A Follow Up:
Researched Background of the members of the crew
of B-26 #40-1475, Bomber Squadron 33

by Marie S. Schmidt

After reading David's story, and seeing the plaque which he ordered to be mounted near the crash site, it seemed logical to me that there might be some surviving relatives who would want to know about this memorial. I set to the task of finding the kin of these nine young men. They should know that their loved ones are memorialized somewhere besides the cemetery where they rest.           .

The search in most cases has been successful and I have been able to find relatives for all of the lost airmen. Getting to know these men, fifty-four years after this untimely accident, has been rewarding, for David, for William and David Blake, and especially for me...

I first sent David's story to the hometown newspaper of each airman listed in the United Press story from January 1, 1942. I had found these publications by inquiring at the Chambers of Commerce in identified home towns.

Searching for the news of this crash, I started with the logical publication, the formidable Los Angeles Times. I was able to find the newspaper dates that I needed, in the microfiche at the Los Angeles City Library. On the date when the wreckage was found, a beautiful and popular movie star, Carole Lombard, was killed in an air crash in Nevada. She was on a War Bond Rally tour visiting cities in the southwest, when her plane crashed, killing all aboard. The Times was filled with page after page of detailed stories about each passenger and crew member and comments from Lombard's contemporaries. It was a sad day for the local movie industry to lose one of its own. So the Times did not have column space to copy the United Press story from San Francisco about the accident in the local mountains of a military plane which carried nine midwestern soldiers to their death.

I continued my research and found the story of the finding of the victims of this crash in the Riverside Press-Enterprise of January 16, 1942. There was no initial story of the missing plane. It was a two-week air and ground search of the mountain area before the wreckage of the plane was found. There was no fire; however, there were no survivors. Once it was located other men of the squadron joined a crash recovery unit which was sent to the site to help retrieve the bodies. In January at that time, the mountains were rough and the recovery group made their own trails into the recovery site. Ice and snow hindered the effort. The crash crews were obliged to travel about four miles on toboggans to reach the scene. Of course, it was required that they use the same method of transportation to bring the bodies to waiting ambulances at Running Springs crossroads, which then delivered them to the Preston Funeral Home thirty miles away in Riverside. The military crash personnel carefully identified each body. These men were their buddies and this crash was the first they had experienced. Preston Funeral Home was responsible for preparing the bodies for cremation or burial and then transporting the remains of the victims to trains which delivered them to their home towns in the midwest.

It is a very little tribute, this plaque on the mountainside, but it is a celebration of each of these brave, simple men. They did not see the action that they had been trained for, but crashing to their deaths on an American mountainside also made them true American heroes. The camaraderie of these young men and their contemporaries contributes to a special kind of idealism found only in America.       .

Most of the airmen named on this plaque were the very first war casualties of their home towns. Each was honored and buried in a resting place requested by their families. Now, through the efforts of a next generation modern day American airman and a couple of third-generation American Boy Scouts, these heroes will not be forgotten, nor will the spirit of the B-26, identified as 40-1475. Near the plaque rest the two giant oil-filled Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engines which carried these men to their deaths. The plaque on the rock above the crash site, which is nearly inaccessible, accompanies the giant engines as a permanent monument.

-- Marie S. Schmidt, Placentia, CA, July 1995