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» Missing Air Crew Project Forum » Pat's Missing Air Crew Project Blog » B-24 Liberator that crashed into Lake Pepin on the Minnesota & Wisconsin border

   
Author Topic: B-24 Liberator that crashed into Lake Pepin on the Minnesota & Wisconsin border
Patrick Ranfranz
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B-24 Liberator that crashed into Lake Pepin on the Minnesota & Wisconsin border

I heard a rumor last year that a B-24 crashed in Lake Pepin on the Minnesota & Wisconsin border in 1944. I figured I should checkout a crash site 40 miles from my home considering I have been traveling halfway around the world to look for my uncle’s plane (and others) on Yap. After sending a few emails I was put in touch with someone who located and sent me the newspaper article about the crash in December 1944. I received additional information that the crew of three and part of the plane was recovered from the crash site the following spring (April 45) but I have not been able to confirm this information. I plan to request the AAF accident reports to confirm additional details. In addition, the source that sent me the newspaper article also has pictures of the hole in the ice where the plane crash and the barge that was used to recover a piece of the plane the next spring. My wife and I flew over the crash site on Sunday in our little Cessna 152. The water depth is only 20-30 feet deep. To prepare for our return trip in September to search for my uncle’s plane off of Yap we plan to dive the Lake Pepin crash site with equipment including underwater metal detectors. I’ll post a copy of the newspaper article, the pictures, and the accident reports to this page when they arrive.

Although I don’t have time, I can’t resist another interesting aviation-history project!

-Pat

Posts: 706 | From: Cameron, Wisconsin | Registered: Dec 2004  |  Logged: 24.245.16.11
Patrick Ranfranz
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I received a copy of a newspaper article from Lake City, Minnesota about the 15 December 1944 B-24 crash on Lake Pepin. The crash site is close to the Wisconsin city of Pepin. THe article can be viewed in a PDF file format at the following link:

http://www.missingaircrew.com/pdf/15Dec44.pdf

The file is 2.5 MBs. Right mouse click on the link and SAVE TARGET AS to your desktop to download the file.

Posts: 706 | From: Cameron, Wisconsin | Registered: Dec 2004  |  Logged: 63.231.183.145
<Craig Fuller>
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Pat,

In addition to checking the newspaper around April 45 to see if there were any recovery methods you should obtain the death certificates as they should indicate if and when the bodies were recovered. AZ has death certificates conveniently on-line, but I do not know about MN or WI. The accident report will be mailed out in the next day or two.
-Craig Fuller
AAIR Aviation Archaeological Investigation & Research
web page

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<ecnewcomb>
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My father was a commercial fisherman from Pepin and often told the story of the bomber going down on the Lake. It happened on the day my grandfather died. My dad said they were just leaving the house east of Pepin to get the undertaker. Dad said it was snowing really hard and they heard the plane go right over the house headed south west toward the lake. Later that day they heard that a plane had crashed on the lake. There was only a thin layer of ice one the lake, but everyone felt that the pilots thought that they were setting down on a field not the lake. Dad and some of the other fishermen took a runner boat out to the crash site which was about 3/4 of a mile off the Pepin pier but there was nothing showing. The Army tried to get the three bodies out but were unsuccessful due to ice on the lake. One of the pilots' father was an oil man from Texas, and he tried to mount a recovery effort but was stopped by the Army. Dad said in the spring when the ice went out, the Army brought in a barge with a clam type dredge on it. He worked to ferry the personnel out to the crash side with his fishing boat. He said they brought up the bodies of the three airmen. The remains of the plane were loaded on the barge, and taken to the lower end of the lake which is the deepest spot (60+feet) and dumped. Dad tried to keep one of the starter engines from the plane but the Army found out and confiscated it from him, and threw it in the lake also. Over the years, fishermen have brought up misc. pieces of the aircraft. One of the props was in a private museum in Wabasha Mn for years.
Hope this helps.
Ed Newcomb
newcomb@reb-inc.com

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Patrick Ranfranz
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Thank you Ed for the information above. This is very heloful to out the story together. I received the Army Air Force accident report today from Craig with AAIR. I will scan and post the report within the next few days. The report lists the cause of the accident as pilot error. The pilot and co-pilot only had 15-20 hours of B-24 flying time and did not file the correct reports before taking off from St. Paul, MN for New York. In addition, Bob Parrott from Lake City, Minnesota is sending me pictures of the crash site that were taken the day after the crash by a local pilot in his Piper Cub.

