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B17C Crash Site - 1941

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B17C Crash Site - 1941

Postby Vaca Russ » Mon Feb 23, 2015 8:06 am

Last Saturday we were able to find some of the wreckage from a B17C bomber hidden somewhere in the Sierra.

1 B-17-In Flight[1].jpg
1 B-17-In Flight[1].jpg (80.88 KiB) Viewed 418 times


This is the story of the crash.

On 31 October 1941, a B-17C bomber, also known as a "Flying Fortress," took off from Fort Douglas Army Air Base, its home base near Salt Lake City, Utah, on a routine flight to an Army Air Force service depot in California to change the No. 3 engine. The bomber's flight plan would take the plane from Fort Douglas Army Air Base to Mather Army Air Base near Sacramento, California.

Due to bad winter weather conditions over the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California, the crew of 9 men laid over in Reno, Nevada for two days. Then, after the weather cleared somewhat, they departed for Mather Army Air Base during the morning of 2 November 1941 on what would be the last flight of the B-17C bomber.

Flying west, the aircraft passed over Lake Tahoe, and entered into overcast sky. The pilot, 1st Lieutenant Leo M. H. Walker, continued on to Mather Army Air Base. Then, the No.1 engine supercharger began to have problems maintaining pressure. The pilot put the B-17C in a climb towards 14,000 feet. The copilot, 2nd Lieutenant John R. Mode, adjusted the No. 1 engine supercharger control to add additional pressure to the engine, and the flight continued westward.

After a while longer, the flight control indicators ceased working correctly; 1st Lieutenant Leo M. H. Walker, the pilot, decided to head back to Reno. As the pilot attempted to gain additional attitude, he realized that he was having serious trouble controlling the airplane. At that time the pilot ordered the crew to put on their parachutes, and be ready to bail out of the aircraft. Shortly thereafter, 1st Lieutenant Walker lost control of the aircraft. He futilely attempted to regain control, but the B-17C rolled over onto its back, and then plummeted into a spin towards earth.

The flight crew started to bail out of the airplane. One crewman, Corporal Sterling Isom, was thrown through a Plexiglas gunner's turret into the air. Another crewman, Private Alden H. Stookey, was thrown out of a rupture in the fuselage, as the plane began to disintegrate. Several other crewmen managed to escape when the tail section of the plane was sheared off because of the excessive stresses on the plane's frame due to the rapid, out of control, descent. When the flight crew opened their escape hatch, the flight engineer, Staff Sergeant Eugene M. Clemens, was thrown from the plane. 2nd Lieutenant Mode drifted earthward in his parachute, witnessing debris from the aircraft falling around him. Of the nine-man crew, eight survived. 1st Lieutenant Leo M. H. Walker, the plane's pilot failed to escape; he went down with the plane.

We found the very large section of the right wing. She posed so as to put the size of the wing in perspective.

2 Wing Sport.JPG


There is a small dedication to the pilot who lost his life.

3 Plaque.JPG


The U.S. Army emblem is still visible on the bottom of the wing.

4 Emblem.JPG


A sign is posted nearby warning visitors to avoid damaging this site.

5 Federal Felony.JPG


Some have ignored common decency.

6 Damage.JPG


Others have spent a considerable amount of time clearing away tree falls. This wing is tucked away under a thick canopy of trees.

7 Sport Logs.JPG


It is encouraging to see most people are respectful of this hallowed site.

8 R. Wing.JPG


We headed east, crossed the creek and soon found a smaller segment of the left wing.

9 Left Wing.JPG


We spent some time looking for other parts but only managed to find some old rubber.

10 Rubber.JPG


We had other things we needed to explore so we headed back off into the wilderness.

Thank you for reading our report.

-Russ
” Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports … all others are games.”- Ernest Hemingway



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Re: B17C Crash Site - 1941

Postby LightRanger » Mon Feb 23, 2015 10:28 am

That is super cool.

Typed with my opposable thumbs
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Re: B17C Crash Site - 1941

Postby Jason » Tue Feb 24, 2015 9:26 am

Very cool. Thanks for the report. It's amazing that all but one of them survived. Imagine if the pilot hadn't told them to put on their chutes.
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Re: B17C Crash Site - 1941

Postby ERIC » Tue Feb 24, 2015 10:11 am

Nice report, thanks! Amazing story. In my mind I'm trying to visualize what the immediate aftermath must have been like for the survivors and their journey getting out of that area and back to civilization. Probably just as gripping a tale.

Also curious about the two July dates on the memorial plates (2004 and 2008). I assume one if not both are dedication dates but confused why there would be two dates.
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Re: B17C Crash Site - 1941

Postby rlown » Tue Feb 24, 2015 4:26 pm

A very cool report. Thanks for sharing.
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Re: B17C Crash Site - 1941

Postby Troutdog 59 » Thu Feb 26, 2015 12:26 pm

As others have said VR, very cool and thanks for sharing the adventure. I had the same thought as Eric did. Why two dates?
If you stand in the light, you get the feel of the night, and the music that plays in your ear......
In your mind you can hear, a voice so sweet and clear, and the music that plays in your head......
As it flows up from the ground, taking all that hear the sound, close your eyes, it’s about to begin.

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Re: B17C Crash Site - 1941

Postby ofuros » Thu Feb 26, 2015 12:55 pm

Interesting story....there's also that lingering sadness of loss of life. :thumbsup:
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Re: B17C Crash Site - 1941

Postby Lstookey » Mon Oct 05, 2015 10:58 am

Thank you for these pictures. My grandfather was the young private that was sucked through the hole in the fuselage, so the site is of particular interest to me. When my son gets old enough, I plan to schedule a trip to visit the site and bring him along. It's a great piece of family history.
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Re: B17C Crash Site - 1941

Postby rlown » Mon Oct 05, 2015 9:57 pm

Lstookey wrote:Thank you for these pictures. My grandfather was the young private that was sucked through the hole in the fuselage, so the site is of particular interest to me. When my son gets old enough, I plan to schedule a trip to visit the site and bring him along. It's a great piece of family history.


Welcome to the HST, Lstookey. Thanks for sharing your story. Very touching. Do the trip!
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Re: B17C Crash Site - 1941

Postby gdurkee » Fri Jun 03, 2016 2:36 pm

Arrrgghhh! I keep getting logged out. This is the 4th (and last) time I'll try posting this. Here's a GDB (Geodatabase viewed in ArcGIS Explorer (free) or ArcGIS 10) from two separate databases of aircraft wrecks. Dropbox:

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/290 ... 02.gdb.zip

The 2008 file is from an emailed PDF (source unknown) which I scanned to text; then CSV; then to a Feature Class. I assumed NAD 1927 but could be wrong (though the crashes I know about line up fairly closely). The second is from the NTSB site:
http://www.ntsb.gov/_layouts/ntsb.aviation/index.aspx

If you need more information/metadata, send me a note. There were several related projects and I think I can reconstruct the data.

g.
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