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Bill

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 #1 
My friends and I have made two expeditions to a lake near Lake Wales, Florida to locate this B17. We found the wreckage using sonar and the lake is only about 10 ft deep. The problem is, the tanic acid in the water is so bad that there is a suspended layer of inky black about 3 ft from the bottom and you can't see your hand in front of your face. I dove in using scuba when we found the wreckage, but in spite of feeling around totally blind for about a half hour, I was unable to find anything. The wreckage is still there since both these expeditions were within the past two years. This is dangerous because there are over 60 years of fishing line and hooks on the wreckage and the army corps of engineers blew the fuselage up near the tail section because it was sticking up out of the water, so there is razor sharp jagged metal down there. It was a real spooky dive being blinded by the organic layer. If anyone has any ideas of how we could see thru this stuff, or has any equipment that would enable us to do so, please let me know. The following below is a story I wrote a few months back about this wreck search. Bill.



It was a long ride to the dive site at the fish camp and it was our
second search for the sunken bomber. Our seach group was comprised of
myself, Pete, Joey and Frank. All divers. Our first search many months
ago had ended without any recognizable aircraft parts on the sonar
monitor even though we knew the plane to be there. The crash report
said the tail had been blown up by the army corps of engineers because
it protruded above the surface. For this seach we had located the
correct area on the lake by talking with old timers who had spoken to
people who had actually seen the crash. Some of this lake area we had
covered in the last expedition without success but were determined to
try again.

After talking with the camp manager and making sure we were heading to
the right area we launched. The sonar equipment was working well and
we headed to the area of the debri field that the fish camp manager
had told us. We picked up many objects on the sonar that were in a
straight line just as the camp manager had told us that the plane hit
and scattered its parts within that straight line on the lake in
crashing. However, none of the shapes we saw on the sonar were
recognizable as aircraft parts except for one. Once I saw what looked
clearly and exactly like the left horizontal stabilizer minus the
elevator. We turned around for another run to try and pick it up again
but were unsuccessful in finding it again.

At one point over some very large unrecognizable shapes Joey and I
suited up for diving to check it out while Pete and Frank remained on
board. The lake is shallow being not over 12 ft deep at any point we
had sonar scanned. When I got in I could feel my fin tips touching the
bottom while my head was above the surface. I let the air out of my
BCD and submerged with my dive scooter. The visability was not good
for the first few feet being very yellowish brown and full of
particulate but you could still see just a little which was about 2
feet. It got worse.

About the last 2 & 1/2 feet from the bottom there seemed to be a heavy
layer of suspended very dark particulate. As I passed thru it on my
way to hugging the bottom this suspension layer became inky black and
I could not see my hand in front of my face. As I passed into this
layer I could just make out that I was stirring up this inky layer as
I decended into it just as one would stir up a layer of sediment. I
had previously removed my spear from my spear gun to use as a probe
but the water was 68 degrees and the cold made me lose my grip and
lose my spear. So I continued my probing with my gloved hand. It was
darker than having your eyes shut. You know the small bit of light
that comes thru your eyelid skin even when your eyes are closed? Well
this had none of that and was as dark as being in a cave with no light
source. I surfaced repeatedly to see where I was in relation to the
boat and resubmerged to blindly grope in as best a pattern as I could.
It was impossible to stay with Joey my dive partner in this black ink.
It was spooky dark and felt dangerous since this lake is known to have
many gators and with each grope of my hand I wondered if it was going
into a gator's jaws. It was the worst visability I have ever
experienced on any dive I have been on. The hanging suspended layer of
darkness was probably a suspended layer of microscopic decayed organic
matter. Joey and I spent about 1/2 hr blindly searching without
feeling anything before we gave up and climbed back aboard. We could
have passed within inches of wreckage and not known it. We found the
planes debri trail but the visability on this lake insures that even
if we found large pieces of wreckage, we would be unable to acertain
its condition nor be able to attach crane cables or lift bags to
anything. This B17 is still in the lake for the past 60 some odd years
because no one can see to recover it. It will probably stay there
until the lake's visability improves which is doubtful, or until the
lake eventually dries up one day which it is in no danger of doing. If
we formulated a different seach plan we might try again some time. I
had thought about dragging a V shaped pole apparatus with a flexible
cable between the two ends of the V and using it to contact wreckage
wherein we could stop and follow the cable right down to the wreckage.
Perhaps one day. If we had individual diver sonar vision equipment
that would allow divers to see thru particulate in the water then we
could prevail but I see no other way to recover much without divers
being able to see. We don't have funding for anything like that and I
think the old bomber will stay where she is for some time to come. On
to the next search location.

