A Fuller Picture

In my last post I analyzed the crashes of Army Air Force P-39s based at Moses Lake and Ephrata in 1944. The crash record was alarming. Several of the comments I’ve had either through the site or by other means inquired about other aircraft, particularly the P-38. This morning I went through the records again and updated the Google map of crash sites to include all of the recorded crashes from those two bases (except for one Ephrata crash that took place in Sandpoint, Idaho and another that took place in California). I do not have confidence that all of the crashes that actually occurred show up in this data.

In the updated version of the map, I have color coded crashes. Blue remains P-39 crashes, which were the most numerous wrecks; green markers indicate P-38 crashes, which were the second most common. Rather than come up with too many colors, I used yellow to indicate all other aircraft, from single engine spotter planes to heavy bombers.

I have included the sparse data from Ellensburg AAF, which existed for part of 1943 and part of 1944. Most of the wrecks from that field occurred at the airport. Note that the army airfield in Ellensburg is not the same as today’s airport. The abandoned army field is visible in the Google map as traces of the runways in an uncultivated area north of town.

I can’t help but wonder what emotional strain the pilots were going through that summer. In two instances I found pilots who suffered a fatal crash who had previously crashed and survived. One of these, Richard C. Livingston, died in a P-38 crash near Potholes Reservoir a little more than a month after crashing a P-39 at Moses Lake AAB. Another, Glenn W. Ingersoll, first crash landed his P-38 at Moses Lake, then died three days later when his P-38 had a structural failure. For the pilots around them terror of such disasters must have been almost overwhelming. For the residents of the area, a similar fear must have grown as they witnessed these crashes so frequently. Army policy of not allowing journalists to record them could not have curtailed the word-of-mouth distribution of news about the plane crashes.

My thanks to Jim Huffman and Clint Bridges for giving me some guidance in updating this article. It was interesting to read Clint’s conversation with my dad about the day Gene Dyer’s crash took place. There is a link to that discussion in the comments to my last posting.

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