a blog by Peter Stekel

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


Read more about FINAL FLIGHT here.


February 2011

Check HERE for a Final Flight Blog entry on Amazon's Kindle web page. Don't forget, copies of Final Flight are available at Amazon or Powell's World of Books on line or at your favorite bricks and mortar bookstores. You can read Final Flight on Kindle or on paper - your choice!

Many helpful people found me during the time I was researching and writing Final Flight. If I hadn't mentioned Capt. Robert Lewis, for instance, his daughters wouldn't have known about my research and I would have been the poorer.

For that reason, I am posting the names of people important to my research for my next book about the Hester Lake and Huntington Lake crashes in December, 1943. It is my hope that family members, perhaps involved in genealogy or family history will come across this page and contact me.

Hester Lake crew SUMMARY

B-24E #41-28463

Assigned to 4th Air Force, 461st Bomb Group, 756th Bomb Squadron

Attached for flying to 4th Air Force, 461st Bomb Group, 765th Sq

Hammer Field, Fresno

Lost December 5, 1943. Airplane found by James [Jim] Moore, from USGS on July 17, 1960 or July 29, 1960 [sources vary], a second USGS geologist, and NPS [or USFS] ranger Leroy Brock. The crew are buried at Arlington National Cemetery Section 15 Site 24LH, except as noted.

1. Charles Willis Turvey, pilot

2nd Lt 0-682921

DOB July 23, 1921

Turvey’s got his instrument rating August 8, 1943. He was a Student at FWAAF Ft. Worth TX 6/30/43 to 9/4/43 and pilot in 800 Bomb Sq Mountain Home, ID 9/12/43 to 10/15/43, pilot 765th Bomb Sq 461st B. He did his Preflight at SAACC 10/11/42 - 12/16/42, Primary at AAFAFS Pine Bluffs, ARK 12/17/42 - 2/22/43, Basic at SADE Infield, KAN 2/23/43 - 4/23/43, and Advanced at AAAF Tulsa, OKLA 4/24/43 - 6/26/43

Height/Weight 6' 0" 176 pounds

4 years of high school [Reesville, OH] Graduated 1938.

2 years of college [Wilmington Coll, Wilmington OH] Mechanical engineering [left in 1941]. Beside participating in softball, baseball, and basketball, he also liked bowling and swimming. Drafting was his hobby.

From Oct 1941 to June 1942 he earned a salary of $140.00/month working as an inspector of steering gears and parts.

His emergency contact was Charles Willis Turvey, Reesville, OH [father]

2. Robert M. Hester, co-pilot

2nd Lt 0-75344

DOB December 13, 1919

Father was Clinton Hester. Died February 1959, age 63. Robert Hester had a sister named Janet.

3. William Thomas Cronin, navigator

2nd Lt 0-69161

DOB October 15, 1919

4.Ellis H. Fish, bombardier

2nd Lt 0-752711

5. Robert Bursey, engineer

S/SGT 11084894

buried in Rutland, VT

6. Howard A. Wandtke, radio operator

S/SGT 15364676

DOB November 30, 1923

Huntington Lake Crew

B-24 #42-7674 "The Exterminator"


1. William Howard Union Darden, pilot

Captain 0-389288

Height/Weight 5'9"/148 pounds

DOB June 28, 1918

Married to Mrs. W.H. Darden, Gamwyn Park, Greenville MISS

Legal residence was c/o The Ports Star, Ports, VA

He attended Churchland High School, 4 years, and graduated 1936. The to Virginia Military Institute, 4 years, BS civil engineering, 1940. According to June 12, 1940 VMI Cadet [newspaper] he was photography editor for the Cadet. He was known as Billy. Also from the Cadet, Darden’s name appears in an advertisement for Andre’s Photo Studio in the March 19, 1940 issue.

Capt. Darden was quite keen about Equitation and polo.

Darden was assigned to 4th Air Force, 461st BG, 766th B Sq, Hammer Field, attached for flying to 4th Air Force, 461st BG, 766th B Sq. Original rating as pilot on 11/21/39 and insturment rating 10/9/43

Became 2nd Lt on March 14, 1941 and entered extended active duty on March 15, 194, becoming a 1st Lt on June 1, 1942 and a captain on 1/15/43.

DOD 12/06/1943

2. Marion C. Settle, co-pilot

2nd Lt 0-806149 from Wilkesboro, NC

3. Samuel J. Schlosser, navigator

2nd Lt 0-797409 from Brooklyn, NY

4. Franklin C. Nyswonger, engineer

S/Sgt 16009396 from Green Bay, WI

enlisted at Milwaukee WI 6/19/41 as a private in the air corps

DOB 2/23/1922 - DOD 12/06/1943

Buried at Ft. Snelling National Cemetery at Section C-6 Site 8439 on 11/28/1955

5. Richard "Dick" E. Mayo, AE

Sgt 35448517 from Prestonburg, KY [Floyd County]

Got his wings as a gunner-seargent at Harlington TX flexible gunnery school on Oct 7, 1943

DOD 12/06/1943

6. George J. Barulic, radio operator

Sgt 32565369 from Newark, NJ

7. Richard I. Spangle, TG

Sgt 19013003 from Weed, CA

DOD - 12/06/1943

8. Donald V. Vande Plasch

Sgt 36279044 from Wauwatosa, WI

DOB 5/29/1913 - DOD 12/06/1943

Buried at Ft. Snelling National Cemetery at Section C-6 Site 8439 on 11/28/1955

If anyone has information about these boys, please contact me.




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