Bill

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ChrisBrame

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 #2 

What's the story behind this crash site (date, serial, cause, etc.)?

Bill

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Hi Chris.

The following are details of the B17 crash report.

"7-11-44, at 09:32 EWT a boeing B17G suffered a top turret fire was abandoned and crashed at Tiger Lake Florida killing five crewmembers. Two crewmembers were injured, one seriously parachuting to safety. Three crewmembers were uninjured parachuting to safety. The airplane had taken off from Drew field Tampa Florida with another B17 on a high altitude formation flight. While flying on the leaders right wing at 10,000 ft, the engineer noticed a fire in the base of the top turret. The pilot was informed and he alerted the crew to stand by. The pilot received no reply from any of the crew members. The fire grew and the pilot ordered the engineer aft to order the crew to bail out. The pilot ordered the assist engineer to the nose to order the bombadier and navigator to bail out. The pilot claims to have activated the alarm bell and it was not known why some members of the crew did not hear the alarm bell. The pilots were unable to withstand the fire and fumes on the flight deck so they bailed out. The crew of the lead B17 observed the subject airplane in a flat spin over the lake. The airplane spun into the lake and exploded in flames. Investigation revealed that the upper turret fire was caused by an oxygen leak in the base of the turret, the oxygen being ignited by electrical arcing from chafed wiring in the base of the turret. Investigators noted that the fire might have been brought under control if the crew had manipulated a shutoff valve on the flight deck that cuts off the supply of oxygen to this turret. This was one of several similar top turret fires on board B17's operating in the United States and overseas. Investigators noted that the subject airplane's records indicated that it was in compliance with a related technical order. Five crewmembers apparently drowned after parachuting into Tiger Lake. Crewmembers found dead in the lake were 2nd Lt Lawrence E. O'Rouke, co pilot, Flight officer Lewis E. Pardue, bombardier, Cpl Harry Phillips, engineer, Tsgt Archie I. Leazer, radio operator/instructor, Pfc John W. Dodd, assist radio operator.  Assist engineer, Pfc Durand H. Huggins was seriously injured and pilot Alcot H. Stover received minor injuries parachuting to safety. Gunner Pfc Donald E. Gillespie, gunner Cpl Lee E. Sullivan and navigator 2ndLt Carl G. Meeks were uninjured parachuting to safety."

It was not in this report, but we also heard that the army corps of engineers came out and blew up the tail section of the fuselage cause it was hindering navigation on the lake. We found and saw the debri trail with large chunks on the bottom with our sonar but were unable to see anything with our eyes underwater due to the extreme dark tanic acid organic layer suspended about 3 ft from the lake bottom. Wreckage is still there, we found it, but no way to see to get to it. Dangerous also because of blown up sharp edged metal with 60+ years of fishing lines, ropes, hooks etc to injure a diver groping around blind. Would need some sort of high tech underwater sonar vision equipment for divers. I was there, couldn't see my hand in front of my face at less than 10 ft depth. Ignoring the danger I did grope around blind for about a half hour. No luck. Obviously that's why the wreckage is still there. Here's a link to a few pics we took that day. Bill. http://community.webshots.com/album/561174831SsgYxj?vhost=community


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AnthonyMireles

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 #4 

The above summary is not from the "crash report"

but a direct quotation from Page 850 of Volume II of

FATAL ARMY AIR FORCES AVIATION ACCIDENTS IN THE UNITED STATES, 1941-1945. 

The serial number is :

B-17G # 43-37710

TonyM.



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Anthony J. Mireles
FATAL ARMY AIR FORCES AVIATION ACCIDENTS IN THE UNITED STATES 1941-1945
http://www.warbirdcrash.com
Bill

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Tony M. is correct from the source it came from. However it is incorrect to say it is not the crash report. True,....it is not the official letterheaded military crash report signed by the officer reporting, and his commander, but the summary of the details of that official crash report were related in the text I posted that was indeed in the book and on the page Tony stated. The report itself did not help us locate the wreckage. Talking to old timers at the fish camp on the lake vectored us into were it was known to be. Then our sonar found it in various pieces on the bottom. Sorry no sonar pics of big chunks were saved that I could share with you and only some smaller pieces showed up in the sonar pics at the link I posted in my last post. But there were some big chunks the size of cars down there. Bill.


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"I have a problem with authority. Authority means power. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Me.
AnthonyMireles

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 #6 
Bill,

Good work and great find. 

