This project (Now called The Naper 28) began about the first of
November 1998 when an "old" retired fighter pilot and businessman (DH)
decided to check out a so called war story/legend. This story
had been in his memory for many years. He finally
made a phone call to Frank Bruning Jr., Banker at Bruning Nebr.
who then directed him to Virginia Priefert. Virginia, the Thayer County
historian, then said, Yes the story was very true
In brief, what happened is as follows: During World War Two, a
military cargo plane disintegrated in a violent thunderstorm
in northern Nebr. (Naper)There were 28 fatalities, the crew and
The date was August 3rd 1944, or 55 years,
1 day ago today.
The singular and most unusual element of this story is, with
the exception of a Flight Surgeon passenger, all the passengers
were fresh new fighter pilots, the entire graduating class from Bruning
Army Air Field.
Below is a record of the events leading up to and after
the time of the disaster. This narrative will be updated
regularly as new information is received.
NARRATIVE of the TRAGEDYOn a Thursday afternoon, August 3rd 1944 at Bruning Army Air Field (AAF) a Captain Stanley J Meadows prepared a Military Flight Plan for a trip to Pierre Army Air Field, Pierre, South Dakota. The trip was to take 1 hour and 45 minutes. At 5:30PM the weather officer briefed Capt. Meadows that the weather enroute was clear except for a line of thunderstorms along the Nebraska/South Dakota border.. The aircraft was a C-47A based at Bruning AAF. At 6:00 PM Capt. Meadows requested the aircraft crew chief Sgt. Hutslar to load 400 gallons of fuel in the aircraft tanks. It already had 450 gallons remaining from a recent flight that day from Peterson AAF, Colorado Springs Colorado. It now had a full load of fuel of 850 gallons. The decision to add fuel was to be questioned later, the fuel required for the 1:45 flight would have been only 175-200 gallons at approximately 100 gallons per hour consumption About an hour before takeoff a group of 24 pilots passengers arrived at the base snack bar and ordered sandwiches to go. A young base employee, Dorothy (Koca) Bunker, was in the snack bar at the time. She remembers the young men ordering 13 ham sandwiches and she thinks the rest ordered Hamburgers. She also remembers them laughing and joking and one of them making the wisecrack, "we?ll see you later!" The pilot passengers had just graduated from the 262nd FPTS at Bruning AAF which upgraded newly commissioned pilots from advanced trainers to one of the top fighter planes of WW2, the P-47 JUG. Now they were going to Pierre AAF for advanced gunnery training. A close friend and neighbor of DH's daughter Elizabeth, a Mr. Jack Pinson, attended that school 4 months later in December of 1944. Jack also confirmed that South Dakota winters were quite, quite cold. Prior to boarding Captain Meadows briefed all of the passengers to wear parachutes. Overheard by witnesses The preflight aircraft walk around inspection would have performed by Captain Meadows along with the copilot Capt. Bohle and Sgt. Hutslar. After starting the engines and all check list items noted, the C-47 would have been cleared to taxi to runway 35 for take off. Army Air Force aircraft SN42-23654 departed from Bruning AAF at 1907hrs (7:07PM) and proceeded on a course of about 328 degrees. The Flight Plan was a direct course, 315 statute miles, to Pierre AAF. Time enroute was estimated to be 1:45 minutes at a Ground Speed of 180mph. After becoming airborne C-47 654 was radioed the final clearance from AAF Flight Service to proceed on course. That radio call was logged at 1911hrs (07:11PM) Mr. Wilmer Bohnet remembers his older brothers talking to a military man in uniform who stated that prior to the crash he had discussed with Capt. Meadows "over the radio" about "if he (Capt. Meadows) should go over or under the storm clouds." No exact time of that radio transmission was found. There were no radio call recording devices available in those days..DH) As of this writing that was the last known radio transmission to or from "C-47A 654"
PRE CRASH WITNESS- A 15 year old Leo Brotsky was at Jamison Nebr. where he noticed the C-47 FIRST heading Northwest to Southeast and THEN saw it later flying Southeast to Northwest.. Indicating that Capt. Meadows had flown back and forth along the front trying to find a clear path between the thunderstorms.
..all interviews are being reworked..
< href="/ks/phxbrd/InterviewLCoker.html">Interview with Lewis CokerRevision to all the above interviews in progress..DH
< href="/ks/phxbrd/InterviewNHelenbolt.html">Interview with Neal Helenbolt
< href="/ks/phxbrd/InterviewEZietner.html">Interview with Ed Zietner
< href="/ks/phxbrd/InterviewLBrotskey.html">Interview with Leo Brotskey
< href="/ks/phxbrd/InterviewJHiggins.html">Interview with Janet Higgins
< href="/ks/phxbrd/InterviewDPeppel.html">Interview with Doreen Peppel
About approximately 8:30PM a Mr. Harry Helenbolt and a Mr. Alfred Windmeyer, heard and saw the following................
