September 17, 1946
Bomber Crashes on Cold Mountain, 5 Die
Haywood is scene of latest air tragedy -- B-25 wrecked Friday
-- Bodies located after intensive hunt Sunday.
Five Army men, including Major General Paul B. Wurtsmith,
temporary commander of the Eighth Air Force, were instantly
killed when a B-25 Bomber on the way from Detroit to Tampa
crashed into the side of Cold Mountain, near Pisgah, shortly
after noon Friday.
No one heard or saw the crash, and the wreckage was sighted
when a large group of planes went out to search for it Saturday
and Sunday. Fifty planes joined the flight to locate the plane,
and it was 7:10 Sunday morning when Captain James M. Poole and
Lieutenant O.S. Long of McDill Field, Tampa, flying an AT-11
first saw the remains of the large bomber.
W. M. Huber, forestry warded in the Posgah National Forest,
was notified of the location, and identified it as Cold Mountain,
which lies in Haywood County, near the Translyvania line. He
immediately organized a ground search party, which was joined by
a large number of Army personnel from the Greenville, S. C. air
base and they set out to find the B-25.
Mr. Huber related to the Mountaineer that he and the men
working with him were equipped with walkie-talkie radios that
allowed contact with liaison planes flying over the wreck. They
went up the road following Crowford's Creek for three miles, then
followed a trail that reached Lenoir Creek. The wreck was found
there, between 2 and 3 P. M. Sunday.
Bodies of the occupants were badly broken up. The Army
personnel, who were led by Lt. Col. Edmund Freeman of McDill
Field, and Major T. J. Hieatt of the Greenville base (who last
week led the search in the Maggie area for another lost Army
plane) took the victims to a Greenville funeral home Sunday night
and removed part of the wrecked plane.
Other than Maj. Gen. Wurtsmith, those who lost their lives
were Lt. Col. F. L. Trickey of Tampa, Lt. Col. P. R. Okerbloom of
Tampa, Master Sergeant Hosey W. Merritt of Geneva, Alabama, and
Staff Sergeant Hoyt W. Crump of Tampa.
During the flight, Friday, the 13th of September, the B-25, at
11:57 A. M., reported its position as 10 miles west of the
Kingsport, Bristol, and Johnson City Airport, and the pilot said
he was going to lower altitude because of bad weather. It was
flying at about 230 miles per hour, and evidently was coming in
too low, and the fog and rain made it difficult to see the
Three men, two Brevard photographers, and one of the Army
personnel were lost on the mountain during the search. However,
Warded Huber reports that they were found Sunday night and early
Monday by men from the Forest Service.
Maj. Gen. Wurtsmith had a distinguished combat record in the
pacific area, and had risen to important peacetime commands in
the reorganization of the Army Air Corps.
(Contributed by: Richard Clark, Kernersville, NC)