Home / MultiMedia / Memoirs and Stories / P.A.A.F. Plane Crashes 1943 - 1945

P.A.A.F. Plane Crashes 1943 - 1945

By Rodney B. Dyerly
This document was researched, written and published in order that this bit of World War II history should not be forgotten. It is designed to be used for educational - research purposes.
This book has been published for donation purposes only, since it is not the author's intent to make it available for sale.

Plane Crashes

Note: A few content samples are transcribed here, but if you want more information about this document, email your request to the Pratt County Historical Museum Curator .

About The Author
Rodney B. Dyerly , Major USAFR (Ret.), is a retired attorney now residing in Dune Acres, Indiana. He was born in Pratt, Kansas and was a member of The Pratt High School '49 graduation class. He served on active duty with the Air Force during the Korean War. During that time , he served on several Aircraft Crash Investigation Boards.

Note: The Booklet is available for viewing at the Pratt County Historical Museum, and The Pratt Publc Library.
Transcriptions were made by Madeline Martin December, 2007.

 

Forward

 

I still have vivid memories of the Pratt Army Air Field (PAAF) from 1943-1945. I was in elementary school and then Junior High during this time. I remember my friends and I used to ride our bicycles to the Air Base to watch the planes. We were always awed by the size of the Bombers. On several occasions a Sgt. Marvin Beaver from Texas, who became a family friend, would take me to the Air Field, where we could buy candy bars (scarce items) at the Post Exchange (PX), see a movie at the Base Theater, or visit his barracks. I even visited him at the Base Hospital when he was a patient there. He was like a brother to me. Sadly, he never returned from the Pacific War Theater.

 

The memory of seeing the Air Field's “bone yard” haunts me to this day. It was a place where the parts and pieces of planes from various crashes were stacked in seemingly large endless piles. I don't think I will ever forget it.

With the excitement and the thrill or these years as well as showing the innocence of my youth, my great ambition was to fight in World War II as an Air Force Pilot. It wasn't until much later, after I had served in the Air Force during the Korean War, that I began to fully realize not only what this Air Field represented but how it effected so many lives.

In October 2001, my old friend and classmate, Jack McCawley, told me about plans to erect a Memorial Site at the former PAAF. Consequently, I decided to research and publish a book about plane crashes involving flights from the PAAF during World War II.

It is important to be aware that these flight operations were being conducted under wartime conditions. Even though these tragedies were often reported in local newspapers, they had to compete with the myriad of war news stories being printed every day. People were becoming accustomed to reading and hearing of military activities and operations, both locally and internationally, including the tragedies arising from them. Learning about war-related stories became a “Way of Life” for the American people.

Unless individuals were aware that a particular event directly affected them or their families or communities, usually they did not take the time to reflect on the situation. It isn't that people did not care. They were preoccupied with the whole war situation, i.e. meat, sugar, shoes, rubber tires, and gas being rationed; friends and relatives serving on the front lines; families trying to keep in touch with loved ones via military censored letters; women joining the work force to replace men who entered the military; newsreels bringing the realities of war back to the home front; the uncertainty of the future. It is in this context that this book is presented.

The First Edition of this book was published in 2003. Along with numerous additions and modifications, this Second Edition has added a tale about three legendary B-29s and an Epilogue. This book is a, “Little Piece of History Revisited.”

Rodney B. Dyerly

Major USAFR (Ret.), 2005

 

 

 

Introduction

 

In the spring of 1943, the Pratt Army Air Field became operational as a primary Base in the development of the new B-29 long-range bomber program. It was located in south central Kansas, four (4) miles directly north of the city of Pratt.

 

Until World War II ended in 1945, training flights were being conducted at this facility on a continuous basis. This mostly involved the four (4) engine B-29 “Superfortress” Bomber, which was being used in the Pacific War Theater. The twin-engine B-26 “Marauder” and the four (4) engine B-17 “Flying Fortress” also assisted in the training at this Air Field.

Col. Paul Tibbets Jr. used this Air Field for some B-29 flight tests before his plane, the “Enola Gay,” eventually dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan; thereafter, World War II ended. Col. Robert Morgan of the legendary B-17 Bomber, “Memphis Belle,” was stationed here before leading the first raid on Tokyo in his B-29, the “Dauntless Dotty.”

Some of the first B-29s to come off the assembly line at the Boeing Aircraft Factory near Wichita, Kansas, were put into service at the Pratt Army Air Field. The 40th Bomb Group, mostly comprised of Veteran Airmen, was the initial outfit assigned to this Base. As such, the 40th BG was the Air Force's first unit to leave for overseas duty with the new “Superfortress” B-29s. The Pratt Army Airfield was on the “leading edge” of the B-29 program.

During this period, there were eleven (11) major air crashes (see Article Three) involving the following aircraft from this Air Field, while on training flights:

  • B-29 off the coast of Florida
  • B-29 in the Caribbean Sea
  • B-29 on an oil refinery near Dallas, Texas
  • B-26 in the Rocky Mountains above Aspen, Colorado
  • B-25 near the Hutchinson (KS) Naval Air Station
  • B-29 north of the Air Field near towns of Stafford and St. John
  • Five (5) in Pratt County, Kansas

 

  • B-29 on the Air Field (see Article Two)
  • B-26 near the Air Field (see Article One)
  • B-17 near the town of Preston
  • B-26 near the town of Cunningham
  • B-26 near the city of Pratt


These crashes resulted in the total loss of fifty-eight (58) Pratt Airmen.
This book is dedicated to these fifty-eight (58) Pratt Airmen, as well as to all the hundreds of Airmen who were sent overseas form the Pratt Army Air Field, and thus made the supreme sacrifice in the performance of their duties while in the service of their country.