Mount Hamilton, CA Jet Crashes Into Observatory, May 1939

Lick Observatory CAL.jpg

2 ARMY FLIERS DIE AS FAST PLANE SMASHES HAMILTON OBSERVATORY.

NARROWLY MISS BIG TELESCOPE.

San Jose, May 22 -- (UP) -- Two army fliers were dead today, killed instantly when their attack plane crashed on the top of Mount Hamilton, 25 miles east of here, narrowly missing the dome of the $500,000 Lick observatory.
The men were identified as Lieut. R. F. LORENZ, 25, of Illinois, and Private W. E. SCOTT. Their 240 mile an hour ship crashed with terrific impact 20 feet below the roof of the observatory administration building connecting two huge telescope towers.
THey had departed from Hamilton field, near San Rafael, last night 21 minutes previously for March field at Riverside, Calif. The weather conditions were good when they left, but state police summoned to the crash reported a heavy fog at the 4200-foot elevation. They could not determine if the fog had rolled in after the accident.
The ship smashed through two 18-inch brick walls and wrecked offices and archives containing photographic plates and records of many years.
Dr. J. H. Moore, assistant director, and Dr. D. F. Paddock, a colleague, were at work in their office when bricks tumbled about them. Neither heard the sound of the motor.
Telephone lines to the observatory were torn down by the crash, and it was several hours before details were available. The observatory was built in 1888 as part of the astronomical department of the University of California. It houses the second largest refracting telescope in the world, surpassed only by the 40-inch telescope at Yerkes observatory in Chicago.

San Mateo Times California 1939-05-22