The Flight that Fell From the Sky
On the dark and stormy night of July 1, 1945 a B29 Super Fortress bomber crashed in Western Kentucky, near Benton, in the little town of Brewers. It had departed from Kirkland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico and had refueled at Nashville shortly before it was lost.
Maxine Bohannon heard a knock on her door early the next morning, and called, ‘Come in’ thinking it was a neighbor coming to chat or borrow a breakfast egg.
In walked a man, with a bloody face, dragging a parachute behind him. The stranger was Corporal Irving A. Elias, sole survivor of the now, all-but-forgotten crash. He was the only survivor of a ten man crew.
It seemed that Elias had been walking back to the restroom on board the aircraft when it disintegrated for an unknown reason at an extremely high altitude.
Since he was upright and walking mid-craft when the breakup occurred, he was sucked out into the open and when he came to, was floating downward during a heavy rainstorm. He pulled the cord of the parachute, but could see nothing amidst the racket of the storm. He did see the plane plummeting to earth, however, but knew was drifting past the crash site.
When he hit land, he had no idea where he was at, or what state he was in. He climbed under a nearby bush and covered himself with the parachute, waiting for daybreak.
As the morning sun arose, the crash site could be seen. Debris was scattered for two miles or better, in and around the tiny settlement. But no one had heard the break up of the plane or the subsequent crash during the noise of the storm. Corporal Elias crawled from under his protective bush and headed to the nearest farmhouse, which belonged to the Bohannons. They immediately took him to the hospital.
The bodies of the four officers and five enlisted men, who had been in the plane with Elias were found in the wreckage, in two separate groups, which determined the plane had indeed been torn asunder at mid section. The bodies were badly mangled and pinned within and amongst the carnage.
Many of the neighbors close to the site came upon this scene, and their hearts and sympathy went out to the dead airman. They quietly cut leafy boughs off nearby trees and waved them above the bodies, for long and weary hours, to keep the insects off the remains. Each one of them had loved ones in the armed forces...and thought of their brothers, sisters, fathers, or husbands as they kept silent, protective vigil over the bodies during that long, hot July day.
In the days before cell phones and text messaging, the country folk had no way of knowing if at that moment, their own sailor or soldier, airman or marine might yet be already dead, and perhaps they just had not been notified by telegram of the fact. Many of the tears shed at the scene of the crash site were for the airmen that lay in front of them; but others were for all the men who were fighting in various locations for America's freedom.
Soon the Army would descend upon the site, place the airmen in body bags and take the remains back to Camp Campbell...and the story would be hushed up for security reasons. Telegrams were later sent to the families, stating that a loved one was killed while 'on a routine flight.'
But it is never 'routine' when the loved one is your own.
In September, 2008, a monument was erected at the crash site in Marshall County. The Market House Museum has currently on exhibit, photographs, biographies and artifacts relating to the airmen and the crash, in a well presented format. The faces of the men are seen in their youthful enthusiasm; and their childhoods... what schools they attended; who their sweethearts were; and how their spare time was spent, is shared. In a sad coincidence, one airman died on his twenty-second birthday.
The exhibit illustrates well the fact that freedom isn't free. It comes with a price, many times, paid in tears.