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41-28604 Crew
721st Squadron



1st Lt William E. Reno, Jr. (O-737650) Stalag Luft 3 after war back to California

Flight Officer Harold J. Houghton (T-122632) Oflag 64

2nd Lt Louis H. Prentice (O-809635) Stalag Luft 3 after war back to Washington

2nd Lt Jack M. Montgomery (O-751922) Stalag Luft 3 after war back to Texas

Staff Sergeant Harry A. Kandarian (39236900) Stalag 17A after war back to Texas

Staff Sergeant Armond E. Miller (12190952) Stalag Luft 4 after war back to New York

Staff Sergeant Roger W. Goodson (34385543) Stalag Luft 3.
The only seriously wounded, for a time he was in a hungarian hospital ,after war back to South-Carolina

Staff Sergeant Arthur H. Mainard (3797683) Stalag 2B after war back to Missouri

Sergeant Henry N. Erickson (39611815) Stalag 2B after war back to Montana

Sergeant Claude D. Day (35269524) Stalag 2B after war back to Kentucky

Joseph St Clair, a.k.a. József Szentkiralyi, (note1) remembers his experience with the crew of  an American B-24H Liberator of the 15th Air Force, 450th Bomb Group, 721st Squadron, Serial Number 41-28604, which belly landed in a snowy field near the village of Csáktornya, Hungary on Feb 22, 1944.
This was the first US bomber to crash land intact inside  Hungary.


Szentkiralyi

Szentkiralyi

Josef Szentkiralyi circa 1937


"On or about Feb 24, 1944, I was ordered to report in uniform to the head of the Prisoner of War Section of the Hungarian Foreign Office.  There I was told to proceed to Csáktornya (note2)  as a representative of this section and serve as an interpreter with the American POWs and observe the application of the rules of the Geneva Convention with regard to the treatment of enemy POWs. 

While in Csáktornya,  I spent approximately two days talking with the  U.S. airmen (note3), and obtaining supplies such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, etc., for them.  Most of our conversations took place while walking outdoors.  At no time were we accompanied by guards, although I am sure that we were under observation from a distance.  During these two days the Hungarian military in charge never questioned  me as to what the POWs told me.  I did not ask the U.S. airmen to reveal any information of military significance to me.  They voluntarily told me that they came from Italy and that they were attacked by German fighter aircraft over Yugoslavia (today's Croatia), and their pilot was able to belly land the plane on Hungarian soil (note4). 

Shortly after I arrived in Csáktornya, I was taken to the aircraft and was permitted to board it and inspect it.  To me it seemed that the airplane was undamaged (note5). On the third day of my stay in Csáktornya I was told that the German intelligence service arrived, took charge of the Americans, and I was ordered to return to Budapest.  However, before leaving for Budapest I was called before a panel of Hungarian and German military.  They requested that I tell them everything I learned from the Americans.  I told them that I learned nothing from or about the POWs of military importance and that my orders were to observe the adherence to the Geneva Convention in the treatment of the Americans.  When they pressured me to tell them what I considered of no importance to the military, I told them that I did not remember.  This was definitely a mistake and formed the basis of the criminal investigation against me (note6).  Under ordinary conditions this could have had serious consequences, but since I was transferred from one unit to another, and the military situation in Hungary had deteriorated rapidly, the military criminal justice system never caught up with me. 

Several months later in 1944, I was ordered to report for an interrogation, but when I was about to be called into some office, the air raid siren sounded and everyone ran for the shelter; I also ran—not for the shelter but for the nearest exit to the street.  After this, I never heard further about the investigation.  In 1945, Budapest fell to the Russian Army and the war was over for me."


Notes:
1. - At the time of this incident Szentkiralyi was a Hungarian citizen employed as translator with the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cultural Department, Budapest, Hungary.  He died in  2008 at age 94, at Santa Cruz, California, after a full life of service to others.
2. - Csáktoryna was occupied by Hungary from 1941-44; today it is the city of Cakovec, Croatia
3. - See MACR #3161
4. - See B-24 aircraft - 41-28604
5. - Apparently two engines had been damaged, forcing the pilot to belly land. See the Library of Congress (Veterans History Project) digital interview (2003) of the pilot, William E. Reno, Jr.
6. - Order of Criminal Investigation against Sgt. Szentkiralyi (below)



Headquarters

205th Home Defense Anti-aircraft Artillery Battalion
Budapest 56, Box 1
1131/1944

Notice of Initiating Action by Committee of Criminal Investigation:    Sgt. József Szentkiralyi
Budapest, September 4, 1944

You are hereby notified that action by the Criminal Investigation Committee has been ordered against you as prescribed in Appendix II, Article A-46 of the Criminal Code, based on the following:

1. / Refused to reveal information obtained from conversations with [American] POWs.
2. / In the course of interrogation attempted to negate his earlier statements or rather re-phrased them in the form of generalizations or uncertainties.
3. / In the spirit of ill-conceived chivalry, disregarded the interests of the Hungarian Army.

The enclosed receipt should be returned to this office without delay.

1. Enclosure


Col. Radvanyi

Luckily, by the time the authorities began the criminal proceedings, the Russians were approaching from the East and the Allies began more extensive bombing raids over Hungary, culminating in the 6-week long bombing and Siege of Budapest, and the city’s eventual ‘liberation’ by Communist forces. To evade the authorities, he hid in the upper floors of apartment buildings during the bombing of Budapest, while everyone else hid in bomb shelters. During one bombing raid, an unexploded 500 lb. bomb crashed through several floors of the apartment building where he was hiding and came to rest on the floor above him. For a period after the war, my father worked as a translator in the American Legation, Budapest, but was later accused by the Communists (who now occupied Hungary) as being an American spy, and so he was forced to flee with his family from Hungary for the U.S., eventually landing a job as the founding chairman of the Hungarian Language Department, Defense Language Institute, Monterey, CA. He retired from this job in 1978.
Joseph passed away on 4 January 2008 before he was able to contact any of the crew he helped.




Joseph St. Clair, receiving one of the many awards he was presented as founding Chairman of the Hungarian Department, Army Language School, which later was re-named the Defense Language Institute, West Coast Branch, Monterey, CA.

József Szentkiralyi/Joseph St. Clair information provided by his son, George St. Clair.





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