Bedford, Massachusetts – August 17, 1946
On August 17, 1946, a flight of two P-51 aircraft took off from Bedford Army Air Field in Bedford, Massachusetts, to participate in an air show. They were scheduled to take part in a escort formation flight with a B-29 that was also participating in the show.
As the B-29 was flying at an altitude between 2,500 and 3,000 feet, the two P-51’s swooped down on it from above and broke away in a roll. One of the P-51 pilots was 25-year-old 1st Lt. Severino B. Calderon, flying aircraft #44-64315. After rolling away from the B-29, Lt. Calderon climbed again and made another pass, this time coming within 50 to 100 yards of the bomber. As he did so, the P-51 rolled over into a “split-S” and began diving towards the ground. The plane crashed on the tracks of the Boston & Maine Railroad just ahead of a train bound from Boston to Chicago. Fortunately the train engineer was alerted to the wreckage and stopped before hitting it.
Lt. Calderon was a veteran of WWII. He earned his pilot’s wings on December 5, 1943, and served with the 8th Air Force in England. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters, the American Campaign Medal, the European – African – Mideast Campaign Medal, and the WWII Victory Medal.
To see photographs of Lt. Calderon, Google, “Severino B. Calderon American Air Museum Britain”. www.americanairmuseum/person/203944
During his time in England, Lt. Calderon flew a P-47 Thunderbolt named “SNAFU”. There is presently a P-47 that has been restored to the markings of Lt. Calderon’s aircraft in England. Photos of this airplane can been seen elsewhere on the Internet.
Lieutenant Calderon’s accident wasn’t the only incident to occur relating to the air show.
On August 15th, a flight of three P-51’s and two P-47’s left Mitchell Filed on Long Island, New York, to take part in the airshow at Bedford. The aircraft were supposed to arrive two days earlier, but poor weather had kept them grounded at Mitchell Filed. Therefore they didn’t have ample time to rehearse their maneuvers before their first scheduled demonstration.
Their first flight was an aerial parade over Boston to advertise the opening of the air show. A B-29 carrying news reporters was part of the parade, and the reporters requested that the escorting aircraft fly close to the bomber so they could obtain photographs of the planes flying in formation. As the planes were maneuvering into different formations, one P-51, (#44-64305), was suddenly caught in the prop-wash of the plane ahead of him, (P-51, #44-64308), and the propeller of 44-64305 caught the right wing of 44-64308 causing damage to the aileron and trailing edge of the wing. Fortunately both aircraft were able to land safely.
Army Air Force Crash Investigation Report, #47-8-17-3
Army Air Force Crash Investigation Report, #47-8-15-4
New York Times, “Plane Misses Train”, August 18, 1946
American Air Museum In Brittan
Daily Mail Article: “Aces High: Re-built P-47 Thunderbolt To Take To The Skies In Recreation Of World War II Dogfights 70 Years Ago”, by Ben Griffiths for the Daily Mail, June 26, 2102.