Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11, 1942 - Tragedy At Curtiss-Wright

Pilotless P-40 Plunging 
From High Altitude, 
Goes Nose First Into Factory -
Blazing Gasoline From Pursuits Fuel Tanks 
Sprays Victims; Pilot Is Burned Before Taking To Parachute; 
Ambulances Called From All Hospitals To Remove Injured
The Buffalo Airport  Plant of the Curtiss Wright Corp.

P-40s and other aircraft in the test area at Curtiss-Wright

   Six workers were killed and 43 others were injured shortly after 5 p.m. when an airplane, crippled at a  high altitude by fire, fell nose first through the roof of the Curtiss-Wright Corporation Airplane division plant at the Municipal Airport.
The Dead: 
Frank Warda, 748 Lasalle Ave. died in Emergency Hospital at 12:22 a.m. today. Martin Till, 18 French Street, died in Millard Fillmore Hospital at 12:05 a.m. Carlson Rauh, 2520 Elmwood Ave., died in Meyer Memorial Hospital at 12:15 a.m. Lester Glenn, 129 Stockbridge Street, an Army inspector, died in Sisters Hospital at 10:25 p.m. last night. Frank A. Ryan, 149 Wellington Ave., Kenmore, killed instantly at the plant. Another man, burned beyond recognition; identity to be established by fingerprints.
  Some of the injured, a list of which is carried in another column, were reported in serious condition in various hospitals.  The plane, a P-40, was being flown by test pilot J. Bertrand Purnell, when it took fire. William Davey, General Manager of the Curtiss-Wright Buffalo plants, said the cause was unknown.
Pilot Burned Seriously
   Pilot Purnell remained with his ship until flames drove him out.  He parachuted to earth, some two miles away at Union Road and Walden Ave. near the Cheektowaga Town Hall. "I'm trying to figure out just what happened," he said at Meyer Memorial Hospital, where he was taken with severe burns, after he had parachuted to earth. "The engine caught on fire, I tried to  put out the flames before I jumped. The flames kept coming up and hitting me in the face. I couldn't stand the heat. I had to jump."

