Aircraft Wrecks in the Mountains and Deserts of the American West


At 3:11am on May 30, 1943, Boeing B-17F #42-5318 took off from Casper Army Air Field, WY, for a navigation training mission.  The bomber, with the 464th Bomb Squadron, 331st Bomb Group, flew to Marysville, CA, where it refueled and took off again for an over-water leg of the mission above the Pacific Ocean.  It was to proceed to Eugene, OR, and then return to Marysville.  In the afternoon, weather became poor  in the area, and the last radio contact with #42-5318 was at 2:23pm, somewhere over Oregon.  When the bomber failed to return to Marysville, a search mission was launched over sea and land.  No trace of the aircraft was found, and it was presumed lost at sea.  On August 10, 1943, wreckage of the B-17F was found on Leech Lake Mountain, near Covelo, CA.  It appeared that the bomber had hit about 200 feet below the summit while flying in poor visibility conditions.  All six crew members were killed.  Special thanks to Pat Macha, Jr., for help with finding this crash site.  Site visited 8/12/14.

Pilot: 2nd Lt. James Owen Westbury, age 25, from Alabama.
Co-Pilot:  2nd Lt. William Wedrell Blalock, age 22, from Georgia.
Navigator:  2nd Lt. Joseph J. Weitzel, age 22,  from Pennsylvania.
Bombardier:  2nd Lt. Ralph S. Johnson, Jr. , age 23, from Massachusetts.
Flight Engineer: S/Sgt. Paul P. Schaeffer, age 27, from West Virginia.
Radioman:  S/Sgt. Ralph J. Sicking, age 26, from Ohio.

Story and photos courtesy of Marc McDonald.



2nd Lt. James O. Westbury, pilot of B-17F # 42-5318 that crashed near Covelo, CA, on May 30, 1943. 2nd Lt. Westbury was 25 at the time of his death. (Photo courtesy Amy Suzanne Martin)










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