STATEMENT OF WITNESSNAME: Alfred Windmeyer DATE: 4 August 1944 ADDRESS: Naper Nebraska CITY: Naper STATE: Nebraska Tel No N/A ************** STATEMENTAbout 8:30 PM yesterday my wife and I heard a plane in the clouds above our house which is located 3 miles south of Naper Nebraska. The weather was cloudy and a thunderstorm was approaching from the West. I could tell by the sound that the plane was flying to the North-West. Shortly thereafter there was a heavy bolt of lightning which seemed to run clear to the ground and the airplane was plainly visible in the path of this lightning. Immediately there after I noticed the sound of the airplane motors had stopped although I heard it continuously up to the time of the lightning flash. Very shortly after the flash and the sound of the motors had died out I saw the airplane emerge from the base of the thundercloud with its nose straight down and it continued so until it was out of sight behind a hill. Just after that I saw a dull red glare on the cloud and black smoke came up from behind the hill. I did not see any piece flying off of the airplane at any time nor did I see any fire on the plane while it was descending. It struck the ground approximately 2 miles from my house. Except for the thunderstorms in the North West there were no storms in this vicinity and the clouds were broken and scattered to South and East. /s/ Alfred Windmeyer Naper Nebraska A TRUE COPY: GLENN W NEEL Major, Air Corps. Deputy Chief, Safety Region Seven.
STATEMENT OF WITNESSNAME: Harry Helenbolt DATE: 4 August 1944 ADDRESS: Naper, Nebraska CITY: Naper STATE: Nebraska Tel. No. N/A ************* STATEMENTMy house is located 5 miles Southeast of Naper. at 8:30 PM yesterday I was in my barn and heard an airplane which seemed to have motor trouble. There was a thunderstorm approaching from the west and there had been quite a bit of lightning. Then came a very large lightning flash and the noise of the plane's motors stopped all together. Almost immediately the plane emerged from the bottom of the cloud diving at about a 45 degree angle. Then a large piece flew off of the airline followed by several smaller pieces. I could not tell whether the large piece was a wing or not but the airplane rolled over around its longitudinal axis as it continued in its downward path and disappeared behind a hill. There appeared to be a flaming light in the fuselage and ahead of the wheels from the time I first saw the plane until it disappeared. It struck the ground about 1 and 1/2 miles due West of my house. Northwest of my house there was a very black thunderstorm and just to the south of that was a wind- storm. There was a lighter space between them but no blue sky. he plane emerged from the wind cloud and passed through the gap on its downward flight. The very large lightning flash was also in the wind cloud. The weather to the South and East was scattered and broken clouds with no storms and good visibility. /Signed/ Harry Helenbolt Naper Nebraska A TRUE COPY GLENN W NEEL Major, Air Corps, Deputy Chief, Safety Region Seven.
EYE WITNESS- A young girl, Joy Helenbolt, (Mrs. Max Vogt) was with her father (Harry) when they saw the aircraft crash ...(To be Inserted Later)
EYE WITNESS Report of Neal Helenbolt (To be Inserted Later)
EYE WITNESS Report of Joy Helenbolt Vogt (To be Inserted Later)
It was soon determined that it was a military plane that had crashed and exploded. The hands on the smashed cockpit clock was stopped at 8:25PM. The crash occurred a short distance north of the Con L Sattler home and ranch buildings. Con Sattler immediately went to the site, found that the aircraft had exploded and the bodies were scattered around in about a 40 foot radius on the prairie grass, he then put out flames on some of the bodies. All had been killed instantly.
POST CRASH WITNESS - Edwin Zietner was one of the first to arrive at the accident scene, He remembers riding his horse "May". He said there was obviously an explosion, very few marks on the victims and most had very few clothes left on..
POST CRASH WITNESS - That same evening when it was still daylight a Mr. Buck Davis (A filling Station owner in Naper) got the crash call. He took his wife and 11 year old daughter Janet immediately to the site. Janet recalls by then it was dark. Janet said they had to walk to the site due to the wet ground and by then many people had gathered. Janet remembers Mrs. Con Sattler had a flashlight and the women started looking around the wreckage. They noticed that two of the bodies had their arms entwined. (Read below that two of the victims were twin brothers) Leo Brotsky and a friend went to the site the next morning. He states that there were about 30 people present. He also observed a donkey and sled being used to haul the bodies from the bottom of the ravine to the top of the hill. From that point Con Sattler used his team and wagon to haul the bodies to the road. The rain from the previous night's thunderstorm caused the ground to be too soft and muddy for the ambulances to drive to the wreckage area. So Con Sattler was requisitioned by authorities to use his team and wagon.