Pilot Purnell Lands Near Walden 
and Union Roads
   Doctors said he had serious burns. Flying wild, the plane did several loops and then dived nose down, crashing through the steel and concrete roof of the factory.  Nearly all the injured were burned by gasoline from the plane's tank.  Nothing inside the factory burned, Junior Capt. August H. Fleischauer of Engine 7 at the airport explaining that everything in the plant is fireproof.
  *“The building was a one-story structure of brick, concrete and steel construction, consisting of one very large fire area. There was no basement under the section where the crash and fire occurred. The department into which the plane crashed consisted of a 30 by 60-foot area surrounded by an iron grill fence, and was located in the northwest corner of the building. The fire caused by the burning plane was confined to an area approximately 40 feet square. Two men were instantly killed, while twelve others were fatally burned by flaming gasoline released from the wrecked plane. In addition, 44 men and two women employees suffered burns and other injuries. One wing of the plane remained on the roof, but the motor and fuselage fell into the building and struck the concrete floor."
Stationwagons Become Ambulances
  Ambulances were summoned by General Manager Davey from all hospitals. Stationwagons, one driven by Mrs. Burdette S. Wright, wife of the head of the Curtiss organization here, also were pressed into service to removed the injured.  Some ambulances made return trips the burden was so heavy.
 P-40's Being Assembled - C-46 Assembly
in background
   Doctors gave the victims first aid before they were sped to several hospitals. The entire Air Raid Precaution Disaster Unit of the Curtiss Plant was called into service, and functioned efficiently.  
   City, State and Cheektowaga Police and Deputy Sheriffs sped to the factory and barred the public from airport and plant grounds. Word of the accident attracted hundreds of persons but none was permitted to venture close to the scene of the disaster.  One Curtiss worker who declined to give his name, said "the plane was pulverized when it hit the floor, you couldn't find a piece bigger than a bushel basket."
    A competent observer estimated the plane took fire at 5:15 p.m. at 15,000 Ft., nearly three miles up. Pilot Purnell turned the plane over, pulling the release lever that allowed him to drop out while he was upside down in the single seat. The plane hit the lower part of the factory roof on an angle.  The wings were ripped off, but the rest of the machine ripped a six foot hole in the roof and hit the concrete floor on the inside.
P-40 like the one that crashed
Engine Buried in Floor   
  The planes engine buried itself in the concrete flooring. The fuselage skidded 60 feet along the floor, disintegrating and scattering parts over a 30 ft radius as it went.  Gas, thrown from the planes fuel tank was ignited turning on the automatic sprinkler system.
    Several thousand second shift workers were on duty when the crash occurred, but despite haze, smoke and flame, there was no panic.
    Men assigned to the disaster unit under the leadership of Roscoe S. Harmon, sprang into action, snatching blankets from the walls wrapping them around their heads and plunging into the densest smoke to save fellow workers.  Flying debris caused some injuries, and others were scorched trying to pull colleagues to safety.
    "That was what we thought at first-a bombing".  Winston J. ("Tex") Dandrew 24 of 498 Delaware Ave. declared from his bed at Edward J. Meyer Memorial Hospital.  "But there really wasn't time to think much of anything, everything happened so fast.  First there was the crash of the plane through the roof and then, almost simultaneously it seemed, a blinding flash occurred as the plane exploded... Bits of plane and metal went shooting in all directions.  It is hard for me to understand how I escaped alive.  I couldn't have been more than one or two feet to the side of the edge of the hole above me.  A piece of metal knocked me in the arm, but aside from that the flying pieces of metal and flames seemed to miss me.
C-46 also made at the Curtiss Plant
Says Scene Was Indescribable
   Right near me a man was knocked against a ladder and had difficulty extracting himself. I pulled him free and we both ran as fast as we could. Later we came back to help the other injured and to help put out the fire. Dandrew said the scene of human agony all around him after the explosion was most indescribable.
   The first part of the tragedy--was told by persons near the airport.  "When I first saw it the plane was very high to the south west of the port, said John J. Kennuth of 253 Maple Street a Van Dyke Coach driver.  "It was already burning and I could see the parachute of the pilot who had bailed out, some distance away."  "It came nearer and nearer to where I was standing at the auto entrance for the airport building.  For a while I thought it was going to hit the airport building.  I wanted to run, but I couldn't.  I was scared stiff and couldn't move." Then the plane swept over the Curtiss roof and crashed.  Black smoke poured out 30 to 40 feet high."
   Workmen Describe Crash
  "I heard a terrible noise overhead, then flames and sparks began shooting down from the roof," Steve Kovach, 21, of 113 Rosedale Ave., Riverside, one of the injured workmen said.  "I was working with two other fellows when it happened.," Mr. Kovach related at his home after being treated at Meyer Hospital. We started to run for the door. Flames shot down at us. I was lucky not to have been burned worse." Mr. Kovach was burned on both arms and neck when flaming gasoline spurted over the workers as the plane struck.
My Mothers Curtiss-Wright Crew - (2nd from Rt. 2nd row)
  Editor: My mother Julia (Stanek) Malloy, who worked at the Curtiss plant from 1942 to the end of the war, was working in the P-40 assembly area where the plane crashed.  She relates "when the plane hit, we could feel the heat on our backs. Then someone yelled  "FIRE" and men rushed from all directions grabbing the fire hoses off the wall and heading to the scene.  The Plane crashed into the tool crib, a fenced in area, making escape difficult for the victims. When the fire was out we watched as the dead and injured were being carried out on stretchers. The water was so deep in our area our foreman told us we couldn't work in that, and sent us home."
A Navy "E" Award Given to the Plant About 20 Days
Before the Tragedy
  A Curtiss Wright guard who was burned severely on both arms Friday while rescuing fellow workers injured in the plane crash...donated his blood to the American Red Cross to aid suffering survivors. Although his bandaged arms bore testimony to the heroic part he played in the tragedy, Herbert Boxhorn, 26, of 46 Inter Park, was among the first of more than 50 Curtiss employes who appeared at the blood donor center in the Ellicott Square. Although Boxhorn modestly minimized his heroic role, other Curtiss workers disclosed that he risked his own life to carry four injured workers to safety. One of the severely burned men he helped carry from the smoke filled plant died a few minutes later. (Herbert Boxhorn is a name not included on the injured list)

