A World War II relic lies forever deep beneath the surface near Old North State Club.
From the islands of the South Pacific to the fields and beaches of Europe, you can find dozens of memorials commemorating the U.S. soldiers who fought and died in World War II. But a monument much less well-known honors two soldiers who perished tragically near the Old North State Club during the war.
Although the moments before the crash of the B-25 bomber plane into the dark waters of Badin Lake are shrouded in mystery, the story passed down through the years is one of a romantic gesture gone wrong. On June 8, 1944, two days after D-Day, 2nd Lieutenant Charles McDaniel and co-pilot John Withrow prepared to continue a delayed trip of the bomber to the marine base in Cherry Point, North Carolina when McDaniel decided to get creative with their departure. Before takeoff, he told his parents, in-laws, and new bride Elizabeth Hill that he would circle Palmer Mountain and fly past the house to signal goodbye. Unfortunately, that moment never arrived. As they waited in the front yard, they heard a loud explosion — the plane crashed into Badin Lake.
While Hill, devastated, ran back into the house, the families hurried to the lake only to find debris. Military naval divers conducted searches that located the plane but not the bodies of the pilots. A week after the crash, a report to the chief of naval operations stated that “it is quite evident the aircraft disintegrated on impact, and that the parts are well buried in the silt on the bottom of the reservoir ... No seats were recovered from the wreckage and it is possible that the bodies may still be strapped in the seats which, by their weight, would cause them to be buried in the mud on the bottom of the reservoir.”
The military never officially determined the cause of the crash, but has concluded that McDaniel was 15 miles away from his approved route when the crash occurred. The plane had no reported maintenance issues on the day of the crash; some historians theorize that the plane hit an air pocket, causing the wing tip to hit the water. The truth of what caused the crash may remain a mystery forever. Portions of the plane were recovered during the salvage operations and can be seen at the Badin Historic Museum, but no bodies were ever recovered.
In 1991, the Naval Historical Center conducted a further search that yielded only several small plane parts. Leftover funds from the effort were used to erect a memorial to the two pilots. It was dedicated on Veteran’s Day in 2001, a lasting reminder.