PRE CRASH WITNESS-Lewis Coker learned of the crash that evening when he was in a local cafe (Stuart Nebr.), by then that crash was the main subject of conversation. The next morning he and others went to the site but it had been cordoned off. He asked a law officer friend about the circumstances but officer was visually shaken and didn't answer. About 50-60 people by that time were at the site. A local minister in 1946 erected a cross and the Sattler family has maintained that cross to this day. There is some indication that the minister was Rev. Herbert Zimmerman. (From Doreen Peppel interview ...(Map of the crash site)..(199 miles from Bruning). (To be Inserted Later)
NAMES of Crash Victims (Most all were with the 262nd FPTS)(Fighter Pilot Training Squadron) Stanley J Meadows 0-431467 Capt. Pilot Robert K Bohle 0-665166 Capt. C-Pilot Orson H Hutslar 15323217 Sgt. Crew/Chief Leslie B Roberts Capt Flt/Sgn William F Acree 0-777967 2nd Lt. Pilot John F Albert T-126015 F/O Pilot William C Armstrong T-721322 2nd Lt. Pilot Millard F Arnett Jr. 0-695289 2nd Lt. Pilot Herbert A Blakeslee 0-721327 2nt Lt. Pilot George E Boeckman 0-721428 2nd Lt. Pilot Jack L Brown 0-721336 2nd Lt. Pilot Richard E Brown 0-721338 2nd Lt. Pilot James C Burke Jr. 0-731343 2nd Lt. Pilot Donald C Clarkson 0-721347 2nd Lt. Pilot Lloyd L Hemphill 0-728658 1st Lt. Pilot Arthur Johnson 0-763216 2nd Lt. Pilot Clayton R Jolley 0-1290431 1st Lt. Pilot Leonard C Jolley 0-1290432 1st Lt. Pilot The last two were twin sons of Mrs. Roussau Jolley of Del Ray Cal.. Information from the files of Duke Sumonia, Glen Haven Colo. Gerald C Keller 0-774183 2nd Lt. Pilot Jack E Lytle 0-721462 2nd Lt. Pilot Robert E Nesbitt Jr. 0-721498 2nd Lt. Pilot Bernard W O'Malley 0-721506 2nd Lt. Pilot Anthony J Paladino 0-721508 2nd Lt. Pilot Bruce S Patterson 0-1031830 2nd Lt. Pilot Leland A Pope 0-721516 2nd Lt. Pilot Charles V Porter 0-721517 2nd Lt. Pilot Pat N Roberts Jr. 0-721525 2nd Lt. Pilot Avon Sehorn 0-774323 2nd Lt. Pilot
There were many newspaper reports, but this following one DH thought should be included... The Rodwells (Stationed at Bruning AAF..Name etc. later) of Fairbury found this in the library in Fairbury:
Fairbury Journal Fairbury, Jefferson County Nebraska Thursday, August 10, 1944 SOLDIERS IN CRASH KNOWN HERE Six of 28 killed last Thursday lived in Fairbury All of the 28 men who were killed when a C-47 transport plane crashed last Thursday night near Naper, Nebraska near the Nebraska-South Dakota line were known in Fairbury and 6 of them maintained homes here. The plane which had just left the Bruning field and was headed for Pierre, S.D. hit a severe electrical storm, which might have been the cause of the accident. Army officials said the wreckage was strewn over a two-mile area. Horses and wagons were borrowed from farmers to haul the bodies. 2nd Lt. Williams Franklin Acree lived with his mother and brother-in-law and sister, Mr. and Mrs. Arlie G. Oglesby at 1224 5th Street. A military funeral was held Tuesday (Aug 8th ?) at 7 p.m at the Christian church for Lt. Acree. Chaplain P.F. Anderson of the Bruning Base conducted the funeral. The base quartet, consisting of Pfc. James Mc Donough, S/Sgt Vernon Bobb, Cpl. Travis Mullins and Pfc. Paul Price, sang. Mrs. Charlotte Henney played the pipe organ at the beginning and close of the services. Soldiers acted as pallbearers and burial was in the Fairbury Cemetery. 2nd lt. Pat N. Roberts Jr. who also lost his life in this crash lived in an apartment belonging to Harry Schenk at 901 D. Street. He was married July 23. Married 11 days Capt. Robert K. Bohle lived with his wife at the Donna Lee apartment house at 909 C. Street. 2nd Lt. Jack L. Brown, lived with his wife at the E.T. Woods home at 1022 B Street. His home was at Milwaukee(?) near Portland, Oregon. Lt. Brown's mother was here to be with her daughter in-law who expected to be confined (due?)soon. His father accompanied by Mrs. Jack Brown's mother, arrived in Fairbury Monday (Aug 7th ?)but found Mrs. Jack Brown and her mother-in-law had left for Oregon. They left Tuesday in Lt. Brown's car for Oregon. (The above sidelight of missed communications will be followed up. DH) Lt. Lloyd L Hemphill also lived in Fairbury, but his address has been impossible to secure. One sad feature of this tragedy was that the twin brothers, who were popular at the base, both lost their lives. They were Lt. Clayton R. Jolley, Del Rey California and Lt. Leonard C. Jolley, Fresno, California. Others who lost their lives in this accident included Capt. Stanley J. Meadows, Grimes, Nebr.; Capt. Leslie B. Roberts, Brooklyn, NY: 2nd Lt. Bruce S. Patterson, Cleveland, O; 2nd Lt. Herbert A Blakeslee, Eddiville, Nebr.: 2nd Lt. Donald J. Clarkson, Kansas City, Mo;; 2nd Lt. Richard E. Brown, San Leandro, Calif.; 2nd Lt. Richard E. Brown, San Leandro, Calif.; 2nd lt. Jack Lytle, Morton, Texas; 2nd Lt. William O. Armstrong, Mineral, Ill; 2nd Lt. George E. Boeckmann, Charlotte, N.C.; 2nd Lt. James C. Burke, Jr. Milton, Mass; 2nd Lt. Robert E Nesbitt, Chicago, Ill; 2nd Lt. Millard F. Arnett jr, Short Faimont, W.Va; 2nd Lt. Lavon Sehorn, Klamath Falls, Ore; 2nd Lt. . Arthur Johnson, San Diego, Calif.; 2nd Lt. Gerald C Keller, Middletown, Md; 2nd Lt. . Anthony Palandino, Los Angeles, Calif.; 2nd Lt. Bernard W. O'Malley, Little Rock, Ark.; 2nd Lt. Leland Al Pope, Oklahoma City, Okla. F/O John F. Albert, Chicago , Ill. and Sgt Orson Hutslar, Springfield, Ohio. -----End of Newspaper Report
