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Crash Photos 2
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This selection of photos illustrates just some of the aircraft accidents suffered by the 361st between January 1944 and July 1945 and the pilots who were involved.

Inevitably, a few of these accidents were fatal and today serve as a reminder of all those members of the Group who paid the ultimate sacrifice in WW2.

Please click on the thumbnail picture for a high quality enlargement.

Even test flights could be hazardous, as Lt. Barry R. Hicks of the 374th found out on 21 July 1944, while checking out Capt. George R. Rew's personal P-51B "Scarlet Kate", 42-106763, B7:R. (See Photo 9, 374FS Gallery) Climbing to 25,000 feet, Lt. Hicks applied full throttle with maximum R.P.M. but, seconds later, the engine failed. With smoke filling the cockpit, Hicks baled out at 19,000 feet, leaving the stricken fighter to explode on the ground. (Pearce)

Training also took its toll in the 361st Fighter Group and, consequently, denied a number of pilots the opportunity to fly in combat. Tragically for Lt. Harry G. Bosyk of the 374th Squadron, the consequences were fatal. Assigned as a replacement pilot on 9 August 1944, his P-51D 44-13652 broke up as a result of structural failure during a training mission on 29 August 1944 and crashed near Middleton. (Cole)

While returning from the Ulm mission of 10 September 1944, Lt. Norman L. Smith of the 376th piloting Lt. Hugh D. Chapman’s personal P-51B "Clara Ann", 42-106688, E9:B was forced to crash-land near Montdidier in France because of a fuel problem. Luckily, Lt. Smith was soon able to make contact with American troops nearby and made his way back to Bottisham via Amiens and Brussels. Meanwhile, "Clara Ann" became something of a local attraction! (Pierre)

Lt. Francis T. Glankler's P-51B "Suzy-G", 42-106811, E2:H ended up a write-off in a field at Thorpe Park, near Clacton in Essex. While returning from the Magdeburg mission of 11 September 1944, Lt. William E. McCoppin of the 375th Squadron is believed to have got into a mock dogfight with a P-47, but evidently paid for his enthusiasm! (Cole)

Lt. James D. Smith's P-51D "Daisy Mae II", 44-14042, E9:Y crashed near the shooting-in butts at Little Walden, following engine failure on take-off for the escort mission to Ruhland on 7 October 1944. This aircraft had been flown by Lt. William R. Beyer of the 376th Squadron on the Kassel mission of 27 September 1944, in which he destroyed five Fw190s in quick succession.(Smith)

Flying the Mustang was a thrill for any young fighter pilot and many were tempted to perform a "buzz job" whenever the opportunity presented itself. Occasionally, however, such stunts resulted in disaster, as occurred on 1 November 1944 while returning from Gelsenkirchen. 375th pilot Lt. James A. Eason, flying P-51D 44-14181, E2:B, decided to do some low-level aerobatics, but his plane struck a tree near Beachamwell. (Pearce)

As the 361st Fighter Group returned from the Merseburg mission of 2 November 1944, Lt. Alfred B. Maclay of the 374th had to make an emergency landing at Matching airfield, Essex, formerly occupied by Marauders of the 391st Bomb Group, but his battle-scarred P-51D 44-13877, B7:F undershot the runway and flipped over. Even so, Maclay was able to extricate himself from the wreck in spite of his injuries. (Pearce)

Following the changeover from 100/130 grade fuel to higher performance 100/150 grade during the summer of 1944, 8th Air Force P-51 groups reported an alarming increase in the number of take-off crashes due to engine failure, mostly caused by spark plug fouling. One such incident involved Capt. William J. Shackelford's former mount, P-51B 42-106875, E2:D of the 375th, at Little Walden on 9 November 1944, but the pilot, Lt. William H. Street, escaped unhurt. (Pearce)

The Mustang could have a fatal habit of flicking over from torque at low landing speeds. Such an incident claimed the life of Capt. Richard M. Durbin on 9 November 1944, as he landed in gusty conditions at Little Walden aboard P-51D 44-14922, E9:P. Soon after touchdown, the plane ballooned, veered off the runway and became airborne once again, but then rolled over on its back and crashed in the 374th area, demolishing a line shack. (Pearce)

The Group's Cessna UC-78 "Uncle Tom's Cabin", 42-32072 crashed into a hillside in thick fog near RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire on 14 November 1944, while returning from Exeter. The crew of a RAF ambulance recovered the pilot, Lt. John J. Sadinski of the 376th Squadron, and his passenger, Lt. Charles R. Law, Group Transportation Officer, both seriously injured, but Lt. Sadinski later died in the ambulance.(Pearce)

Another victim of engine failure, probably caused by spark plug fouling, was P-51D "Pretty One II", 44-11164, B7:N on 27 November 1944, piloted by Lt. Frank H. Colet of the 374th. This was Lt. John C. Wilkinson's personal aircraft in which he claimed a Fw190 destroyed and another damaged the previous day on the Misburg mission. '164's replacement, "Pretty One III", also B7:N, was 44-15665 which was later assigned to Lt. Walter N. Hedges. (Pearce)

376th pilot Lt. Marion C. Kelly was fortunate to survive a training mission on 2 Jan. 1945 near Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire. During an Immelman turn at 30,000 feet, his P-51B 43-24808, E9:D fell into a spin and while he managed to straighten it out, he was unable to pull out of the dive, which tore off the canopy, causing severe injuries. Then, the left wing broke off, throwing him out of the cockpit but, luckily, his parachute opened immediately. Note: Precise details of this location would be greatly appreciated! (Kelly)

New aircraft were required to be tested or "slow timed" prior to use in combat, and this photo of Maj. Charles N. Keppler's P-51D "Miss Margie", 44-63173, E2:L, taken near Chievres on 8 March 1945, illustrates the wisdom of this practice. The diary of 375th pilot Lt. Robert J. Farney described it thus: "flew Major Keppler's ship for 30 minutes and when the engine practically quit, I made a forced landing down wind. I ended up down the lot and tore the plane all to pieces. What a day." (Pearce)

Lt. Robert Hobbs of the 376th only narrowly escaped death when his P-51D "Lil' Larry", 44-13646, E9:W (formerly the mount of Lt. Robert W. Ward) crashed near Eau Brink during a test flight on 24 April 1945. While carrying out routine manoeuvres, the right wing broke off at the gun bay, causing a vicious snap roll which threw Hobbs out of the cockpit, still strapped in his seat. Mercifully, it fell away as he parachuted to safety. (Hobbs)

Shortly after VE-Day, 361st FG began training for redeployment to the Pacific Theatre, which included high altitude dive-bombing. However, a practice mission over Little Walden on 23 July 1945 spelt disaster for two pilots of the 375th. Lt. John E. Havey's P-51D "Libby"/"Sweet-Flo", 44-14556, E2:I dived straight into the ground and exploded, while P-51D "Tony", 44-15038, E2:M, flown by former 453rd BG B-24 pilot Lt. J. Warren Geron (pictured), disintegrated, scattering wreckage on a nearby farm. (Pearce)