Elephant Mountain, ME. – January 24, 1963

Elephant Mountain, Maine – January 24, 1963

 

B-52 Stratofortress
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On January 24, 1963, an Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber, (Ser, No. 53-0406), left Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee, Massachusetts, for what was to be a low-altitude training flight over northern Maine to practice techniques in evading enemy radar.  Shortly before 3:00 p.m. the aircraft encountered turbulence during which the aircraft’s rear stabilizer suffered a structural failure which sent the plane into the side of Elephant Mountain in Piscataquis County.  Of the nine men aboard, two survived.

     The crewmen aboard were identified as follows:

     Crew Commander: Lieutenant Colonel Dante E. Bulli, (40), Survived.

     Lieutenant Colonel Joseph R. Simpson, Jr., (42).  He’s buried in Barrancas National Cemetery in Pensacola, Florida.  He was a veteran of WWII and Korea.   

     Major Robert J. Morrison, (36).  He’s buried in Maple grove Cemetery in Dodge City, Kansas. He was a veteran of WWII and Korea. To see a photo of him, see www.findagrave.com.

     Major Robert J. Hill, Jr., (37).  He’s buried in Osborne Memorial Cemetery in Joplin, Missouri.  To see a photo of him go to www.findagrave.com.

     Major William Walter Gabriel, (45).  He’s buried in Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California.

     Major Herbert L. Hanson, (42).  He’s buried in Black Hills National Cemetery in Sturgis, South Dakota. 

     Captain Charles Gerson Leuchter, (32).  He’s buried in Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California.

     Captain Gerald J. Adler – Survived.

     Technical Sergeant Michael Francis O’Keefe, (26).  He’s buried in Long Island National Cemetery in East Farmingdale, New York.     

     The crash site where this accident occurred has been preserved and is regularly visited by hikers.  Photos of the site can be found elsewhere on the Internet. 

     Sources:

     Springfield Union, “B-52 Missing In Maine; 9 Men Aboard”, January 25, 1963, page 1.

     Springfield Union, “2 rescued, 2 dead, 5 Still Missing On B52 Lost In Maine”, January 26, 1963, page 1.

     www.findagrave.com

 

 

Perham, Maine – Sept. 22, 1942

Perham, Maine – September 22, 1942

 

B-25C Twin-Engine Bomber - U.S. Air Force Photo

B-25C Twin-Engine Bomber – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On September 22, 1942, a flight of B-25 Mitchel bombers left Presque Isle Army Air Field bound for overseas duty.  Shortly after take off the planes were recalled to the base due to poor weather/visibility conditions.   One of the planes, (41-13049), crashed in a wooded area about six miles west of Perham Village, Maine, and exploded.  Local residents stated the blast was heard for miles around, and the site was marked by a large crater. 

      The tail section was discovered about a quarter of a mile away, which would seem to indicate a structural failure with the aircraft.   Two Nazi sympathizers were later arrested for tampering with an aircraft at Presque Isle leading to speculation that the B-25 had gone down due to sabotage.

     The B-25 was attached to the 310th Bomb Group, 379th Bomb Squadron, then based in Greenville, South Carolina.   

     All seven crew members were killed. 

     The dead were identified as:

Pilot: 2lt. John F. Watson  Entered service from New York, (O-790435) Burial location unknown.

Co-Pilot: 2lt. John W. Rieves Jr. , 22.  He’s buried in Asbury Cemetery, McKenney, Virginia. For a photo of his grave go to www.findagrave.com and see memorial #138056088.

S/Sgt. John S. Delano  He’s buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

S/Sgt. James A. Kviz   Burial location unknown.

S/Sgt. Eugene J. Crozier He’s buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

S/Sgt. Frederick W. Rowbottom, 23.  He’s buried in Calvary Cemetery in Virginia, Minnesota.  For a photo of his grave go to www.findagrave.com and see memorial #123323580.  

S/Sgt. Richard K. Riddle, 27.  He’s buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Delaware, Ohio.  For a photo of his grave go to www.findagrave.com  memorial#47394120.

