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WW2 Transport Plane Crash Premier WV 1942

Discussion in 'Those Who Served' started by WVHills, May 5, 2017.

  1. WVHills

    WVHills Member

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    Plane Crash in McDowell County
    Welch Daily News
    July 2, 1942


    Identify 17 Army Plane Dead

    Investigation Of Crash Near Premier Begun

    Big Converted Airliner Crashes and Burns Near Premier; Many Persons Saw Army Transport When it Fell

    Identification of 17 of 21 United States Army Air Corps men killed early Wednesday afternoon when a converted airliner crashed and burned on a mountainside near Premier was announced this afternoon at Patterson Field, Dayton, O.

    Those identified were:
    As provided by the army at Patterson Field, Dayton, O., the identifications were:
    Staff Sgt. Salveston Barone, Morris, N. Y.
    Russell A. Carter, Meridan, Kan.
    Leon A. Olin, Big Tinder, Mont.
    H. M. Dickson (no address available).
    2nd Lieut. Walter Baugh, Paris, Tex.
    Claudius Haywood Ambler, Montgomery County, Pa.
    Lester S. Erickson, Smith Ridge, Miss.
    Elma G. Edmonds, Payson, Ill.
    Staff Sgt. Anthony W. Belcher (no address).
    Leo Thomas Colburn, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
    Edward F. X. Carr, (no address).
    Denver W. Koppe, Columbus, O.
    Kermit Masters, Greenview, Mont.
    Elmer J. Campbell, Luray, Va.
    Chester Petranski, Auburn, N. Y.
    Lieut. E. A. Harness, Paporte, Ind.
    Archie W. Chamberlin, Levenworth, Kan.

    Meanwhile, three separate investigations were in progress to determine the cause of the crash.
    1st Lieut. Les A. LeBois of Patterson Field, Dayton, Ohio, was conducting one investigation and said he would report his findings to a board of investigation at Dayton.
    Sgt. James G. Greenway was assisting Lt. LeBois. He devoted most of the night to an attempt to identify the bodies.
    Major E. N. Townsend, regional safety director at headquarters of safety region 10 at Patterson Field, was conducting another inquiry, and a third was being made by Capt. W. B. Whitacre, of Indianapolis, Ind.

    Bodies Brought Here
    Bodies of the 21 victims remained in local funeral homes. Most of them were mangled and burned beyond recognition, but identification of many was established by means of identification tags or articles removed from clothing.
    A list of men aboard the former American Airlines flagship when it crashed about a half mile from Premier at about 12:05 o’clock Tuesday afternoon had not been released.
    The transport, a former flagship of the American Airlines, lost a wing at about 500 feet and plunged with smoke pouring from it into a community garden approximately 300 yards up a mountainside and into a ravine. Everyone aboard met instant death and wreckage was scattered for nearly 200 yards down the hillside.
    Cause of the tragic accident, first fatal airplane crash in the history of McDowell county, may never be known. A number of persons who saw the plane in trouble just before it plummeted earthward gave different versions. No one lived to tell the true story of what happened in the fleeting minutes when the plane appeared to be in trouble until the time it crashed and exploded.
    A closer examination of the scene today indicated that the pilot apparently lost due to a low ceiling and poor radio reception, came down low to get his bearings and hit the top of a ridge, shearing off about six feet of the right wing. The pilot may have given the ship ‘the gun’ in an attempt to gain altitude but vibration caused the rest of the wing to fall, then the tail came off but momentum carried the plane a considerable distance and it struck the side of the mountain. It cut through the brush, slithered on down the mountain until it struck the other side of the ravine and overturned and slid on its back for a distance. By this time it was nothing but a mass of twisted and burning wreckage.
    One piece of the wing was found nearly a mile from the scene of the wreckage. The motor was found at another spot.