Thanks for sharing it.

TonyM.

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FATAL ARMY AIR FORCES AVIATION ACCIDENTS IN THE UNITED STATES 1941-1945
http://www.warbirdcrash.com
Ans

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 #7 
Alcot H Stover never spoke much about this accident. I know he regretted using his crew members very much. If i know Al at all i can say he followed proceedure to the letter and beyond until the heat got too much in the front seat. He went on to Foggia Italy and flew many missions. He received The Purple Heart, the Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters and was recommended for the Distiguished Flying Cross. He returned home and completed his Engineering Degree and retired from GE in Lynn MA in 1986 was married for 68 years and raised 3 children. He passed away suddenly at home on Sunday, September 30, 2012 at 88 yrs. He will be missed by his wife & family and many grand children, and great grand children. I know he would have wanted that for all his crew and all the others that didn't come home. They were part of the great generation for sure.
ANS
Ans

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 #8 
Alcot H Stover never spoke much about this accident. I know he regretted losing his crew members very much. If i know Al at all i can say he followed proceedure to the letter and beyond until the heat got too much in the front seat. He went on to Foggia Italy and flew many missions. He received The Purple Heart, the Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters and was recommended for the Distiguished Flying Cross. He returned home and completed his Engineering Degree and retired from GE in Lynn MA in 1986 was married for 68 years and raised 3 children. He passed away suddenly at home on Sunday, September 30, 2012 at 88 yrs. He will be missed by his wife & family and many grand children, and great grand children. I know he would have wanted that for all his crew and all the others that didn't come home. They were part of the great generation for sure.
ANS
pinecastleaaf

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 #9 
I think the only way this bomber could be extracted would to build a cofferdam around it and pump the water out. Problematic at best especially depending on how far from shore it is. The lake is shallow so it's possible.
Fairlane66

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 #10 
The Southern Museum of Flight in Birmingham, Alabama, recovered a B-25 from Lake Murray, South Carolina, in 2005.  After 62 years at the bottom of the lake, the aircraft was badly corroded due to the weed-killing chemicals dumped into the lake over the years.  Though the museum had hoped to restore the aircraft, the corrosion and other damage made the task impossible, so it's currently displayed in the condition in which it was found on the lake bottom.

The folks at the Southern Museum of Flight are a cordial bunch....they helped me out with several projects over the years when I lived in Alabama.  In their quest to find and raise the B-25, I believe they encountered obstacles and water visibility similar to what you're facing.  You might want to call the guys in Birmingham to see if they can offer any advice.

Are you able to pinpoint any large pieces of wreckage using radar?  Since the tail poked above the surface at one time, one could logically assume there might be a few large pieces remaining--wings, turrets, engines, etc.  However, the fact that the airplane fell uncontrollably from a great height and exploded on impact would lead me to believe you'll mostly find smaller pieces.  But who knows, the B-17 was a tough old bird!

Ans

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 #11 
Some more history on the pilot of this wreck:
Start on pg 10 lower right on to pg 11

http://www.2ndbombgroup.org/Newsletter%20-%20July%202009%202ndBomb%20Newsletter.pdf
h2oman211

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 #12 
I know this wreck. A friend who has experience recovering lost aircraft dove it in 1975 and then he said it was only a foot or so sticking out of the bottom .He found it by dragging a grapple behind his boat until it snagged it.  He managed to get into the tail section and found an oxygen tank and some .50 cal ammo. He told me he managed to make his way forward but found the when they blew off the tail section they had also ran a cord type charge down the spine of the entire aircraft splitting it open like a hot dog bun. He never did find the cockpit but he did recover a large switch panel that sat over the pilots about 10 feet away from there . Two or three years later a team from an air museum removed one or two of the engines for a static display .I found out about this wreck when I was 14 because my father knew the manager of the fish camp there  and he discovered the wreck while water skiing when he fell down and hit on an engine cowling .An old timer told him that he witnessed the crash and that the aircorps engineers  had to build a road just to get back to the wreck They salvaged the radios , bombsight, top turret  for obvious reasons , an engine and only 6 or 7 of the .50s on board . the tail guns  were not recovered and the chin turret was torn off on impact or is trapped beneath the aircraft .One wing and an engine was also ripped on impact .The salvage work was done with hard hat divers so not all of the plane was accessible. Later the man told me that he had found one of the .50's , some props and some engine parts and that all of them where seriously corroded . I think if you can locate the wreck you could uncover it using blowers but it would not be worth the effort.
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