Beech 18 AT-7 Navigator Copyright Museum of Flight - all rights reserved

December, 2008


a blog by Peter Stekel

FINAL FLIGHT is the story of four aviators lost in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks on November 18, 1942

FINAL FLIGHT, coming from Wilderness Press in 2010

Read more about FINAL FLIGHT here.

December 27
An article I wrote many years ago for a magazine specializing in sport ballooning is quoted in the 2001 book, Swamp Gas Times: My Two Decades on the UFO Beat by Patrick Huyghe. A jpg image of the quote is HERE.
December 19 - Book by Peter Stekel Seized by the Chinese Government
On a lighter note... I've been awaiting publication by Falcon Press of my hiking guide, Best Hikes Near Seattle, for some time. The manuscript was submitted November, 2007, in hopes of a summer, 2008 release. When Falcon finally set a publication date it was for January 19, 2009 - a date that I thought was too late for the 2008 hiking season and too early for 2009.

Well, that's all changed. Last week I noticed that Amazon had modified the release date to February 24, 2009. Pre-orders are still being accepted.

Today I got an email from my editor at Falcon with an update. It's a pretty funny so I'm quoting the whole thing.

"You may be wondering how the economic downturn is affecting you. Well, here's one way: The printer in China who printed your book went out of business. The book is supposedly printed but has been seized by the Chinese government, along with all other assets. Bummer. We are having the book reprinted at a different printer. We now expect it to be in our warehouse by the first of April. Sorry to have to deliver this news. Should still be in time for the main hiking season. (The upside: You can tell everybody your work has been seized by the Chinese government.)"

So, there you have it! You now know somebody who has had his book seized by the Chinese Government. If that isn't an honor, I don't know what is!

December 18 - Difficulties in securing public documents
While conducting research for Final Flight it has been necessary for me to obtain public documents from various agencies of our government as well as university and public libraries. They have all been easy to work with and uncompromising in their support of the book project. More often than not, the people I have dealt with by phone, email, and in person have bent over backwards to supply what I need. They have given advice as well in how to best obtain documents they don't, themselves, have.

Securing documents through the Freedom of Information Act can be a costly affair unless you can justify your case as being for the common good. Otherwise you are considered, amongst other things, a "commercial" entity.

Every agency I have requested documents from have done so at no fee - which is a godsend to me since I have to finance all my research myself [with a generous "grant" from my wife, Jennie. She's the one with the paying job in this family, not me].

As I wrote in my December 13th and 14th blog entries, an OV-10 Bronco impacted in Darwin Canyon in 1983, pretty close to the Beech 18, and under the same weather and flying conditions. Finding out what the Bronco was doing in that area will help me figure out why Lt. Gamber was there in 1942.

Well, I heard back from the Navy today. They want to charge me $300.00 for a redacted copy of the accident report. HERE is a pdf copy of their letter.

As you can imagine, I am appealing their decision.

December 16
Austin wrote to say his friend's family is not interested in speaking to me about this story. It sounds - reading between the lines - that the second OV-10 pilot may have died. I've asked Austin but have received no reply. This is quite a set-back as the story of the OV-10 and Lt. Gamber's Beech 18 have so much in common. Finding out what happened in 1983 to the OV-10 might really help me decide, once and for all, what happened to the Beech 18 in 1942.

I still await word from the Navy on my FOIA request.

December 14
In the course of this project I've stumbled over a lot of coincidences. There isn't any need to go into that right now but I do want to mention the latest one. I prepared my December 13th blog entry about the OV-10 Bronco the evening of December 12th. When I logged on to my email in the morning on the 13th there was an email from Austin Teunissen. Rather than tell the whole story, I'll just quote from his message.


Earlier today I was walking from the hotel to a restaurant with a pilot I fly with. The bitter cold prompted him to discuss how much he would hate being stuck in a cold weather survival situation. He went on to tell a story about a time his dad had to eject from an OV 10 Bronco in the mountains in California. His dad survived. The other pilot did not.

He didn't know much about the accident and asked if I  knew of any database that might have more information about it. I didn't  find it in the NTSB database so I went to Google. I found your numerous efforts to find more information about an OV 10 Bronco crash in California.  I'll give him your email address if he is interested in contacting you.

- Austin

This is one of those really great things that has come out of my research for Final Flight. I love when somebody contacts me, either to ask questions or to contribute to the story. It's times like these where I learn a whole lot. It's also these kinds of contacts that underscore how much can be done with the internet and why it is such a great resource.

December 13
On October 23, 1983 a Navy or Marine OV-10 Bronco crashed into Darwin Glacier, about 1/4 mile up canyon from Mendel Glacier. The pilot was killed but his co-pilot [or navigator] was not.

Amazingly, the crash was witnessed by two climbing groups. David Evans was in one of those groups and provided THIS [in PDF] account. Check it out!

update: 1/8/09: Based on the description of the rescue helicopter in David Evans' account of the OV-10 accident, my friend, Joe Menard thinks the Helo was a CH53 - Navy Sea Stallion [aka Air Force Pave Low].

Links to loads more photos of the CH53 here.


What makes this crash so interesting is that it occurred in somewhat the same circumstances as the crash of Lt. Gamber's aircraft. It was fall. Weather was poor and deteriorating. It's possible Lt. Gamber was heading up Darwin Canyon though I don't know why he would be. I don't know why the OV-10 was there either. If Gamber had been in the canyon, he might have made the same maneuver made by the OV-10 pilot. Seeing the canyon about end with a 12,000' wall, and the terrain rising faster than his airplane, Lt. Gamber may have tried to turn out of the canyon.

