Report of Major Accident – F/O Claiborne J. Wilson

Junior Wilson’s last furlough home, right after receiving his pilot’s wings. March 1945, Perry, Iowa. His folks had just received a telegram that his brother Dan Wilson was MIA in Austria. Another brother, Dale, had been missing in New Guinea since November 1943.

In late 1989, I asked for the Junior Wilson’s August 1945 accident report. The Headquarters Air Force Inspection and Safety Center, Norton Air Force Base, CA, sent five pages of “releasable portions” and photocopies of nine photos. Reports of mishaps more than ten years old are stored on microfilm,  they noted, “which does not lend itself to quality reproduction,” so most of the photos are too murky to make out anything.

ARMY AIR FORCES REPORT OF MAJOR ACCIDENT

“On 9 August 1945, F/O Claiborne J. Wilson was pilot of TP-40N-5CU aircraft AFF 42-105364, when the aircraft crashed and burned thirty (30) miles northwest of Aloe Army Air Field, Victoria, Texas. F/O Wilson was a member of a four (4) ship formation, which took off from Fannin Auxiliary Field individually and assembled over the field at 3,000 feet. F/O Wilson was flying number four (4) position. [words blacked out] F/O Wilson was rather slow in joining the formation, but {word blackened] he reported no difficulty whatsoever over the radio. The formation climbed to 10,000 feet and made a series of ninety (90) and 180 degree turns. As the formation completed one (1) 180 degree turn, the officer flying number three (3) position noticed that F/O Wilson was not on his wing. At about the same time the instructor noticed his absence also. The instructor immediately called number three (3) man and asked him where F/O Wilson was. The officer in number three (3) position then looked around and states that he saw a P-40 aircraft off to his left and approximately 4,000 feet below the formation in what seemed to be a normal glide. This aircraft was the one piloted by F/O Wilson, who had said nothing over the radio that might indicate that he had engine trouble. The officer flying number three (3) position further states that there was no smoke coming from the aircraft, nor was there fire visible. The instructor leading the formation immediately began calling F/O Wilson, but received no reply. The instructor then dismissed the formation and went down to look for the aircraft piloted by F/O Wilson. At the time of this occurrence, the formation was flying above scattered clouds, and the aircraft piloted by F/O Wilson had disappeared below the clouds. The instructor then went below the clouds and circled and finally located Wilson’s aircraft, which had crashed and was burning approximately seven (7) miles south of Nordheim, Texas.

“Investigation revealed that the aircraft was [words blackened] flying at a low altitude and was smoking and on fire. The aircraft continued toward the ground out of control, almost struck some haystacks, pulled back up, and crashed. Before the airplane crashed, [blackened] two (2) black objects came out of the aircraft which they were unable to identify and which could possibly have been the pilot and his parachute. Pieces of the aircraft were strewn along a path approximately three (3) miles long, indicating that the aircraft exploded before hitting the ground and after striking the ground, exploded again. Examination of the engine revealed that a connecting rod was thrown from the number four (4) cylinder. 

“[Four lines blackened] when the aircraft reached a low altitude, it caught fire and exploded. Examination of the parachute worn by the pilot revealed the fact that every shroud line had been torn from the canopy; [words blackened] the pilot did not attempt to bail out, but was thrown clear of the aircraft when it exploded. The body of the pilot was found one-half (½) mile from the spot where the aircraft crashed. [Three lines blackened, as well as the next word] and whatever was listed in ‘Action Taken’.”

An official photo of the wrecked P-40


I shared the document with my mother, Junior’s older sister, but I didn’t show her any of the photos. Doris had nightmares after the war, crying out for Junior to jump sooner. Photos of her brothers were displayed on bookshelves at home, but when she’d sink into depression because of those reminders, she’d put them in a drawer.

19 comments

    • Thank you for your note. Next year’s book will include the information I discovered about what happened to the three brothers who were lost during the war. His two brothers were both killed in action. One wasn’t located until several months after the war was over, and one has never been found.

  1. Just makes me tear up whenever I read anything about it. He looks so handsome standing there, and it’s hard to tell that he has the weight of the world on his shoulders.

  2. These stories are heartbreaking, but they need to be told. Thank you for sharing all of this with us. Without you, the stories would not be brought to light. God bless you!

  3. Your closing lines reveal yet another effect of the “unintended consequences” of warfare–the collateral damage it does to surviving family members. And don’t you just love redactions in such important documents?!

    • Thank you, Dennis. I’m just now starting to explore how the family was affected, even thought they didn’t talk about the war all those decades. Yes, why redact things this much later!

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