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Peter "Pete" John Kovacovich
- Name: Peter "Pete" John Kovacovich
- Location of Birth: Bovey, Minnesota
- Date of Birth: February 21, 1920
- Date of Death: November 12, 2002
- Parents: Steve Kovacovich & Barbara (Shustarich) Kovacovich
- High School and Class: 1938 Greenway High School, Coleraine, Minnesota
- Highest Rank: T SGT (Technical Sergeant)
- Branch: Army
- Other Branch:
- Date Sworn In: July 31, 1942
- Place Sworn In:
- Date of Discharge: September 28, 1945
- Place of Discharge:
- Military Awards:
- Military Highlights:
WW II Draft Registration Cards – 10/16/1940 – 03/31/1947
Name: Peter John Kovacovich
Birth Date: February 21, 1920
Birth Place: Bovey, Minnesota, USA
Residence Place: Bovey, Itasca, Minnesota, USA
Registration Date: July 1, 1941
Employer: Danube Mining Co., Bovey, Itasca, Minnesota
Eye Color: Brown
Hair Color: Brown
Next of Kin: Steve Kovacovich, Rt. 2, Bovey, Minnesota
Newspaper article: Bovey Press, Bovey, Minnesota – December 11, 1942 – “Dear Friends: I received your wonderful Christmas present and thank you for it very much. It is very nice that you are sending presents to all the boys in the army from Bovey and I know they will appreciate them as much as I do. I am a part of the Air Corps here at Wenover Field and it feels good to know I am doing my part to help win this war. Once again I thank you for your wonderful present and hope to get a furlough and come back and see good old Bovey again. So until then, I remain one of the soldier boys. Sincerely yours, Pvt. Peter Kovacovich.”
Newspaper article: Bovey Press, Bovey, Minnesota – July 30, 1943 – “Chicago, Ill., June 28, 1943. Dear Mr. Clem: Yes, I did go to school while you were Principal in Bovey, for a few months. I went to kindergarten, tho not too long. I sure am missing that, but I still remember it. I’m going to radio school here in Chicago and will graduate the 15th of July as radio operator and mechanic. It’s really been a long hard course, but I’m glad to say that I have learned a lot and believe I can handle my job when called upon to do it. Don’t know when I will get a chance to see good old Bovey again, but hope it’s not too long. I sure am missing that great sport of fishing that our State is noted for and am always “bragging” about it to the other boys. I want to thank you for the nice letter, Mr. Clem, and also the Service Men’s Club for the wonderful job it’s doing. I am receiving the Bovey Press regular and sure do appreciate reading it, especially the back page with the letters from the boys and Ann’s wonderful column. Give my regards to all my friends in Bovey and the boys in the Service. So long and here’s hoping to be seeing you all soon. Sincerely, Peter Kovacovich.”
Newspaper article: Bovey Press, Bovey, Minnesota – December 24, 1943 – “Dear Friends: Although I have moved around a lot and had a change in address, your very nice Christmas card reached me yesterday (Dec. 5). I want to express my thanks and I really enjoyed receiving it, as I know all the other boys in the service from Bovey did. I’ve been here in Wendover for about a month going to gunnery school and expect to graduate in about a week. A guy sure has to go thru a lot of schools before he gets his wings to fly. But I guess it won’t be too long now before I’ll get my heart’s desire. If my luck holds out, I expect to get a furlough and come back to good Bovey again before long. So until then, I’ll say so long and express my thanks to the Service men’s Club for the wonderful job it’s doing for us boys. Sincerely, Peter Kovacovich.”
Newspaper article: Bovey Press, Bovey, Minnesota - 1944 – "Mr. and Mrs. Steve Kovacovich also received a telegram from their son Peter Kovacovich, who has been “missing in action” for over a month in Italy. Peter was in the 15th Air Force that was said to have returned in news over the radio last week. Peter’s folks heard the broadcast and had hopes he was in the bunch that had made their way back. The very next day they received the telegram.
Newspaper article: Bovey Press, Bovey, Minnesota – January 26, 1945 – “Italy, Dec. 20th. Dear Mrs. Rost: My many thanks to you and the Bovey Service Men’s Club for your Christmas gift. It honestly was good to see some good old Uncle Sam’s money again for a change. I know it’s going to surprise you to receive this letter from me, for in the past I had neglected to write to you folks. I hope you will forgive me for I’m not much of a hand at letter writing. I’d much rather read some of the other boys’ letters on the back page of the Bovey Press. Incidentally, the Bovey Press and Reader’s Digest reach me quite regular and are enjoyed and appreciated very much. I still have a few more missions to fly and then will be heading for good old Bovey again. Plan on being with you some time in the early spring. Once again, my many thanks to you, Ann, and all the folks back home who are helping to make this army life easier for us boys. Also my best regards to all the boys in the service from up Bovey way. So long and hoping to be with you soon. Sincerely, Peter Kovacovich.”
Newspaper article: Bovey Press, Bovey, Minnesota - January 1945 – Boveyite Decorated in Italy – Pvt. Peter Kovacovich, son of Mr. and Mrs. Steve Kovacovich of Bovey, located somewhere in Italy, received his Purple Heart from Colonel McGregor. He was wounded in the eye by German flak, but is all right now. He also was awarded the Air Medal.
