Crusty old Joe's

Kodiak Alaska Military History



The official web site of the Kodiak Military History Museum


Douglas B-18A "Bolo" A/C No. 37-522

(U.S. Air Force photo)

On April 28, 1942 Headquarters, Alaskan Air Base, Fort Richardson, Alaska issued Operations Order No. 118c directing the crew of B-18A, No. 37-522, to Cold Bay via Kodiak, and thence to Umnak for an aerial photography mission.  This was just over one month before the Japanese attack on Dutch Harbor. On April 29th , at about 0800, -522 departed NAS Kodiak. The pilot, 1st Lt. Edward J. Tuma, was forced to turn back for not having the" proper clearance". While on the ground Lt. Tuma complained about the overload of gas and equipment on his plane. On the second attempt, he again climbed out toward Anton Larsen Bay, and then evidently tried to turn on a course for Cold Bay while too low. He was caught by a downdraft while trying to clear the ridge of Sheratin Mountain, and impacted 150 feet below the ridge.  The following are edited excerpts from the accident investigation file.

Accident # 42-4-29-14 RESTRICTED

TECHNICAL REPORT OF AIRCRAFT ACCIDENT CLASSIFICATION COMMITTEE

(1) The Accident Classification Committee of Ft. Greely, Alaska met on May 16th, 1942 and determined the following:
(2) Place, date, and time of accident: Kodiak Island April 29, 1942, 0900
(3) Aircraft station: Elmendorf Field Org: 77th Bombardment Squadron
(4) Aircraft model: B-18A A.C. No. 37-522
(5) Date accepted from contractor: ?-9-39
(6) Total hours: 1833:30 Hours since overhaul: 1833:30
(7) Engine model: R-1820-53
(8) Engine A.C. No.ís; L.I. 37-985 R.I. 39-170
(9) Extent of damage to engine(s): L.I. A R.I. A ["A"= destroyed]
(10) Total engine hours: L.I. 1300:15 R.I. 1098:15
(11) Engine hours since overhaul: L.I. 42:15** R.I. 42:15
(12) Purpose of flight: Photography
(13) Took of from: Kodiak Time: 0830
(14) Weather at time of accident: Clear
(15) Pilot (name and rank): Tuma, Edward J. 1st Lt.
(16) Pilotís station: Elmendorf Field, Alaska
(17) Reg. Army_____ Res. Ext. duty__X__ Res., inactive_____ Res., 14-day_____ Grad. cadet_____ Student_____ Other (specify)_____
(18) Org.----assigned: 77th Bombardment Squadron (M)
(19) Org.----attached for flying: 77th Bombardment Squadron
(20) Regular duties assigned: Flight Commander
(21) Original pilot rating and date: Pilot June 21, 1940 [pencil corrected to 9-30-39]
(22) Total pilot hours: 1009:45 Hours on this model: 491:15
(23) Hours per month last 3 months: (1) 34:05 (2) 57:45 (3) 38:10
(24) Models flown last 3 months: (1) B-18A (2) B-26 (3) AT-7
(25) Secure from Flight Surgeon, if pilot error was a causal factor: Was there any physical or neurophysic condition which would in any way account for this accident? Yes or No: No
(26) Damage to private property; Yes or No: No
(27) RESULTS TO PERSONNEL
Pilot -- Tuma, Edward J. 1st Lt. RAR -- Fatal
Co-Pilot -- McDermott, Thomas A. 2nd Lt. RAR -- Fatal
Navigator -- Wilson, James L. 2nd Lt. RAR -- Fatal
Photographer -- Betts, Russell A. 2nd Lt. RAR -- Fatal
Engineer -- Steele, Harold B. T/Sgt. RA  -- Fatal
Photographer -- Harris, Glen R. S/Sgt. RA  -- Fatal
Bomber -- Blake, Orville E. Sgt. RA  -- Major Injury
Radio Operator -- Tester, Rodney L. Pvt. RA  -- Fatal

Damage to aircraft:
A- Complete wreck

Nature:
B- Collisions in full flight with objects other than aircraft

Causes
50% Personnel error, Pilot error, error in judgment
50% Miscellaneous, Weather, Turbulence and Downdrafts

(28)Pilotís Statement: Fatality

(29)Statement of Accident Classification Committee:

The pilot had made a previous take-off and was forced to return due to the fact that he did not have a proper clearance. Before his next take-off he had complained of how heavily loaded his ship was due to having an extra tank of gas, which he did not need, plus all the equipment aboard. The pilot showed an error in judgment in attempting to climb out the ridge without sufficient altitude for a safe clearance a very heavy ship and in very turbulent air, when it would have been to avoid the ridge by going around it. While passing over the ridge at about 150 feet the ship was caught in a severe down draft, and in spite of all that the pilot could do the ship struck the ridge at about 150 feet below the summit. There was no engine failure.

The weather conditions that existed on April 29 are peculiar to the region around Kodiak Island. The trubulence [sic] and drafts are exceedingly severe and are much more violent than a pilot not used to flying in this area could expect.

(30)Recommendations: None

(Signed by all)
Thomas F. Mansfield, 1st Lt. AC President
Clayton J. Larson, 1st Lt. AC Member
Victor E. Fiala, 2nd Lt. AC Member

(31)Remarks and Recommendations:

With SW winds, take-off[s] from Kodiak Naval Air Station are towards inshore hills. Two alternatives are open to pilots after take-off: either turn sharply over the lower hills nearest the airdrome and return over field to shore line, or continue climb turning N. of West to go through the pass in that direction. Either alternative with a heavily loaded B-18 in gusty air is uncomfortable, and it is quite like[l]y that the pilot was attempting to attain relatively smoother air West of the mountain and on course as soon as possible. Considering all factors, the undersigned concludes that a more correct analysis of causes would be as follows: Weather 50%; Airport or terrain 20%; Pilot error of judgment 30%.

