Aircraft Wrecks in the Mountains and Deserts of the American West

B-24E   PR


At 8:15 a.m. on December 19, 1943, B-24E #42-7074 departed Pocatello Army Air Base for a formation and aerial gunnery training mission.  After completing gunnery training near Craters of the Moon National Monument, the electrical inverters on the aircraft failed, causing poor engine performance and incorrect readings on engine gauges.  The crew shut down engines #1 and #4, while #2 and #3 ran poorly, and the aircraft gradually lost altitude.  Attempts to start the auxiliary power unit failed, so the pilot decided to try a wheels-up landing on a dry lakebed.   At an altitude of 500 feet, the three gunners in the rear of the aircraft bailed out through the camera hatch.  The aircraft fell short of the intended landing area, skidded across a table of lava rock, and impacted a large lava rock formation.  The aircraft shattered into pieces and burned, killing he seven men on board.  Of the three who bailed out, two died the next day due to injuries sustained in the jump.  The lone survivor, left waist gunner Sgt. Fred J. Schilling, Jr., suffered skull and spinal fractures, but was able to walk away from the accident.  Today, at age 94, Fred Schilling resides in New Jersey.  Special thanks to Dennis Burks and Lisa Creswell for help with finding this crash site.  Site visited 6/19/15.


Pilot                      Lt. Robert C. Gitt, Baltimore, MD
Co-Pilot                Lt. Harold B. Hood, Summerville, GA
Navigator              Lt. Walter C. Ives, Pocatello, ID
Bombardier           Lt. Henry D. Smith, Chaffee, NY
Engineer               Sgt. Robert Russell, Baltimore, MD
Radio Operator     Sgt. Sol Buttner, Detroit, MI
Gunner                 Sgt. James W. Schindel, Hagerstown, MD
Gunner                 Sgt. Charles H. McLey, Jacksonville, FL
Gunner                 Sgt. Fred J. Schilling, Jr., Trenton, NJ



Sergeant Fred J. Schilling, Jr., taken in 2013 when he was 92 years old. Sgt. Schilling bailed out at 500 ft. and was the only survivor when B-24E #42-7074 crashed near Shoshone, Idaho.  (Photo courtesy of Fred Schilling and Dave Hitchner.)



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