B-17 Flying Fortress No. 42-29532 Memorial
|Date||March 12, 1943|
|Summary||Controlled flight into terrain (CFIT), Bad weather led to engine fire and crash landing|
|Site||5.8 miles north of Sheridan, Arkansas |
|Flight origin||Smoky Hill Airfield|
|Destination||West Palm Beach, Florida|
On March 12, 1943 nine airmen were killed when their B-17 Flying Fortess No. 42-29532 crashed 5.8 Miles North of Sheridan, AR. A small monument marked the location in 1944, and then a Memorial Park was erected in 2015 featuring a replica of a B-17. This park also honors Grant County veterans killed in action since World War I. It also honors both Confederate and Union soldiers who fell during the Battle of Jenkins Ferry, which occurred nearby.
The B-17 was assigned to Smoky Hill Air Field in Salina, Kansas. The aircraft apparently had serious problems from the time it rolled off the Boeing assembly line in Seattle, Washington. Confidential Exhibit “I” indicated that engines #1 and 3 had been replaced with only 17 hours and 45 minutes of flight time and engines #2 and 4 were scheduled to be replaced just 16 hours and 15 minutes of flight time following its scheduled landing in West Palm Beach, Florida. The Flying Fortress only had 25 hours and 35 minutes of flight time prior to its departure on March 12, 1943 and approximately 28 hours and 20 minutes total flying time at the time of the crash. On February 29, 1943 Special Orders were issued from Washington D.C. for the nine-member crew to “deliver the shipment” (the B-17F) to West Palm Beach, Florida. In addition to the normal nine-man crew, the special orders also directed the following officers to accompany the “shipment” on temporary duty and upon delivery immediately return to Smoky Hill Army Air Field. The four officers that were to be aboard were:
- Major Fred T. Crimmins, Provisional Group Commander
- Captain Richard F. Ezzard, Provisional Flight Commander
- Captain Columbus E. Griffin, Provisional Flight Commander
- Warrant Officer J.G. Morris I. Gold, Provisional Group Adjutant
According to the A.C. Order #W535-ac-20292 (1) on March 11, 1943 the aircraft was Condemned. In spite of the aircraft being condemned on March 11, the crew followed their new order #13 to depart for Morrison Field on March 12, 1943 at 1300 hours to “ship #9532″ to West Palm Beach Florida. From Florida, the crew was to go to Europe to fight in the war. Their orders required commander Davis to fly at 10,000 feet on a direct path from Salina, Kansas to their West Palm Beach, Florida destination but it is clear that something went terribly wrong with the aircraft during their flight over Arkansas that caused severe vibrations and required the crew to alter their course. The aircraft should have been no closer to Sheridan that 100-miles but due to the severe vibrations the crew was forced to circle back toward the Northwest in an attempt to either return to Salina Kansas or land at Adams Field in Little Rock. Newspaper reports stated that the military said that Co-Pilot Robert Turchetto had been in contact with Ada. The plane crashed at around 4 pm and all nine on board did not survive.
- Pilot - 2nd Lt. George H. Davis, 22 of Dubuque, Iowa
- Co-Pilot - 2nd Lt. Robert V. Turchette, 22 of Newark, New Jersey
- The Navigator - 2nd Lt. Leo E. Dolan, 24, of St. Louis, Missouri
- The Bombardier - 2nd Lt. Phillip E. Niewolak, 24, of Dunkirk, New York
- The Engineer - Tech. Sgt. Dewitt H. Tyler, 25, of Porterville, California
- The Radio Operator - Tech. Sgt. Peter K. Ivanovich, 25 of Bisbee, Arizona
- The Waist Gunner - Staff Sgt. Arthur N. Potter, 25, of Springfield, Vermont
- The Ball Turret Gunner - Staff Sgt. David G. Secorski, 22, of Detroit Michigan
- The Tail Gunner - Staff Sgt. Kenneth D. Cain, 22, of Hobbs, New Mexico
Jerry Jackson of Benton, AR with his father in 1984 discovered the long-forgotten memorials and brought it back to life as his Eagle Scout project, working in tandem with the Grant County Museum to honor the World War II veterans. Jerry was killed in a car accident in 1986, on the back of the original monument is a plaque dedicated to him.
Veterans Memorial Park
In 2010 plans were put in motion to make a memorial park. All that was at the location was a single monument since 1944. In 2011 construction began and 4 years later in 2015 the park was finished. The American Legion obtained an $18,000 grant from the Arkansas Department of Rural Services to purchase the 1 acre for the park and to purchase materials to raise the level of the monument site. The Legion also received other grants from the Arkansas Economic Development District Inc. The total of all grants awarded to date are under $45,000, but because of individual donations and gifts in kind, they have been able to build a veterans memorial park that is valued in excess of $1 million.
At the rear of the plane there are steps leading to a memorial wall that shows all nine airmen names, ranks and flags of their home state. At the rear of the plane on either side of the steps is a wall dedicated to fallen soldiers who lived in Grant County since World War I.
On the property there are monuments honoring those who died in nearby Battle of Jenkins' Ferry.
- Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident 12-MAR-1943 Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress 42-29532". aviation-safety.net. Retrieved 6 February 2017.
- "Sheridan park remembers all veterans, highlights 1943 B-17 plane-crash site". Arkansas Online. November 8, 2015. Retrieved February 6, 2017.
- "Roadside America"Roadside America Fake B-17 Crash Site
- "Facebook"B-17 Memorial Facebook page