|Birth: ||Mar. 13, 1921|
|Death: ||Feb. 12, 1983|
TSgt USAAF WWII, KOREA, VIETNAM
308th BG 373rd B Sq
His hometown was Altoona PA.
B-24E #42-7011 'The Eddie Rickenbacker' Major Thorel 'Skip' Johnson Crew
This plane crashed on 04 July 1943* (shown right). The ship was using fuel at an excessive rate prior to losing two engines over the Pacific off the coast of Santa Barbara. Pilot Johnson ordered the crew into their parachutes and turned the plane around, heading back towards Santa Barbara. Two airmen, Dannhardt and Prosser, not knowing they were still over the Pacific, bailed out prior to the Pilot giving the order and thus were lost at sea. The remaining eight crewmen bailed out safely once the plane had reached land over the mountains. The unmanned plane crashed 10 miles north of Santa Barbara. B-24E #42-7160 followed this plane on a search and rescue mission for the two airmen that bailed out over the Pacific, and the Instructor Pilot was Lieutenant Douglas J Thornburg, who was one of four survivors who bailed out of B-24E #42-7119 that crashed three weeks earlier. B-24E #42-7160 descended in heavy developing fog, and crashed head-on into Green Mountain on San Miguel Island, one of the three Channel Islands. A search was then initiated for this plane once it was known that they had lost contact. Eventually the search was called off and it was thought that the plane must have ditched in the Pacific. The following March, a Shepherder named Robert Brooks, one of only two people living on San Miguel Island at the time, found the plane and the remains of the twelve airmen on 800-foot Green Mountain. The plane and crew had crashed at approximately the 500-foot elevation. In 1953, additional crew remains were reported, and a Coast Guard ship was dispatched, however, it collided with the sailboat Aloha, resulting in civilian casualties. After this, the military began using the site for target practice. This aircraft wreck site was more recently visited and documented by aviation archaeologist and wreckfinder G Pat Macha of www.aircraftwrecks.com
Major Thorel 'Skip' Johnson and crew named their next plane, B-24D #42-40837 'Bob 'N Pete' after Lt Robert Prosser and Lt Peter Dannhardt, the two crew members that were lost at sea. The crew had been assigned to the 14th Air Force shortly after the previous accident, and the 'Bob 'N Pete' plane belonged to their group just prior to deployment to Yangkai, China.
During their service in China, the crew routinely flew B-24 #? the ‘Nip Nipper' of the 308th BG, 373rd B Sq (see additional photos).
While on a combat mission over interior China to Bangkok, Thailand, this crew also bailed out of B-24J #42-72835 'Flamingo II' of the 308th BG, 373rd B Sq, although there were several different crew members on board that day. All bailed out safely, however, Pilot Major Thorel 'Skip' Johnson reported that they 'were twenty-one days walking back to [their] base'.
As told by SSgt Gail Vanlandingham, they made it back by living off the land. Sgt Braydon Hassinger's widow Faye tells that all of the crew members had words written in Chinese sewn onto their jackets, saying they were friendly in case they went down. At one point some of the local Chinese assisted them with necessities.
*Note - at the time of this accident, the 34th Bomb Group was a training group only based at Salinas AAB CA. It was later decided that the 34th would be deployed to active combat at Mendelsham UK.
Glen Haven Memorial Park and Mausoleum
Plot: Tribute R, Lot 14C, Space 3
Created by: B24CoPilotNiece
Record added: Aug 28, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 75640561