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My great uncle PBJ-1D plane crash

Discussion in 'Military Service Records & Genealogical Research' started by BCarlson, Jun 30, 2010.

  1. BCarlson

    BCarlson recruit

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    I was always told from my relatives that my great uncle crashed his plane during the war, but nobody ever knew the real story so I started to research it. His name was George Ellsworth Vogel. I found out that he was a pilot in the Marine Corp, and was making a trip from California to Hawaii on April 26, 1944. He was piloting a PBJ-1D. He had to turn back because of weather, and was reported missing later that night when he and his crew didn't return. His plane was found in northern California in a place called Trinity Alps. I found a website where I found pictures of the crashed plane, but not much remains of it. The BuNo was 35099. I tried to get an accident report, but when I received it, it was impossible to read. The only thing I could make out was his name. I really want to know the squadron he was in, or any other informatoin but haven't had any luck finding that. I do know that he attended school at MCAS Cherry point, then went to Pensacola after that. I was trying to locate his son because I have had things of George Sr.'s passed down to me, and would like to give them to him but haven't had any luck yet. I believe his name is George E Vogel also. He must have been born after or right before his father died. Does anybody know where I could look up his squadron without that accident report? or where I could locate his son? I tried Ancestry, but hasn't worked so far. Although I did find George sr.'s death certificate. Thanks for any help!

    Billy
     
  2. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    Welcome BCarlson;
    I found an article here:
    http://bperzyna.com/images/bugler.pdf ---page 5 & 6---

    That led me to a Google search here:
    HyperWar: USMC Operations in WWII: Vol IV--Western Pacific Operations [Appendix E]

    El Centro

    Headquarters Squadron 43, MBDAG-43 64 804 7 27 Service Squadron 43,
    MBDAG-43 8 319 0 0 Marine Fighter Squadron 461,
    MBDAG-43 47 252 1 3 Marine Fighter Squadron 462,
    MBDAG-43 52 257 1 2 Marine Fighter Squadron 472, MBDAG-43
    ------ Page774------

    It's not a lot but I hope this helps you. There are a few Marines on the site who will be able to explain more I'm sure. The "Hyper-War" site is a great site to start also.
     
  3. BCarlson

    BCarlson recruit

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    Thank you very much, this is really interesting. This definitely proves that was his plane.
     
  4. HodF

    HodF recruit

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    I know the story of that flight. It has been part of our family lore for years. My father, Doyle Fowler, and his best friend from college, Tom Taylor, were pilot and co-pilot of one of the three B25's (OK, PBJ's) that took off together for Hawaii that day, actually the 25th. As we heard the story, the planes launched and flew 45 minutes apart, just able to maintain radio contact, as they hoped to find a ship with a radio navigation signal in the middle of the Pacific. Shortly after they took off, a message was relayed from the front plane that weather was bad and they should all turn around. Dad and Tom spent six hours circling San Francisco Bay burning off fuel so they could land. Later they found out that the front (pathfinder) B25 did not return. Five days later they took off again and succeeded in the crossing, apparently with 17 minutes of fuel remaining after the eleven hour flight. They went on to fly fifty-eight missions with VMB-423 off of Green Island and return home two years later.
    In the family story, the Pacific crossing in the B25 was an extraordinary and exceptional exploit, the planes more normally having been shipped across on freighters. Who knows if that is true, but in any event it was a remarkable and courageous adventure for 23 year old kids who grew up fast.
    I have Dad's flight log and photos of their plane the day it landed on Hawaii, lots of letters, the squadron photo album, the clerk's daily journal and about four hours of video interview with Tom Taylor. Hopefully I will get around to putting it together the way it deserves someday.
     
  5. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    Some more information. The Sierra Club should have left the crash site alone though.