The story is starting to come together...

-Pat

Posts: 706 | From: Cameron, Wisconsin | Registered: Dec 2004  |  Logged: 63.231.183.145
Patrick Ranfranz
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I have scanned and posted the Army Air Forces accident report for the Lake Pepin crash on December 14, 1944. The file has been posted in a PDF file format at the following link. Please note the large file size of 22 MBs. A high speed connection is recommended to download the file:

http://www.missingaircrew.com/pdf/15dec44.pdf
22 MB file

I would like to thank Craig at AAIR Aviation Archaeological Investigation & Research for supplying the report. His web site is located at: http://www.aviationarchaeology.com/.

-Pat

Posts: 706 | From: Cameron, Wisconsin | Registered: Dec 2004  |  Logged: 24.245.16.11
Patrick Ranfranz
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I received the following pictures of the B-24 that crashed into Lake Pepin in December 1944. The first picture is of the barge that recovered the plane and the bodies in April 1945. the second picture is of the actual crash site in the ice. The picture was taken the day after the crash and clearly shows the point of impact in the ice. We plan to dive the crash site location and the location in the lake that the wreckage was dumped off the barge. We will make the first attempt to locate the wreckage in early June using an underwater metal detector.






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Posts: 706 | From: Cameron, Wisconsin | Registered: Dec 2004  |  Logged: 63.231.183.145
ecnewcomb
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Pat,
Glad to be of help. You had some great pictures, unfortunately the one of the crash site doesn't show enough shore line to be able to locate it better. The one of the barge looks like it was taken from the Wisconsin side but am not able to identify the houses.
If I can be of help in your search, please let me know. I have a summer house just below (east) of Pepin, on the lake if you need a base of operations. We have a house boat and duckboat available for your use on weekends.
I can give you a pretty good idea on the dump site location, if you want help. My phone number is 715-235-1117 or weekends at Pepin 715-442-4663.
Ed

Posts: 3 | Registered: May 2006  |  Logged: 216.222.165.186
ecnewcomb
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Pat,
For what it is worth.......
I took another look at the crash site photo. Really hard to guage the scale of the photo, plus there was a whole lot less vegitation on the shoreline back in the forties.
If the light area in the upper right shore line is the railroad embankment along the lake, then the break in the shore line vegitation might be the mouth of Deer Lake which is about 2 miles above Pepin. If this is the case then the Pepin pier would be located directly off the right corner of the photo.
Ed

Posts: 3 | Registered: May 2006  |  Logged: 216.222.165.186
ecnewcomb
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Correction: The pier would be diagonally off the right side of the photo.
This would put the photo plane directly in front of the village of Pepin and the orientation of the photo would be looking pretty much north.
If this is the case the crash site would be above the pier at Pepin and probably 1/4 to 1/3 of the way across the lake from the Wisconsin side.

Posts: 3 | Registered: May 2006  |  Logged: 216.222.165.186
Patrick Ranfranz
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Hi Ed;

Thank you for your help to locate information about the B-24 in Lake Pepin. I will give you a call within the next two weeks to discuss the location of the dump site and the crash site. Are both sites in areas with a strong currents? Do you have an anchor line that could be dropped to anchor the boat while we dive the sites? With strong currents it’s very helpful to have an anchor line to follow down and back up. I’m looking forward to diving the site within the next month. We have been diving local lakes with limited visibility over the last few weeks therefore, we’ll be prepared for the low visibility within Pepin.

Thanks,

-Pat

Posts: 706 | From: Cameron, Wisconsin | Registered: Dec 2004  |  Logged: 63.231.183.145
Patrick Ranfranz
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Diving and locating the B-24 in Lake Pepin will provide us with a lot of experience for our upcoming search in Yap. Also, it will be interesting to view the Lake Pepin B-24 wreckage under water to see if we can identify parts of the plane. The bottom line is that I have been traveling around the world to search for my uncle’s B-24’s in Yap and here I have a B-24 in a lake 50 miles from my house. It’s been fun to document the rumor I heard about a B-24 in Lake Pepin and proof the plane did crash into the lake, who flew the plane, view pictures of the plane, and find out the location of the wreckage.

-Pat

Posts: 706 | From: Cameron, Wisconsin | Registered: Dec 2004  |  Logged: 63.231.183.145
   

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