Read the Following Official reports with these facts in mind. 1. Man had been flying for only about 40 years 2. The C-47 design was only 10 years old. 3. Apparently up to this time NO DC-3/C-47 aircraft had ever had structure failure in flight. (Read comments later of John Allison and Jay Akin) 3. Aviation weather forecasting was a very new science. 4. Using Radar for weather forecasting was yet only a theory. 5 All of the military personnel involved probably had only 3-4 years experience or less in their field. 6. The US armed forces had just landed in Europe and the P-47 was the best ground support fighter/bomber that they had. They needed planes and trained pilots desperately, as losses were very heavy. This last item, while not a factor in the accident, does point up the military concern about the crash. The OSI was involved. re: Roy Meadows, Capt. Meadow's brother. and the FBI re: Wilmer Bohnet
OFFICIAL ARMY AIR CORP REPORTwritten August 12 1944 Description of Accident (This report is disseminated as soon as sufficient facts are gathered
and distributed throughout the ARMY AIR FORCES. There could be
a Air Force wide problem and early detection could save lives and aircraft) A crash of C-47A 42-23652, piloted by Stanley J. Meadows, Captain, Air Corps, apparently resulting from extreme turbulence and lightning in a storm cloud, occurred approximately six(6) miles southwest of Naper, Nebraska at 2030 hours on 3 August 1944. There were only two witnesses who saw the airplane emerge from the storm cloud. their statements are attached hereto. All witnesses agreed (except the opinion of Mr. Helenbolt) that the airplane was operating normally prior to entering the storm cloud.The statements of Mr. Windmeyer and Mr. Helenbolt both indicate that; (1) The plane flew into the storm cloud in which there was a great amount of lightning. (2) A very heavy lightning flash occurred and the noise of the motors stopped immediately. (3) A very few moments thereafter, the airplane appeared coming out of the base of the cloud in a very steep dive and continued in this flight path until it disappeared from their sight. The appearance of the wreck (debris trail), which was seen for a mile along the northwesterly flight path, bear out Mr. Helenbolt's testimony that the pieces flew off of the airplane and that the airplane was descending at an angle of approximately 45 degrees. The pieces on the ground dropped down instead of being knocked off by contact with the ground. Many pieces were in a field of shocked barley and not a single shock was disturbed even by the right wing which was the largest piece in that field. The remainder of the plane struck on a 30 degree down slope apparently on its back and stopped at the bottom of this down slope in a ravine where it caught fire. No definite evidence of destruction by lightning was found: However, Mr. Helenbolt was quite certain that a flaring light was in the front end of the fuselage as the plane descended and Mr. Windmeyer, on the night of the accident, stated that he also saw a fire on the plane. The edge of the right wing which broke away from the center section indicates a failure of the top surface in tension. The wing tip section f this wing was bent parallel to the span and concave on the underside. This would indicate terrific overloading on the upper surface f the wing, and it is believed that the plane was upside down when inside the cloud and hit a terrific updraft in this position. The condition of the other pieces, such as the horizontal stabilizer tips and the control surfaces indicate that the plane was broken up due to the turbulence in the storm cloud. The pilot, Captain Meadows, was considered well qualified in this type of airplane and he had been over the route between Bruning and Pierre many times. The condition of the airplane engines and propellers was considered excellent by maintenance personnel and pilots who had flown it just previous to the accident. The weather was, contact,(WW2 term for clear weather no clouds) all along the route with scattered thunderstorms forecast in South Dakota only. The accuracy of this forecast was confirmed by witnesses in Naper and Atkinson (35 miles south of Naper) who stated that the weather