*Quarterly of the National Fire Protection Association, Vol., 36, No. 2, October 1942, pp. 137-138.
    "When the plane crashed through the roof, gasoline released from the fuselage tank caused an extremely hot fire. Plant employees immediately sounded the alarm over three private fire alarm boxes and 90 members of the plant fire brigade responded and did excellent work in extinguishing the fire. They were aided by the operation of 208 automatic sprinkler heads on a wet-pipe system. Fortunately, the falling plane had not seriously damaged the sprinkler piping, although a 174-inch sprinkler pipe and a 6-inch commercial water service line suspended from the ceiling were ruptured. These pipes released considerable quantities of water, which flooded a large area.
   The plant engineer on duty upon hearing the crash immediately consulted the water pressure gauge and noticed that the pressure had dropped to twenty pounds. He started the 1500 g.p.m. electrically driven fire pump and started to warm up the 1500 g.p.m. steam turbine pump which was placed in operation. A pressure of 75 pounds per square inch was maintained at both pumps.
    The prompt application of the foam and carbon dioxide was helpful in preventing the gasoline burning on the surface of the water from spreading the fire. It is estimated that the fire was under control in 15 minutes and was completely out in 30 minutes.
  “The fall of the blazing plane was observed by members of Engine Co. 7 of the Buffalo Fire Department, stationed at the Buffalo Airport. This company, assuming that the plane would fall in a field beyond the building, responded at 5:15 P.M. with a crash truck equipped with foam and carbon dioxide equipment, and with a 1000-gallon pumper. Neither piece of apparatus was used, but the fire company rendered valuable service in manning one of the private standpipe hose streams, removing the injured to the first aid station, pumping out the flooded area below the ground level, and in covering the damaged roof….”  (Wright. NFPA Quarterly, Oct. 1942, 137.)

  Management Statement:  "Concerning the heroism of the Curtiss workers--I cannot say enough.  Many risked injury and even their lives in rescuing their fellow employees from the flames that followed the crash. Some of the rescuers are among those now in hospitals." "Curtiss guards, members of the volunteer fire-fighting and air raid precaution units and individuals from office and factory staffs, performed these extra duties without once hesitating to reckon the cost or to think of their personal danger.
   "All other workers in the plant at the time, who may not have participated directly, showed their mettle by their calmness and by the manner in which they remained at their work.  I would like to express the  heartfelt thanks of the management to all, including the outside agencies that so readily volunteered their help. It is a great tribute to those on the battlefront, that those on production front are carrying on normally today with true American fighting spirit."

The final toll of those who died was 14 with 34 injured,
 many seriously.

Those who died in this tragedy

Jack H. Boyer, Paul Chase, Cecil Clark, James E. Collins, Lester F. Glenn, Salvatore Palmeri, Carlson M. Rauh, Francis Ryan, Norman Savage, Joseph J. Sciolino, Samuel Shalala, Martin Till, Laverne Voelker, Frank Warda

Those Who Were Injured

Edward Buehler, Winston Danarow, James Doucette, Andrew Fiorella, Edward Harrison, Raymond Hartwig, Frank Head, James Herdic, Louis Jakubowski, William Kenny, George Kitta, Steve Kovach, Newton Kranso, Michael Kuzara, Frank Laber, Louis Malinowski, Grace Marlotte, Harry Mills, Clarence Moorhouse, Sager Nebral, Merwin Nellis, Rocco Orioli, Lawrence Preischel, Jack Purnell, Joseph Rosolowski, Geraldine Scott, Thomas Sheppard, Edward Shoemaker, Chester Stubensz, Roman Swiniuch, Truman Taggert, Leon Thompson, Dominic Visone, Raymond Yager

