The ABCs of Lowell History: X Marks the Crash Site

The ABCs of Lowell History is back for another round. This popular series explores a wide variety of topics in Lowell area history in weekly online articles and is written by volunteers and staff from the Lowell Area Historical Museum.

X Marks the Crash Site

Lt. Ray Allen was two missions away from returning home with 50 completed missions when on June 26, 1944, the enemy fire that took out Lowell native Allen Wisner’s plane, also disabled Lt Allen’s airplane. As Lt. Allen was making an emergency landing, his airplane, a P-38 Lightning, got tangled in wires and crashed into a swamp in Slovakia causing fatal injuries.

The crash was witnessed by a young boy, Joseph Maly, and his mother. They reported the crash to the occupying Germans and then later when the area was under the control of the Soviet Union, they again told the officials, but no one ever investigated the crash site.

Lt. Ray Allen

Forty-five years later, the Soviet Union dissolved, and Slovakia was once again an independent country. The Americans opened an embassy in Bratislava and Joseph again reported the crash. This time there was immediate action. The plane was found, Lt. Ray Allen’s remains were recovered and returned to the United States. DNA testing confirmed his identity.

The Slovakian people and government had not forgotten the sacrifice made by Americans. They had protected U.S. Servicemen like Allen Wisner during the war. Though it was over 45 years later, when the country was free from Nazi and Communist rule, the government desired to express their gratitude. They created the Ray Allen Memorial at the crash site. They invited and paid for Lt. Allen’s family to attend the memorial in Bratislava. This memorial is topped by a fragment of a propeller from his P-38 Lightning plane.

Lt. Ray Allen Memorial, Bratislava Slovakia

The funeral for Lt. Ray Allen was held more than 50 years after his death. On January 21, 1995, many people joined Allen’s family in his hometown of Girard, Illinois to pay honor and respect to the fallen pilot. In attendance, along with his family and people from the small town, were Allen and Marian Wisner, along with Joseph Maley and his interpreter.

Allen and Marian Wisner were invited by Slovakia to return to the country. Wisner was presented with pieces of his plane that had been excavated, as a thank you from the grateful nation. He was shown the route of his journey in the country, including the hospitals and chicken coop where he had spent time hiding.

Allen Wisner was asked in an interview, “you went through a lot of danger, you went through actual moments, weeks and months, where at any time something could have happened that would have changed everything. Someone could have walked up to you and found out that you were an American, you could have been put into a POW camp, with all those experiences, with the horrific experience of being shot down, what did your World War II experience teach you?”

Allen answered, “I think that in one to two years of training, and then the short amount of combat experience, I went from perhaps an immature adult to an adult who would experience what not many people have experienced. What the Slovak people did for me goes way above and beyond the call of duty. They hid me, fed me, treated me royally. They had to be very careful, as careful as I was trying to be. I am grateful to many individuals, many of whom I have no idea what their names are. At that partisan camp, and on other occasions, they risked their lives. It wasn’t just for me, there were many others that I am still hearing about. No one that I’ve talked with who had experiences similar to mine that have any criticism or anything harsh to say about the Slovak people.”

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