at the time of the accident was clear or partly cloudy to the southwest, south, east and northeast. A Reverend Birmingham of Atkinson stated that hobby was the study of tornado type storms and said that the storm cloud into which the plane few was very definitely of the tornado type, also that tornadoes can often times pass overhead without coming Down to the ground. Although Captain Meadows had personally seen to it that all personnel were wearing their parachutes and had their safety belts fastened when the plane took off from Bruning, no one bailed out. It is probable that all personnel were stunned by the lightning flash. All personnel were in the plane when it struck the ground and all died instantly. The airplane was completely demolished by the disintegration in the air, impact with the ground, and by fire. It could not be clearly established whether Captain Meadows was flying in the clouds or was in the clear air above the clouds just before entering the storm; therefore, responsibility for the accident is judged to be 100% pilot error in that the pilot used poor judgment in continuing his flight into The storm cloud. Possible underlying causes are: a. Low experience level of pilots and weather forecasters as compared with peace-time standards. b. Authorized loading of airplane beyond the limit recommended by the manufacturer. c. Initial effect of lightning on pilot and airplane. It is recommended that: a. Load limit as recommended by the airplane manufacturer be used within the continental limits of the United States. b. A definite policy and procedure be established whereby all weather forecasting shall be pessimistic, that is, it shall err on the side of safety. Signature; C D McAllister Col. Base Commander 12 August 1944
NOTE!! Col McAllister wanted to put 100% of blame on Capt. Meadows but the Accident Board (Final Say) spread the blame around, as noted in their report following.
.. Additional Statement of Aircraft Accident Committee. 12 August 1944 1. It is the opinion of the Aircraft Accident Committee that the responsibility for the crash should be divided 50% Pilot Error, 25% Material Failure. 25% Weather Station. This opinion was reached by consideration of the following items: a. The pilot was not adequately cautious with due consideration of his cargo. There is, however no evidence to show that he actually entered the cloud itself. Witnesses stated that the aircraft descended from the base of the cloud, but an angular observation of the aircraft flying behind the cloud would give the same impression. Other witness' statement that the aircraft was silhouetted by a lightning flash would tend to indicate that the aircraft was not actually within the thunderhead where visibility was practically zero. Knowledge of Captain Meadow's flying technique leads the committee to the belief that he would never fly directly through a thunder head, but might have been trying to go through the clear space between the two reported clouds. b. The figure of 25% material failure is reached by the positive evidence that the right wing tip separated from the plane in flight. The Douglas representative states that this is entirely possible and that failure of the wing tip by turbulence might result in subsequent failure of the wing. It is also possible that the pilot was attempting a forced landing descent following failure of the wing tip, and this descent either forced him into more turbulent air or into a higher air speed with resulting failure of the wing. (Note John Allison's report on control surface fabric) (Also note Jay Akin's report on control surface fabric) c. 25% responsibility is assigned to the weather station for reporting excessive visibility and ceiling which would tend to create a undue feeling of confidence of the weather in the pilots mind, and which failed to give him a vivid picture of the condition and dangers in the storm ahead. Furthermore the cold front disturbances (pre frontal thunderstorms were scattered up to 50 miles southeast of position forecast. Richard E Holcombe Major AC Richard N Beatty Captain AC John W Allison 1st Lt. AC
OFFICIAL NARRATIVE OF EVENTS(Usually written after more information is available)