This is from the Memorial Mass booklet put out by Curtiss-Wright to commemorate those who died or were injured in the accident of 9/11/1942. If you would like a free, complete copy of the entire Memorial booklet just click on the following words; Curtiss Memorial   (For a larger view of above, click on picture)

This Plaque is currently located near the Long 
Term Parking lot at the Buffalo Airport. Info
 thanks to Dan's comment below.
  EDITORS NOTE:  I was amazed to discover when researching this story, that there was no information on the internet regarding this accident, like it never happened!  There may have been some document or source somewhere that I didn't discover, but an exhausting search on Google and others turned up nothing, not even a hint of it!
  I only highlighted the story here, to make people aware and maybe do further research on their own if need be. These people served their country just as any soldier did and paid the ultimate sacrifice. They should not be forgotten. These veterans of production are disappearing. My Mother, whom I'm very proud of, worked at the plant when this tragedy happened, less than a hundred feet away from the crash. These stories need to be recorded as first line history before it is too late.  
   For those who will be leaving a comment below, be aware that they will not appear immediately. All comments are moderated by myself to screen out spam comments which are numerous. I check every few days so be patient, if on topic they will appear. 
Thank You - Jerry Malloy

To see location of marker on map, click on 'Curtiss Marker' 

Looking for Rosie



Anonymous said...

My dad was working at the plant when this happened. Unfortunately he has passed on, so we cannot add to the information. Thank you for posting this, you are right, this is history and these men and women were also helping "the cause."

Christopher said...

My great grandfather is Chester Stubensz and was one of the man injured in this accident. My father has told me this story for years. As a result, of this accident my great grandfather suffered from smoke inhalation and burns, which reduced his life expectency. I'm proud of my great grand father!

Christopher Charles Stubensz

Jerry M Malloy said...

Thank you both for commenting and Thank You to those whom you know who worked as "hero's of production". Anonymous and Chris you both SHOULD be very proud of your relatives as I am of my mother for their role at Curtiss-Wright. I can only imagine the suffering your G. Grandfather went through Chris, for I read but left out the details of injuries to many of the workers as described in the paper. Thank You again.

kate said...

Jerry, thank you for putting this online. My grandfather was killed in this tragedy, James E. Collins. I would love to know more about this also. I was told the Niagara Falls Aerospace Museum has some kind to plague, but I've never seen it, but plane on visiting when it reopens.

Jerry M Malloy said...

Kate, I'm so happy that people related to this accident are finding this. That is the reason I put this story online, so that those that were lost would have their story on record and be recognized as the heros' they were, and that relatives and public learn more of their sacrifices. I hope that plaque is still around, and not lost to demolition. Thank You to your grandfather for his service and sacrifice.

kate said...

Jerry, I didn't notice the plaque you posted, is that from the NF museaum? Does your mom have any of the names from the photo?
thanks again

Jerry M Malloy said...

The plaque picture is from a memorial pamphlet put out by Curtiss Wright for a memorial service they held after the accident. My mother has an original copy of the pamphlet. If you would like a scanned copy, email me at the email link in my profile in the column on the right (About Me). She might have names from her crew photo I'll have to check with her.

Anonymous said...

With the 10th anniversary of 9/11/2001 approaching, it reminds our family of the "Earlier 9/11/1942" Curtiss-Wright plane crash. Along with the previous comments posted, we too have many memories of the stories shared about that tragic day. I believe my grandfather (LaVerne Voelker) was the youngest to have died that day. He was only 20 years old. He left behind a wife and baby daughter. We are lucky to have the original newspaper articles from that day (dated 9/12/1942). We also have an internet copy of a newspaper article of a replica plaque rededication memorial. The plaque is supposedly displayed in the long-term parking lot of the BNIA. We also have an internet article (dated 10/16/2001) from the "Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority" on the NFTA memorial plaque.
I wonder if anyone (with a connection) still lives in the area and would want to get together to personally share their stories.
Thank you Jerry for creating this website. Much appreciated.

