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SaxMan

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 #61 
...and just when I thought I was getting ready to wrap this project up, a tidbit falls out of nowhere and into my lap.   I had posted on http://www.armyairforces.com on the 437th TCG page asking for any photos of 42-100985 (later N88835) and this evening the 437ths UK historian reached out to me.  He didn't have any pictures, but he did pass along the contact information for the plane's World War II pilot, who is still with us.   So, now, I have another avenue to pursue.   

Sometimes I have to sit back in sheer awe the "spider effect" this one project has had.   I have at least 3 other related projects that I'm researching as an outgrowth of this initial one (aviation related, but not wreckchasing). Perhaps the most amazing thing is the initial search was based on faulty information:  Pictures that were incorrectly attributed to the Clarksburg, Maryland crash leading me to believe that they were still out there to be recovered.   It turned out the pictures were from a 1947 DC-4 crash at Cooper's Rock, WV.   The last time something with false information turned out so well was the time I received a "referral" from a dating service, even though my membership had long expired.  I figured what the heck, I'd call for date anyway.  The "referral" ended up becoming my wife.
DaveTrojan

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 #62 
Saxman, You are correct when you say that that you never know where the project will lead and that it creates a spider effect. Allowing the facts and information to lead you rather than having preconceived notions is what the scientific method is all about. Your future plans for the site are honorable and I will look forward to seeing it someday.
DaveT 
SaxMan

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 #63 
Update 9/21:

I drove by the site today and was astonished to see the house boarded up.   Usually, with M-NCPPC properties, this is typically a precursor to demolition.   I'm trying to get the skinny from the park manager on what's going on.   I have some mixed feelings about this.   On the one hand, demolition means that I can start lobbying to do some excavating at the site and see if there are any artifacts to be found.   It also means that a memorial might be able to be placed directly on site.  On the other hand, the demolition of the house removes a good chunk of the historic significance of the site -- namely how narrowly the Anderson family escaped tragedy, and that this is the sole remaining structure on this side of Frederick Road in vicinity of the site that was extant in 1957.
SaxMan

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 #64 
An e-mail exchange with the Park Manager confirmed that the property has now been abandoned.  The septic system failed, and the Commission decided that repairing / rehabilitating the septic system was not cost effective, particularly with the Master Plan calling for the house to be demolished eventually.  The tenants have moved out. 

With the tenants out and demolition imminent, this does present some opportunities that I did not thing would occur for several years.  The first is the ability to erect a memorial on site rather than at a nearby area.   I believe this will occur, probably sooner than later.  

The other opportunity will be to see if any artifacts can be unearthed.  That may prove more difficult as the Commission has stipulated no digging unless under the direction of a professional archaeologist.  As a compromise, I've requested to at least be able to survey the site with a metal detector and see if the results would warrant an excavation.  If they do, I would ask that the project be put "in the queue", and even if it takes several years for the Commission to take on the project, that would be fine.

I've also been in contact with Henry Podgurski's grandson to keep him abreast of the developments.  He has still yet to visit the site.  I suggested that he come out soon, at least to get a true feel of what the site was like back in 1957 and before the house is demolished.   We're probably going to visit the site sometime next week.
SaxMan

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 #65 
Today, I visited the site with Henry Podgurski's grandson (who is also a pilot for Southwest).   It was a fairly solemn visit.  I pointed out the various landmarks and walked him through the final moments of his grandfather's life.  

What the grandson took away, though, was some degree of peace for his family, if not closure.  I showed him how the structures on the adjoining properties had been demolished and how that would be how this site was going to end up.   Knowing that this location would be left peaceful, natural and unmolested for perpetuity gave some comfort to the most singularly tragic event in the family's history.  Everyone in the Podgurski family was changed by the tragedy.   The impression I got was that there is still a sense of disbelief:  after what Henry Podgurski had endured and survived during the Second World War, to lose his life in a civilian training accident on a sunny day still seems totally irrational. 

Doing the research on the crash, I basically came away with the same question:  Why did three good men and good pilots have to die on that day in 1957?  I've always been one to believe that things happen for a reason, but this incident seems to defy that theory.   I had an experience of a similar nature happen personally.   The answer I came up with was that just because you've put two puzzle pieces together doesn't necessarily mean you're seeing the greater mosaic.   Perhaps in some greater sense, far greater than our own abilities to comprehend, there is a larger mosaic that we just don't see.   I apologize for waxing philosophical...but I do find myself asking these questions in this line of research.

I'm still hoping to have a memorial erected on site now that the property has been vacated.   I do believe that the M-NCPPC is supportive of the plan, provided that they have the budget to accommodate the request.
SaxMan

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 #66 
I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here, but there are times when you're doing research, when it rains, it pours.   This week, I not only was able to make contact with the World War II pilot of N88835, but have also make contact with the instructor pilot Carl Burke's family as well.  

