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July 30, 2010

“Some Gave All”
Chico Enterprise
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.