Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Telegraph Pass B-17 Crash Site

Telegraph Pass, AZ Bomber Training Flight Crash, June 1944

Gila Mountains, Ariz. -- Five men were killed early yesterday when a B-17 plane, returning to the Yuma army air field from a routine training flight, hit a peak in the Gila mountains 10 miles east of the field, it was announced at the field last night after a searching party returned with the bodies.Time of the accident was placed by officers at 1:52 a.m. The plane was blown to bits by an explosion which followed the crash, believed to have been caused by igniting of the plane's gasoline supply.A searching party from the field left soon after the accident was reported but required some hours to reach the scene in the rugged mountain terrain in which no vehicle could be operated. The crash occurred two miles south of Telegraph Pass.The Dead:2nd Lt. WILLIAM A. RICHELL, 22, pilot. Wife, Mrs. Nora A. Richell, Tonawanda, N.Y.2nd Lt. SHERIDAN B. MAREK, 20, co-pilot. Mother, Mrs. Martha M. Marek, Rt. 4, Temple, Texas.2nd Lt. ANGUS W. MacARTHUR, 21, co-pilot. Wife, Mrs.Patricia K. MacArthur, 106 S. Madison ave., Pasadena, Calif.Sgt. MANTEN P. JONES, 23, crew chief. Father, Charles P. Jones, 5069 Raphael, Los Angeles.Corp. MERLE G. ICE, 23, aerial engineer. Wife, Mrs. Louise F. Ice, 1013 N. Branson st., Marion, Indiana.
The Yuma Daily Sun Arizona 1944-06-29

I had heard about the B-17 Bomber crash site back in the 90's. After some searching and some inquiries I finally pin pointed the proper mountain valley where the plane crashed. I climbed solo all the way through the debris field to the top of the mountain where the impact occurred in the late 90's but had no camera with me. A recent acquaintance showed interest in seeing the site so we went off today in search of the site again.
John has a Russian built Ural sidecar rig which is suited for off road use. This was our conveyance to the base of the mountain to get into range of the climb.

Some of the approaches to the Gila Mountains are now posted as private property so the access in is limited. We found an open entrance to the land below the mountains and headed in. There are numerous roads in the area and finding the most direct route in was difficult. After a few miles of wandering we got into the general area where I remembered the site to be.
The trail below is where we parked the Ural and began the hike. The terrain is rough and trails come and is easy to lose them in the boulder fields.

Looking up the canyon I thought we were in the right area but wasn't sure. It has been so many years since I was last here. As you approach the mountains the perspective changes and doubt loomed about the correct route...The highest peak in the center of the photo was the impact site. The B-17 came into the mountains from the left, hitting the rock face of the peak about 30 feet from the top.

The approach to the valley. The going was pretty rough and great care is needed to avoid a twisted ankle or worse.

As we were about to give up the quest, a reflection up the gorge caught our eyes. Sure enough it was a large piece of aluminum from the aircraft frame. Below the small piece of wreckage was a large white cross, white washed onto the rocks. I had read that someone had marked the locations of where the airman's bodies were found. This was the first of the five markers.

As we climbed a little further more aircraft parts were about. Most pieces are damaged beyond recognition....not surprising considering the violence of the crash and the distance the parts rolled down the mountain.

A fairly large section of aircraft aluminum skin.

An engine super charger. Three of them were in the general vicinity.

Remains of a Radial Engine. Some of the cylinders were missing, attesting to the violent trip down the mountain and the initial impact.

Another large section of aluminum skin:

More Aluminum:

And more:

One of the aircraft's landing gear assemblies.
The wheel assembly and cylinder was large...the wheel appeared to be made from very thick magnesium. A fuel bladder sits in the foreground.

Landing gear strut.

A piece of the wing, where the landing gear attaches.
We spent a 1/2 hour or so at the lower end of the debris field. There is a huge debris field scattered all the way up the gorge. The upper reaches are VERY steep and treacherous. At the top of the peak, where the impact site is, there is a steel plaque with the lost airman's names inscribed. We decided not to go up any further.

