Delavan, IL Army bomber crash, Jun 1938
8 Soldiers Die As Fiery Ship Falls, Explodes
Chutes Burn as Men Leap; Lightning Blamed for Crash Of Giant Bomber
DELAVAN, Ill., June 10 (AP). - A storm-tossed army bombing plane burst into flame and plunged into a farm field Friday, scattering the broken bodies of its full crew of eight soldiers over the rain-drenched prairie.
The huge craft, caught in the on-slaught of lightning, thunder, rain and buffeting winds, crashed to the ground with terrific force.
Carey Youle, who saw the tragedy on his father's farm, said the big bomber exploded, bounced high in the air and spewed bits of debris over a half-mile area.
Victims of one of the most appaliling plane disasters in recent army records were:
Capt. Richard B. Reeve, 36, Waunakee, Wis.
Lieut. Norman H. Ives, 31, Los Angeles, Calif.
Second Lieut. Thomas Langben, 27, Galveston, Texas.
Staff Sergeant Edward F. Murah, 32, Denver, Colo.
Corporal William H. Housley, 30, Stillwater, Okla.
Private Philip J. Truitt, 23, Galax, Va.
Private Max W. Myser, 21, Villa Grove, Ill.
Private George L. Huntsman, 23, Kankakee, Ill.
Sees Sheet of Flame.
The eight left Chanute Field, Rantoul, Ill., at 9:25 a.m. in a Douglas B-18 bomber on a routine flight back to their home base at the air corps technical school at Lowry Field, Denver. They had arrived from Denver Thursday. Ives was piloting the ship at an altitude of 6,500 feet. Langben was his copilot.
Chanute Field's last attempt to establish radio communication with the plane went unanswered at 10:05.
Ten minutes later Youle heard the twin motors above the gathering clouds a mile north of Delavan.
"Then I saw a sheet of flame shooting toward the north," he said. "The ship dropped. I couldn't see any men jumping.
"It hit with heavy force half a mile from me. Then came the explosion. The plane bounced high. Parts of it flew everywhere. It came down again with terrific force. It settled up top of a knoll in the open field."
Bodies Borne in Wagon.
Youle told how he drove a team of horses to the shattered bomber.
"One man, wearing a parachute, was still in the wreckage. Other bodies in uniforms, badly mangled, were scattered all over. All had parachutes attached to their backs. Two or three of these chutes were opened but charred and burned. It appeared that these men had leaped trying to save themselves and the chutes caught fire as they left the ship."
He found all the airmen were dead. Their bodies were taken to a mortuary here in a wagon.
Part of one wing lay half a mile from the main fragment of the ship.
In an effort to determine what had caused the crash of the year-old ship an army investigating board, headed by Major Roy W. Camblin and including Capt. Hugo P. Rush and First Lieut. Samuel Stephenson, was sent here from Chanute Field.
"I'm pretty sure the weather caused the crash," Captain Rush said after the members of the investigating board examined the wreckage and questioned witnesses.
Might Have Been Lightning.
Asked if he mean't [sic] lightning had struck the plane, he said: "Well, we've had several planes struck by lightning, one recently."
He deemed it very unlikely the wing found far from the major part ofthe bomber had twisted off because of structural failure.
Col. Davenport Johnson, commandant of Chanute Field, and Col. Gerald C. Brant, commandant of the air corps technical school there, also questioned all witnesses. Then Colonel Brant said: "We have practically discarded the lightning theory. The weight of witnesses' statements seems to be that there was no lightning bolt at the time of the crash."
Colonel Brant said the plane partly disintegrated in the air, that one wing and part of the tail came off, but that the explosion did not occur until the crash itself - that was the gasoline.
No Bombs Aboard.
He said there was no apparent explanation as yet for the disintegration. The bomber carried no bombs or explosives on the fatal flight, he said.
Charles Chandler told how he saw a streak of lightning shortly before the ship fell. It was his opinion the explosion occurred before the craft smashed into the meadow.
Chandler said he judged from the sound of the motors the bomber was flown west but circled back and was headed south as if the pilot sought a landing field when the storm burst. The motors, he added, seemed to sputter.
Captain Rush ascertained four men had opened their parachutes.
Thousands of spectators waded in ankle-deep muck to see the fallen plane.
The bomber had been in the air forty minutes and had covered sixty miles of its westward journey. It apparently fell from an altitude of at least 1,500 feet - the height of the concealing storm clouds in the estimation of meteorologists.
One Body Cut in Two.
One witness reported the wind approached tornadic velocity for a minute and a half about the time the plane dropped.
Floyd Glenn, another farmer, said he heard a plane but it was raining so hard he couldn't see it.
"It shook the ground," he said. "I saw a flare of fire. I ran a quarter of a mile over there. The plane was just a mass of wreckage."
Deputy Conorer [sic] Jack Shear reported one body was cut in two. The head of another was crushed and the pthers were badly torn but still recognizable. Only one body was badly seared by fire, he said, indicating the explosion let go after the bomber struck the ground and threw the bodies into the timothy field.
The Air Corps Technical School was moved from Rantoul to Denver Feb. 16. The three officers and Murah, Myser and Huntsman were transferred there. Housley and Truitt were reassigned from Langley Field in Hampton Roads, Va., to Denver at the same time.
The Dallas Morning News, Dallas, TX 11 Jun 1938
Native of Galveston.
GALVESTON, Texas, June 10 (AP). - Secod Lieut. Thomas Langben, 28, one of eight United States Army fliers who died Friday in a crash of a bomber near Delavan, Ill., was the son of Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Langben of Galveston, his father being a prominent local businessman.
He was born here Sept. 6, 1909, and was graduated from Virginia Miliatry Institute. He had been in the air service five years. Besides his parents, he is survived by a twin brother, Frank, of Galveston.
The Dallas Morning News, Dallas, TX 11 Jun 1938