B-17 F #42-30385 KIA 26 July 1944

In July of 1944, B-17 #42-30385 flew 21 bombing missions in 26 days. Their last target was a Natzi aircraft engine plant near Vienna, Austria. Things went south when the fighter escorts didn’t show up. All most half the bomber group went down in flames by over 150 German fighters. My cousin pilot 2nd Lt. David Kerr was one of them.

After 74 years we found the crash site with the help of several local Austrians. This is what it looks like today. There are thousands of pieces of the aircraft scattered for many kilometers. Many are clustered near these 360º images.

https://roundme.com/embed/271988/832484

Dear Family,

I am taking my boy Ryan to see the crash site today. Yesterday the family that owns the property treated me like a king. The son of the ranch refused to let me cary my backpack up the mountain! We talked for hours after this incredible exploration over dinner.

Upon arrival, my most gracious host presented me the radio operators chart holder complete with their call tag #30385. This I will give to his sister Mary Ann. The green coloration on one piece of the aluminum left no doubt this was David’s B-17 F model. He also gave me three 50 caliber rounds (defused) and a couple of squares of flack jacket armor.

3 local Austrians spend most of the day with me cataloging everything from flight controls to bomb fragments. One guy dug up parts with his metal detector at every turn (Steve you would be impressed with his skill). His older brothers were on the scene right after the crash in 1944. Not aware of what this really was, they described it as Christmas-like with all the silver, red and green bright colors – the smell of burning spruce.

As I reached the summit with the family Cocker Spaniel, I was greeted by only the birds and the wisp of the cool mountain air. A cuckoo bird in the distance chimed in. In the distance to the west, a 3000 meter snow caped mountain top stood majestically across the valley below.

From the Rocky Mountains, to the Smoky Mountains it’s the most beautiful forrest
I have ever trekked. There is no underbrush like Tennessee, so you can see a long distance down the steep slopes. No poisonous snakes to threaten travelers here. In fact I didn’t see a squirrel, bee or spider web on this bright, warm May day.

The tranquil nature of the landscape juxtaposed with the most violent event imaginable, was odd. It felt so incredibly peaceful in the midst of a 74 year aerial graveyard. It remains like sunken shipwreck. There is a large opening in the dense tall spruces near the top of the ridge line were trees will not grow again. This would be a fitting place for a small monument to the crews.

We found plexiglass from the plane which indicated to me an explosion before it had a chance to burn. We located the precise location were most of the crew where found, buried and reburied in 1947 at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, Missouri.

The sole of a boot, shredded nylon, even large pieces of of a leather glove lay scattered on the hillside 74 years later. In David’s plane alone every 1000 lb. bomb but one detonated on the way down. A hole the size of baseball in the massive propeller blade was shot clean through. Most of the airplane is less than the size of your fist, and they lay at every step for hundreds of yards down the steep slope.

Some of the parachutes were witnessed catching on fire going down. I believe that much of the crew were probably killed in the explosions, and most likely died instantly, including David and his copilot.

Eye witness accounts of the fall have been well documented by our host. He has a vast database of information with a map detailing debris over more than 6 kilometers of the area.

The year after this infamous tragedy the area was overrun by the Soviets with fierce fighting. The grandmother of the current property owner was killed in a 1945 rocket attack on her property. Ironically, this was the high-water mark of the Soviet push west in this region.

Our Austrian friends grandfather was able to survive the war and surrendered to the American forces. He told me that most locals in the past have not wanted to discuss the
WWII history in this region. This is changing he said.

The family is very protective of this sacred ground and have done a great job keeping it as-is. At their request, we will keep its location a secret. My hope is, that this might give some closure to family still living that never knew their fate. Like so many horrible wars, many times, they just never came home.

32116319_10156394955309036_3535368498245009408_n
2nd Lt. David Kerr and family on his last visit home.

kerr-news

kerr-obit

Video narrative of 21 missions in 26 days.

Fox 17 News:
http://fox17.com/embed/news/local/nashville-man-gets-answers-on-relatives-death-74-years-after-world-war-ii-crash?external-id=14d09d4b826b416889fc6f4d9891244c

Smart Phone Airdrop

Samsung Galaxy S5 Phone Drops 1000′

A few weeks ago, my brother Blake Henderson was filming a World War I Curtis JN-4 “Jenny” flying near the Bowling Green Regional Airport in Southern Kentucky. The phone bounced out of his hands due to severe turbulence.