The M-NCPPC's regional manager has approved the concept of erecting a memorial on site.  The only two wild cards are the timing and the budget.  
SaxMan

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 #67 
10/21 Update:

I've now had frequent correspondence with Carl Burke's nephew Rick and he has given me some very good information on his Uncle Carl, including that Burke flew bombers at the tail end of World War II.   He married a Capital Stewardess and they had four kids together.

Coincidentally, Carl's wife was named Helen, as was Podgurski's wife, and both served in the Women's Auxilliaries in World War II.  Burke was a WAVE, Podgurski a Woman Marine.   Both also suffered an additional tragedy of having one of their children predecease them:  One of Burke's sons died in a motorcycle crash and one of Podgurksi's daughters succumbed to cancer.

Now we're trying to locate any family for the final member of the crew:  Robert K. Thomas of Berwyn, Illinois.  However, information on Thomas has so far proved very elusive.   Rick Burke helped me by searching Ancestry.com, but astoundingly came up empty handed.  As of now, it's as if Thomas materialized and vanished into thin air.  
DaveTrojan

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 #68 
As far as the budget goes for a memorial, I recommend a do it yourself approach. solicit donations from the local headstone companies, assistance from veterans groups or anybody willing to help.  Compose a very short narrative for the marker with list of names. You can send me a PM and I'll send you photos of memorials at other sites for ideas.
basically just "Keep It Simple" 
invite everyone to the memorial dedication on an anniversary of the accident and invite the local press for the story. 
DaveT
SaxMan

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 #69 
The nice thing about this project is that it does have the support of the parks and they are willing to put the memorial in their budget when the time comes.  
SaxMan

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 #70 
10/31

We're still coming up empty handed on Robert Thomas, when Rick Burke suggested that I check the local coroner's records.   In 1957, each county had its own coroner's office.  All of those were closed down and the State of Maryland has a central Office of the Medical Examiner.   All the records were transferred to the State.   I was able to order Thomas' death certificate from the State of Maryland Archives.  I'm hoping the d/c will reveal a next of kin that will give us a lead to go on.  

I've also been trying to reach out one of the members the Norwood family, who lived next door to the Andersons, but they have not responded to me.  I've tried two letters to give them the "heads up", and may just end up picking up the phone. 

The nephew of the navigator who flew with Henry Podgurski and I have connected.   There wasn't too much information, but there is a tantalizing clue of the existence of a photo album that may still be in the Podgurski family's possession that would have a number of the World War II pics.  

I'm hoping that eventually, I'll have enough information on all the major parties involved (crew Burke, Podgurski and Thomas, as on the ground Anderson and Norwood) to do biographies on each one and how their lives all intertwined on June 22, 1957...not unlike the format of  A Dawn Like Thunder" by Robert Mrazek.     
SaxMan

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 #71 
On the site front, the demolition permit has been applied for.   Usually the process takes about 30 days, and once granted (there's no reason it would be denied), the demolition would be at the discretion of the M-NCPPC.   There's no reason to believe that they would not move forward once the permit is approved.  I informed the members of the Anderson family of this, just in case they wanted to visit their old home before it does get knocked down.  

Once knocked down and all major debris removed, I have a Cub Scout troop ready to go to the site and remove the trash from the site leftover from previous tenants.   The next step would be to lobby for funding for the memorial in the next fiscal year (which starts July 1, 2014).   We'll see.

I did received the death certificate for Robert K. Thomas.   It did give us some additional information to go on, but we quickly came to dead ends once again.   Thomas as an only child, which rules out the possibility of finding nieces or nephews as we were able to do with Carl Burke.

Even though the certificate indicates he was married, we have found no records of a marriage license anywhere.  That is leading us to believe that he may have been married overseas, and perhaps his wife was not a naturalized citizen.   It would certainly fit the "puzzle piece" of one of the widows writing a letter to the Andersons asking for some kind of momento from the site.   I would imagine if Thomas' wife was a foreign national, she likely was going to return to her country after his death.   This would almost certainly preclude her from ever visiting the crash site.  This is complete conjecture as of now, at least until we find evidence otherwise, and the evidence is highly lacking.  It's possible that Thomas' family line ended with him and there are no descendants to contact.
SaxMan

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 #72 
I've discovered that a lot of persistence goes a long way.   I was able to find Thomas' obit in the Chicago Tribune.  The foreign national theory went out the window.   Here's what we do know:

Thomas was an only child, so there is no possibility that there are nieces or nephews as I was able to track to latch onto Burke.   When he married Doris Ann Thomas, they had no biological children together.  However, Doris Ann did have two daughters from a previous marriage:  Barbara and Joyce.   We're now working on tracking them down.  

