n.229 DOD Dir.5200.9, History 310th BG, AFHRA.
Brigata Stella Archive, c/o Giancarlo Zorzanello, Montecchio Maggiore, VI.
Recoaro Terme City Hall Archive.
Recoaro Terme Parish Archive.

Many thanks to the following individuals for their assistance in preparing this article: Frank Dean, 310th BG.Historian, Dominique Taddei, Dante and Maria Cavaliere, Dr. Gelindo Pianalto, Pietro Benetti and Angela Cornale. A special thank to Ferdinando D'Amico for his accurate advise.

Note: The above material dates from April 2000 as provided by Giuseppe Versoloto. This story has now also been published on the web by Maurizio Dal Lago on his own web page located at http://www.dallago.vi.it/lee/tradinglmcllister.htm and also on Giuseppe Versoloto' web page at http://www.giuseppeversolato.it/News/dettaglio.asp?IdNews=35 I had the privillage to visit the memorial myself in October 2007 with the authors.

For a complete list of all documents, photographs, official records and other items on this site please go to the index.

Comments? Contact Giuseppe Versolato

Last Updated 25/January/2008