Near Springfield, Maine – November 15, 1941
According to the Army Air Corps investigation report on this accident, the aircraft involved crashed about ten miles south of Springfield, Maine. Other sources put the location closer to Lee, Maine.
At 4:45 p.m., on November 15, 1941, two Douglas B-18A bomber aircraft, left Westover Field in Chicopee, Massachusetts, bound for Bangor Air Base in Maine. The two planes were not cleared as one flight, but as two individual flights.
The first B-18, (Ser. No. 37-521) was piloted by 2nd Lt. Peyton W. Beckham, and the other by a pilot identified only as Lt. Offers. The two men had agreed to stay in sight of each other during the trip, and had further agreed that in the event they had to fly above any overcast in the vicinity of Bangor that that Lt. Beckham would wait until Lt. Offers landed first. This was due to the weather forecast for Bangor stating there was cloud cover over the area.
At a point about half way between Concord and Augusta, both aircraft climbed to 5,500 feet to get above the 3,500 foot overcast. When they reached Bangor shortly after 6:00 p.m., Lt. Offers made his descent first as per their agreement. The overcast ceiling at Bangor at this time was 1,400 feet, and dropping, and darkness was coming on.
At 6:32 p.m., after some garbled radio dialogue with the Bangor control tower due to interference with the radio signals from a Canadian source, Lt. Beckham advised he would try to make it to Portland, Maine, as his aircraft wasn’t equipped for instrument flying.
By 6:46 the overcast had dropped to 400 feet.
At about 7:20 p.m. Lt. Beckham’s aircraft was seen approaching Springfield, Maine. Ten minutes later it passed over the Carry Farm about ten miles south of Springfield, where three hunters later said it passed over their camp at a very low altitude heading southwest, and shortly afterwards they heard it crash.
According to the hunters, the weather in the area was very bad, with poor visibility due to fog and rain.
The plane had crashed in a remote and thickly wooded area surrounded by bog and swampland. Investigators concluded that the left wing caught in the tree tops near the bottom of a hill, dragging the aircraft down and causing it to swing to the left for 10 to 15 yards before it began to cartwheel up the hill for 200 yards. It was at this point the plane broke apart and caught fire. Debris was scattered in all directions for 200 to 300 yards.
All four crewmen aboard the plane were killed. They were identified as:
(Pilot) 2nd Lt. Peyton W. Beckham
(Co-Pilot) 2nd Lt. Wyman O. Thompson, 21. He’s buried in Underwood Cemetery in Underwood, North Dakota. To see photo of Lt. Thompson, and one of his gravesite, go to www.findagrave.com, and see Memorial #21814620.
(Engineer) Corporal Jacob L. Parson, 30. He’s buried in Rosemont Cemetery in Rogersville, Penn.
(Radioman) Pfc. Lee E. Rothermel, 20. He’s buried in Trinity Lutheran cemetery in Valley View, Penn.
One of the cockpit instruments that was recovered at the scene was the plane’s airspeed indicator, which was stuck at 195.
The men were assigned to the 63rd Bomb Squadron, 43rd Bomb Group.
This crash is said to be the first fatal military aviation accident to occur in the State of Maine. To see photos of the crash site as it appears today, see www.mewreckchasers.com.
Twenty-two days after this accident, the United States was drawn into World War II.
U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident #41-11-15-6