Aircraft Wrecks in the Mountains and Deserts of the American West

This Story Appeared on the Ventura County Star Web Site
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Ventura County Star
March 27,2006

For some in WWII, there were no happy landings

March 27, 2006

Overseas combat during World War II was understandably dangerous for fliers, but there was no guarantee of safety in the United States.

During the war, more than 35,000 men and women died while testing, training in or delivering aircraft, said aviation archeologist G. Pat Macha of Huntington Beach.

And more than 50,000 aircraft were destroyed or heavily damaged, he said.

A lot of those crashes were caused by young people being rushed through training, and the fact that a lower-octane fuel was used during training, with higher-octane gasoline going to the war zones.

"Some engines, like the Allison engines in the P-38s, did not like low octane, so there were engine fires and failures," Macha said. About a dozen P-38s went down in the area during the war, he added.

Macha said the May 4, 1944, midair crash of P-38s over Camarillo was predated by the April 17 collision of two P-38s over rugged Matilija Canyon. Both pilots died in the Matilija crash.

Another P-38 went down on Jan. 23, 1945, on the old Running Springs Ranch in Newbury Park, he said. The pilot bailed out in that one.

Macha said he's documented more than 90 crash sites in Ventura County from the early 1920s to the present. And that doesn't represent every crash in the countyŚ he only documents those he can get to.

Copyright 2006 Ventura County Star



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