During World War II the Army Air Forces lost more than 4500 aircraft in combat against the Japanese. Between 1942-1945 the AAF lost over 7189 combat aircraft and 5317 training aircraft in the United States to accidents in training and transportation, claiming the lives of over 15,530 crewmembers and ground personnel in over 52,000 accidents. The US Navy and Marine Corps experienced 3632 aviation combat deaths during the war and 3257 non-combat aviation deaths. Such stories, accounting for these losses due mostly to accidents, have been largely forgotten

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While reading the published version of Beneath Haunted Waters I have discovered some errors. A list of Errata can be found HERE.



In the early morning hours of December 6, 1943 a B-24 Liberator bomber #41-28463 and its crew of six disappeared between Tucson, Arizona and its base at Hammer Field in Fresno, California.

Of a squadron of ten B-24s sent to find 463, a second aircraft, named Exterminator, crash-landed and sank into the reservoir at Huntington Lake. Only the copilot and radio operator survived when they managed to bail out at the last moment. Not until 1955, when the reservoir was drained so repairs could be done was Exterminator found.

In 1960 two US Geological Survey researchers and a National Park Service ranger discovered the wreckage of 463 in a lake at 12,255 feet in the High Sierra of Kings Canyon National Park. The copilot's father had spent the previous 15 years looking for his son, only to die of heart failure in 1959. The lake is named for the father and the son he never found: Hester Lake.

Beneath Haunted Waters is the story of the two airplanes, the crews, and generations of people who would not let this story be forgotten.

"Poignant and gripping, Beneath Haunted Waters reminds us of a side of war we seldom hear about, the high toll it takes outside of combat. Flying into a mountainside at night is just as deadly as flying into a hail of enemy gunfire and just as painful for the families of those killed. Perhaps even more so, because in the two cases Peter Stekel expertly reconstructs here, years passed before the survivors knew how their sons lives ended."

Adam Hochschild

Lecturer at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley and author of To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 and Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939.

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"In this book Stekel has successfully overcome the most difficult obstacles in writing about aviation disasters. He has coupled deeply detailed research with the best of storytelling. The crewmen in these stories would be proud to know how well their stories have been captured in this book.

"The stories Stekel has written about in this book have begged to be told for decades. Finally, we can now know the in depth details that have never been told with such depth and clarity.

"Just when one thinks there is nothing further to write about on old military plane crashes a book like this comes along. Stekel has captured both the facts and spirit of these crashes in the most readable manner.

"It is a little recognized fact that thousands of American fliers died in aviation accidents during training for World War Two. In this book Stekel tells the fascinating stories behind two of the crashes whose wreckage evaded discovery for decades. This is a unique book about military aviation and the fates of crews who never made it to combat.

"The waters of the world still hold the wreckage of many missing airplanes whose fates remain a mystery. For once, in this book, we can finally know so many answers that have hung out there for seemingly endless decades on two of those crashes. Stekel has used extensive research and great storytelling to close the books on these two bomber crews.

"The fates of far too many World War Two bomber crews still remains a mystery seven decades after the shooting stopped. Finally, because of Stekelís in depth research and storytelling skills, we can now read the rest of the story for two of these crews. Mystery solved."

Brian Linder

Aviation Archeologist

Listen HERE to an MP3 audio sample from Chapter 1 read by Ron Welch Jr., grandnephew of 2nd Lt. William Cronin, navigator on 463.

Thank you for visiting this website. I hope you enjoyed reading Beneath Haunted Waters and it will inspire you to contribute and support veteran's issues from all our wars. They gave their best, fighting and sometimes dying for us. The very least we can do is give our best to support them. Thank you.


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