|Pilot Chief Aviation Pilot Robert W. Smedley (KIA, BR) Muskogee, OK
Crashed March 31, 1948
Built by Curtiss. Delivered to the United States Navy (USN) as SB2C-5 Helldiver bureau number 83414. No known nickname or nose art.
On March 31, 1948 one of two Helldivers that took off from NAS Tillamook at 1:30pm on a flight bound for San Diego. This aircraft crashed near Rockaway Beach killing the pilot.
Immediately afterwards, this crash site was found by a group of loggers who saw the plane circling under a low overcast before the fatal crash led the way to the scene, taking with them Chief Aviation Pilot L. S. Kuriger, San Diego, pilot of the other Helldiver that participated in the mission.
The site was initially searched in 1948, almost immediately after the incident. Pilot Smedley was recovered and identified at this time.
Sometime in the 1950s, the area was logged and large pieces of aircraft wreckage were removed and redistributed across the area.
On March 10, 2010 contractors with the Stimson Lumber Company rediscovered the wreckage including the wing, tail section, and the landing gear in a heavily wooded area where aircraft debris is spread out over an area approximately 200 yards.
On March 24, 2010 Oregon State Police investigated the crash site with the US Navy and found no ordinance. On March 25 they reported the site to JPAC and the news media. A part with a manufacture date of 1946 was found. During May 2010, JPAC officially excavated this crash site.
Dr. William Belcher / JPAC adds:
"While wreckage was scattered over a vast area, the focus was on the impact crater - approximately 2 meters in diameter and about 65 cm in depth. The JPAC excavation recovered an engine data plate from a Wright R-2600 engine for aircraft SB2C5 and Bureau Number 83414; this positively identified the wreckage as the suspected aircraft. After the completion of the JPAC excavations, all aircraft wreckage, including wing and tail assemblies and cockpit-related debris, was collected and taken to the Tillamook Air Museum. This loan was done under the direction of the Naval Historic and Heritage Command."
Smiley was buried at Sunnyside Cemetery in Long Beach, CA at lot 246.
Thanks to Dr. Bill Belcher, John Szalay and Craig Fuller for additional information
The Oregonian "Plane Carries Pilot to Death" April 1, 1948
Tillamook Headlight Herald "WWII aircraft discovered near Rockaway Beach" March 25, 2010
KATU News "WWII plane wreckage found on coast; crew remains may exist" March 26, 2010
Oregon Live "Former mechanic at the Navy Air Base in Tillamook remembers 62-year-old crash near Rockaway Beach" March 26, 2010
KATU News "Clue emerges in WWII plane wreckage mystery"
March 27, 2010
Associated Press "Clues Emerge About Crashed WWII Plane" March 27, 2010
FindAGrave - Robert William Smedley (photo, grave photo)
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June 29, 2019