Fort Fairfield, ME – September 22, 1942

Fort Fairfield, Maine – September 22, 1942

B-25C Twin-Engine Bomber - U.S. Air Force Photo

B-25C Twin-Engine Bomber – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On September 22, 1942, A flight of eight B-25 bomber aircraft were enroute to Gander, Newfoundland, when they stopped at Presque Isle Airfield to refuel.  After refueling, the aircraft assembled for take off to resume the flight.  While refueling, the weather had deteriorated and the aircraft would now be flying on IFR rules.  One of the B-25s, (Ser. No. 41-13098), piloted by 1st Lt. Ralph L. Drogula, was the second of the eight aircraft to take off.  Seven miles northeast of the airfield the left wing suddenly collapsed and the plane went down in the neighboring town of Fort Fairfield, off Fort Fairfield, Road.  All seven crewmen aboard were killed.  

     Civilian witnesses stated they saw the aircraft burst into flames while still in the air. 

      The dead were identified as:

     (Pilot) 1st Lt. Ralph L. Drogula, 26.  He’s buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  Newspaper accounts list Lt. Drogula as a Second Lieutenant, but an internet photo of his grave indicates he was a First Lieutenant.  https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/49175499/ralph-lee-drogula

     (C0-pilot) 2nd Lt. James O. Crokcer 

     S/Sgt. William H. Finch, 35. Buried in Fairview Cemetery, Fairview, Michigan. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/118827837/william-h-finch

     S/Sgt. Billy John Hill, 22. Buried in Nocona Cemetery, Nocona, Texas. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/63223944/billy-john-hill

     S/Sgt. George E. Simmons, 22.  Buried in St. Catherine’s Cemetery, Du Bois, Penn. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/58284089/george-edgar-simmons

     S/Sgt. Lawrence A. Robinson, 26.  Buried in Pine grove cemetery, Marlborough, N.H. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/22359063/lawrence-alfred-robinson

     S/Sgt. Joseph Martino https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/149734573/joseph-martino

     There was another B-25C that left Presque Isle earlier in the day which crashed in the town of Perham, Maine, just a few miles north-west of Fort Fairfield.  (The tail number of that plane was 41-13049.)   In that crash, the tail section was reportedly found 1/4 mile from the wreck site possibly indicating a structural failure.  (See Perham. ME – September 22, 1942 under Maine Aviation Accidents on this website for more information.)  

      Both aircraft were part of the 379th Bomb Squadron, 310th Bomb Group, then based in Greenville, South Carolina.    

     Sources:

     New York Times, “14 Army Men Lost In Two Maine Crashes”

     57th Bomb Wing Association http://57thbombwing.com/379thSquadronHistory.php

     www.findagrave.com

 

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