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Old 03-21-2013, 02:21:47 AM   #1
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B-17G Flying Fortress Crash

June 28, 1944 a B-17G Flying Fortress (similar to the one pictured above) #42-97619 (same type of aircraft as the famous “Memphis Belle”) took off from Yuma Army Airfield (now known as Marine Corps Air Station Yuma) in Arizona just shortly after 1:15am, for a night navigation training mission. The plane took off with an instructor pilot, two pilots in training, a flight engineer, and a crew chief.

Just a few weeks earlier, one of the pilots, 2ndLt William Richell, 22 yrs old from upstate New York was home on furlough. He was excited to be a newly trained pilot for the Army Air Corps (US Air Force today) as he recently completed his 4-engine training at Roswell Army Air Base before being assigned to Yuma. His younger 15 year old brother Fred, asked of his older brother, what the hardest part of being a pilot was. William told him it was the night flying he was not fond of.

On that fateful early morning hours of June 28th, 2ndLt William Richell radioed the tower to request landing instructions. Ten minutes later, the B-17 slammed into the Gila Mountains. Witnesses 20 miles east of Yuma saw a massive fireball when the crash occurred. It was not known who was at the controls of the WWII bomber at the time of the crash, but investigators believed that the pilot had been using the lights of Yuma as a navigational aid, and inadvertently let the bomber descend too low before the city lights became obscured by the mountain ridge the plane impacted. Most of the debris from the bomber remains today, but almost seven decades of rock & mud slides and steep terrain have covered up much of the wreckage. There were no survivors. The following airmen were killed in the crash: 2ndLt William Richell, 2ndLt Angus MacArther, 2ndLt Sheridan Marek, Sgt Manteu Jones, and Cpl Merle Ice.

My buddy Jon and I were looking for some scenic places to hike and one of the locals mentioned a B-17 crashed up in the mountains and that there was a rough hiking trail that not many people know about that we could take and see the wreckage. So, yesterday we decided on the fly that we’d climb up into the Gila Mountains to view what we could of what was left of the wreckage just to see what was there. The first few hours started out bad, as we started out climbing the wrong peak, and had to transverse over two mountain ridges to get to the correct one. There were no signs or anything that pointed us the right way except for a Canadian “eh” that was down here on vacation we came across on a quad who warned us about the Rattle Snakes all over and he wasn’t for sure where the plane was either, but he guessed it to be over the next peak… so Jon and I kept moving, only now we were paranoid of rattlers.

Here are some of the views of the rocky terrain and rattle snake infested areas we hiked through… very rocky areas and very challenging as well. We were in constant look out for Mojave Rattlers as they have been slithering about today. Also pictured are parts of the plane that we found in the impact area. We had almost given up looking as we didn’t run across anything and we were losing daylight fast… at the last minute of when we decided to turn back, we came across the wreckage. It made the climb worth it.

Last edited by david.rosol : 03-21-2013 at 02:26:20 AM.
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Old 03-21-2013, 02:22:23 AM   #2
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Me next to what’s left of one of the four Wright Cyclone Radial Engines… should have nine piston heads, but this only has four that remained intact. Amazing.

One of the main landing gear struts and wheel assembly.

Here I am next to one of the main landing gear struts with a wheel still attached as well as parts of the wing and a few engine/exhaust parts.

More engine related parts, I’m guessing.
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Old 03-21-2013, 02:22:56 AM   #3
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A fuel cell for sure, and then some engine parts maybe?

The view from the crash site, gives an idea of the elevation the B-17 was flying just before impact.

More engine parts

A closer shot of the Wright Cyclone Engine heads, you can see the valve springs, and bent up cooling fins on the heads.

We were losing daylight fast!! We wanted to climb further and explore more, but we had to get off this mountain, through the rattle snake infested desert, and still find the car before it got dark. Jon slipped and fell on a rock and landed on his hip – I thought he was going to fall down the whole mountain, but he only scraped himself. We made it off the mountain in time before dark - but it got dark on us while hoofing it back through the desert. Luckily Jon had a flash light built into his cell phone so we could at least see part of the trail. Eventually we found the car after a total of 18 miles hiked all together. I don’t see how we did it – but we made it. We were pretty wore out.
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Old 03-21-2013, 02:59:27 AM   #4
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Wow, that's one heck of a hike. That must have been neat to see.
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Old 03-21-2013, 06:11:25 AM   #5
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Old 03-21-2013, 09:01:21 AM   #6
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thanks for sharing.!

There is a B25 wreck slammed into the side of a mt. in the Blueridge Mt , VA back in 40's.
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Old 03-21-2013, 09:07:28 AM   #7
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Very Interesting! I love the desert pics!

In flying I have learned that carelessness and overconfidence are usually far more dangerous than deliberately accepted risks.

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If you are looking for perfect safety, you will do well to sit on a fence and watch the birds; but if you really wish to learn, you must mount a machine and become acquainted with its tricks by actual trial.

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Old 03-21-2013, 09:11:59 AM   #8
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dude that's awesome
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Old 03-21-2013, 12:24:19 PM   #9
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Very cool, thanks for sharing.
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Old 03-21-2013, 12:33:52 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by jdove
Very cool, thanks for sharing.

+1. Nice job documenting your experience!!!
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Old 03-21-2013, 01:45:02 PM   #11
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Old 03-21-2013, 02:28:34 PM   #12
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^^ That's one of the websites that gave us an idea of what we were looking for up there... we heard a lot of the wreckage has also been picked over by people wanting souvineers. To me that was just wrong and like robbing a grave. Them airmen died there trying to make it home. There's another website that gave us a "google map" of the trail that was originally supposed to be like 6 miles long or something... but that trail doesn't exist where it says it should start but doesn't... I don't trust google maps anyway anymore... which is why we sort of trailblazed our own path. We ended up driving a ways along a road until we could find a good access point about two miles that wasn't roped off by private property signs... originally we thought we were going up the right mountain peak, but ended up halfway up the wrong one instead... and had to go a few peaks over and that really killed our daylight time which is why we didn't really get to explore more and see more - but we eventually found parts of it... we had an idea of where it was from the pictures on the websites and it worked out... that's how we ended up going so far as far as the mileage we covered. It was indeed one heck of a hike, I'm still sore, but it was a fun adventure.
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Old 03-21-2013, 03:00:36 PM   #13
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That is amazing that stuff is still up there, and that some dumb a%% haven't stolen it as souvenirs. I'm glad people left that stuff up there so you could enjoy it and post pics for us to enjoy as well. Very cool find, thanks!
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Old 03-21-2013, 04:57:55 PM   #14
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Great photos! That really is some rugged terrain. Thanks for taking us along on your hike!
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Old 03-21-2013, 07:52:44 PM   #15
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i have a customer that comes in my barber shop that was a door gunner on one of those. i just love to hear his stories.
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