By Kathi Kresol
Jack Magee was born in Rockford on August 6, 1916. He was one of six children born to Harry and Ethel Magee. They lived on Chicago Avenue before relocating to Belvidere around 1929.
Jack married Lucia Burton in 1937. They had a son that they named Charles after her father. Jack got a job driving a truck for the Harry Perkins Transfer Company.
In August of 1941, Jack left his family to join the Coast Guard. Jack was assigned to the 102nd Coastal Artillery Battalion from California. The battalion left San Francisco on the ship, Mastonian. It was a former luxury liner converted into a troop transport ship.
Jack was assigned to fly on the Short Empire Flying Boat named Corithian. They flew into Groote Eylant in Australia on March 20, 1942 to be a part of the first mission for World War II. It was a massive undertaking. Every available airplane was being piloted by American, Dutch and English pilots. They were gathering at Port Darwin to begin their assault.
Jack’s plane left for Port Darwin, and around 1 a.m. they began their descent. There were several theories about what happened next. One stated that their flying boat hit debris during the landing and sank two nautical miles from Darwin.
There were several men on board the aircraft including Capt. Tapp. He re-entered the hull after the crash in an attempt to save his men. Despite the other men’s efforts, Jack and another man, Sgt. Edward J. Endres, died in the crash. Their bodies were never recovered.
The crash happened in water that at low tide was about 30 feet deep. The tail of the plane actually stuck out from the water. The plane was embedded so deeply into the silt and mud that the decision was made to scuttle the ship instead of salvaging it. This was done quickly to clear the waterway for the shipping and other flying boats.
Jack Magee was the first casualty in Belvidere from World War II. Though his body could not be returned to his family, they were able to place a marker in the family plot at Cedar Bluff Cemetery. On Memorial Day of 1942, The Thomas G. Lawler Post, Veterans of Foreign Wars joined Jack’s family in honoring him as well as several others buried in Cedar Bluff.
The other men honored that day were Roger Atkinson, a RAF pilot who died over England; Albert K. Herron, a soldier killed in the Philippines; and Lt. Mike Tony Tangora, an Army flier who was killed in a west coast airplane crash.
Though Jack’s body lay in a watery grave many miles from his family, maybe it brought the family comfort to know that his name would be listed next to the rest of his family.
Jack’s wife and son lived for a time in New Milford before moving to Floresville, Texas. Lucia died in 1995 and was buried there in Floresville Cemetery. Charles Owen died in 1998 and was buried next to his mother.
Jack’s stone tell of his military title and states, “Lost at Sea”.
The remains of the wrecked plane once known as Corithian were allegedly found by a Darwin high school teacher, Sasha Muller, and her students in 2004.
The Rockford Historical Society will host a Cemetery Tour in Cedar Bluff Cemetery on June 18 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. There is no charge for this event but donations will be accepted.
Local Historian, Kathi Kresol from Haunted Rockford will be joining the Rockford Historical Cemetery Tour during the day and then will be back to host an evening event. The Cedar Bluff Cemetery by Lamplight Tour will begin at 7 p.m. Kathi will be joined by local historian, author and teacher, Amanda Becker. The price for this event is $20. For tickets or more information on these events, please visit the website at hauntedrockford.com.
Kathi Kresol is a local historian and author who loves to share the stories of the men, women and children who called Rockford home. She hosts historical and paranormal events in Rockford and the surrounding area. Read more of Kathi’s stories on her website at hauntedrockford.com.