“Some Gave All”
March 26, 1945
Pilot Death Grim Aftermath to Training Mission
Camp Beale, March 26- A grim aftermath to a training flight
of advanced army fliers from the Chico Army Air Field as they staged
a mock battle over Camp Beale military reservation Saturday was
the mid-air collision of three planes in which one pilot was killed
and two escaped uninjured. The accident in which First Lieutenant
John F. Knecht, 27, of Los Angeles was killed occurred when the
planes had just finished demonstrating the high bombing tactics.
Low level bombing and machine gun strafing of a dummy truck convoy
when suddenly one of the big ships veered out of the formation,
evidently in distress and in so doing cut the tail structure off
one of the other ships. The stricken fighter, with his tail whirling
to earth, went into a headlong dive and plummeted in flames into
a gully, scattering pieces of fuselage as it dove. It appeared to
be in flames when it struck, but from the low level of the dive
its pilot had no chance to bail out. The pilot of one of the planes
involved in the collision made a forced landing nearby and was not
injured. The pilot of the third plane, who was also uninjured, landed
his plane at Chico Army Air Field. CAAF officials announced that
Lieutenant Knecht’s wife and next of kin, Mrs. Shirley M. Knecht,
Vallambrosa avenue , Route 2, has been notified of the accident.
Lieutenant Knecht’s home address was in Los Angeles, Calif. The
accident will be investigated by a board of Army authorities. During
the mock battle which involved 32 P-38’s from CAAF participating
in a joint combat mission at Camp Beale military reservation Saturday,
service forces men were given practice in defense against surprise
aerial attacks they may face overseas and to give Chico Field trainee
pilots further training in combat flying. Repeated bombing strafing
and smoke screen runs by the Chico based Lightings occurred during
the first phase of the demonstration which was witnessed by hundreds
of ASF men from the vantage point of a hillside overlooking the
target area. In the second phase the Service Force men, who are
being trained by Col. Paul B. Malone, a veteran of France in this
war, assembled in marching formation and underwent simulated strafing
attacks from the air. To make the attacks seem more realistic the
dispersed troops, who had flung themselves face down on the ground,
were sprayed by flour bombs released from the low-flying Lightning’s.
Stu’s Notes: Now for some of the rest of this story; I cannot
say enough of these brave young men who came to Oroville and Chico
to train at our Air Fields and as we know close to 50 lost their
lives. The following comes next week from information we bought
off the internet. For years it was classified information known
only by the War Department of the U. S. Army Air Force. Now the
stories of these men can be told. Not only did they risk their lives
everyday they flew in 400 mile an hour Airplanes that could break
as all man made machine’s can, human error was also a great concern.
We all make mistakes in judgments but we are usually on Mother earth.
Not at the whims of Newton’s law of gravity. These men had danger
all around and what could they look forward to. All the danger’s
here plus where they were going. The danger of other men trying
their best to kill them, and a good many of these men were just
as good as they were. Many pilots having had years of experience,
as the German and Japanese pilots had been at war for many years
and they flew until they died. Most of their pilots not making it
to the end of the war. We now know basically what happened the day
they crashed. From the declassified crash reports although God only
knows for sure what happened up there that day. In the next few
weeks I will write of what the other pilots remember on that day,
it will give us a little better understanding of what they did.
These pilots were some of the many true Heroes of America.
Please mark you calendars for the POW/MIA Recognition Day Program
on the steps of the Veterans Memorial Hall on Montgomery Street
at 7pm on Friday September 17, 2010. If you have a motorcycle or
know someone who does, tell them of the Motorcycle Rally/Poker-Run,
117 mile scenic route thru the Sierra Foothills. All proceeds benefit
“Oroville Veterans Memorial Park Far all of Butte
County”. The Run starts and ends at Feather Falls Casino. There
will be live music from “Crossroads” with cash prizes. Pins, wrist-bands
and Tee Shirts for the 1st 200 registered.
The date is Saturday, Sept 18, 2010. Registration is from 7:00am
to 9:00am. Poker Run begins at 8:30am the awards will be between
5pm and 7pm; cost is $25 Single and $15 for Passenger. Cash prizes
will be $500 High hand, $300 Low hand. Discount rooms will be available
at The Lodge on site. For more information you can call 589-5748.
Also, Ninety Six years ago this week, July 28, WWI began in 1914.
Also, this week in July,1953 the Korean War ended, we hope.