(Signed)
L. H. Dunlap
Colonel, Air Corps

A note dated 8-9-43 was attached and read:

" Mature Group: Collision in flight
Specific Nature: with mountain
Underlying Nature: Pilot misjudged needed clearance
Cause Group: 100% Pilot error [in] judgment
Specific Cause: Lack of experience in ar[c]tic flying
Underlying cause: Lack of knowledge"


AFFIDAVIT

MILITARY RESERVATION)
                    ) :ss
FORT GREELY, ALASKA )

Comes now Sergeant ORVILLE E. BLAKE, 16027373, 77TH Bombardment Squadron, Fort Richardson, Alaska., who, being placed under oath states:

"After taking off from East to West we climbed steadily through the pass at almost 120 to 125 miles per hour. The air was very rough and turbulent. We got through the pass and turned left still climbing to get over the surrounding ridges. We were about 150 to 200 feet above the first ridge indicating about 120 when we hit a down draft. There was no engine failure, and although Lt. Tuma did everything possible to prevent it, we hit the mountain."

Further deponeth sayeth not.

(Signed)

ORVILLE E. BLAKE, 16027373

Sergeant, 77th Bomb. Sq. (M)

[Sgt. Blake was the sole survivor of the mishap. His injuries are not described in the report (other than "major"), but I find it amazing that, given the remoteness of the site, the environment, the amount of impact damage to the airframe, and the post-crash fire, he was successfully evacuated. I would bet that he had to be carried all the way out to the Anton Larsen Road, which is not an easy trip.]


AFFIDAVIT

MILITARY RESERVATION)
                    ) :ss
FORT GREELY, ALASKA )

Comes now Private Myrill Hamilton, ASN 39081342, Company "A", 201st Infantry, Fort Greely, Kodiak, Alaska, who, being placed under oath states:

"Shortly after I took my post just East of Buskin Lake about 8:00 AM April 29, 1942, I saw a B-18 airplane overhead which circled back towards the landing field. Later the same airplane came overhead again. First it appeared to be going through the pass between Pyramid and Barometer Mountains, and then it started circling back over Sheratin Mountain. I estimate its height over Sheratin Mountain at 500 to 700 feet above the peak. The airplane was in a left vertical bank when it passed from my view over the ridge. About a minute afterwards a small column smoke appeared above the ridge and gradually grew bigger. There were two distinct surges of smoke at different times.

The airplane did not appear to be in trouble, and I would have no concern about it if the smoke had not appeared after the airplane disappeared.

When the airplane passed overhead, the engine sound was normal. I could not hear the airplane just prior to its disappearance because of the distance and strong wind.

I reported the occurrence to a Sergeant passing by in a truck detail."

Further deponeth sayeth not.

(Signed)
MYRILL HAMILTON, 39081342
Pvt. Co. "A" 201st Infantry.

Subscribed and sworn to before me this 30 day of April 1942

(Signed)
ROBERT O. CORK


U.S. NAVAL AIR STATION
KODIAK, ALASKA

May 16th, 1942

Weather that occurred during the hours of 0700 to 1100 inclusive on April 29th, 1942:

0700 0800
7/10 Cumulus clouds 7/10 cumulus and Stratocumulus
Visibility 12 miles Visibility 12 miles
Snow showers Surface wind SE 7 knots
Surface winds SW 10 knots Ceiling estimated 3000 feet
Ceiling estimated 3000 Ft.  
   
0900 1000
2/10 Cumulus and Stratocumulus 3/10 Cumulus
Visibility 12 miles Ceiling unlimited
Surface wind SW 7 knots Visibility 12 miles
Ceiling unlimited Surface wind SW 9 knots
   
1100
1/10 Cumulus
Ceiling unlimited
Visibility 12 miles
Wind [SW] 8 knots

(Signed)
Certified to be a true copy R.G. Hadfield Ens., USNR


SIGNAL CORPS, UNITED STATES ARMY
War Department Message Center,

Room 3441. Munitions Building,
Washington, D.C.

242 WVY 33 WD 1 EX PRIORITY HQ 11TH AF FTRICHARDSON ALS 1930 11TH
CHIEF OF AIR CORPS
WASHINGTON DC

111932 BCE REQUEST AUTHORITY FOR FIFTEEN DAY DELAY IN SUBMITTING AIRCRAFT ACCIDENT COMMITTEE REPORT ON B DASH 18 DASH A COMMA 37 DASH 522 STOP EXISTING CONDITIONS HAVE PREVENTED COMPLETION SIGNED DUNLAP

BUTLER COMAF ELEVEN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Researched and written by Dave Ostlund. HTML by Joe Stevens 2009 March 18.

Microsoft Word version


There is a memorial to Patrol Squadron Flight personnel at Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island, WA. It was dedicated around 2007. All the names of the crewmen are on the memorial. http://vimeo.com/3036886

For more information about this event, contact Bill Laux, billlaux at comcast.net
Crash index page with photos of this crash site
Main index

http://www.kadiak.org/crash/b-18a_crash_summary.html This page created 2009 March 19, updated 2009 March 21

www.ka diak.org