Date 15 August 1944 Above flight dispatched from Bruning AAB, Bruning Nebraska 1907 CWT (7:07PM CST) August 3 1944 for purpose of transporting above fighter pilots to Pierre AAB for gunnery school. Pilot Capt. Meadows was briefed on weather for the route and reported to have flown this route several times. On reaching the thunderstorm area approximately one hour and eighteen minutes from Bruning and in the vicinity of the Niobrara River Valley south of Naper Nebraska, flight encountered typical frontal activity with surface winds variable from 25 to 45 MPH from WNW and accompanying turbulence, hail and rain showers with cloud to ground lighting. Although not definitely determined, it is indicated from careful inspection of the wreckage that (the) right wing tip, right wing, both horizontal stabilizers surfaces and right engine were torn from the airplane around 1000' feet above ground; the balance of the airplane remaining more or less intact and proceeded in direction of flight for another 300 yards horizontal distance before impact (apparently inverted) with the ground, where subsequent fire destroyed remaining portion with the exception of the left wing and left engine. It is indicated that failure of any of occupants to abandon the airplane may have been due to the sudden loss of the right wing which would have caused (the) airplane and prevent escape at the low altitude indicated. Almost all of the 28 occupants were thrown free of the fire are, although all bodies were within 40 feet of the main wreckage. It was evident all occupants were instantly killed.
INVESTIGATION DISCLOSED 1. As accurately as can be determined, the accident occurred twenty two (22) minutes prior to the estimated arrival time at destination although (the) airplane crashed 110 miles short of that point. Although "on course? some time may have been expended in dodging (confirmed by visual sighting of Leo Brotskey) thundershowers in that vicinity before structural failure occurred. 2. A check of loading data at Bruning shows gross take-off weight was 29127 pounds.Numbers were underlined 3. Pilot reported (underlined) to have had about 30 hours time on this type and considered by his supervisory officers to be well qualified. 4. Pilot possessed white instrument card and considered a good instrument pilot. 5 Pilot thoroughly briefed on Weather (See attached Form 23 and statement of Lt. Gianos, Weather Officer) (Not included in the NAPER report) 6. Time of accident indicated by clock with time showing 8:25 and found in wreckage. 7. Examination of aileron edge of right wing indicates failure of top surface in tension (last two words underlined). The wing tip section of this wing was bent vertical to the span and concave on the underside. This would indicate terrific overloading on the upper surface of the wing and it is believed the plane was inverted when in the cloud and encountered a violent up draft in this position. The condition of other failed parts such as horizontal stabilizers and ailerons indicate plane disintegrated due to turbulence in the storm cloud. COMMENTS: 1. The appearance of the wreckage which was strewn for one mile along the westerly flight path appear to bear out Mr. Helenbolt's statement that parts fell from the airplane while in flight and that (the) plane descended at about a 45 degree angle and rolling around the longitudinal axis prior to impact. History of tornado type storms indicates that under conditions existing in the vicinity, it is possible for sudden and violent tornadic storms to developed and pass overhead without extending downward to the terrain. 2. Attention is invited to Form 23 showing 8 hours fuel supply for a flight of 1 hour and 45 minutes duration. PROBABLE CAUSE: Structural Failure of right wing and part of tail section. CONTRIBUTING FACTORS: Failure of pilot to avoid known turbulence. Gross loading of airplane at 29127 pounds. RECOMMENDATION: A. Pilots of C-47A and similar types be advised of necessity for avoiding turbulent frontal areas. If impossible to avoid such area, the following precautions be taken. 1. Extend landing gear. 2. Reduce power to bring indicated air speed to maximum of 130 MPH B. Pilots of C-47A and similar types acquire minimum of 50 hours first pilot time before being permitted to transport personnel. GLEN W NEEL Major Air Corps Regional Safety Officer
...Names of AAF officers who were involved in the post accident inquiry who could be living today. John W Allison 1st Lt. 0-669 658 Accident Investigating Committee (John and his wife Margaret have been found and are living in Waco Texas, their very interesting stories are below.) Herman W Baker 2nd Lt. Aircraft Inspector A D Duff 1st Lt. (Recently DECEASED) Richard E Holcombe Major 0-431 437 Dir. of Training 262nd FPTS Richard N Beatty Capt. 0-885 111 Charles W Collins Capt. 0-432 539 Base Technical Inspector Thomas H Olsen (?) 1st Lt. 0-582 212 Maynard T McGurn 1st Lt. 0-865 560 Robert B Evans Capt. Robert N Hooker (?) 2nd Lt. R W Leisenring CWO Adjutant Phillip N Markle Maj. 0-319 991 Wayne F Palmer 1st Lt. 0-7428229 Robert W Rogers 2nd Lt. Asst Base Op Officer C D McAllister Lt./Col Base Commander A interview with any one of the above would be priceless! .....As one can now read from
John Allison's report
Revision to all interviews in progress..DH
(Picture of Aircraft that The Bruning AAF Base Commander, Col McAllister
flew to a cow pasture near the crash scene to investigate the crash.) UC78 (Bamboo Bomber)
Attempts to contact surviving relatives....
