Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Bomber crashed and burned near Patty Jewett

QUESTION: A friend, Jim Bowers, gave me pictures of an emergency airplane landing near Patty Jewett Golf Course in the 1940s. He took the photos when he was a Colorado College student. We don’t have any other details. We live in that area and a neighbor also told me about it but I wonder if there is more information.
- Annie Foster

ANSWER: Researching your question turned up some fascinating history about airplane crashes in our area during and after World War II.
Here’s a quote from a story in The Gazette: “During World War II, nearly 300 fliers are believed to have died in more than 70 military airplane crashes along the Front Range south of Denver between August 1942 and December 1944. A number of the crashes were near Colorado Springs, and many involved four-engine B-24 bombers on training flights.”
Our air space was busy with planes flying out of Pueblo Air Base, Peterson Field and what is now Lowry Air Force Base in Denver.The crash shown in your photos was a little later, in 1948, and the plane that went down was a big one, a B-29 Superfortress. It had just taken off from Peterson Field headed for Smoky Hill Air Base in Salina, Kan. According to the Nov. 5, 1948, Gazette Telegraph, the pilot could not gain altitude and the No. 4 engine was out. Then the No. 3 engine caught fire.

The newspaper reported: “Eyewitnesses to the crash said the burning ship was headed directly for the Bonnyville subdivision at a very low altitude.” Bonnyville is the residential area near Bon Shopping Center at North Wahsatch Avenue and Jackson Street.

The pilot, Capt. E.J. Cook, was unable to head back to Peterson and instead guided the plane away from inhabited areas to what was then open fields near Patty Jewett Golf Course for an emergency landing. The newspaper said the burning airplane first struck the ground just east of the golf club, where leaking gasoline started a brush fire. Then it “cut a path 300 yards long, ripping down barbed wire fences and bouncing over several gullies before coming to a stop without nosing over.”
It came close to a large gully that today is Union Boulevard. Dense black smoke came from the wreckage for several hours and the red flares inside turned into a “pyrotechnic display.” Everything but the two wing tips was destroyed, the newspaper reported.

The 10 Air Force men in the plane walked away from the crash. Two had minor injuries. On the ground the sole injury was an Air Force firefighter who was thrown from the rear of a truck racing across the fields to the site. He was treated for knee injuries at Camp Carson (now Fort Carson).


Post a Comment

<< Home