Aircraft Collision 1945 George Field
(Permission granted to publish by K Edmondson who was in contact with Doug Woodbury’s nephew.)
Douglas C. Woodbury was California-cool, personified. He was movie- star- handsome with thick brown hair and moved with the confidence, precision and grace of the tennis champion that he was. Doug married Sarah Eleanor Ingram in September of 1942, a Beverly Hills girl who was “Pi Beta Phi” at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The following spring, Doug left USC and their tennis program behind to join the USAAF.
At George Field, Doug and Eleanor were living off- base in a comfortable home with an older couple, and Eleanor was a few months pregnant. Their son would be born the following July of 1945. Doug was one month shy of his 23rd birthday on the day of the accident. The Co-Pilot was Lt. Robert Wayne Stroh, age 23, from Bloomington, Indiana, living off base in Lawrenceville, with his wife and five-month-old son.
The following is derived from the official USAFF Accident Investigation Report of the 4 Mar 1945 Crash
HEADQUARTERS ARMY AIR FORCES, OFFICE OF FLYING SAFETY, SAFETY REGION SEVEN, Kansas City 17, Kansas; REGIONAL SAFETY OFFICER’S ACCIDENT REPORT
1. DATE OF ACCIDENT: 3/4/45 Time: 20:08 Central
2. LOCATION OF ACCIDENT: 3 miles west of George AAF
3. AIRCRAF: TYPE AND MODEL: C47A, ACSN:43-16144 (91) 42-24108 (24)
4. HOME STATION: George AAF, ORGANIZATION: 805th AAF Base Unit
5. RESUTS TO AIRCRAFT: 24-108- complete wreck, 16-114-major damage
6. PILOT: Name: Walti, Hugh F., 2nd Lt., 0-512622, George AAF (16-144)
7. PILOT: Name: Woodbury, Douglas C., 2nd Lt., 0-782671, George AAF (24-108)
8. RESULTS TO CREW AND PASSENGERS: 16-114: 1 Major, 1 Minor. 24-108: 2 Fatal.
On the night of 4 March 1945, at approximately 1925 central time, C-47A, ACSN 43-16144 (Field No. 91) took off from George AAF to accomplish a double glider tow mission (night) as prescribed by Troop Carrier Command training directive. The aircraft was piloted by Lt. Walti with Lt. Donald B. McCoy, instructor pilot, acting as Co-Pilot. Also aboard were a radio operator, an engineer and another trainee pilot.
About 1930 central time, C-47A, ACSN 42-24101 (Field No. 24) took off to perform a night optional training flight. This aircraft was piloted by Lt. Woodbury with Lt. Robert W. Stroh as Co-Pilot. Only the pilot and co-pilot were aboard this aircraft.
It had been pre-arranged that these two aircraft were to fly in the local area for a short time and then land and trade planes in order that the crew of No. 24 could also participate in the double glider tow mission.
No. 91 towed its glider around the town of Vincennes, Illinois, and then returned to George Field where the gliders were cut loose. No. 91 then climbed to traffic altitude, entered traffic and prepared to land. When on the final approach leg, No. 91 was advised to pull up and go around because of other aircraft taking off. The Instructor Pilot told the student, Lt. Walti, to return to the local flying area and fly for a few minutes while awaiting clearance for re-approach. This was done and the aircraft was climbed to an altitude of about 2,400 feet.
When No. 91 was approximately four miles west of George Field, another aircraft was sighted about 2-3 miles to the left. Both pilots flashed their landing lights and each slightly alter course to the right.
About half a minute after No. 91 had resumed straight flight, a green appeared off the left front about ten o’clock position and very close. The pilot of No. 91, Lt. Walti, immediately started a turn to the right. However, this action was taken too late and the ships collided. No. 91 was still able to fly and was flown back to George Field where a successful one-wheel landing was made.
The other aircraft, which was later identified as No. 24, nosed down steeply immediately after collision and crashed near Highway No. 1 about 3 miles north of Lawrenceville, Illinois and 3 miles west of George Army Air Field. Fuel tanks exploded upon impact and the aircraft was almost completely destroyed by fire.
a. Weather is not believed to have been a contributing factor. Weather was “clear, visibility 6 miles, light smoke, temperature 53.
b. No evidence of any failure of the aircraft structure, power plant or components.
c. Both aircraft were properly cleared to fly in the George Field local area.
d. Weight and Balance practices were not violated. Both aircraft were lightly loaded.
e. Radio contact was maintained by both No. 24 and No. 9 with George Field tower until two or three minutes before the collision. The two aircraft were also in radio contact with each other immediately prior to the collision. No indication of any malfunction was voiced by the pilot of No. 24 at this time. (See Testimony of Lt. McCoy)
f. Questioning of the crew of No. 91 indicates that No. 24 approached then from the front at an angle of about 45 degrees in a descending turn to the right. No. 24 had been cleared by the tower to enter traffic for landing and it believed that was pilot was letting down to traffic altitude in a diving turn. It is believed that the collision occurred at this time and that No. 24 came in from the front and above No. 91 at an angle which allowed the right wing of No. 24 to be sheared off by the left engine and propeller of No. 91. The tail section of No. 24 struck the forward section of No. 91 at the escape door. Part of the vertical stabilizer and pieces of the rudder from No. 24 were found in the radio room of No. 91. A counterweight from the empennage was also thrown into the radio room where it struck and injured the radioman.
g. It is believed that the aircraft observed by the crew of No. 91, and with which signals were exchanged, was No. 24. The strange aircraft acknowledged the landing light signal from No. 91 and altered his course.
h. The Pilot of No. 24, Lt. Woodbury, had previously been reprimanded by his instructor for making too steep turns at night. In spite of this reprimand and a subsequent report, it appears that Lt. Woodbury was repeating this type of maneuver at the time of the collision.
i. The collision caused the radio equipment and the hydraulic system of No. 91 to become inoperative. Lt. McCoy, the instructor pilot took over the ship. Several attempts were made to lower the wheels through use of the emergency hydraulic system. After these attempts failed, the pilot managed to shake down the left gear while the right gear remained retracted. The left gear was unlocked in the hope that it would again retract upon impact. That wheel, however, remained extended and the landing on one wheel was made with no further injury to the occupants of the aircraft.
j. There was no evidence of any fire in the air aboard either aircraft.
k. The right wing of No. 24 was shredded by the left propeller of No. 91 and bits of this wing were scattered over a wide area.