Click on Each of the deceased pilots on the victim page to
follow the attempts and success in reaching surviving relatives...very emotional reading... Captain STANLEY J MEADOWS the pilot 1st(s). LEONARD & CLAYTON JOLLEY Pilot/Passenger/ twin brothers An older brother, Rev. Truman Jolley, was located 2-11-99 in Wash. State. He is going to send other family information to DH. The only daughter, Judy Jolley Pulliam, a teacher, was located in Cal. State. Judy Jolley was eight months old in Aug of 1944. Lt. Leonard Jolley had never seen his daughter but had been sent many pictures. While Judy's mother did remarry, Leonard remained the love of her life and at her request was buried next to him. Warren Jolley, a younger brother, was located in California, he named his two sons who were born after the war after their twin uncles, Clayton and Leonard. Clayton Jolley (Nephew) contacted me by Email. The Email or phone conversations from the Jolley family were very deep emotional and heartwarming experiences. They were appreciative of having more and updated information about the twins. At this point The Naper 28 project is now a group project, with many people involved..
Goals and Aims of the NAPER 28 Project.. DH has a personal bond with this form of tragedy. He flew USAF jet fighters starting in the Korean War then flew with the Nebraska Air National Guard until 1972. So he too has lost many close friends in aircraft crashes. And only by the Grace of God that DH was not in one of those "smoking holes in the ground". Now he would like to make ?closure? for these 28 young men. A start is by gathering all related information, including photos, artifacts (PICTURES OF pieces of the wreckage etc.), mementos and letters to or from the victim's loved ones. As time goes on hopefully more and more living relatives will be receiving these UPDATES. and providing more fascinating data. He would like to contact as many living relatives as is humanely possible, to insure them that their loved ones are not forgotten. Copies of the report will be given to 1. Those that are helping on this project. 2. Interested local historical societies. 3. And more importantly, to the surviving relatives. A report, such as this one, can never be really finished. Update Recipient List-- Virginia/Stub, Marge, Dorothy/Jim, Norman/Theresa/Eric, Lewis, Paulette, Darrel/Wilma, Leon, Jim/Mabel, Jay/Doris, Greg Fuller/AAIR, Neal, Joy, Neal H, Danny H, Roy M. Dewaine E, Ron F, Duke S, J T L, Dave P., Doreen P. Pat D. Leo B.JTL. John and Margaret, John K. Dr. Brian M. Warren J. Truman J. Judy P. Clayton J. (Nephew) Stan H. Janet H. Edwin Swimmer B. Everett S.
There is no intent to focus on the condition of the bodies after the crash, it is only to assure that death was instant. Every effort will be to acknowledge all the wonderful people who are helping to develop this report. However their personal data, addresses, phone numbers etc. will NOT be included. DH will not use their names if requested to do so. While the general location of the crash site is of public record the EXACT location is not. The exact location will not be published but the property owner can be contacted for permission to visit the site. (Five gates had to be opened and closed twice and a four wire fence had to be taken down and put up again to just get to the site!) The Air Force relinquishes all claims to aircraft wrecks that are on private land, and the artifacts are the property of the landowner (Interesting sidelight, the Navy NEVER gives up ownership of shipwrecks or plane wrecks no matter where or when or how deep.) NO, DH is not planning on writing a book. NO money or contributions will be accepted.