Newspaper article: HometownFocus.Us - February 10, 2023:
Tech Sgt. Peter John Kovacovich was trained as a radio operator and in the fall of 1943 was assigned to a B-17G "Flying Fortress" bomber, with the 772nd Bomb Squadron of the 463rd Bombardment Group, 5th Bombardment Wing of the 15th Air Force. The radio operator in a B-17 sat behind the bomb bay, and should he have to bail out, it was likely through the bomb bay doors. They would be responsible for giving first aid if necessary to the other crew members. The radio operator was also trained as a gunner and manned a .50 caliber machine gun.
The 463rd moved to the Celone airfield, near Foggia, Italy, in February 1944 and on March 30, 1944, began bombing missions against marshalling yards, oil refineries and other industrial targets in Nazi-occupied Europe. Peter and his nine other crewmates went missing after a bombing run to the Xenia Oil Refinery in Ploesti, Romania, on July 31, 1944. The Ploesti oil fields eventually provided close to 60 percent of Germany's crude oil and, thus, became the third most heavily defended target in Europe outside of Germany itself.
According to the Army Air Corps' Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) No. 7206--filed on August 1, 1944, about Peter's missing plane--about 10 to 15 minutes after completing its bombing run and on its return home, the plane had two engines out due to German Flak (anti-aircraft guns) and fell behind the formation and lost altitude. Later, other planes in the formation lost radio and visual contact shortly after nearing the eastern border of Yugoslavia. The crew on the other planes in the formation reported that they thought there was enough time for all of the 10-man crew to have bailed out. It was later learned that after the crew had bailed out, the plane had crashed into the mountain summit near the village of Lubnica, Zajecar, Serbia, near Serbia's eastern border and 50 miles west of the Danube River and the Romanian border.
The pilot of Peter's B-17 on that run was Frederick R. Martin III, who died in 2003. In his obituary it stated: "During World War II, he was shot down over Romania and escaped over the Danube River to Yugoslavia, with the help of an underground network of peasants who protected him. He was smuggled out by an Office of Strategic Services team." Source: The Tampa Tribune, 2 Aug 2003.
Based on completed questionnaires added to the MACR report of some of the crew members, after they were rescued and returned to Italy, Peter and all of his nine crewmates, including the pilot, had safely bailed out. They were aided almost immediately by Chetniks and nearby villagers. Based on these additions to the MACR report, after a skirmish with Serb Communist Partisans, two of the crew members, who had sprained ankles from their jump, were taken by the Partisans. Peter and the remaining seven crew members went with the Chetniks on their long journey from near the crash site of Lubnica to the heavily guarded Chetnik area by the village of Pranjani, a 136-mile journey westward. By foot, the journey to Pranjani must have taken a few weeks. They could not stay in one place for more than a day because the local villagers had little food to spare and they needed to avoid constant German patrols. The MACR questionnaires stated that the two separated crewmates taken by the Partisans eventually made it back to Italy. One of the separated crewmates was Wendell S. Hameri, a waist gunner, who was from Roseau, Minnesota.
Not only is it interesting that Peter Kavacovich was part of this little known, but very dramatic and risky rescue told about in the book, his dad had immigrated from Serbia in 1913. Peter Kovacovich was born in Bovey in 1920, graduated from Greenway High School in 1938, and received his electrical training in Chicago.
At age 21, Peter registered for the draft in 1941 while working at the Danube Iron Mine in Bovey. His enlistment date and discharge dates in the Army Air Corps were July 31, 1942, and September 28, 1945, respectively. He was a recipient of a Purple Heart during his service, which his son, Glen, proudly displays to this day. Sometime in the early 1950's, he moved to Eveleth to work for MP&L, where he and his wife, Violet,, raised their two children.
- Wars Involved:
World War II
- MIA / POW:
Newspaper article: Bovey Press, Bovey, Minnesota - 1944 – "Among the American prisoners of war who returned to the American lines when Romania turned back her prisoners was Peter Kovacovich of Lawrence township, son of Mr. and Mrs. Steve Kovacovich. He was reported “missing in action” some time ago and was captured when he was over oil fields of Romania. He is a radio operator."
- Civilian Life:
Peter Kovacovich received electrical training in Chicago and then worked as an electrician for Minnesota Power until his retirement. He married Violet Mitrovich in 1950 in Minnesota.
Pete died in Coon Rapids, Minnesota and is buried in Eveleth Cemetery, Eveleth, Minnesota. He is survived by his son, Glen (Claudette) Kovacovich; a daughter, Susan (Steve) Demorlis; five grandchildren; a brother, Robert Kovacovich; four sisters, Ruby (Jim) Rudick, Millie Mandich, Zori (Steve) Rukavina, and Dorothy (Dale) Nordin; and numerous nephews and nieces. He was preceded in death by his wife, Violet, in 2002 and a sister, Mary.
Description of pictures:
Technical Sergeant Peter Kovacovich, right, standing next to one of the B-17 bombers, circa 1944.
Technical Sergeant Peter Kovacovich in his B-17 parachute harness, circa 1944.
Technical Sergeant Peter Kovacovich receiving his Purple Heart from his commanding officer in Italy, circa December, 1944. He had been wounded in the eye by German flak.
- Tribal Affiliation(s):