A couple a days ago I got an email from Dick Nester after he seen my photos on the Boron B-24 #42-50780. He is the son of Cpl Ralph Nester who was the bombardier on that flight. After a couple of emails back and forth, he sent me the story about how he went about locating the site where his father had lost his life. It's an interesting story and I thought some of you might want to read it. He said it was okay to post it on this site.
Since you are somewhat into the research and history, I thought you might be interested in the following. I realize after receiving your e-mail that one of the guys who was with us when we found the site was Tom Gossett. Pretty sure he is from Trona, CA. In the story below, I don't remember which of the folks he is, but maybe he is the one who was with me at the truck when Rob Hill and another guy actually found the site.
I was only 1 year old when the crash occurred, so I didn't know him at all. I was told in later years by my Mom and Aunts that he was stationed at Smyrna, TN when I was born, and he hitchhiked home to see me in Indianapolis. I entered the USAF after college, and became a pilot, ending up at George AFB in Victorville, CA in 1975-79, when I left USAF. I then joined the CA Air National Guard, continuing to fly in the Southern California area until my retirement in 1993. During this time, I had flown over the area of the crash hundreds of times, without knowing exactly where it was. In many F-4s, I flew and instructed on the bombing range that this flight of B-24s flew on that day, I am very sure. In about 1992, I queried the USAF Safety Center for information on the crash, and received the standard FOIA answer. But I was lucky, because a Lt there took an interest in me, and when the 50th anniversary of the crash came up, he sent me copies of all the investigation data. In 1994, with this data, my wife and I went to the area on the 50th anniversary of the crash and placed some flowers where we thought the crash had occurred. Shortly after that, I went through the data again, and realized that we weren't even close. Over the next few years, I dropped the idea of finding the site, thinking it was a big desert, and I just didn't have enough data.
As the years went by, and we approached the 60th anniversary, I started looking at the data, reading it all again, and coincidentally, met a friend at my work who was just getting into wreckchasing as a result of meeting Rob Hill at the gym. So over the next few months, we found some new maps, read everything again, and came up with a methodology. We had three pieces of information that indicated the location: a direction and distance from Muroc/Edwards AFB, a direction and distance from the range, and a direction and distance from Boron. So I started drawing arcs and circles from each starting point, and eventually they all met at a point pretty close to where we would eventually find the site.
So one Sunday in September, 2002, my friend from work, Larry Rayko, Rob Hill, and three other folks whose names I don't remember now drove to the old radar site, parked, fanned out and started walking west. We all had walkie talkies, but lost contact within the first hour. It was pretty hot, and I was worried someone was going to get lost and get in trouble, so I started back to the radar site to get my vehicle and start gathering people up. Of course, everyone didn't know what everyone else was doing, so some were still walking west. About the time I arrived at my truck, Rob Hill called to say he thought he had found it. We were able to see him from the radar site, so the 2 of us who had met up there drove out to where he was, and sure enough, it didn't take long to confirm that this was probably the right place. I had very old and poor pictures from the accident investigation and could line up the terrain to match pretty closely.
It was pretty emotional for me. We decided that not too many people had been there, and didn't understand why because of the location being so close to the road. Also, there were metal frames from headsets, many buttons, and other items that I would think souvenir hunters would have scarfed up. I will tell you that I did remove three things from the site that were more personal items, and had the possibility that my Dad had touched or used. I was elated to find a rusty old pocket knife, the headset, and one other item that I didn't removed until my third visit to the site. When I came home, I notified my family back in Indiana, and with Larry Rayko started planning something to memorialize the location. We decided to gather again at the site on the 60th anniversary, place the monument, and say a few words. We had the plaque made, anchored it in 200# of concrete, gathered up whatever family members we could, including my Mom and sister, and my cousin who was older than me and remembered my Dad. We met there on July 2nd, 2004 and started the proceedings at exactly 60 years from the minute the aircraft took off from Muroc. I have a movie of the whole thing.
This had been such a meaningful thing to me, that I decided I should start searching for other relatives. It was very frustrating, and took quite a long time, but I finally found the sister of Jack Geswein in Southern, Ohio. On my first call to one of his cousins, they even said he wasn't a relative because they didn't recognize his given name. Their relative had been nicknamed Jack. We finally did connect, made arrangements, and a couple of months later the sister and her family came out and visited the site. When Jack Geswein's niece was poking around in the dirt, she came up with a set of dog tags and the chain. Amazing! They were partially melted, and a couple of letters could be made out, but no name. I have searched more, with no luck in finding other relatives. I even have pictures of a grave in Ohio where one of the crew is buried, but no one at the cemetery can figure out anything about relatives. I gave up a year or so ago. I will be retiring here in another 2 years, and may try again.
Altogether, I have visited the site about 6 times. My son and I started walking circles around the impact area, getting larger and larger and found a couple of other large parts, but other than the one engine impact in your pictures which we found on the first day, we haven't found much more.
One fact that I have always found strange and great, all at the same time. The crash killing my Dad was on July 2. My first child was born on July 2.
That's it. Questions?