Cumberland Times-News

Local News

December 2, 2013

Looking Back: Crewless bomber flies over Allegany County

The 1,200-horsepower engines of the B-17 roared as it flew over Cumberland and then Ridgeley on the evening of Nov. 21, 1943, but no one was on board the 27-ton bomber. The plane, which had flown 80 miles on its own, was losing altitude. It barely cleared slamming into Dan’s Mountain and around 7 p.m. it crashed near Midland.

“The bomber’s crew of five men bailed out when engine trouble developed over the Alleghenies near Cherry Tree, Pa., eighty miles away, and all landed safely at least ten minutes before the craft, guided by its automatic pilot, finally pancaked on the knoll, two miles from Midland,” the Cumberland Evening Times reported.

The B-17 was developed by Boeing in the 1930s and called the Flying Fortress. The planes were more than 74 feet long and had a wingspan of nearly 104 feet. They played a prominent role in the bombing of Germany during World War II.

The flight had been a routine trip to an air base in Dayton, Ohio, when the No. 4 engine developed problems. According to a 1999 article in The Glades Star, the pilot, Lt. Donald Crist, had the bomber flying in a large circular pattern at 7,000 feet for half an hour while he tried to restart the engine. Not only were his efforts unsuccessful, but ice started forming on the wings.

According to The Glades Star, Crist ordered the three enlisted men to bail out. He set the auto-pilot and then he and his co-pilot parachuted out of the plane at 1,200 feet.

“The three enlisted men landed in a large field within walking distance of one another. The two officers who bailed out a minute or so later landed in a wooded area and their parachutes got caught in tree limbs,” according to The Glades Star.

With the auto-pilot set, the plane flew another 80 miles before crashing into a mountain on Squirrel Hollow Road about two miles from Midland just over the Garrett County line.

“The wings were sheared off by the terrific impact, and the motors were dislodged from the fuselage, but only the tail section was damaged by fire,” the Cumberland Evening Times reported.

The Midland Volunteer Fire Department was quickly dispatched to put out any fires. Troopers Joseph White and Ira Unger soon followed. They notified a local army recruiter, Tech. Sgt. Clarence Biehn, who notified the Army Air Force before heading out to the site.

By morning, internal security men from the Middletown, Pa., air base had the area cordoned off as they tried to salvage the wreck. Crist also showed up with one of his crewmen to search the wreckage for any personal effects.

Arthur Rees of Grantsville was a young boy at the time of the crash. He was interviewed for The Glades Star article and said that he and his friends tried to hike out to the crash site. “However, all we really got to see was where the tops of the trees had been broken off as it flew into the hillside. That was as close as we could get because there were guards there and no one was allowed to get any nearer.”

He said that some people must have gotten in before the area was closed off and taken cockpit instruments as souvenirs. Authorities spent the next week asking people if they had the instruments or knew someone who did to turn them in.

While many people remember the B-52 bomber that crashed in Garrett County in 1964, this bomber crash has been largely forgotten.

Text Only
Local News
  • Overturned tanker upsets Oakland Overturned tanker upsets Oakland

    OAKLAND — Two large commercial wreckers were being used at mid-afternoon Wednesday to upright a tanker full of liquid propane that overturned several hours earlier in downtown Oakland and forced evacuation of the business district.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Park Service opens Canal Classrooms Park Service opens Canal Classrooms

    CUMBERLAND – The National Park Service held a ribbon-cutting event Wednesday for a new program called Canal Classrooms, which will offer students pre-K through fifth grade accredited classwork on the Canal Place grounds.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • CODY EVERSOLE Eversole named 2014 Kelley Award winner

    KEYSER, W.Va. — Keyser High School senior Cody Eversole was named this year’s J. Edward Kelley Award winner during a ceremony Wednesday morning at Potomac State College.
    The award is presented to an outstanding male student-athlete in each year’s senior class.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • South Cumberland home rebuilt after fire South Cumberland home rebuilt after fire

    CUMBERLAND — A South Cumberland home destroyed by fire last July was given a second chance recently after the owner decided he wanted to remain a part of the neighborhood and had his house rebuilt.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mineral BOE gives $18K to library

    KEYSER, W.Va. — The Mineral County Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to give the Keyser-Mineral County Public Library $18,000 for fiscal 2015 and to give the Piedmont library an additional $1,000 out of carryover funds.

    April 16, 2014

  • The Eichhorn family Local family says hosting New York City children in summer is ‘wonderful experience’

    CUMBERLAND — Sonya and Christopher Morgan of Cumberland always planned on a hosting a child through The Fresh Air Fund Volunteer Host Family Program. “Christopher always said once we had kids of our own we were going to do it. When our son turned 6 we said, ‘OK, let’s do it,’” said Sonya.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • City, county officials to talk baseball at work session

    CUMBERLAND — During today’s Allegany County Commission work session, a proposal to study the possibility of bringing a professional-level baseball team to the area will be vetted again, this time with participants from the city of Cumberland.

    April 16, 2014

  • Report: High-quality child care lacking in West Virginia

    CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Child care programs of minimum or unrated quality are watching over about 93 percent of West Virginia children enrolled in them, a report released Wednesday said.

    April 16, 2014

  • JIM HINEBAUGH Hinebaugh seeks Garrett County commissioner post

    Jim Hinebaugh recently announced his candidacy for Garrett County commissioner. A Garrett County native and lifelong Republican, Hinebaugh graduated from Southern High School and attended Frostburg State University before entering the U.S. Army via the draft. After serving as an enlisted member, Hinebaugh completed Officer Candidate School and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He retired as a colonel/06 in 1995 with almost 29 years of service including eight years overseas.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • In Brief - 04/17

    April 16, 2014

Must Read
News related video
Boston Bombing Survivors One Year Later Sister of Slain MIT Officer Reflects on Bombing Raw: Blast at Tennessee Ammunition Plant Kills 1 Raw: Urinator Causes Portland to Flush Reservoir Hoax Bomb Raises Anxiety in Boston New York Auto Show Highlights Latest in Car Tech Ex-California City Leader Gets 12 Year Sentence Obama, Biden Announce $600M for Job Grants Miley Cyrus Still in Hospital, Cancels 2nd Show New York Auto Show Highlights Latest in Car Tech Disbanding Muslim Surveillance Draws Praise Passengers Abuzz After Plane Hits Swarm of Bees Boston Bomb Scare Defendant Appears in Court Boston Officials: No Bags at Marathon Town, Victims Remember Texas Blast Freeze Leaves Florida Panhandle With Dead Trees At Boston Marathon, a Chance to Finally Finish Are School Dress Codes Too Strict? Suspicious Bags Found Near Marathon Finish Line Boston Marks the 1st Anniversary of Bombing