Ripley's Believe It Or Not
Consolidated B-24J Liberator Mid Air Crash Site

 On the 4th of  July, 1944 a formation of B-24 bombers of the Fourth Air Force, 420th Army Air Force group stationed at March Field in Riverside, California was on formation camera, bombing, and gunnery training mission over the California desert when a mid air collision occurred between the formation lead bomber B-24J, S/N 42-51022 and another B-24, S/N 42-51435, the #2 wing plane.

Accident Summary from the Army Air Force Crash Report; 

  "A three-plane formation lead by B-24 No. 022, piloted by Lt. Smallfield was proceeding west at approximately 10,000 feet at the time of the accident. The pilot of the No. 2 wing plane, Lt. Solheid, had turned the controls over to Lt. Darland, the co pilot. Lt. Darland, while closing, over-shot and pulled up above the lead plane. The pilot believing that he had pulled up sufficiently to clear, did not take over the controls, but it was not sufficient clearance and the two planes collided. The tail of the lead plane was so damaged that it went out of control immediately, looping too violently for the crew to fasten the parachutes and bail out. The pilot was thrown out with his chute, which he managed to fasten to his harness and use just before striking the ground, but no one else in the plane survived. The pilot of the wing plane, Lt. Solheid, ordered all of his crew, with the exception of the co pilot, to abandon the plane, but he was able to keep the plane under control and made a forced landing.
  This accident was the result of pilot error on the part of Lieutenants Solheid and Darland, due to inexperience in formation flying."

B-24J, S/N 42-51022 was built by Ford at the Ford Willow Run plant in Michigan.

  The accident resulted in the loss of nine airmen on board the B-24J S/N 42-51022;
2nd Lt. John R. Styll, Co-pilot
2nd Lt. Glenn L. Hoover, Navigator
2nd Lt. Donald S. Rogers, Bombardier
Cpl. Robert R. Detty, Engineer
Pfc. James H. Drewel, Asst. Engineer
Cpl. Eugene M. Cormeny, Radio Operator
Cpl. Donald T. Sherman, Arm-gunner
Pfc. A. J. Baker Jr., Arm-gunner
Pfc. John H. Noonan, Asst. Radio Operator.
(Pfc. Noonan was listed as missing on the crash report)

  The pilot, 2nd. Lt. George B. Smallfield was the only survivor and was able to escape from the aircraft as it plummeted to earth, which lead to this article in Ripley's Believe It Or Not;

"SAVED BY THE CRASH OF HIS OWN PLANE"

"LT. GEORGE SMALLFIELD, B-24 Pilot, was forced to bail out without his parachute - his foot caught in the hatch opening - and as he struggled to get back in the plane - a parachute  miraculously fell into his hands"

"The chute opened only 100 feet from the ground directly over his plane which had crashed and was burning as he hung helplessly over the flames - the plane exploded and blew him safely to one side."

  Pilot George B Smallfield's name shows up again in a listing of accidents at Mcchord Field in Washington state. On May 19, 1945 Smallfield was the pilot of a USAAF B-26C S/N 41-35392 that was involved in an accident in Yakima, Washington.

  The crash is composed of two sites separated by about 3/4 of a mile. Three exploratory trips to the area involved hiking cross country checking out various ridges, canyons, and drainages which resulted in overall hiking of 31.5 miles in search of this elusive crash site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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