Pam said...

Jerry, I also want to thank you for creating this website.
My father (Joseph S. Showalter--"Sandy"; deceased) was an aeronautical engineer at Curtiss-Wright during the war. He told me the story of that day several times. He was working some distance away when he and his colleagues heard what sounded like a plane buzzing the building. They weren't concerned, at first, because there was an airstrip on the "campus". Then the buzzing came back, and again, and again, so they wandered out to see what was going on... Dad saw the final descent, and though they couldn't see the building that was hit, they all believed it was the paint shop because of the ferocity of the explosion. They were too far away to be of help, but saw the aftermath as people were carried out, etc. According to him, he saw the pilot brought in, but that he refused treatment until all the folks on the ground were attended to, first. He seemed to think the test pilot had problems, stayed with the plane as long as possible to head it away from populated areas, and bailed out. Then, to his horror, as he floated down he saw the craft bank and head back to Curtiss-Wright, where it began slowly loop-d-looping, closer & closer to the ground. My Dad always ended the story by saying it was really weird -- like the P-40 had to "return home".

Anonymous said...

I Found This Article In My Basement In A Newspaper Today Hmm Had To Come On Here To Read It Cause Didnt Want To Tear The Paper Its Brittle

Anonymous said...

Thanks for putting this info out there. I only became aware of this incident
recently from Bernie Mills of Fillmore,NY who was working there at the time
and carpooling with a few others from Allegany County.
Don Barber
Fillmore, NY

Anonymous said...

Thank you for publishing this. My father, Francis Ryan was one of the 14 killed in this accident. I was only 6 months old when he died and, unfortunately, I have no personal memory of him. My mother told me that Franny was not even supposed to be in the paint shop area. He was a foreman in the panel division who was helping a co-worker who was supposed to be returning some tools to that area. My dad did it for him. Whenever I watch Field of Dreams when Kevin Costner asks his dad to play catch, tears come to my eyes about the father that I missed being in my life. I am 70 years old and I still wish I knew him.

Mike Ryan ( Mount Dora, Florida

Anonymous said...

Just to let everyone know who is interested, there is a plaque posted in the long term parking area at the Buffalo Airport. With the recent warm weather, I have been riding my bike to work and came upon this marker which I never new existed let alone the incident. Click on the link and marker "A" is the precise location of the marker.,-78.72543&z=19&t=S&marker0=42.93519%2C-78.72543%2C3.3%20km%20W%20of%20Bowmansville%20NY


Jerry M Malloy said...

Thank-you very much for the information and location of the marker. Is there any place to park to view the marker without having to park in the long term lot? It seems to be in such an awkward place. I assume it is the approximate location of the crash otherwise it would be in a more accessible location.

Anonymous said...

Currently, the NFTA website says that parking in this area is free for 2 hours or less. Another website that would be useful is Erie Counties Aerial photo's from 1951. This link below is very useful when compared to the ACME Mapper photo above.


Sam Fiorella said...

Hello All,

I am the nephew of Andrew J Fiorella, he was the winner of a medal for heroism in rescuing fellow workers when that flaming plane crashed through the roof of the Curtis Wright Plant on September 11th 1942. I want to give everyone the full story of what happened. I will quote the story from his death notice in the Buffalo News Newspaper from July 25th 1947.

Mr Fiorella was foreman of the paint shop and had left the building a moment before the plane crashed. Heedless of personal safety, he dashed inside and carried out the injured.

The plane then exploded; he was severely burned and was rushed to the hospital with the other injured.

He was awarded the citizenship medal, the highest award of the veterans of foreign wars old 74th post. He was also a past commander of the post and had been a member for 20 years.

He died on July 25th 1947, six years after the plane crash. He was survived by his wife Jenny, two sons, Jesse and Sal, A sister, Rose Magervo, and five brothers, Frank, Salvatore, Joseph, Anthony, and Nicholas Fiorella.

