B-29 Superfortress 44-62276 Lochgoilhead
On the morning of January 17, 1949, Boeing B-29 Superfortress 44-62276 of the 301st Bomb Group, 15th US Air Group, took off from RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, England, on a return trip to her airfield at Smoky Hill Air Force Base (AFB), Salinas, Kansas, with twenty passengers and crew on board, accompanied by a similar aircraft. The crew were reported to be on leave, having previously been involved in the Berlin Airlift, dropping supplies into the city which had bee blockaded by Soviet forces.
The planned route was overland via Scotland, then on to Keflavik, Iceland, where they would stop to refuel and take on supplies. The weather was variable, and as the two aircraft reached Strathclyde, falling temperatures and cloud began to cause icing of their wings and control surfaces. The pilot of the second B-29, Captain Donald E Riggs, decided conditions had become too severe to continue, and turned back for Scampton. Unfortunately, there is no record of the circumstances surrounding the first aircraft, piloted by 1/Lt Sheldon C Craigmyle. At 09:50, the B-29 crashed into the side of Stob na Boine Druim-fhinn, a hill in Succoth Glen, near Lochgoilhead, Argyll, spreading wreckage in the valley between Stob na Boine and Beinn Tharsuinn. All twenty passengers and crew perished, with the aircraft being consumed by the resultant fire.
The subsequent inquiry was unable to determine the exact cause of the accident, but the adverse weather and heavy icing were deemed to be contributory factors.
Crew and passengers lost with B-29 44-62276
- Pilot 1/Lt Sheldon C Craigmyle
- Co-pilot 1/Lt Myrton P Barry
- Navigator 1/Lt Richard D Klingenberg
- Bombardier 1/Lt Robert A Fritsche
- T/Sgt Delbert E Cole
- M/Sgt Wayne W Baker
- T/Sgt John B Lapicca
- S/Sgt Malcolm W Bovard
- Sgt Anthony V Chrisides
- Sgt Rufus W Mangum
- PFC Jack L Heacock
- M/Sgt Henry P Prestoch
- T/Sgt Frank M Dobbs Jr
- Sgt Cecil G Jones
- Sgt Charles W Hess
- PFC Robert Brown Jr
- T/Sgt Rufus G Taylor
- Sgt Paul W Knight
- PFC Frederick N Cook
- PFC Bruce J Krumhols
Daily Mail diamond story 2004
On April 3, 2004, the Daily Mail ran a feature on the crash, writing that the aircraft carried a cargo of diamonds worth some £250,000 at the time of writing. Nothing has ever been found of the haul its story referred to.
The story about the diamonds originated with Erwin Eckhert, another airman. Documents from the National Archives are said to detail a thriving black market trade in items across the Atlantic from Germany, sufficient to warrant the attention of MI5 to try and halt the trafficking. Eckhert claimed that airmen stationed in Berlin were able to take advantage of their position, and move jewellery and works of art, and named B-29 pilot Craigmyle, claiming he was the "undisputed king" of such contraband, and had been buying diamonds in countries such as Germany and the Netherlands with the intention of starting a jewellery business after the war ended. He alleges that Craigmyle had an Alka Seltzer bottle in which he had packed diamonds worth some $50,000.
The story continues with the claim that there was a twenty-first body found on the site three months later, buried on the site.
While the local Kinloss Mountain Rescue team was in attendance at the scene, the paper relates the arrival of an American padre who proceeded to recover and burn documentation from the bodies. When challenged by the team, worried that evidence may be lost, he is said to have used his rank, US Air Force Major, to dismiss them and state that what was happening was none of their business.
The Daily Mail story carries on to report the appearance of a number of valuables from the site, including gold rings - one with a double-headed eagle and inscribed 7/32 - which they attribute to the owner having attained the second highest rank in international freemasonry, the 32-degree "Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret". Eckhert is quoted again, unable to identify who might have been a mason, but revealing that he and a number of others were, and that less than 200 might have held that rank at the time.
All good stuff to sell papers, but perhaps lacking in the credibility and evidence department, and rather difficult to verify.
It would be interesting to know if the families of any of the personnel identified by the Daily Mail ever passed any opinion.
Nazi scientist conspiracy
The book Whensoever - 50 years of the RAF Mountain Rescue Service 1943 - 1993, has a chapter on the rescue mission, and is said to report 21 persons on board (one more than the memorial honours), referring to suspicions that those on board included former Nazi scientists on their way to the US to work on American nuclear weapon and rocket programmes, and that large amounts of cash were found within the wreckage. Card goes on to recount several suspicious curiosities.
As with the Daily Mail story, this account is safe from any need to prove its veracity, since "Details remain secret".
- B-29 44-62276 Lochgoilhead, photographs. January 17, 1949
- 20 died in 1949 air tragedy Retrieved April 14, 2011.
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