In the summer of 1963 I went to work at a YMCA
youth camp in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California. It was
near here that I happened to stumble upon the wreck of an Air Force C-47D.
Seeing the remains of C-47D #45-1124 strewn on the east flank of 11,499
foot Mt. San Gorgonio (Old Grey Back) made a lasting impression. I took this photo of #45-1124 in July 1963.
Today the wreckage has slid farther down the mountain, and the yellow X
has faded, but the impact of seeing #45-1124 remains undiminished for all
who pass by.
C-47D 45-1124 as seen
glinting from State Highway 38 near Onyx Summit in August 2010. The
wreckage continues to slide farther down the NE flank of Mt. San Gorgonio
with each successive winter season.(G. P. Macha photo)
From that summer to the present I have been
on the trail, whenever possible, documenting old aircraft wreck sites.
Tragically thirteen men died in the crash of #45-1124 on 12/1/52. Heavy
snowfall prevented rescuers from reaching the crash site until 12/21/52,
but no bodies were removed until 5/3/53. Three passengers survived the
crash; two with major injuries were found huddled together near the tail,
but a third man was well below the wreckage with no apparent injuries at
These survivors would have succumbed from shock and exposure within a few
days, if not on the first night.
Two memorial plaques placed at
the C-47D crash site. The original plaque lists the accident as having
occurred in 1953, that was the year in which the passengers and crew were
finally recovered. The large plaque includes the correct accident date.
Heavy snowfall in the winter of 1952-53 prevented recovery efforts until May
1953. ( Photo courtesy Megan Armes)
On August 28, 2012 my daughter
Heather, and my grand daughter Megan climbed Mt. San Gorgonio as a
conditioning workout prior to climbing Mt. Whitney. C-47D crash site looking
southwest from east flank of Mt. San Gorgonio. (Photo courtesy of Megan
View of parts of C-47D wing,
fuselage, and tail section looking southeast towards North Fork Meadows.
The disposition of wreckage since my more than thirty visits during the
1960ís and 70ís. The crushing weight of more than sixty years of heavy
snowfall, avalanches, and rock slides have taken their toll on #45-1124.
(Photo courtesy Megan Armes)
The shattered propeller and
hub assembly from USAF Douglas C-47D #45-1124. (Photo courtesy Megan Armes)