SEARCHING FOR SITES
Personally, there is no bigger thrill than finding the exact location of one of Nebraska's fatal crash sites from WWII. In almost every instance there were no longer any visible signs where the crash had taken place. Admittedly, luck did play a role in finding some of the sites where a huge area had to be covered. After developing a better idea how to search, it did become easier. Never-the-less, a few sites have still eluded detection, but not without hours of searching.
Without a doubt the biggest help in finding any site was the eyewitness account of someone who had been there immediately after the crash. Those people are now becoming harder and harder to find, and at many sites the last known eyewitness was found. Consider the fact that a teenager in 1943 would now be age 80 or above if still living. Another challenge was the factual recollection of the eyewitnesses. To a young person these crash sites probably seemed bigger than life at the time, and 65+ years has somewhat changed the true facts. Eyewitnesses were often able to direct me to the right field, but the exact location as remembered was often very different than where I had actually found the site. One person remembered the crash taking place right across the road from his house as a young boy. In reality it was more than one-quarter of a mile away. Another person was certain a crash had occurred not 100 feet from the road or maybe 200 feet at the most. He could still see it in his mind. In reality this site was found 400 yards from the road.
Most people are amazed that anything was found at the sites. Farmers who have been been farming the same fields for many years have never seen anything. Others assumed that any pieces still left would be buried so deep that they could not be found. Farming has not buried the pieces of wreckage, but rather it keeps bringing them to the surface. Most pieces recovered were within a few inches of the surface.
One of the most important aspects of finding the sites is being able to send pieces of the wreckage to family members which has happened many times. Family members can now be taken to the exact locations where their loved ones had died.
This is what a typical crash site looks like in Nebraska.
Somewhere out there is the location of the Daykin P-47 crash that has not yet been found.
This was the Chadron B-34 crash site.
The Beaver Crossing L-5 Crash site.
The Powell P-47 crash site upon finding the first piece of wreckage.
A typical crash site in the Nebraska Sandhills reveals nothing visible to the eye.
65 years later pieces are still found at the surface in cultivated fields.
Fellow researcher Stuart Flynn assisting at the Homer B-26 crash site.
Jerry Penry at one of the Meadow Grove P-47 crash sites. One of my greatest finds.
Plexiglas lying on the surface at the Merna B-24 crash site.
The Carleton P-47 crash site. The GPS receiver records the exact location.
A very rare large piece of wreckage discovered at the Hemingford C-47 crash site.
Once part of a mighty B-17 bomber from the Bertrand crash site.
Three eyewitnesses try to recall where the Wellfleet B-17 crash site should be located.
This field was formerly a pasture at the time of the crash.
Pieces found at the Wellfleet B-17 crash site.
Note the pair of tweezers most likely from a medical kit.
Sometimes the wreckage has manufacturing markings such as this piece form a B-17.
This is what is typically found. These are pieces of a P-47 "Thunderbolt".
Molten pieces of aluminum found at the Ohiowa P-47 crash site.
When this is found you know you are very close to the exact spot.
Scorched pieces of Plexiglas that are fragmented often reveals that the plane was on fire before impact.
From the Chappell B-24 crash.
Jagged edges are the work of a cutting torch when salvage crews cut up the planes.
This is believed to be the letters "NG" from the word "BRUNING".
It was stenciled on the side of a P-47 that crashed near that airfield.
A rare identifiable piece of wreckage.
This is the handle that a pilot would grab while getting into the cockpit of a P-47.
(See photos below).
Grab handle on a P-47 "Thunderbolt" fighter plane.
The use of a metal detector is a must in order to find a crash site in Nebraska. Since most planes were made of aluminum, a metal detector will readily pick up the pieces. In many instances paint was still on the aluminum surface. Any metal detector will work, but one that can block out iron is useful if the crash site is in an area where an old house or fence exists.