In the 90's I remember a lot of smaller parts and pieces down lower where we were. Scavengers have likely taken out some souvenir's over the years. We chose to leave things as is, in respect to the site. Coming down was sure a lot easier than going up.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Brass Monkey Sidecar Rally

We left Yuma on Thursday morning with all intentions of getting to Death Valley CA. for the annual Airheads Death Valley Rendezvous. We were then planning a trip over into AZ. to visit friends and tour around AZ. after leaving Death Valley. The weather forecasts were not looking too good though....I was just getting over a bought with the flu but felt well enough to make the trip...I thought...
We arrived in Quartzsite around 10:00 AM Thursday and while shaking off the chill a guy on a Ural sidecar pulled up and told us of the planned weekend sidecar rally.
After a discussion we decided to hang around Quartzsite for the rally. The weather forecast for this area was "rain" but the Death Valley forecast looked even worse...
Thursday night was beautiful and warm. Not a cloud to be seen. Friday night came a deluge of thunder, lightening and heavy rain....

A Ural from out in the desert...a young guy has been boon docking all winter out in the desert...I passed an "honorary airhead sticker" over to him...

This is "Johns" Ural...he was giving a ride to a motorcycle gal from Switzerland. John also has a Russian Machine Gun which is usually mounted on the nose.

Another Ural in German Military color scheme...our campsite in the back ground...

Saturday morning we awoke to a soaked tent and everything was wet. The rain poured down all night and the cheepo tent leaked like a sieve.......the tents' "lake" in the morning....Darian took all the soaked items to the campground laundry and I proceeded to reserve a motel room at the Super 8 for our final night. The campground folks let us leave our tent up to dry and we packed it up on Sunday AM.

This is a "Watsonian" side car. A wide body with seating for 4 small folks....has a front and rear seating area. All enclosed with removable roof covers. A very neat sidecar but it sure is big.

Another nice little rig with a BMW K bike tug. He came through a snow storm to get there...

This /2 Conversion was owned by one of the Rally organizers. A very well done rig with a /5 engine. It also had one of the rare "Hella spotlight / mirrors I have been searching for....very nice Steib chair attached. This rig sat low to the ground.

A BMW with a "Texas" sidecar. A nice rig...real nice couple on board...

A Big Blue Harley Rig;

Another Watsonian Double rig just like the white one....pretty odd to see 2 of these rare cars in the same place. This one was for sale for $9k or so. The owner insisted that I take it for a spin but I passed. The mountings were not very rigid on the front lower attachments but he said it drove just fine....

A Triumph Scrambler with a Velorex Rig....I loved the "Union Jack" paint.

A trick BMW with a Ural chair. This rig was set up very well with smaller / wider wheels.

Another Velorex chair.....these are different and narrow.

Not sure who makes this one:

I think this is another Velorex.(?)

Nice rig here:

A nice Honda with a giant air horn mounted on the chair:

The locals held a classic car / bike show Saturday night...another Harley Rig:


2 Wheel Drive Ural:

BMW Oilhead Cruiser with a Ural chair:

On the road home Sunday morning....the old Hag was running fine down the road but I was having an idle / cold starting problem. Had a hell of a time getting her going in the AM....luckily my battery held out and got her running.

We arrived home and I'll need to investigate the tuning of the bike....will likely need to adjust points / valves / timing again...maybe take a look a the carbs to see why she doesn't want to idle....
I really looked over the Ural 2 wheel drive rigs. The "off-road" option could be a lot of fun. Maybe some day....
We were pretty sad to miss the Death Vally Airhead gathering. When it rains there the entire area turns into muddy bog. We camped there one year and a 2 hour down pour turned the place into a gooie morass....The desert rain is on mostly sandy ground so mud is non-existant.
I ended up running a fever 2 nights while we camped so was glad to be close to home...

Gila Mtns.

Gila Mtns.