Max W. Lower

Max W. Lower

March 20, 1920 ~ August 1, 1943

Max W. Lower was born March 3, 1920, in Idaho Falls, Idaho and died August 1, 1943, in Ploiesti, Romania. His parents were Samuel Steven Lower and Mary Oka Litz Lower.

He was the oldest of six children. The family returned to their native Cache Valley in 1926 to farm in Lewiston, Utah.

Max graduated from North Cache High School and Seminary in 1938, where he played on the tennis team. He worked during the Great Depression for the Civilian Conservation Corps building erosion walls in Logan Canyon, campsites and bridges. Later worked with Olaf Nelson Construction Co. He attended Utah State Agriculture College.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Max recognized that being high on the military draft list he could wait to be drafted or enlist. He said, "I would rather fly over the fracas than trudge through it."^Twenty-seven days later, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and trained at various air bases as a radioman.

He was assigned to a flight crew on a B-24 Liberator bomber, nicknamed "Old Baldy"^with an American Bald Eagle design on it.

In early December 1942, he had a five-day pass to Utah to visit his family. Since it took two days on the train to get to Utah and two days back to his base, his family met with him in Ogden for 18 hours. It was the only time they ever had a family portrait taken together.

Early January 1943, Max was deployed to a base near Benghazi, Libya. He flew on dozens of missions and wrote a letter to his family that after a special upcoming mission, (his 33rd, exceeding the required 30 missions) he would be coming home.

Late Sunday night, August 1, 1943, Max's mother turned on the radio and heard of a massive air raid on the Ploiesti oil fields and refineries in Romania. The raid was called, "Operation Tidal Wave",^and was the largest bombing mission over Ploiesti, which supplied one third of the oil to the Nazi war effort.

A total of 177 B-24's flew the mission and were divided into three groups. Max's plane, Old Baldy, was in the last group over the target. His aircraft was one of 53 planes and 660 air crewmen lost.

Two weeks later, two uniformed soldiers in a military sage green car with a star insignia arrived at the Lower farm. They handed a yellow telegram to Max's father stating Max was Missing in Action as of August 1, 1943. A year later his status was changed to "Presumed Dead."

In March 1945, Max was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with one Oak Leaf Cluster, an Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, and a Purple Heart.

It wasn't until January 2009, that his family learned there had been an eyewitness to the fate of Old Baldy. A monk from a nearby monastery reported Old Baldy flew into the sights of a German 88mm anti-aircraft gun, which fired a shell piercing the nose of the plane at "30 feet or less." The plane then landed on top of the gun crew. The unknown remains were buried in a local cemetery.

Following the war, as part of its commitment to their "No Man Left Behind",^mantra, the U.S. Military exhumed the unknown remains, and reinterred them in an American Military Cemetery in Belgium.

In 2013, the military made a renewed effort to identify remains from this and other battles. Using today's advanced DNA technology, Max's remains were identified in October 2019.

The family expresses gratitude and appreciation to our Country, Government, and Defense Department for their great efforts to Leave No Man Behind.

Survivors include: Helen Lower Simmons (John), Samuel Steven Lower, Jr., and wife Diane. Deceased include: Max's Parents; brother, Bartley Litz Lower (Donna); sisters, Anne Lower Jardine (Clyde) Rhinehart (Harold), and Mary Oak Lower Maughan (survived by husband Boyd). Several generations of nieces and nephews have been added to the Lower family tree.

A memorial service will be held at 12:00 noon, Saturday, November 23, 2019, at the Lewiston 3rd/4th Church, 16 South Main, Lewiston Utah. A visitation will be held at 11:00 a.m.

A graveside burial with full military honors will follow at the Lewiston City Cemetery.

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