-Salvatore Fiorella, his nephew. Buffalo NY.

Here is my number if you would like to get in contact with me.
716 837 1599

Paul Friedrich said...

Now, I became interested in this event when reseaching plane crashes in the WNY/Buffalo region.
My father-in-law James E. Herrscher, 4 1/2 at the time of the crash claims to have seen the pilot after he exited the plane. Jim Herrscher was looking east towards the airport while sitting on his porch on Fisher Street and Genesee Street. He was aware of the results because his father, Elmer was working second shift at the Curtiss-Wright plant at that time. His father was unharmed.
I curious to know exactly where the pilot landed. Walden Avenue and Union Road is a large area and I'm trying to pinpoint that spot.

Jim Jackson said...

A few interesting things: My Grandfather Frank Laber, one of the injured, was a painter and in the paint shop at the time of the crash. He was severly burned and carried the scars the rest of his life. He also developed cronic asthma from breathing the flames. He was a German immigrant from Vienna, Austria, and because of security reasons was not allowed to do any work on the aircraft. He was limited to painting buildings etc. As most survivors of horrific events he was very reluctant to talk about it. I only remembering him tell about how the flash burned his eyes and how hard it was to see when he looked directly ahead. It was like his retina was burned and he had to look up, down or side to side to see. He was blind if he looked streight ahead. Thank you so much for this webb site.

Terry Duffy said...

My grandfather was Nat Duffy; he was manager at the Buffalo Airport from 1927 to 1960. He was there at the time of this terrible accident and for so many big moments in Buffalo's aviation history. Such a special time

Jerry M Malloy said...

Over thirty years! Very impressive, for he was there almost from the airport's birth in 1926. Then through some of some of the greatest times in aviation and Buffalo Airport's history. Congratulations to him!

Jerry M Malloy said...

This story was sent to the BHG via email from Martha Baptista who was working the night of the accident:

It was my last night of work before returning to college. I worked in the credit office handling vacations, sick days, etc. on an addressograph machine. I was the only second shift worker in that office. The night In question my boss and his secretary stayed overtime on a special project. All of a sudden there was a huge bang and my boss ran to the door with his secretary and me following. We all went out the exit nearby and my boss yelled to me to run in and call an ambulance. I had not seen why it was needed but of course did as i was told.

After calling I went outside again and looked up in the sky like others were and there was the pilot of a P40 sailing slowly down in his parachute with fire completely surrounding his body. (I heard later that he was in the hospital for months until his death).

Shortly thereafter one of the guards came out of the building crying and yelling to us that the motor of the test plane had landed in the paint factory which was next to our office. That was the big bang that we had heard. Soon there were stretchers exiting with totally charred bodies on them. I think we counted 15 of them. The injured were taken out of another door of the building. We later heard there were 63 of the injured . It was the worst accident in the history of Curtiss Wright.

There was a guard post outside our office each night and guards were rotated every two hours so I had met many of them. They had planned a farewell for me during our mealtime in the cafeteria. Of course that was cancelled and when I went for a bite to eat much later in the evening many of the guards were there. They were sitting with heads down on their arms on the table, many of them sobbing and all of them grieving. It was such a terrible night. One of my favorite guards ( the one who planned my party) was obviously in shock and was crying "my God, my God, my God" over and over again. I sat down next to him but he didn't even know who I was. All in all my last night was a disaster never to be forgotten. Martha Baptista

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if they have a company photo or employee roster? My dad worked there and I am trying to do research for a family tree which includes work history. I think he worked there in the 40's. His name was Ralph Bennett and lived in Cheektowaga. He passed away in 1969. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know. I have been to the museum in Niagara Falls, but not very much info on employees. Thanks

Ralph Bennett(son)

Arlone Cofield UB SON '72 said...

