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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 98464
Last updated: 25 November 2021
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Date:13-JAN-1945
Time:17:45
Type:Silhouette image of generic B29 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Boeing B-29 Superfortress
Owner/operator:411th BSqn /502nd BGp USAAF
Registration: 42-63410
MSN:
Fatalities:Fatalities: 5 / Occupants: 10
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Caribbean Sea off Cap-Haitien -   Haiti
Phase: En route
Nature:Training
Departure airport:Borinquen airfield, Aguadilla Pueblo, Aguadilla, Puerto Rico
Destination airport:
Narrative:
Bell-Atlanta B-29-15-BA Superfortress 42-63410: Built under licence by Bell Aircraft Company, Marietta, Atlanta, Georgia. Delivered to the USAAF 3 August 1944. Assigned to 242nd (Operational Training Unit, Very Heavy), 17th Bombardment Training Wing, Grand Island AAF, Nebraska. Flown by a crew of the 411th Bomb Squadron, 502nd Bomb Group

A special project known as the "Gypsy Task Force" was inaugurated in December 1944 and affected the 315th Bomb Wingís future training operations. In the late fall of 1944, the Second Air Force was concerned about the dramatic decline in flying training time logged at the VHB bases in Nebraska and Kansas due to adverse weather. In response to this situation, Colonel William A. Miller, Commanding Officer of Grand Island AAF, proposed setting up training bases in the Caribbean area to train VHB flight crews. In December, Second Air Force permitted Col Miller to conduct a two week test of the idea at Borinquen Field, Puerto Rico, using the 6th Bomb Group (VH) as the test group. The 6th Bomb Group quickly proved the practicality of the operation by completing all training requirements ahead of schedule. Consequently, Second Air Force promptly approved Col Millerís plan and christened the new operation as the Gypsy Task Force. The plan called for the establishment of three bases at Antilles Air Command fields in the Caribbean: Vernam, Jamaica; Batista, Cuba; and Borinquen, Puerto Rico. These fields became the advanced flying training bases for all VHB units preparing to deploy overseas.

The 502nd Bomb Group was the first 315th unit to participate in the Gypsy Task Force. Since the 6th Bomb Group had completed all training ahead of schedule, the 502nd Bomb Group, collocated with the 6th at Grand Island, was sent to Borinquen Field and began flight operations on 22 December. Under Project Gypsy, all B-29 bomb groups were scheduled to train in the Caribbean in the early months of 1945 using the personnel rotation system established by Second Air Force.

The Gypsy Task Force was costly for the 502nd Bomb Group in January 1945 with four training accidents, two resulting in fatalities. In the first accident, on 13 January, the B-29 42-63410 assigned to the 411th Bomb Squadron ditched off Cap-Haitien, on the coast of Haiti due to an uncontrollable fire in the number two engine. The plane broke in half during the ditching, and only five men from Crew 1104 were rescued the following day. The other five crew members, Lt. Clifford Kamph, Lt. Steven Parella, Lt. Joe Morris, Lt. Norman J. Thompson and PFC John Henry, were never found (MACR 10856).

The following material is taken from official accident reports themselves and from analysis made by Captain Henry G. Dillingham, assistant Group Operations Officer at the time of writing. This analysis covers the four accidents which occurred in January. To stress the lessons learned from the accidents, it was mimeographed and distributed throughout the Group for the information and instruction of all concerned.

"On 13 January 1945, B-29 Aircraft #42-63410, flown by Crew #1104 of the 411th Bombardment Squadron (VH), took off from the Advanced Base, Borinquen airfield, Puerto Rico, on a routine training flight. 2nd Lt. Gordon P. Veium was the Aircraft Commander and 1st Lt. Clifford E. Kampeh was aboard as Instructor Pilot. Later they were directed by the tower to fly out along the bearing of a reported distress signal.

At about 1700, when they were off the coast of Haiti, scanners reported light smoke from the #2 engine. They were told by the instructor pilot, who was flying the ship from the co-pilots seat, to keep watching it. Thirty minutes later, the smoke from #2 turned black and flames started appearing. The #2 engine then burst into flames. The plane at this time was at about 1,500 feet and the instructor pilot told the crew in the front compartment to prepare for ditching. A call was given in the rear of the plane, but only two crew members were on interphone and heard the co-pilot who was flying in the pilots seat.

The instructor pilot landed the plane across the swell without flaps at about 130 to 140 miles per hour. The plane broke into two or more pieces and continued to burn after crashing.

The crash occured at 1745 and the wreckage was sighted by a C-47 but, on account of darkness, the survivors were not picked up until the next day. Fivemen were never picked up. The missing men are:

First Lieutenant Clifford E Kamph O-746363
Second Lieutenant Norman J. Thompson O-779014
Second Lieutenant Joe Morris O-743631
Second Lieutenant Steven Parella O-867578
Corporal John E. Henry 17125270

In its recommendations, the investigating board stated:
"The alarm bell could have been rung. Plane was going too fast when it struck the water, and no flaps were used. Crews should be better briefed in how to land in water and in proper ditching procedure. More escape hatches should be incorporated in rear of the aircraft in the radar room, if possible."

The 502d Group analysis further pointed out the following mistakes:

a. Poor crew coordination was demonstrated by not sounding the alarm bell immediately, announcing over the call position of the interphone that the plane was going to be ditched, and asking for an acknowledgement from each crew member.

b. No apparent effort was made before ditching to extinguish the fire by feathering the engine and using the fire extinguisher.

c. Poor pilot techniques was used when he tried to land across the swell instead of along the swell.

Sources:

1. http://www.315bw.org/
2. http://www.315bw.org/502bg_01_45.html
3. http://www.315bw.org/memoriam.htm (with wrong date)
4. http://www.aviationarchaeology.com/src/AARmonthly/Jan1945O.htm
5. http://www.usaafdata.com/search .
6. http://www.aviationarchaeology.com/src/dbmsn.asp?SN=42-63410&Submit6=Go
7. https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cap-Ha%C3%AFtien
8. http://www.maplandia.com/haiti/cap-haitien/
9. http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_serials/1942_3a.html


Related books:

Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
14-Jan-2016 08:51 Laurent Rizzotti Updated [Time, Operator, Total fatalities, Total occupants, Location, Phase, Nature, Departure airport, Source, Narrative]
30-Jun-2017 20:45 Dr. John Smith Updated [Operator, Other fatalities, Location, Departure airport, Source, Narrative]
30-Jun-2017 20:47 Dr. John Smith Updated [Location, Source, Narrative]
22-Mar-2020 19:14 DG333 Updated [Operator, Operator]

Corrections or additions? ... Edit this accident description