A B-29 Crash Site and My Grandmother's Journey to Find It

Tue Dec 20, 2011 9:09 am

I thought I would post a thread of my Grandmother's journey to find the 50 year old crash site of her brother's B-29 in Oklahoma. I thought maybe some of you might appreciate it.

My brother, a journalist who actually took her to Oklahoma and found the site for her and spent a year documenting the crash and the search 50 years later, eventually wrote a 3 part series about the journey and published it.

It's an amazing story and very well written. I'll see if I can give a quick synopisis with pictures.

Here is the draft my bother wrote...

Image

...and the article he eventually wrote.

Image

Re: A B-29 Crash Site and My Grandmother's Journey to Find I

Tue Dec 20, 2011 9:11 am

My Uncle Tommy (my Grandmother's oldest brother) was a WWII vet who got out, and then returned to service in 1949 as a B-29 bombadier/navigator. This is a pic of him as a cadet (furthest on right).

Image

Here is his graduation notice from bombadier school at Childress Field.

Image

Here's my Uncle Tommy as a newly commissioned officer with his bombadier wings.

Image

Re: A B-29 Crash Site and My Grandmother's Journey to Find I

Tue Dec 20, 2011 9:13 am

This story began in the mid 90's when I met a guy on one of the early AOL militaria forums who could obtain USAAF crash records. I was always curious about my Uncle's crash, so I paid him $20, and he produced a 3 document record of he crash. The records is very detailed and very grisly. It contains crash photos, autopsy records, funeral home expense records, and an investigation into the causes of the crash (turns out it was probably a high altitude explosive decompression which led to anoxia of the crew because they weren't wearing oxygen masks).

Image

A picture of the crash site from the file.

Image

Re: A B-29 Crash Site and My Grandmother's Journey to Find I

Tue Dec 20, 2011 9:14 am

That's where my brother took over. He was a journalist at the time and his deep curiosity began to kick in. The 50th anniversarry of the crash was also approaching, and my Grandmother expressed an interest in visiting the site. None of my family had ever been to the site, which was in a small town called Talihina, OK.

My brother started his quest with a single phone call to the Talihina town hall and asked the woman if she knew anything about a B-29 crash in 1949. As luck would have it, there happened to be an old timer who overheard the woman say "What? A B-29 crash? When?" He took over and my brother's journey took off.

In the following months, he received e-mails, letters, and phone calls from all of the good people of Talihina who remembered the crash. He began to piece together the story and became ever more intrigued.

He and my Gram bought plane tickets and had no idea if they could ever actually find the crash site.

A local Talihina newspaper clipping....

Image

A local (Adams, MA) newspaper clipping of the same event.

Image
Last edited by Bigschuss on Tue Dec 20, 2011 12:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Re: A B-29 Crash Site and My Grandmother's Journey to Find I

Tue Dec 20, 2011 9:15 am

So, my brother and my Gram flew to Talihina where they met one of the many people who helped them. Here is a picture of a guy by the name of Roy Medders. It was on his farm that the plane went down. He remembers seeing it fall from the sky.

Image

My brother had a GPS unit and the grid coordinates from the crash report punched in. But try as they did, they just couldn't located the exact crash site despite hours and hours of searching. Mr. Medders got them close, but they just couldn't find any evidence.

My Gram was O.K. with that. She was just happy to be able to lay a wreath in honor of her brother 50 years to the day and time (7 PM) that the B-29 crashed.

Here is the farm....

Image

Re: A B-29 Crash Site and My Grandmother's Journey to Find I

Tue Dec 20, 2011 9:16 am

...my Gram climbing a fence to search for the crash site....

Image

...my Gram laying the wreath somewhere close to the site...

Image

...and a close up of the wreath. It contained pictures of Uncle Tommy's family (he was married with one child and one on the way) and all of his grandkids and nieces and nephews.

As a side note, they actually found his wedding ring in the crash debris inscibed to his wife (my Aunt Kay).

Image

Re: A B-29 Crash Site and My Grandmother's Journey to Find I

Tue Dec 20, 2011 9:18 am

The next morning they were having breakfast at a little greasy spoon in Talihina, and my brother signed the restaurant's guest book...Scott Mahar, Adams, MA.

They left and planned to head back home. Soon after, a gentleman came in, had his breakfast, and was paying his bill when he noticed the name. He happened to be the guy my brother talked to on the phone who happened to know the exact spot of the crash.

He called every hotel in town to find my brother. When he eventually contacted him my brother told him about not finding the spot. This gentleman made plans that day to bring my Gram and brother to the spot so my Gram could finally say good-bye to her brother.

They met. They walked to the same farm. And eventually my brother and my Gram came face to face with my Uncle's destiny...the debris field.

Image

Here is a pic of that gentleman who brought them to the exact site. Don't have his name.

Image

Re: A B-29 Crash Site and My Grandmother's Journey to Find I

Tue Dec 20, 2011 9:22 am

Some small pieces of wreckage he brought home...

Image

A few more identifiable pieces....a stopwatch, a knife, and a parachute or seat buckle

Image

And probably the most poignant piece...some kind of a plate from the plane. It reads "B-29 Pre-flight checklist"

Image

Image

And my brother back home in Adams at Uncle Tommy's grave.

Image

Thanks for letting me share. Hope you will enjoy the story. I am proud of my brother and my gram for making this trip.

Best,
Blair

Re: A B-29 Crash Site and My Grandmother's Journey to Find I

Tue Dec 20, 2011 9:31 am

That is Great, thank you for sharing.
Roger J. Gillen
CW4 USA Retired

Re: A B-29 Crash Site and My Grandmother's Journey to Find I

Tue Dec 20, 2011 9:37 am

That's a magnificent and touching story. So glad you shared it. Made my day. :)

Re: A B-29 Crash Site and My Grandmother's Journey to Find I

Tue Dec 20, 2011 10:23 am

That was a very touching story. Sure glad they found the correct spot on the farm.

Re: A B-29 Crash Site and My Grandmother's Journey to Find I

Tue Dec 20, 2011 11:08 am

What a great story and great detail, Blair! Gives me goosebumps!!!

Mike in La Crosse, WI

Re: A B-29 Crash Site and My Grandmother's Journey to Find I

Tue Dec 20, 2011 11:35 am

thanks for sharing

Re: A B-29 Crash Site and My Grandmother's Journey to Find I

Tue Dec 20, 2011 11:43 am

Fantastic story. Like the others - I appreciate you sharing it with us.

Re: A B-29 Crash Site and My Grandmother's Journey to Find I

Tue Dec 20, 2011 12:02 pm

A bit sad for your Grandmother, but hopefully helped with closure. I'm susrprised there were still so many pieces laying around.

Bob