Canfield Plane Crash, 1948 (Part 1 of 4)

The diaries of Della McKnight Cochran contain a very intriguing entry for April 23, 1948:  “… Barksdale plane crash E. of Canfield.  Killed 4.”  My brother-in-law, George Morgan, obtained a copy of the U. S. Air Force official investigation report on this tragedy.  That report forms the basis of this narrative and I have also quoted liberally from it.

The airplane that crashed near Canfield was a U. S. Air Force TB-25J.  The B-25 bomber is perhaps most often associated with the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo in 1942, which was depicted in the movie Pearl Harbor.  The TB-25J that crashed near Canfield was a later model of that plane which had been modified for training purposes.

The report says that the crash occurred three miles east of Canfield, although there is reason to believe that a more accurate description of the crash site would be three miles northeast of Canfield.  There were four people on board, three officers and one enlisted man, all of whom were killed.  The plane apparently began to disintegrate even prior to impacting the ground.

The reproductions from microfilm of the photos included in the official report are of very poor quality.  Two of the better, though still poor, photos of parts of the wreckage appear below.

Img014 A

Img014 B

The official report contains statements by four local witnesses.  C. L. Warren stated, “I was plowing at the time the plane crashed and was about 1/2 mile from the plane.  The first noise I heard was a loud explosion.  I looked up at the plane and saw pieces flying off.  The plane was coming straight down and making a loud, whistling noise.  I saw the plane go down behind the trees.”

Alvin Lynn stated, “Heard the explosion and looked up.  The plane apparently exploded in the air.  Then I heard the plane hit the ground.”

Harold Thompson stated, “I was about 1/4 mile from the crash.  The crash happened about 0950.  I heard a sound like the engines cutting out.  The airplane spun about twice and pieces began flying off.  Then the plane went into a steep dive.  At that time the engines were making a lot of noise.  Then I heard the plane hit the ground.  I did not see any pieces falling after the plane hit.  The weather at the time was cloudy, the clouds were dark to the west.  The wind was not very strong.”

Mrs. Mattie King stated, “I was outside my house at the time of the crash.  The weather was cloudy, the sun wasn’t shining, and the wind was blowing hard.  The airplane had been circling for about 20 minutes.  The plane crashed about 1/4 mile from where I was.  The first noise I heard was evidently the sound of the airplane hitting the ground.  For quite some time after the plane crashed I saw pieces of the plane falling down from fairly high up.  The clouds were dark and very low.  I heard the engines very loud just before the crash.  I did not actually see the airplane fall and hit the ground.”

(To be continued.)

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