The 1944 crash of a bomber just outside of Chappell, Nebraska is still remembered today with monuments in town and at the crash site.
During World War II, Nebraska was home to a number of air bases. On June 7, 1944, 15 B-24J bombers left the Lincoln Army Air Base on their way to the west coast, to be deployed into the Pacific Theater. One particular plane developed an internal fire. "Whether it was fuel or a spark, they don't know. The accident report determined there was thunder and lightning in the area, and somehow they got a fire started on this airplane," Chappell resident Milton Rogers said. "The plane came down from 15,000 feet to 500 feet, and circled in the area around Chappell."
Around 4:30 to 4:45 p.m., the plane exploded in the air. "The fuselage came down, the outboard motors were blown off, and they were as much as a half mile away from the crash of the airplane in each direction," Rogers said. "There were ten servicemen on the plane, and according to the medical report, they all died instantly." Members of the crew were from all over the country. There was one person from Nebraska. His name was Staff Sergeant Vance Johnson of Stromsburg.
There's been a memorial at the actual crash site since 1952. Visitors to Chappell can drive up to the crash site, which is just southeast of town. That memorial features ten representative crosses. Each cross features the name of the solider who died, along with where they were from. At Chappell Lake park, you can see a replica of the B-24J bomber that crashed. It was made by a local metal artist named Terry Hinde of Julesburg, Colorado. "He also has an airplane in stainless steel at the Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, and he's also working on a plane replica that will be placed at SAC in Bellevue," Rogers said.
"The military is doing an excellent job of protecting all of us, and certainly that was true in World War II," Rogers said. "Those boys gave it their all, and they were the Greatest Generation."