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January 11, 2008

Oroville Mercury Register
January 13 & 14, 1953


By Floyd Tucker Mercury Staff Reporter
Gridley- Air Force investigators swarmed over a muddy field 13 miles west of here today searching for a clue to the crash yesterday of a B-50 Super fortress that carried 12 crewmen to their deaths. Other crews probed the wreckage for eight bodies that were still unrecovered this afternoon. The huge aircraft spun out of the clouds at 1:40 p.m. while engaged in a “routine navigational flight” from Castle Air Force Base, Merced with three sister ships. The bomber was attached to the 93rd Bombardment Wing of the Strategic Air Command. Statements of witnesses indicated the plane lost power, although Air Force sources declined comment on possible causes of the crash. Those who saw the craft fall said the pilot “revved” his engines several times in an effort to bring its nose up. A special investigations team was dispatched early today from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, O. Salvage, and additional recovery of bodies, waited on the arrival of a 92 foot crane sent from McClellan Air Force Base, Sacramento. Gridley residents said the doomed plane “barely cleared treetops” while passing over the town seconds before the crash, but regained altitude momentarily. Eyewitnesses to the actual crash said the bomber came out of the clouds at 2,000 feet in a spin. Many heard the pilot gunning his engines during the fall, and the plane appeared to level out slightly just before the impact half buried it in the mud of an open grain field on the Terrill Sartain property, two miles west of the Butte-Colusa county line. Shortly before the crash the flight of Four-multi-engine bombers were seen in formation over Oroville.

“I knew it would crash when it first came out of the overcast. They never had a chance to get out.” Those were the words of John Cowan, manager of Grey Lodge Waterfowl refuge, who watched with two companions yesterday as an Air Force B-50 spun to its destruction in a field 13 miles west of Gridley, carrying 12 crewmen to their deaths. “When we first saw the plane it was coming out of the clouds in a steep spin at about 2,000 feet. The pilot gave it full power several times, but he couldn’t pull it out. Just before they hit the ground, the plane appeared to level out some, but it was too late. “They hit the ground with a tremendous thudding sound.” Cowan, a flier himself, and a pilot of Navy planes during the war, could offer no explanation for the crash. “We could hear the pilot hit his engines before he dropped out of the clouds,” Cowan said. With Cowan were Lloyd Chase and Ken Parrish, Grey Lodge employees. “I said, ‘There he is,’ and John said, ‘He’s going to crash,’: Parrish related. “The pilot never gave up trying,” Chase said. “ The last time he gunned the motors they were only about 400 feet up.” The first two men to arrive at the wreckage were Roland Hanschu and Howard A. Thomas both of Colusa, employees of the Terhel Farms, were the crash occurred. Both men said the plane “twisted three or four times” after it appeared below the clouds.

The Air Force today released the names of four men killed in the crash of a B-50 near Gridley and identified eight others missing and given up for dead. Bodies recovered and identifies include; T. SGT. CURTIS F DUFFY, 27, husband of Ruth A. Duffy, Atwater, Calif. T. SGT. BOBBY G. THEURET, 29, son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry D. Theuret, Box 413, Costa Mesa, Calif., and husband of Barbara L. Theuret, Atwater. M. SGT. WILLIAM H. CLARKE, 32, husband, of Audrey W. Clark, Merced. M. SGT. WALLACE N. SCHWART, 28, Maywood, Ill. Those missing and presumed dead include; LT. COL. GERALD W. FALLON, 34, husband of Elaine K. Fallon, Merced. MAJ. WILLIAM P. McMILLAN, 37, husband of Greta A. McMilllan, Atwater. CAPT. WILLIAM S. RAKER, 27, husband of Lorraine G. Raker, Atwater. M. SGT. JOE L. BRADSHAW, 37, husband of Jessamine Bradshaw, Atwater. A.J. WILLIAM B. CRUTCHFIELD, 27, husband of Della Ann Crutchfield, Atwater. AIRMAN FC CHARLES W. HESSE, 21 Sauk Center, Minn. CAPT. EDWARD Y. WILLIAMS, 33, Spokane, Wash. 1ST LT. GEORGE D. GRIFFITTS, 23, Hico, Tex.

The tangled wreckage of the B-50 lay in the mire of a rain-soaked grain field, half buried by the impact of the crash. Overhead, a sister ship circled low. On the ground, would-be rescuers followed her flight and wondered that a machine as powerful could be so quickly destroyed, and such sudden death in an obscure farm field visited upon her crewmen. “Shall I give them the ‘no survivors’ signal, Sir?” “Yes, Sergeant,” came the officer’s soft, reply. And the huge bird of war circling overhead gained altitude and headed south towards its base-reluctantly, it seemed, like a wild thing loath to leave the side of its fallen mate.

Stu’s Notes: Bill Talbitzer and Joe Sheehan were two writers that contributed to these stories. Those last words by an unknown Author really got to me, “like a wild thing loath to leave the side of it’s fallen mate”, yes that wild thing was full of young brave men and they had just lost their friends. Let us here in Oroville not forget these brave men.