Ján Babinčák, Bratislavia, Slovakia
My name is Ján Babinčák and I am an amateur aviation historian
working in Aviation History Society with Slovak National Museum in Bratislava.
Early morning on October 17th, 1944 a B-24, Serial no. 42-51964
aircraft piloted by John Fasnacht took off from Pantanella AAB for their mission over
Vienna. After being hit there by AAA (Flak) they started to lose altitude and blew up
in the air over the village of Zohor located just across the border with Austria. The pilot,
2nd Lt. John Fassnacht, and the gunner, S/Sgt.Merton Haigh, were killed.
Members of our society have erected a memorial to those two
US airmen who were not lucky enough to make it home. I know that it is very difficult
to trace people down after that many years, but we are dedicated to preserve that
history and their memory also for younger generations.
These are two pictures showing the memorial erected in the
place where the B-24 Serial no. 42-51964 came down on October 17th 1944. The
memorial was erected in honor of the two US airmen (464 BG) who had lost their
lives in Zohor on Oct. 17th 1944.
The shape of the memorial was intended to resemble the battered
rudder fin of a B-24 bomber. It was erected back in 1995 by the members of the
Aviation History Society in Bratislava, led at that time by Mr. Ebringer. Unfortunately,
Mr. Ebringer died in 2004 after being confined to a wheel chair for 6 years following
The marble plaque on the detail photo bears the following inscription:
"US airmen MERTON HAIGH (Spelling error) JOHN FASSNACHT, who have
died on Oct. 17th 1944 giving their life for liberation of the Czechoslovak Republic."
What is interesting is the fact that the plaque was initially
affixed to the tombstone under which they were buried in Zohor.
After the war their bodies were exhumed by the American War
Graves Mission and transferred to the US Military Cemetery in St. Avold, in France.
After the communist take over in 1948, the plaque was recovered
by a villager and hidden for the next 40 years in his house.
After the velvet revolution in Czechoslovakia (1989) it was again
possible to speak openly and to tell the truth about the contribution of the western
allies to win the war.
I would like to ask you, veteran airmen, from the same squadron
for your assistance. Do you have any knowledge of, or know whether there is a
veteran association that is keeping records on your BG and/or your BS? Did you
ever have a chance to meet any of the surviving crew members of the above B-24?
The crew was as follows: John Fassnacht, Pilot; John Lindsay,
Co- pilot; Richard Witt, Navigator; Robert Cunningham, Bombardier; John Lonsdorf,
T/Sg.; John Krogstadt, Gunner; Lyndle Clark, Gunner; James Hutchinson, Gunner;
Merton Haigh, Gunner and Hadden Raymond, Gunner.
Any information, or fragments of it, pointing me in the right
direction would be highly appreciated. If you know of any researchers, historians or
any e-mail addresses that could help would also be highly appreciated.
In 2004 there was a 60th anniversary of that event and the
municipal government in that village organized a celebration that was attended by
US embassy people in Bratislava/Slovakia and if possible members of that crew or
If you know of any one that may be able to help, please convey
this message to them. I look forward to hearing from you, and in return, if there is
something new, I will inform you about the progress of our search.
Phone: 00421-2-5055-1919 or 00421-2-54413932