The OV-10 wreckage is well-known to climbers approaching Mt. Darwin on the north side of Darwin Glacier.  Lt. Gamber's aircraft is located on the south side of the Mendel Glacier so the circumstances of the crash are slightly different.

Several people have contacted me, thinking this OV-10 wreckage could be part of the Beech 18 AT-7 crash.

This photo of the OV-10 propeller was provided to me by William Gamber's grandnephew, Richard Christian. The fellow in the picture is Richard's friend and Lamarck Col is behind him and to our right. Mendel Cirque is around the corner to our left.

I have a FOIA request submitted to the US Navy to see their accident report for this incident. Hopefully I will be able to locate and contact the survivor of the crash and, with the accident report, gain some insight as to what may have happened on November 18, 1942.

More HERE at Wikipedia and HERE about the OV-10.

The OV-10 was a turbo prop airplane with a service ceiling of 24,000 feet. It was designed to fly slow and be maneuverable at the same time.

December 4 [my 56th birthday today]
Click HERE [html] or HERE [pdf] to read Chapter 17 - Who They Were, biographies of William Gamber, John Melvin Mortenson, Glenn Munn, and Leo Mustonen.
December 1
If you were unable to read all of Mark Grossi's [with Cyndee Fontana] "Lost Flights" stories about Sierra Nevada airplane crashes from August-September issues of the Fresno Bee I have created an archive. Also, I've archived Fresno Bee stories from 2007.

Links on these pages are active as of this month. Some links will take you to Fresno Bee archives. These archives may not be active in the future.


August 22, 2007 - Discovery of Airman's Body Stirs Hope, Tragic Memories. Includes interviews with family members and with Paul Emanovsky, a forensic anthropologist with the Army's Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command.

August 29, 2008 - Perilous peaks an aircraft graveyard. Discusses issues that have caused airplane crashes in the Sierra as well as some of the more notable events [Donnie Priest, Steve Fossett, William Ogle, Leo Mustonen] with an interview with airplane archeologist, Pat Macha.

September 2, 2008 - Pilots have little margin for error navigating Sierra. The dangers of mountain flying along with the affect of high winds along the crest. These winds are known as "rotors." Also, as the Sierra "wave."

September 4, 2008 - Families of airmen from '42 crash seek closure. The families of William Gamber and John Mortenson are hopeful that these two remaining crew members from the doomed November 18, 1942 flight will some day be found.

September 6, 2008 - Vast Sierra frustrates even the most intensive searches. Searching for Steve Fossett.

September 7, 2008 - Writer Peter Stekel became intrigued by 1942 Sierra plane crash. A re-cap of how I became involved in the search for the missing Beech 18 AT-7 #41-21079 and my discovery of Cadet Ernest Glenn Munn.

September 8, 2008 - Mendel Glacier one of hundreds dotting Sierra's crest. An interview with Douglas H. Clark of Western Washington University about Sierra Nevada glaciers.

September 9, 2008 - Melting global ice likely to reveal yet more mummified secrets from the past. JPAC forensic anthropologist Paul Emanovsky is interviewed about the discovery of two US Army aviators in Mendel Glacier.

September 10, 2008 - 10-year-old survived plane crash, bitter Sierra cold. The story of Donnie Priest. On January 3, 1982, the single-engine Grumman AA-5B piloted by his stepfather, Ron Vaughan crashed near the northeastern edge of Yosemite National Park. Also aboard was his mother, Lee. Only Donnie survived.

September 13, 2008 - Crashes in Sierra have spawned legends, tragedy. In December 1976, a twin-engine Lodestar stuffed with marijuana plunged into an icy lake in Yosemite National Park. Air Force 1st Lt. David A. Steeves walked out of the Sierra after a 54-day test of survival after his T-33 trainer jet vanished on May 9, 1957.

September 13, 2008 - Military planted dozens of bases in state during WWII. A review of prominent military airplane crashes in the Sierra Nevada. Includes the story of a B-24 crash in Hester Lake [Kings Canyon National Park]. Anthony J. Mireles, author of "Fatal Army Air Forces Aviation Accidents in the United States, 1941-1945," counts more 2,200 fatalities throughout California.

September 14, 2008 - Huntington Lake still holds crash mystery. The story of a December 6, 1943 B-24 Liberator crash in Huntington Lake, on the west slope of the Sierra.

September 15, 2008 - Persistent friends saved pair after 15-day Sierra ordeal. Gene Ebell and a 17-year-old high school student named Robert Starr lived through a Cessna airplane accident, January 10, 1970, that killed the pilot.

September 16, 2008 - Questions swirl around '42 crash on Sierra glacier. What happened in 1942 to cause Lt. Gamber to crash?

Audio archives [mp3] from the Fresno Bee series, "Lost Flights."

Anthony J. Mireles [author of book about military airplane crashes] 1 2 3 4

Paul Emanovsky [JPAC archeologist] 1 2 3 4 5

Peter Stekel [author of Final Flight] 1

William Ogle [his father disappeared in airplane crash and has never been found] 1 2 3 4 5 6

Barbara Adams [cousin of William Gamber] 1

Larry Jobe [airline pilot, flying over the Sierra] 1 2


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copyright 2010 by Peter Stekel, all rights reserved

FINAL FLIGHT, coming from Wilderness Press in 2010



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