My mother spoke of this crash/tragedy which occured when she was a nursing student at Meyer Memorial Hospital School of Nursing. The students were pulled out of classes/off of clinicals on nursing units to assist with triaging the casualties and providing emergency care. I decided to google the event and found this blog.
Never knew the details of the crash but now I do.
Thanks for fleshing out the specifics.

Geri Krotow said...

Jerry your blog post is awesome! I linked to it from my blog post on my website as I write WWII romance, and I had a great uncle who worked at the factory (and survived because he was late to work that day). Thanks for keeping history alive.
Geri Krotow

Anonymous said...

Thanks for finally talking about > "September 11, 1942 - Tragedy At Curtiss-Wright" < Liked it!

My website ... Ted

Steven Dawson said...

Excellent post Jerry! Thank You, Steve

Anonymous said...

Stumbled across your site while researching a pin my father had in his tool box for many years. He and my mother (Art and Elsie Clark) worked at the Curtiss Wright Plant in Buffalo. He was a machinist, mom was a bookkeeper. Dad had left for the Navy before the accident occurred. Mom was at work, stranded and in shock after the accident. When I showed this site to her she immediately teared up and just murmured "sad memories". The fellow she rode to work with, Paul Chase, was killed and she recalls seeing people engulfed in flames running out of the paint shop. She has no recollection of how she got home after that horrible night. The pin by the way is a shield about 3/4" x 3/4", brass, with wings, containing blue enameled circle with Curtiss Wright, and "Production Award at the bottom. My dad passed away in 1978. Mom is still with us at 95! Many thanks to you Jerry for preserving this event in this way. Dave Clark

Jerry M Malloy said...

No, the memories are not pleasant with this incident but it was something my mother talked about now and again over the years and not finding anything on the internet about it, decided to bring these peoples names to light. They should not be forgotten. My mother was working on the P-40's that day and watched them carrying the dead and injured out on stretchers. She was close enough to feel the heat of the explosion but was not injured. She is still with us today at 93 also. Bless them both.
I'm not familiar with the pin you mentioned. My mother has the brass medal, depicted in the text above, but I have not seen the one as you described. Thank you for sharing your story.

Anonymous said...

I witnessed the plane going down from my backyard on Wyoming Ave. I saw the pilot bail out and ran into our house to alert my family. I was five at the time.

Anonymous said...

I read the Courier article and can only say shame on the government for not telling the whole story. One eyewitness said that the plane was coming out of the southwest, which was exactly where Plant 1 was located - Kenmore Ave Tonawanda. The planes were made at Plant 1 and were literally flown out of the parking lot to Plant 2 (at the airport) for final inspection. So #1) The US Gov't had no problem flying thousands of potentially defective P-40's routinely over the Buffalo population and #2) Given #1, the P40 that crashed was one of those "uninspected, potentially defective" planes. The lawsuits nowadays would be enormous and it would have been Curtiss Wright that would've gone down in flames. The public outrage at flying aircraft of questionable quality over the general population would have been the firestorm, had they been made aware. The Courier also did not elaborate on where the plane came from - Wonder why? Can you imagine such a thing today? Workers didn't even wear gloves, safety glasses, ear protection or any visible safety guards in those pictures.

Alan Vervaeke said...

My grandfather was a line supervisor at the time, but passed away from mesothelioma in February of 1944. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of his name somewhere.

verybendy said...

My late mother, June Brooker (née Bergan), worked at the Curtiss-Wright plant as a detail draftsman at the time, before she married my father. She was waiting for her sister's husband, Norman Wahl, who also worked at the plant, to give her a ride home when the crash happened. The story as she told it spared no gory details; she described melted blobs of adipose tissue (fat) that had fallen on the floor as the burned bodies were carried away.

Fifty-nine years later, in retirement in Falls Church, VA, she heard a sound on the morning of September 11, 2001, after the twin towers had been struck. "Another building has been hit," she said. The Pentagon is about eight miles from where she lived. When she told me later that the Curtiss-Wright crash had also happened on September 11, I must admit I was skeptical, until I looked it up.

