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March 11, 2011

Crash Report
Subject: Aircraft Accident 19 March 1945 – Five miles east of Durham, California, involving P-38L-1 AAF 44-23785 assigned Chico Army Air Field, Chico, California

To: Commanding General, Army Air Forces, Washington 25 D.C. ATTN: AC/AS, Intelligence, Counter Intelligence Division Commanding General, Fourth Air Force, 190 New Montgomery St., San Francisco 6, California, ATTN: Security and Intelligence Division. Chief, Flying Safety, Winston-Salem 1, North Carolina.

1. The aircraft accident committee’s investigation has failed to determine cause of subject accident.
2. No further intelligence investigation of subject accident is being initiated because subject aircraft was destroyed beyond ability to accurately determine its mechanical condition or the possible existence of defects or sabotage.
3. Findings of the Aircraft Accident Committee in connection with subject accident were as follows,
a. On 19 March 1945 at 1325 hours, Wm. E. Hines, Jr. 1st Lt. A.C. ASN 0-799182, assigned 433rd AAF BU, Chico, California, took off from Chico Army Air Field as leader of a flight of four P-38 type aircraft. This flight, together with numerous other aircraft, was scheduled for a cross country flight to Tonopah AAF, Tonopah, Nevada. Approximately fifteen minutes after take off Lt. Hines’ Flight encountered overcast at 9,500 feet altitude and he ordered his flight to make a 180 degree turn and return to Chico Army Air Field. At this point two of the members of the flight had already started instrument flying and the planes in the flight became separated. Two planes immediately returned to Chico Army Air Field and Lt. Hines and one other plane separately gained altitude in an apparent attempt to break out of the overcast. The latter two planes were known to have attained an altitude of approximately 25,000 feet by Chico Army Air Field Fighter Control in response to a request for a position fix by Lt. Hines. Nothing further was heard from Lt. Hines until his plane crashes at 1717 hours approximately fifteen miles southeast of the field several persons witnessed the descent of subject plane. The most reliable witness who was located two an one half miles from the scene of the crash observed subject plane break through the overcast at approximately 7,500 feet. Witness is licensed pilot and has logged in excess of 1800 hours. He stated that his attention was attracted by the sound of airplane motors turning at high RPM. He looked up and saw subject plane break through the overcast at an almost vertical dive and at very high speed, He was certain that the plane made several slow rolls on its longitudinal axis between the time it broke through the overcast until it crashed into the ground, but the witness was equally certain that the plane was not in and uncontrolled spin nor did it spiral in. All witnesses agreed that the plane was traveling at a high rate of speed and none of the witnesses observed smoke or fire coming from the subject plane, nor did they notice any parts detaching themselves from the plane during descent. Subject aircraft struck in a field containing large sandstone formations. The maximum penetration into the ground was approximately five feet. Parts of the plane were scattered over an area of several acres and an examination of the scene conclusively indicates that the subject plane struck in an almost vertical attitude. The pilot was killed and the plane completely destroyed. Very little fire was evident except that at the moment of impact a cloud of smoke and fire was seen to rise, but the plane was disintegrated to such an extent that little or no fire followed the impact, it is believed certain that no effort was made by Lt. Hines to parachute from the falling plane. Lt. Hines was an experienced pilot. He had a total of 675 hours in military type aircraft, of which 343 hours had been in P-38 type aircraft.

Stu’s Notes: I have been meaning to do the above story for a long time. So many stories and so little time, I believe with all my heart they should be told. We drive by where many of these brave men died and we do not even know they lost their life so long ago. I actually duck hunted exactly where 3 young men died in a bomber crash and did not know, I’m working on that story thanks to Don Rystrom. I probably won’t duck hunt there again and every time I go by I’ll have different thoughts. This is just one of 50 or more stories in our Butte
County of training accidents think of the thousands all over America at our many Army, Navy, Air force, Marine and National Guard Bases. Some from Oroville died in training. I’ve said this before and probably will again, they didn’t die in the war but they died for their country. One Oroville friend of mine told me his dad told him long ago that your Uncle came home in a box from the training camp. Well I got a phone call a while back from Ron Womack, who said he heard about me and I was writing about plane crashes. For years he knew of one near Butte Collage and he would show me. Of all the crash reports I have only ones says East of Durham. We got permission from a very nice man, made a date and last Thursday off we went. What a beautiful hike we walked for over 3 hours pausing just long enough to admire things along the way. We finally reached the top of a sandstone peak and there was the depression in the ground where a young man dreams were lost so many years ago. It was a beautiful spot you could see for miles all around. In a crash such as that you know some of that young man is still there. A most sacred isolated spot untouched by man except for on that very sad long ago day. We thought about taking a metal detector up there but we didn’t, I’m glad for that. Pieces of the plane have been found there in the past long after the Army was done at the site. I’m 70 years old and I can hike around on beautiful days like that day only because of my freedom paid for by our men and women of our Armed Forces. Pray for them where ever they go, when you see them thank them.