RESEARCH ACTIVITIES Narratives on DH's trips etc. are informal and personal, most of the information will not be used in the final draft............ He completed a trip to the Crash Site the week of Jan 11th. He also has been reviewing the original death certificates at the Lincoln Nebraska Archives. This is DH's first attempt at research and was amazed at the amount of information on a death certificate. He can not get copies because he not a relative but he could look at a copy and write down notes while in the records office. DH?s Trip Naper Nebr. Wed Jan 13 to Friday Jan 15th Trips, such as this one, produce a great amount of personal satisfaction. On this trip DH was able to meet some really fine people and visit old friends. Wednesday PM Inman Nebr. DH met old friend Theresa Nielsen and her family. Son, Eric Nielsen helped find an important map. Thursday IS O?Neil Nebr. Lewis Coker was interviewed. Not only did he provide an experienced pilot's view of the crash but he has a great life story in his own right. He was an accomplished pilot long before WW2. He started flying when he was 14 years old. But not with the blessing of the CAA. But in those times, prior to WW2 a lot of farmer/rancher pilots built their own planes, taught them selves to fly and did, very young. He also was a good friend of Evelyn Sharp from Ord, an early well known pilot who was killed ferrying a P-38 fighter for the military. A very excellent book was written about Evelyn called "Sharpie" Thursday PM Spencer Nebr. Leon Wells, Editor and owner of the Spencer Advocate and the Butte Gazette. He was very helpful. He inserted an advertisement in his papers that produced some excellent information sources. Thanks to Leon. Paulette Blair, Spencer Librarian, Paulette closed the door of her own business, opened up the Library (It is closed on Thursdays) so that DH could download his report disk using the library computer. As you would know, DH then could not find the disk. Bless Paulette for all of her patience. Thursday PM Naper Nebr. DH met Jim Sattler and his wife Mabel, present owners of the crash site land. Of course this was the high point of the trip. They shared all of the information that they had collected over the years. Jim relayed all of the things that his father had told him about the crash and its aftermath.(Jim was a baby at the time). He took DH to the site and showed him the cross. The terrain was much more severe than first imagined. Walking the ground, seeing the cross was a very emotional experience. There were two small evergreen trees growing up very near the cross almost overshadowing it, as if to say-- "Life will always go on.........." Jim's grandfather homesteaded the ranch and DH was shown were the original sod house stood. DH is very grateful to Jim and Mabel for their help. Friday PM Milligan Nebr. On his way home DH called Dorothy and Jim Bunker to see if he could stop and say Hello. When he got there they were all ready for him. Dorothy has been involved in the Fairmont/Bruning Base history since the bases were first built and is acknowledged as THE source of local WW2 history. She has been quoted in several books national newspaper articles. Jim met Dorothy and married her when he was stationed at Bruning AAF. (Jim, the competition must have been fierce!) Dorothy has all of her information neatly filed and cataloged. It was a wonderful trip and the weather cooperated. Over a 1000 miles on the Dodge Dakota pickup. Trip to visit Virginia/Stub Priefert (Thayer County Historian) Tues. 1-19-99 Virginia has put Bruning Army Air Field Back on the map. She has published a very thick and comprehensive history of the base ....She showed DH the museum at Belvidere Nebr. the room with all of her artifacts. It is well worth a trip to see the results of her many hours of work. DH and her exchanged information and he got to check out Stub's workshop and all of his neat projects.. ....And cake with strawberries! .Today was a very nice day to travel Another visit to the State archives is planned very soon.......... HELP is needed to run down the deceased pilot?s relatives. (Only Internet whizzes or Nuts should apply) DH will get all of the information from the death certificates which will help a searcher significantly. Have offers already. DH suggests that list recipients wait until all of the death certificate inf. is available to make a search easier. There are now several people helping search for the military personnel that were associated with the crash investigation. There is a complicated procedure in searching for military people that might still be living. Report of J T Layne.. was supposed to be on that fateful flight Dewaine Erickson.. Went to Lincoln and picked up information on 13 more death certificates.. Thanks Dewaine Mrs. Edward (Doreen) Peppel's interview will be later. Her father was a newspaper editor at Bonesteel SD 25? miles away. Some very interesting sidelights on WW2 censorship. Talked to Edwin Zietner, age 90, still sharp! (Janet Higgins uncle), he was one of the first ones at the scene. Virginia, Dewaine and DH will give a presentation of the Naper 28 project to the Thayer County Historical Society Feb 24th 1999 Excellent group (31 people) were at the above meeting.. A lot of interest in the project. .Also picked up a new WW2 contact person and some new facts and info.
A personal observation........ DH never realized that he would meet so many wonderful people in pursuing this project, Their own personal stories of WW2 and beyond would make for great reading in themselves.
Thanks everyone, until later........DH 6/21/99