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2017-03-30

Early airplane crashes in and around Bandera County

By Raymond V. Carter, Jr. BCHC Research Historian ©2017

Airplanes where flying over Bandera County as early as the early 1920's. The first plane crash that I am aware of happened after a plane landed with engine trouble and while attempting to take off the plane struck the barn on the Johnson place and crash landed. There are several early aerial pictures of Bandera in the BCHC archives. With the advent of World War II and the use of private planes for travel, the number of plane crashes dramatically increased.
The following accounts of military plane crashes gives testimony of the sacrifice made by our country's young men who served in our military during the Second World War. You did not have to face battle to give all. I honor them and hope this expresses the fact that our community will never forget their supreme sacrifice for "our freedom and security." God bless them and their families.
On March 31, 1942, the wreckage of a United States Army Airplane was found in the Marechal Ranch pasture, which was about 15 miles southeast of Bandera. Parts and pieces of the plane were "strewn over several yards of the ground," The body of the pilot was discovered that morning at about 8:30 am by Elmo Newcomer and Nick Marechal while riding the pasture checking on livestock. Sheriff W.H. Burns was summonsed and also called to the scene was a Lt. Shepard and a Captain Blair. Captain Blair, Operations Officer for Duncan Field (now Kelly Army Air Field, San Antonio, Texas), identified the pilot as 2nd Lt. A.C. Robert B. Brown, Jr., who was stationed at Duncan Field (his home address was Gambier, Ohio). "Evidently the deceased had tried to land his plane and had crashed it into the ground."
On July 9, 1942, Ensign Henry F. Herbert, was killed in an airplane crash. Major Paulson, A.M.C. (Army Medical Corps?), of Randolph Field (Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas) identified the airman. The air crash occurred on the ranch of Charles Schott near San Geronimo, on the edge of Bandera County.
On September 3, 1943, 2nd Lt. William M. Beckham, Master Sgt. O.L. Sparks, and Zenog Mooshian (Zinod Moosaian?) were killed in an airplane crash on the Charles Bryant Ranch about seven miles from Bandera. The plane crash was not found until September 6th and Captain Hurley (Kelly Field) and Captain E.B. Cafe (Kelly Field Hospital) identified the airmen.
On March 21, 1944, a large B-17 bomber on a routine flight from Pyote, Texas, crashed at 1:30 am on the August Flach Ranch in Kerr County near Privilege and Pipe Creek according to "The Bandera New Era" March 23, 1944 issue. "The Bandera New Era" further stated, " In the plane were 9 men, 5 of whom were killed, 3 critically hurt and 1 seriously injured." The men who lost their lives were pilot, 2nd Lt. William S. Nessline of Zanesville, Ohio; co-pilot, 2nd Lt. George D. Clark of Rossie Iowa; navigator, 2nd Lt. Lindsey L. Tillman of Clinton, Mo.; engineer, Sgt. Harold H. Hersh of Kansas City, Mo.; and gunner, Sgt. Frank J. Burrell of Medford, Mass.
Bombardier 2nd Lt. Alma D. Bullough of Salt Lake City, Utah; radio operator, Sgt. Mark Karas of Belmont, Penn.; and tail gunner, Sgt. George J. Lundie of Chicago, III were critically injured and taken to the Kelly Field station hospital. Aircraft gunner, Cpl. Robert E. Baird, was seriously injured in the crash.
On the same day, March 21, 1944, a plane crashed at the Hondo Airfield killing all five crewmembers.
On Friday, August 10, 1956 "The Bandera Bulletin" reported the details of tragic news of a fatal crash of Col. Jack Lapham’s plane, which took the life of four persons. The plane crash occurred on Thursday, August 2, 1956, in the Jureski pasture, just a half mile from the Flying L Guest Ranch. Quoting the "Bulletin" of those who were killed in the crash: "They were Col. John Henry (Jack) Lapham, 71, operator of the guest ranch (Flying L) and a director of the Texas Company and Frost National Bank; his granddaughter, Miss Joy Lapham, 19, daughter of, John H. Lapham Jr., of San Antonio; Tracy A. Rudd, 72 and Rudy Blanch, to whom Miss Lapham was to have married September 8."
"The Bandera Bulletin" also reported: "M.A. Chism, manager of the guest ranch, said the crash apparently occurred about 2:55 pm, 20 minutes after the plane, a four-place Tripacer, had left San Antonio International Airport with Colonel Lapham at the controls." After the plane failed to land and on the second attempt to local the missing plane, ranch airport manager, Jake Jacoby, located the crash site. "About 4:30 pm, Jacoby went up again and within half a minute spotted the plane wreckage, nose down, in a live oak and cedar thicket within a half mile of the Flying L runway." ''The plane was demolished,” Chism said, “and apparently plunged into the thicket at "full throttle"." ''The San Antonio Express," in an article by Bill Freeman, gave an extensive history of Col. Lapham’s adventures, experiences in life, and his love of flying.
I know I did not cover all of the airplane crashes in this area. It is because of my limited access to research material at this time, but I will continue to research and update the BCHC files as I do more research on this subject.