My mom, with her razor-sharp memory, died on August 9, 2011.

Unknown said...

Scott Lash from buffalo. My grandmother, Bernadine Kirchmeyer, always told the story that she was the phone operator on that day and was paging the maintenance man in the building and got no reply after the plane had crashed. I had to look this up today because I'm at the curtiss wright plant in Idaho falls and I told the story and I'm very thankful for this article they did not know the history of curtiss-wright in Buffalo. thank you very much for the article and I would love to know more about this day in our history!

Dawn Littleton said...

I lived in Buffalo NY from 1981 to 1995 and I used BUF airport many times. It wasn't until I returned this May 2019 and was trying to find a way to describe to my sister where I parked the car that she would pick up later. In looking for something notable I found the memorial to this event. I had never heard of this news story. ** Thank you** for providing the background. What a horrific but mostly unknown incident.

William R. Nixon said...

I was recently back in Buffalo to visit my mother on her 101st birthday and saw the mural of the Curtis plant on the wall near gate 26. My father, J. Stanley Nixon was head photographer at the Curtis plant during the war and that picture at the airport would have been one of his. He was at the plant the day the crash occurred and fairly close to the accident scene. My mother only knew the news of the crash but I don't know how long it was before she heard from my Dad that he was alright. He would have taken the pictures of the crash scene but those were apparently classified and never released. My Dad passed away in 1980 after owning Nixon's Camera Shop in Kenmore from after the war until 1963. He is survived by his wife, Lois, and 3 sons, James and Doug of Kenmore and myself, Bill, now living in Atlanta. It was a great and moving surprise to see some of his work on the wall at Gate 26.

Unknown said...

My dad was a teenage boy and witnessed the pilot exiting the plane and descending by parachute. He and his brother were standing behind a building on Millicent Ave. They could see the flames coming from the plane. My father is still alive and 90 years old. As he was telling me this story I came upon this site and wanted to leave his story. He will be 91 on September 17th, 2020. This incident led to his brother becoming a paratrooper. Later, my father did too. My dad is Harry Bosworth and his brother was George. There has been an article written about George Bosworth telling of this story when he retired from paratrooping. The article was written by Bob Dorang on September 13th 1955, Bat-wing is retiring at 27, is the name of the article. It says Henry Bosworth but it should be George.

Paul M. said...

My mother worked in the plant after my father left for Guadalcanal. The day before it happened she asked her supervisor to change her shift because here was a man she worked with who was giving her too much unwanted attention and she was uncomfortable working with him. The plane crashed at her exact work station and during her old shift. It was truly miraculous and I am the youngest of five and a Navy Aircrew Man from '77-81 tracking Russian submarines during the Cold War. My father made it back and he had great war stories. God bless America and he has watched over our family as my mother loved Jesus. Thank you. Paul M.

Anonymous said...

Is this the only mark left by Curtiss Wright in Buffalo?

Why not many mention that P-40 were made in Buffalo NY by Curtiss Wright when talking about flying tigers? like a P-40N displayed in Museum of Aviation in Robins AFB, GA, nothing saying about P-40 were made in Buffalo NY by Curtiss Wright?

Any P-40 or C-46 left in Buffalo area?

Anonymous said...

My mom, (Alice Herdic) was only 19 -20 years old when she worked at the Curtiss Wright plant. She worked on C46 "riveting wings & body parts". My aunt worked on P40.
I went to the Curtiss Wright museum on Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes & told the volunteer my mom worked there. He told me about the accident & fire. At the time my mom was still living & he said to ask her about the fire which would confirm what year she worked there. Turns out her cousin (Jim Herdic) was working 2nd shift & was burned in the fire! I would have never known this bit of family history! My mom never talked about it.
Unfortunately,She also started smoking cigarettes there when all the women took a break they passed them around!
Thank you for all the great info. Lois Nicholson

Iggysoup said...

I have that E award sitting on my desk and never knew the story behind it. My great aunt used to work in the plant as well.
Thank you for posting this.