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B-17 Flying fortress
 
B-17 Crash Landings in Graham County Kansas

[condensed from Hill City Times, December 21, 1939] 

B-17 Flying Fortress
US Army Bomber Crashes Near Hill City

 A Martin B-10B twin motor bomber on a mission from Lowry Field, Denver, crashed into a wheat field on the E. Z. McCubbin farm 15 miles northwest of Hill City around 4:30p.m. on December 18, 1939. 

Sgt. Kenneth Seaman of Scranton, Pennsylvania, was killed when his parachute failed to open.  Lt. J. O. Neal and Pvt. H. F. Zielinski parachuted to safety on the Fred White farm, about 3 miles from the crash site. 

 The pilot, Lt. H. L. Neely, brought the plane down in a belly landing at 70 mph on impact, leaving a 125-yard-long trench before coming to a stop.  Although the underside of the plane was severely damaged, much of the plane was still intact.  Lt. Neely was cited for bravery in staying with his plane through the landing. 

 Lt. Neely reported switching fuel tanks immediately before both engines stalled.  There was no fuel in the engines at the crash site

End of Information


[condensed from the Ringneck Chatter, the Hill City High School student newspaper for Tuesday, December 21 (year not given)]

B-17 Crash in 1943 Brought Death to 11 Airmen

Probably the most unique accident in Graham County history occurred at 4:30 p.m. on February 2, 1943, when a B-17 bomber on a routine training flight from Casper, Wyoming, to Oklahoma City crashed and exploded in a pasture seven miles north and one mile east of Bogue. 

Though a standard crew of a B-17 was ten, it was later reported that there were eleven men aboard, all of whom were killed.  Carl McKissen was an eyewitness to the crash.  He saw the plane as it broke through the low overhanging clouds, saw it circle once, then watched it strike the ground in his father's pasture and explode. 

Lee M. Holmes, then sheriff of Graham County, who arrived soon after the crash, said the plane plowed a ditch five to six feet deep, ten feet wide, and around one hundred feet long.  Wreckage was strewn over a fifteen to twenty acre area. 

The B-17 was perhaps the most famous of World War II aircraft, second in size only to the B-29.  The wingspan of the Flying Fortress was 104 feet, with a length of 75 feet and a height of 19 feet.  The gross weight of the B-17 was 65,000 pounds.  The fuel tanks held 2,780 gallons.  When the plane crashed, it still had half of its fuel aboard. 

Members of the local branch of the American Legion guarded the wreckage through the night of February 2-3, until Army Lt. Eaton and an emergency squad from Walker Air Base arrived.  Parts of the bodies of the crew were collected in bushel baskets and brought to the Cutting Undertaking Parlor, where they were held for Army officials. 

There are many theories about how and why the B-17 crashed.  Lt. Eaton thought that ice forming on the plane caused it to go out of control and lose altitude.  An army pilot with Lt. Eaton at the crash site said he had been forced to make an emergency landing the same afternoon because ice had formed on his wings. 

Another theory involves the problem of cooperation between the pilot and co-pilot of the B-17.  The idea was that when the plane dropped beneath the clouds, the pilot went to Instrument Flight Rules and the co-pilot went to Visual Flight Rules and was supposed to watch out for obstacles in the flight path.  The pilot may have neglected his altitude observations for a moment and the co-pilot's warning came too late. 
Carl McKissen said that he could hear the engines surge in power just before the crash; it can be assumed the pilot tried to pull up before they crashed.  The plane crashed somewhere between the gliding speed of 120 mph and its 250 mph cruising speed. 


The Memphis Belle is one of the most famous  B-17 Aircraft of World War II. Built by Boeing Aircraft Company in 1941.  The Memphis Belle was among the first B-17s to complete its quota of 25 missions over Nazi occupied territory without a member of its crew being killed and was the very first B-17 to complete those 25 missions and return to the United States.
 


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