Westover Air Field, MA – May 19, 1942

Westover Army Air Field, Chicopee, Mass. – May 19, 1942 


B-25 Mitchel bomber USAF Museum photo

B-25 Mitchel bomber
USAF Museum photo

      At 1:00 p.m., on May 19, 1942, a B-25B twin-engine bomber, (Ser. No. 40-2230), piloted by 1st Lt. John P. Henebry, took off from Westover Field for a two hour training flight.  Besides Lt. Henebry, there were five other men aboard:

     (Co-pilot) 1st Lt. Edgar H. Dunn

     (Engineer) S/Sgt. Charles E. Scarborough

     (Gunner) Cpl. Charles K. Hatton

     (Radio Operator) Cpl. Abraham L. Saluk

     (Bomber) Pfc. Gerald F. Kiefer

     Upon their return to Westover, it was discovered that the landing gear would not come down due to a loss in hydraulic pressure.  Lt. Henebry radioed the tower of the situation, and began circling the base while the crew set about fixing the problem.

     The nose landing gear was successfully lowered via the emergency hand-cranking system.  However, while attempting to lower the left and right landing gear, the emergency crank broke under the strain after the wheels had been lowered half-way. 

     Lt. Henebry then put the plane into a series of sharp maneuvers in an effort to bring the landing gear completely down and into a locked position, but he was only successfully in bringing down the left wheel. 

     With the plane running low on fuel, and a crash landing seemingly the outcome, Lt. Henebry was granted permission to salvo the four depth charges aboard.  It was then he discovered that the bomb bay doors wouldn’t open due to low hydraulic pressure, so he tried to open them with the pilot’s emergency bomb release, but that didn’t work either.   The doors were finally opened using the emergency hand-crank.  Another problem occurred once the doors were opened – the depth charges suddenly dropped away on their own!  Fortunately the charges weren’t armed, and caused no damage when they fell.


B-25B  #40-2230 Westover Field, Massachusetts May 19, 1942 U.S. Army Air Corps Photo

B-25B #40-2230
Westover Field, Massachusetts
May 19, 1942
U.S. Army Air Corps Photo

Afterwards, someone tried to close the bomb bay doors using the hand-crank, but the crank broke, and they remained partially open.

     Lt. Henebry and the flight engineer, S/Sgt. Scarborough, tried again to get the right landing gear to come down but all efforts to do so were unsuccessful. 

     The B-25 circled the field for two hours and forty minutes before the pilot had no choice but to try and land the plane.  The crew was told they could bail out if they wished, but none did.  Lt. Henebry brought the plane in from the southwest and landed on a soft, damp, dirt area which had been graded.  He successfully landed on only the front and left wheel.  Towards the end of its run the plane fell on the right wing and skidded to a stop with no injuries to the crew.

     The Aircraft was assigned to the 39th Bomb Squadron stationed at Westover Field.

     Lt. Henebry went on to have a distinguished military career, and recounted some of his memoirs in a book he wrote called, The Grim Reapers: At Work In The Pacific Theatre: the Third Attach Group Of The U.S. Fifth Air Force, published in 2002. 

     He retired a Major General.       

     Source: U. S. Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident #42-5-19-10     



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