     Later in the day another B-25 (41-13098) belonging to the 379th Bomb Squadron took off from Presque Isle also bound for overseas duty, but it crashed shortly after take off in the neighboring town of Fort Fairfield, Maine.  For more information, see Fort Fairfield, ME – September 22, 1942  under “Maine Military Aviation Accidents” on this website.  

Sources:

New York Times, “Plane Falls On Wooded Hill”, Sept 23, 1942

57th Bomb Wing Association website http://57thbombwing.com/379thSquadronHistory.php 

www.findagrave.com

 

 

 

Fort Fairfield, ME – September 22, 1942

Fort Fairfield, Maine – September 22, 1942

    

B-25C Twin-Engine Bomber - U.S. Air Force Photo

B-25C Twin-Engine Bomber – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On September 22, 1942, a U. S. Army B-25C bomber, (41-13098), left Presque Isle Maine Army Air Base en-route to overseas duty in England when it crashed in the nearby town of Fort Fairfield, Maine, off Fort Fairfield, Road.  All seven crewmen aboard were killed.  

     The plane was said to be flying in poor visibility conditions.

     Civilian witnesses stated they saw the aircraft burst into flames while still in the air. 

    

      The dead were identified as:

     (Pilot) 1st Lt. Ralph L. Drogula, 26.  He’s buried in Arlington national Cemetery.  Newspaper accounts list Lt. Drogula as a Second Lieutenant, but an internet photo of his grave indicates he was a First Lieutenant.  (See www.findagrave.com  memorial #49175499)

     (C0-pilot) 2nd Lt. James O. Crokcer

     S/Sgt. William H. Finch, 35. Buried in Fairview Cemetery, Fairview, Michigan.  

     S/Sgt. Billy John Hill, 22. Buried in Nocona Cemetery, Nocona, Texas.  

     S/Sgt. George E. Simmons, 22.  Buried in St. Catherine’s Cemetery, Du Bois, Penn. (See www.findagrave.com memorial #58284089 for a photograph of S/Sgt. Simmons.)

     S/Sgt. Lawrence A. Robinson, 26.  Buried in Pine grove cemetery, Marlborough, N.H.

     S/Sgt. Joseph Mortino

     There was another B-25C that left Presque Isle earlier in the day which crashed in the town of Perham, Maine, just a few miles north-west of Fort Fairfield.  (The tail number of that plane was 41-13049.)   In that crash, the tail section was reportedly found 1/4 mile from the wreck site possibly indicating a structural failure.  (See “Perham. ME – September 22, 1942” under Maine Aviation Accidents on this website for more information.)  

      Both aircraft were part of the 379th Bomb Squadron, 310th Bomb Group, then based in Greenville, South Carolina.    

     Sources:

     New York Times, “14 Army Men Lost In Two Maine Crashes”

     57th Bomb Wing Association http://57thbombwing.com/379thSquadronHistory.php

     www.findagrave.com

 

Near Springfield, ME – November 15, 1941

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.      

Douglas B-18 National Archives Photo

Douglas B-18
National Archives Photo

     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. 

     Sources:

     U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident #41-11-15-6

     www.findagrave.com

    

       

Bangor Air Base, ME – December 30, 1941

Bangor Air Base, Maine – December 30, 1941

    

U.S. Army A-29 Attack Bomber - U.S. Air Force Photo

U.S. Army A-29 Attack Bomber – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On December 30, 1941, an A-29 bomber aircraft, (Ser. No. 41-23302) crashed and burned on take off from Bangor Air Base.  The seven man crew escaped, but the pilot and copilot were injured.   

     The crew were identified as:

     (Pilot) 2nd Lt. James J. Hayes

     (Copilot) 1st Lt. Jonathan H. Knox

     (Engineer) Pfc. Richard A. Turner

     (Radio Operator) Cpl. James L. Wilson

     Pfc. Homer W. Read

     Pfc. George F. Nichols

     Pvt. Walter E. Taylor

     The men were assigned to the 65th Bomb Squadron (H)

     Source: U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident #42-12-30-1

Return to Top ▲Return to Top ▲