Aircraft Wrecks in the Mountains and Deserts of the American West

B-24J - Perris, Ca 


In 1985 Bob Koch told me about a Consolidated B-24J that had crashed in the mountains SE of March AFB. Years later, thanks to Butch Gates, I received a news clip about the crash and that gave me the accident date of 5/16/44. More research led to a serial number, 42-73387, assigned to the USAAF for use in operational training at March Field. On the night of 5/15/44 the seven man crew of 42-73387 were practicing touch and goes when the pilot under shot his approach and hit the perimeter fence at March. He managed to continue flying, but failed to follow tower instructions and entered a left hand flight pattern that resulted in a collision with a 2,500' mountain peak. All seven crew members died instantly as their B-24J exploded and plunged down the steep face of the mountain.

 Some wreckage was removed following the accident, the rest was taken by a salvager in the 1950's. In the Fall of '03 my son Patric, and myself began the search for 42-73387. At the same time California State Park Ranger Sue Nery was also investigating the accident, hoping to locate and document the crash site. Thanks to Sue's efforts and cooperation we were able to locate the point of impact and remaining debris field. Three surveys have now been made. About 5% of the B-24J remains scattered over many acres of rugged mountainside. Ranger Nery hopes to commemorate the crash and honor the crew with a display at the park museum. The she also plans to conserve what remains of 42-73387.

Addendum:  On May 19, 2011 the California State Historic Preservation Commission approved the crash site of Consolidated B-24J 42-73387 as a registered Historic Landmark.  The seven crewmen who lost their lives on May 16, 1944 in the flaming crash if 42-73387 will now be honored for their sacrifice.

Thanks to efforts of California State Parks Historian II, Alexander D. Bevil who wrote the nomination proposal, and to State Parks Ranger Sue Nery who initiated the process, the B-24J crash site will be preserved in perpetuity.

It was a privilege to have participated in supporting this nomination along with Marin Municipal Water District Ranger Matt Cerkel.


List of aircrew names from official USAAF accident report.

Ranger Sue Nery displays parts from 42-73387.

Landing gear from B-24J found halfway down the mountain.

Ranger Sue Nery and Patric J. Macha examine small parts of wreckage on the brushy mountainside.

The burned "whisker" mount for the pitot tube of 42-73387.

A data plate from the Martin gun turret once located on top of 42-73387.

Our flag marks debris field at base of wreck area.

Moveable control surface structure overlooked by metal salvagers.

Oxygen bottle and regulator from 42-73387.

Assorted non-aluminum structure including stainless steel parts, turret rings, engine parts and mounts, landing gear assemblies, armor plate, practice bombs, and shattered parts of .50 cal. Machine guns were left at the crash by salvagers.

Cement filled practice bomb found near main impact.




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