B-26A Bomber Crash of 1942

aka: Crash Site of AC 41-744

A B-26A bomber crashed two miles west of Pinnacle Mountain in Pulaski County on the night of September 2, 1942, killing all six members of the crew, including a veteran of the Doolittle bombing raid on Japan. The crash site was listed on the Arkansas Register of Historic Places on April 4, 2007.

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and other American targets, U.S. officials devised a plan to bring the war to Japan. On April 18, 1942, a flight of sixteen B-25 bombers led by Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle launched from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet to bomb targets on the island of Honshu, hitting Tokyo, Yokosuka, Yokohama, Kobe, and Nagoya. Fifteen of the planes flew on and crashed in China, while another landed at Vladivostok in the Soviet Union, where its crew was interned for more than a year. The survivors in China eventually returned to the United States, where they were greeted as heroes.

On September 2, 1942, a bomber took off on a training flight following a luncheon at Shreveport, Louisiana, honoring nine men stationed at nearby Barksdale Field who had participated in the bombing raid on Honshu. Among those honored was First Lieutenant Kenneth E. Reddy, age twenty-two, of Bowie, Texas, who was also the pilot on the training flight.

Something went wrong during the flight, and on the night of September 2, workers at the Maumelle Ordnance Works were startled by the sight of a bomber approaching the plant, over which flying was restricted. The wayward aircraft turned toward the Arkansas River, and plant workers reported seeing the plane dropping flares in an apparent attempt to find a spot for an emergency landing.

At around 11:30 p.m., a witness recalled being awakened by the roar of aircraft engines that abruptly stopped, followed shortly afterward by a powerful explosion. The B-26A bomber had sheered the tops from trees for about 100 yards before crashing in a narrow strip of woods in the Little Maumelle Creek bottoms, leaving a trail of wreckage well over 100 yards long and 50 yards wide. The doomed aircraft was consumed by flames, and there were no survivors.

In addition to Reddy, the victims were Second Lieutenant Charles S. S. Brachbill, 21, of Williamsport, Pennsylvania; Second Lieutenant Phillip Williams Jr., 24, of Hinsdale, Illinois; Sergeant Thomas T. Roberts, 22, of Knoxville, Tennessee; Corporal Dominic Moduno, 20, of Brooklyn, New York; and Private Thomas A. Naylon, 33, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Investigators from Barksdale Field came to the crash site the following day, including Major Charles R. Greening, with whom Reddy had flown as co-pilot during the Doolittle Raid. There apparently were no published results of that investigation.

For additional information:
“At Least One Dead as Army Plane Falls.” Arkansas Gazette, September 3, 1942, p. 1.

“Crash Site of AC 41-7441.” Arkansas Register of Historic Places Registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock. Online at https://www.arkansasheritage.com/arkansas-preservation/properties/arkansas-register/crash-site-of-ac-41-7441  (accessed June 24, 2021).

“Doolittle Raid, April 18, 1942.” Naval History and Heritage Command. https://www.history.navy.mil/browse-by-topic/wars-conflicts-and-operations/world-war-ii/1942/halsey-doolittle-raid.html (accessed June 24, 2021).

“Six Killed as Bomber Falls West of City.” Arkansas Gazette, September 4, 1942, p. 1, 22.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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