Home Life The wreck on the trail

The wreck on the trail

By David Rogers. May 27, 2019. BLOWING ROCK, NC — Going “stir crazy” sometimes leads to creative thinking. Lt. Colonel Bill Parker (Ret.) of the U.S. Marines took advantage of being cooped up in a snow storm this past winter to solve a mystery that has been plaguing him for 75 years. He shared the story on Monday with an estimated four dozen Blowing Rock residents and visitors while serving as the keynote speaker of the annual Memorial Day recognition ceremony, from the Rotary Gazebo in Memorial Park.

COVER IMAGE: The wreckage from 2nd Lt. Wayne Kimbell and crew’s B-24 is still on the ground today. All photographic images supplied by Bill Parker to Blowing Rock News

And, Parker explained to the attentive audience, it all started when he got bored running six miles around the same military buildings every day…

What follows is a transcript of Parker’s story:

The views while running along the trail on Oahu are stunning.

In September 1983 I completed my overseas unaccompanied assignment in Okinawa and was transferred to Camp Smith, Hawaii to be on the G-5 staff of Fleet Marine Forces (FMF), Pacific.  The Marine Corps, with their wicked sense of humor, ensured my stay on Hawaii would be interesting.  I was living in paradise but was locked in a windowless vault, serving as a Global and Regional War Plans Officer.  I arrived for work at barely sunrise and left near sunset.

To maintain my sanity, I would run the Aiea Loop Trail which was just behind Camp Smith on Oahu.  It was five miles from start to finish and offered fantastic views of Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona monument and Hickam Airfield.

When I had first reported in, I was advised of this wonderful trail.  I was also told that there was an aircraft wreck at the side of the trail.  I was told that it was probably a C-47 that had crashed during the war.

Sure enough, I found the remains of aluminum skin, rivets, and structural braces buried in the hillside.  Every day, I ran past that wreckage without further thoughts about what had happened to that airplane and its crew.  No one around Camp Smith seemed to have any answers, so I just took this wreck site in stride as I ran past it each day.

Last December, when I was trapped inside my house due to a snow storm, I happened to reflect on this wreck again and started doing some research.  Wow, what a discovery!!

Here is the full story:

The time was 5 May, 1944.  The United States was in the middle of World War II.  The hour was 5:22 am and Second Lieutenant Wayne R Kimble, the pilot of Army Air Force B-24J-155-CO Liberator serial number 44-40332, lifted off of Hickam airfield at the start of a ferry flight to Australia.  He had a crew of ten airmen.  Within minutes, his aircraft failed to clear the ridge behind Camp Smith and the huge bomber smashed into the ridge.  Fully fueled for the long flight to Australia, the bomber burst into flames.  There were no survivors.  The bodies were recovered the next day but the wreck was left in place.  The bomber was only two months old and had no nickname or nose art.  Here are the names and hometowns of those who died that May morning in 1944:

  • Pilot                     2nd Lt. Wayne R. Kimble, New Martinsville, WV
  • Co-Pilot               2nd Lt. William E. Somsel Jr., Philadelphia, PA
  • Navigator           2nd Lt. Charles E. Muller, Detroit, MI
  • Engineer             2nd Lt. Morris Righthand, Lehighton, PA
  • Gunner                SSgt Jack J. Dowd, Jackson, MI
  • Gunner                SSgt Marion F. Norman, Augusta, MI
  • Gunner                Sgt James H. Means, Belden, MS
  • Gunner                Cpl Manual F. Campos, San Diego, CA
  • Gunner                Cpl Gerald L. Weiss, Mason, WI
  • Gunner                Cpl Joseph J. Carlucci, Port Chester, NY
A B-24 “Liberator” bomber

I learned in my research that there is now a memorial plaque installed at the entrance to the Aiea Loop Trail that lists the crew members of the fatal flight in 1944 and a notation that we should never forget.  How true this is.  I only wish that I had known this history when I was running the trail because I sure would have stopped at the wreckage and issued a silent prayer for the families left behind by this wreck in May of 1944, which occurred when I was one year old.

It is doubly poignant that this was a B 24 bomber that had crashed near Camp Smith.  My wife’s Father was a crew member of a B 24 bomber and he flew 37 combat missions out of Buckingham RAF in the UK making bombing runs over Europe from 1943 to 1945.

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