In your Dec. 7, 2007, issue, in the article about David Tallichet (“David Tallichet, restaurant pioneer and airplane collector, dies at 84″), I found one lonely sentence that really caught my attention. “He found another fleet of Martin B-26s in western Canada, where the whole lot had crashed on the way to Alaska.” What a wonderful, colorful story has been missed here.
Some 30 years ago while living in Sioux City, Iowa, my backyard neighbor told me a story of his flight of B-26s that emergency landed in Canada while headed to Alaska. He told me that there were two flights of three planes dispatched from California shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor which were to beef up our defense of the Aleutian Islands. En route, the planes stopped somewhere in the Seattle area for rest and to pick up some navigation help. A local bush pilot drew a rough map of the route to follow, explaining that the many lakes and rivers were the main terrain features.
Leaving Seattle, the six planes eventually became separated. Lost, encountering deteriorating weather, lowering ceilings and running low on fuel, the flight of three planes decided to set down in what appeared to be a snow-covered field with some short stubble reaching through the surface of the snow cover. Turned out the stubble was actually the tops of pine trees. My friend’s plane was the first to land — gear down — and the deep snow caused severe damage to the plane and serious injuries to the captain. Fortunately, all did survive. The other two planes elected to come down gear-up and they fared much better.
About a week later, without much hope of ever being rescued, a flight of fighters escorting a C-47 was spotted by the crews of the downed airplanes. They were disappearing from sight when a lonely dot, barely visible, separated from the others and began to grow larger in the distance. Something had caught the attention of one of the pilots and he turned back to investigate. He located the downed planes and contacted the RCMP, who later found and rescued all of the crews.
So many other wonderful stories of endurance and American ingenuity followed this one; I do hope they’ll not be lost with the passing of so many heroes of our time.
Port Aransas, Texas