    PBJ-1D
     
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  6. Dougtrin

    Dougtrin recruit

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    Billy,
    I happened to randomly come across your post regarding the PBJ-1D crash in the Trinity Alps during WWII. Although I don't have any history on the personnel involved in the crash, I've been to the actual crash site numerous times. I own a cabin in the Trinity Alps and years ago I was talking to one of the pioneer families that had settled in Trinity Center, which is the nearest town to the crash site. One of the family members is the son of the rancher who had discovered the initial crash while attending livestock in Bear Basin - the small mountain valley where the plane crashed, and he provided me with detailed directions to the site. Although the crash site is not located in the basin itself but high up on a ridge, it isn't tremendously difficult to reach if you know the correct directions. The crash site is not on any maintained Forest Service trail and I've only heard of a handful of individuals who have been there. Even though the Sierra Club tried to remove the remaining pieces of the crash years ago, any piece that probably weighed over 75 lbs. and could not be completely disassembled by them, still remains at the location and in relatively remarkable condition. Both propellers, along with the engine blocks and large pieces of the fuselage remain. There are also hundreds of smaller pieces scattered around. In looking at the remnants of the crash and talking to the son of the rancher, who discovered the wreckage, it appears the plane was flying south through the mountains trying to make it back to Beale Air Force Base, which was located in Fairfield, CA. The site is approximately 200 miles north of Fairfield - essentially in the middle of the Trinity Alps Wilderness Area. It looks like the plane was cruising south through a wide valley, which was then called Trinity Meadows, but has since been made into a large man-made lake (Trinity Lake). For some reason, the plane might have taken an westbound turn up the Swift Creek drainage area, which is a relatively long but narrow valley. The Swift Creek drainage begins at a relatively mild elevation mark (about 4,000 feet), but within six miles, it climbs to above 5,500 feet and within eight miles, the mountain ridges are about 8,000 feet. I suspect that the plane traveled up the Swift Creek valley for a few miles before realizing that the valley was narrowing dramatically, and the surrounding mountains were quickly increasing in elevation. It would have been virtually impossible to turn the PBJ-1D around and head back the way they had come from, so I'm assuming the only option was to make a turn into one of the side valleys - of which Bear Basin is one of three southern valleys feeding into the Swift Creek drainage. Unfortunately, the end of Bear Basin is glacier-carved and is surrounded on three sides by near vertical cliffs. At it's end, the basin is about a half mile across, surrounded by 7,000 to 8,000 foot high rocky ridges. The crash site is on the western ridge of the basin, and the plane appears to have crashed about 300 to 400 feet below the top of the ridge. It looks like the plane was desperately trying to gain altitude to make it over the ridgecrest. One of the plane's propellers has a large gouge in it, where it looks like the plane clipped a tree before crashing into the ridge. I have numerous photographs of the crash site and if you like for me to e-mail them to you, please feel free to forward me your e-mail address. My e-mail is dougtrin@aol.com. For additional resources, there may be some records kept in the Scott Museum in Trinity Center. This small museum keeps a lot of documentation of the local history and it's quite possible that there were records kept detailing the crash. The individual who started the museum was a horse packer, who was hired by the military to go in and retrieve the remains of the pilots and crew after the crash had been reported. If any records were kept of this, the most likely location of these records would be in the Scott Museum. If interested, I can provide you with the name and phone number of the owners of the museum.Thanks - Doug
     
  7. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    Hi Doug, thanks for taking the time to write this useful post. I hope Billy will read it soon.
     
  8. 36thID

    36thID Member

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    Doug, welcome to this forum and thanks for your post. That was an excellent report.
     
  9. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow Patron  

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    Excellent information, Doug. Welcome aboard!
     
  10. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    Bear Basin is about 300 miles north of Fairfield. The nearest town is Weaverville west of Redding.
     
  11. mgdriver

    mgdriver New Member

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    Hello Billy,

    I just happened across this page and joined so that I could respond to this post. I was on the Sierra Club clean up crew and have many pictures from that trip (actually two trips). We set up a base camp in Bear Basin and worked on bagging up the wreckage every day for, I think, two weeks. The National Guard could not get us chopper support while we were there, so a second trip was planned in the fall to load the chopper. When the fall came there were only two of us that went back (with my parents to help and drive since I was only in high school at the time). The last time I was back there was probably twenty years ago and one wing, the landing gear and engines were still there. I wrote a story in high school about the experience and have vivid memmories of it to this day. Let me know if you want any more information about the clean up trip.

    Best regards,
    Brian
     
  12. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    Welcome to the forum and thanks for joining in order to provide more insight. The post is actually an old one and the original poster has not been back for quite some time. I'd like to encourage you to post any information you'd be willing to share. I'm sure many here would be interested.
     
  13. BCarlson

    BCarlson recruit

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    Thank you very much for the information. I do still check this post every once in a while. I'm going to try to make it out there one day. I have still not located my great uncles son but still search when I can. Thanks everyone for all the information it's very interesting to me and other family members
     
  14. Wendy

    Wendy New Member

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    While your inquiry was many years ago, I hope you see this response. George jr is my father...your great uncle George would have been my grandfather. Needless to say, I'd love to connect with you!!
    Wendy
     
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  15. Wendy

    Wendy New Member

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    Brian,
    The pilot in that crash, Vogel, was my grandfather....or would have been my grandfather; he had a son born in July of 1944 just months after the accident-my dad.
    I'd love to hear/see more about your findings!
    Thank you,
    Wendy
     
  16. Mutley

    Mutley Active Member

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    Welcome Wendy, hope you get some responses and good luck with your research.
     
  17. Wendy

    Wendy New Member

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    Should anyone come across this thread and have any info I'd appreciate it!
     

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