    Thousands Visit Scene
    Several thousand people visited the little mining community of Premier during the afternoon and evening, but few were able to obtain a view of the wreckage. West Virginia state policemen in charge of Lt. F. C. Crawford of Beckley, McDowell county deputy sheriffs and constables were on duty within a short time after the crash. Later in the evening about 20 members of Company “E” of the West Virginia state guard in command of Capt. J. A. Blevins assisted the police officers. Military police took charge today. McDowell County Sheriff Lucian Fry was also on the scene and Police Chief Harry Chaffins of Welch lent his assistance.
    The death toll, first reported at 10, rose steadily during the afternoon as officers dug into the wreckage. An eleventh body was found, then a twelfth and finally all 21 were discovered within a radius of 50 yards. Twenty were found within an area of about 30 yards.
    Lt. LeBois declined to comment on the wreck, saying he was here for an investigation and would report back to Patterson Field.
    While several witnesses said they saw what appeared to be an explosion just before one wing fell off, others said the ship was diving earthward and that the pilot managed to straighten it out for just seconds before the wing was seen to fall. Then the ship dropped, it was reported.
    The first bodies were moved at about 3:30 o’clock. Volunteers helped ambulance crews down the steep and slippery hillside to hearses at the foot of the mountain. The last of the bodies was taken out at about 7 o’clock. Rain which fell throughout most of the day made the freshly plowed ground difficult to travel over.

    Saw Plane Fall
    A number of persons at Coalwood and Premier saw the plane just before it disappeared into the mountains. They reported seeing a wing fall off and said it looked like other objects fell from the ship as it plunged crazily downward.
    The first report of the tragic accident was received in Welch at about 12:10 when Editor J. K. Moreau of the Coalwood -Caretta News telephoned The Daily News. Several residents of Coalwood said they saw the plane flying at about 500 feet as it came out of a cloud and noticed a wing fall from the ship. They also said it looked as if smoke was pouring from the airliner. Then it suddenly disappeared.
    Mr. And Mrs. Lawrence Runyon of Premier and a niece, Miss Columbia Charles, H. B. Fain, mine checkweighman, and W. A. Williams, also of Premier, reported seeing the plane before it fell.
    Mrs. Runyon and Miss Charles were on the back porch of their home and Mr. Runyon was upstairs.
    “I heard a kind of a roaring noise,” Mrs. Runyon said. “I looked up and saw a big airplane which appeared to be in trouble. The plane appeared to be in a nose-dive, then I saw what looked like a wing fall. The ship then plunged earthward.”

    Struck Mountainside
    From all indications the plane fell against the side of the mountain after going over the top. It cut a wide path through the trees, then hit the opposite side of the ravine and burst into flames. Wreckage was scattered for a considerable distance.
    The missing wing and one motor were found near the top of the mountain. The other motor of the twin-engined 24-place converted airlines plane was found in the wreckage.
    When word of the crash was received in Welch, it was assumed immediately that the plane was one of an airline which operates over this area daily. However, a quick check of the home field of the line brought word that all planes had been accounted for.
    Persons who made their way down from the scene reported seeing U. S. Army equipment scattered along the hillside. There was duffel bag, pieces of uniform, parachutes which apparently bursted open from the impact, steel helmets and other atricles [sic], including personal belongings.
    Wartime censorship quickly clamped down on many details of the tragedy.

    This is the names of all 21 Men who died and a Memorial was put up some time after the crash
    The 21 Men on the Memorial are:
    2nd. Lt. Walter L. Faught, Jr., Paris, TN.
    2nd Lt. Edwin A. Harness, Laporte, IN.
    2nd Lt. Harry E. Haney, Selma, KY.
    Stf. Sgt. Archie W. Chamberlin, Leaverworth, KS.
    Stf. Sgt. Russell A. Carter, Topeka, KS
    Stf. Sgt. Salvatore T. Barone, Mt. Morris, NY
    Stf. Sgt. Joseph C. Cholerva, Racine, WI.
    Stf. Sgt. Leon A. Olin, Big Timber, MO.
    Stf. Sgt. Horace M. Dickerson, Hannibal, MO.
    Stf. Sgt. George R. Eversull, Stuart, IO.
    Stf. Sgt. Leo T. Colburn, Tuscaloosa, AL.
    Stf. Sgt. Anthony W. Belcher, South Point, OH.
    Corp. Bartola P. Purura, Watertown, NY.
    Corp. Kermit S. Masters, Sheldon, MO.
    Corp. Clandins W. Haywood, Amber, PA.
    PFC. Denver W. Koeppe, Bryan, OH.
    PFC. Lester S. Erickson, Superior, WI.
    PVT. Edward Carr, Philadelphia, PA.
    PVT. Chester F. Petrowski, Auburn, NY.
    PVT. Elmer J. Campbell, Stanley, VA.
    PVT. Elmo G. Edmonds, Payson, IL
     

    Attached Files:

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