Aircraft Wrecks in the Mountains and Deserts of the American West

BELL TP-39N 42-18290 USAAF

On January 24, 2004 Walt Witherspoon and myself were searching for the crash site of Bell TP-39N, serial number 42-18290, USAAF. The pilot of this ill-fated Airacobra was twenty-one year old 2nd Lt. Pat L. Montgomery of Eastsound, Washington. 2nd Lt. Montgomery had taken off from Victorville AAB on a routine training mission the morning of September 6, 1944. At about 11:00AM other pilots reported 42-18290 in a spin that ended in an explosion and fire on open desert about fifteen miles SW of Victorville AAB. Pat L. Montgomery had been unable to bail out and died instantly. Nearly sixty years later Walt Witherspoon walked up to the crash site of 42-18290. I joined him there to survey the scene. Less than 1% of Montgomery's plane remained. Among the bits and fragments were a few parts with the prefix numbers for the Bell P-39. After mapping and photographing the site we departed.


Click on thumbnail to see large view!

Crash site on 1/24/04 with Walt Witherspoon studying the scene.

Remnants of  42-18290.

Hundreds of rusting washers littered the crash site. A mystery at first, but not for long as TP-39's usually had the 37mm canon removed with bags of washers added as ballast.

Additional burned and rusted parts of TP-39N 42-18290.

Pages from the accident report, a news clip, models of the P-39 in 1/200th scale, dog tag, bracelet, watch, and dog tag belonging to 2nd Lt. Pat L. Montgomery.

Closeup of artifacts belonging to 2nd Lt. Pat L. Montgomery.

2nd Lt. Pat L. Montgomery upon earning his wings in July, 1944. In less than two months he would join the ranks of more than 35,000 airmen and women who would loose their lives while flying in and around the continental United States during the Second World War.

The cross was made from parts of #42-18290 to honor the memory of Pat L. Montgomery.
(Pat J. Macha photo)


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