This was not staged, and we have the meta data to back that up. The only editing was condensing the time lapse between the scenes. The original video is 11 minutes long, and is on YouTube also. This version, I cut down to about 3 minutes.

“This ain’t my phone” © Blake Henderson 2017

UPDATE: 12 August 2017

– #38262 Curtis Jenny crashed on a golf course in Bowling Green …read more

FullSizeRender (1)

#airdrop #smartphone

Camp Kick’n Booty

wings.jpg

July 5, 1982

Mr. & Mrs. Robert W. Henderson
222 Vaughns Gap Road
Nashville, TN 37205

Dear Mom & Dad,

I just thought I’d drop y’all a line to let you know how much fun I’m having at summer camp! Here at Charlie Kilo Bravo (Camp Kick’n Booty), we have lots of fun activities that last all day long.

First we play exercise. This game is very fun because you get to see the campers turn all different shades of pretty colors. At this point people do the most remarkable buffalo imitations. After morning recess we get to play jungle soldiers in the mess hall. This event requires a great deal of skill, because the enemy is very carefully disguised: last week I was attacked by an ambush stew (it attacks your stomach when you’re least likely to expect it).

After lunch we get to take an afternoon nap. This opportunity is afforded us in the cool confines of our class rooms. The only problem with this activity for me though is, that I have not yet learned to sleep with toothpicks supporting my eyelids – very uncomfortable.

The only thing I don’t like at this camp is the big green man that comes around. He has a very big hat that looks like Smoky the Bear. However, he is much louder than smoky. He screams and yells a lot, calling us all sorts of names I never heard of before.

Yesterday he told me my head was made of silly putty – but I don’t believe him. I think his undergarments are too tight or something, cause he always looks so red in the face. I think the man needs a vacation. Maybe you could talk to his boss?

Well, I’ve got to go now, my counselor just informed us that he is taking us out for rifle target practice – with a gun?

Your devoted camper boy,

“Telly Savalas” Henderson

Love, Bob

Belmont’s Female WW II Pilot

Cornelia Clark Fort (WAFS)

by Bob Henderson, Jr. | Belmont Alumni Board | Class of 1982

Reviewing ‘From Here to Anywhere’ by Joy Jordan-Lake, at the Belmont 125th anniversary book-signing tonight, I have a story to add. Thumbing through the photos, the CornCorneliaPT19elia Fort picture caught my eye. I have a little known family story about her, told to my brother and me by our cousin Dick Henderson a few years ago.

Dick’s father (my great uncle) John Bond Henderson, Sr. of The Southwestern Company owned the farm adjacent to the Fort’s, which is now known as Shelby Bottoms. They called it Wild Acres. Dick vividly described to us the “old-growth” forrest he explored there as a child.

The Henderson’s were close neighbors with the family of Dr. Rufus Elijah Fort, founder of the National Life and Accident Insurance Company. They had many stories. Dick once described his brother racing past Cornelia’s chauffeured commute to Ward-Belmont one day, nearly ending in calamity around Shelby Park.

Dicks father (uncle “J.B.” to us) was a sport pilot, as well as his boys: J.B. Jr., Bruce, Dick and even daughter Ceacy. Dr. Fort was so concerned about this hobby of his neighbors, he made his own son promise that he would never learn to fly. Not anticipating that his daughter Cornelia would consider this vocation, he failed to make her pledge this oath. The rest is history.

Cornelia was the first U.S. pilot to encounter the Japanese air fleet during the Attack on Pearl Harbor. After her tragic death in 1943 ferrying a BT-13 out of Texas, J.B. donated the land they used as a grass runway to the Civilian Air Patrol. It was named Cornelia Fort Airpark. Cornelia was truly a pioneer for women in the armed forces, and military aviation in particular. Another Belmont legend.

Cornelia Airpark in 3D

Book:  Daughter of the Air: Brief Soaring Life of Cornelia Fort

#belmont125 #corneliafortairpark #womenmilitarypilots