Gridley, CA Air Force Bomber Crash, Jan 1953



Gridley, Butte Co. -- The bodies of 12 air force fliers, wrapped in red and white parachute shrouds, are being removed today from the mud coated wreckage of a B50 bomber which crashed in a Colusa County rice field 12 miles west of here yesterday, killing all aboard.
More than a score of rescue workers started into the quagmire field at 7:30 A.M. to extricate the rest of the bodies buried beneath the flattened mass of the Castle Air Force Base plane. Four of the bodies were removed at midnight last night.
The four motor plane went into a flat spin and pancaked to earth yesterday at 1:50 PM, just three and one half hours after it had taken off from Castle AFB at Merced on a routine training flight. There was no explosion and the plane did not burn.
The public information office at Castle AFB identified the four bodies recovered and released the names of the eight others believed to be in the wreckage.
Bodies recovered and identified:
Master Sergeant WALLACE N. SCHWARTZ, 28, Maywood, Ill.
Technical Sergeant CURTIS F. DUFFY, 27, Opelike, Ala., husband of Ruth A. Duffy, Atwater.
Technical Sergeant BOBBY G. THEURET, 29, son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry D. Theuret, Costa Mesa, and husband of Barbara L. Theuret, Atwater.
Master Sergeant WILLIAM H. CLARK, 32, Alamogordo, NM, husband of Audrey W. Clark, Merced.
Missing and presumed dead:
Airman First Class CHARLES W. HESSE, 21, Sauk Centre, Minn.
Lieutenant Colonel GERALD W. FALLON, 34, Bayside, LI, NY, husband of Elaine K. Fallon, Merced, commander of the craft.
Major WILLIAM P. McMILLAN, 37, Yonkers, NY, husband of Greta A. McMillan, Atwater.
Master Sergeant JOE L. BRADSHAW, 37, Coppell, Tex., husband of Jessamine Bradshaw, Atwater.
Major WILLIAM B. CRUTCHFIELD, 27, Memphis, Enn., husband of Della Ann Crutchfield, Atwater.
Captain EDWARD Y. WILLIAMS, 33, Spokane, Wash.
First Lieutenant GEORGE D. GRIFFITTS, 24, Hico, Tex.
An investigation into the cause of the crash was started last night at the scene under the direction of Major Herbert D. Boone, flying safety officer of Castle AFB.
Officers said, since the plane was not in radio contact with any air field prior to the crash, it can only be presumed the tragedy was caused by mechanical trouble.
It is the tenth military air disaster in the Pacific Coast area in two months and brings the accumulated death toll to 288 for that period.
Colonel Frank L. O'Brien, deputy wing commander of the 93rd Bomb Wing at Castle AFB, of which the ill fated plane was a part, arrived at the scene last night with a large party of officers, airmen and equipment.
The four bodies removed last night were taken in air force ambulances to Hutchison's Chapel in Marysville, Yuba County. They were removed from the muddy field on a flat bed wagon towed by a tractor, the only vehicle able to get near the scene.
Lieutenant Colonel John J. Trauernicht, the commanding officer of Beale Air Force Base at Marysville, who took charge at the wreck scene shortly after the crash said the plane apparently developed trouble at about 2,500 feet and went into a flat spin before it crashed on the 15,000 acre Terhel Ranch.
Sheriff Max J. Mayfield of Colusa County arrived within 20 minutes after the crash and posted a four man guard around the demolished plane.
Mayfield, who was in his office in Colusa when the call came in, was flown to the ranch in a small private plane by Terrill Satrain, owner of the property. The pair landed on a water landing strip just a few hundred yards from the crashed plane.
Also on the scene within a short time was Sheriff Larry Gillick of Butte County with several deputies. Coroner Howard Moore and Deputy Coroner Dugene Moore of Colusa officially released the bodies to the air force late last night after an investigation. The highway patrol also assisted at the scene.
Although the mud and water in the field hampered rescue operations, some observers believe it may have helped prevent an explosion and fire.
Thousands of gallons of gasoline spewed from the ruptured tanks and spread over the surround area several inches deep. However, the hot engines were buried deep in the mud by the impact.
Major George Gerner, Catholic chaplain of Castle AFB administered rites to the bodies as they were removed to ambulances.
Also on hand last night was First Lieutenant Carroll Anderson, Protestant chaplain at Beale AFB.

The Fresno Bee Republican California 1953-01-14



My mother told me she witnessed this plane go into the flat spin and my father, who was farming on our property nearby, was one of the first responders. This actually occurred approximately 12 miles northeast of Colusa, CA in Colusa County, not in Gridley, CA in Butte County (approximately 18 miles east of the incident).


Thanks for catching that. We have the location fixed now.

Location Correction

This is actually Gridley, Butte County, California (not Colorado)