It is sobering though:  A total of nine children lost their fathers in this accident (Burke had four, Podgurski, three, and Thomas, two).  And, had Anderson taken cover under the car that ended up getting smashed instead of the one he chose, it would have been a total of 12 children.   If there are any heroes in this story, it has to be the widows who had to raise their children without their father (or step-father) in a time when single parenthood was not common.
colsonj8

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 #73 
Quote:
It is sobering though:  A total of nine children lost their fathers in this accident (Burke had four, Podgurski, three, and Thomas, two).  And, had Anderson taken cover under the car that ended up getting smashed instead of the one he chose, it would have been a total of 12 children.   If there are any heroes in this story, it has to be the widows who had to raise their children without their father (or step-father) in a time when single parenthood was not common.


Well said Saxman. I like reading your updates to this project, and it is true, this is a very sobering story.
SaxMan

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 #74 
I managed to obtain a copy of the June 23, 1957 Washington Post article about the Clarksburg crash.  Being a local paper, it had a lot more detail than the standard wire service reports.   There was one aspect I found intriguing:  Witnesses indicated that the pilot cut the engines just before impact.  Another witness said it looked like they were trying to avoid hitting the houses.  

One of the things about this crash that has bothered me (if bothered is a correct term) was how a DC-3 still laden with close to 400 gallons of aviation fuel was able to crash nose down with enough force to tear off a wing, rupture the fuel tanks and burrow six feet into the ground, yet there was no post crash fire or explosion.   The following year, Capital lost another DC-3 under the almost exact same circumstances (training flight gone wrong), but the plane impacted at a 30 degree angle...and caught fire.   The crew was able to escape, but one of the trainee pilots died of his injuries the following day.

This would seem to indicate that, at a minimum, the crew knew just how dire their situation was and took steps to lessen the impact upon the people on the ground.   These steps may have sealed their own fate, but likely saved the lives of the Anderson family and likely prevented injury to the occupants of the homes on the adjoining properties.  

The CAB would have easily been able to tell if the fuel pumps were open or closed, as the engines survived basically intact.   This never made the final report, though.   I believe this was intentionally left out as Capital and the CAB had a very contentious relationship that was frequently aired out in the local press.   While the CAB had an obligation to be impartial in their investigation, the did not need to include items that may have painted Capital in any kind of positive light.  

Likewise, Capital's line on the accident was that the co-pilot at the controls "froze up" during the Canyon Maneuver.   Capital's Chief Pilot Ralph Sewell knew who was a the controls, but never divulged this information publicly.  Nor did the CAB include who was the pilot at the controls.   By having the pilots cutting their motors or fuel supply before impact would seem to contradict Capital's story of a "frozen" co-pilot.   It took the Martinsburg training crash in 1958 to make Capital realize they had a very hazardous and unsafe training program.

I did share the article with Burke and Podgurski's families.  It was an eye opener for them, as they had only heard either Capital's narrative or the CAB report.  


SaxMan

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 #75 
1/5/14 Update:

At long last, I was finally able to interview Otis Norwood, Jr.   Mr. Norwood may be the last surviving eyewitness to the crash that actually witnessed the impact.   He didn't add too much to what I had already learned, but he did confirm the flight path, and with it, my theory that the crew was using a Fire Tower located just north of Hyattstown as their landmark, which would also explain why the plane chose to do the "abandon approach" maneuver at that particular location.   If you take a map and draw a straight line from the garage door at Rippeon's Service Station, it goes to the Fire Tower site perfectly.

He also confirmed that all the wreckage was removed from the site over the course of a week.   Capital Airline mechanics dismantled the plane and put the remnants onto a lowboy trailer, requiring a number of trips to do so.   I do not know what happened to the remains after they were loaded, whether they were taken directly to a scap dealer, or brought back to National Airport.

Otis' sister June is still with us (the one who uttered "Mother, the plane is chasing me"), although he admitted he hadn't talked to her in "quite a while", but gave me her married name so I could locate her.  Other than the personal accounts, I am finding that I am running into diminishing returns with my research as far as the crash is concerned in terms of getting new or additional information that I haven't already discovered.

What I am focusing more on now are the backgrounds of the flight crew and the people on the ground.   I've had a lot of success getting information on Henry Podgurski, including finding personal photos from a wartime associate of his.  I was able to pass these photos along to the Podgurski family, who were very appreciative.   I'm not quite as far into Burke's background, but he's next up.   We still are pretty much in the dark about Thomas.  

The house is still standing on site, but demolition is pending.  I am working to see if I can be present when they tear out the concrete floor to the outbuilding and the driveway, as they are also removing these items as well as the structure.   It basically gives me the ability to search for artifacts while still adhering to the parks' no digging rule.  

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