Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 3, September, 1995 Page: 161
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Supreme Sacrifice: Colorado County's World War /I Dead
year-old pilot, was from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Boyce, a thirty-two-year-old
observer, hailed from Sebring, Florida.12
Four months later, on September 30, 1942, two more Brooks Field men, a
twenty-four-year-old pilot from Itasca, Texas named Sam M. Baker, and a twenty-eight-
year-old observer from the East Indies named Leondant Geradud Coomans, crashed in
the rice field of Alfred Lundquist less than two miles from the May 2 crash site. Both were
killed. Only two days later, a plane on a cross country training flight from Ellington Field
crashed near Sheridan, killing its twenty-year-old student pilot, Ernest B. Thomas, Jr.,
of Dawson, Georgia and Theodore G. Sneider, a twenty-three-year-old pilot from
Hawander, Iowa. The bodies were not found for four days. Sheridan residents who had
heard the sound of the crash had reported it to authorities, who, by means of an aerial
search, found the wreckage in a wooded area. Two more army airmen, Lieutenant
William G. Bright from Chicago, and Lieutenant Lyman S. Sylvester from Madison,
Wisconsin, were killed in an April 1, 1943 crash on Bain's Ranch at Rock Island.122
The most memorable of all wartime accidents in the county occurred on
September 25, 1941, at ten o'clock in the morning. A four-motor army bomber (that is,
one of the heavy planes, a B- 17, B-24, or B-25) caught fire and crashed near the Colorado
River about eight miles southeast of Columbus. The huge bomber had been flying at
about twelve thousand feet. Eyewitnesses said, "One engine appeared to stall and the
plane went into a dive." The Eagle Lake Headlight called it "one of the most gruesome
tragedies in the history of Colorado County." The Columbus fire department arrived, put
out the fire, and removed the bodies. Nine bodies were found, one of them in the
wreckage and eight others nearby. On the day after the crash, army trucks carrying the
wreckage of the plane were seen passing through Eagle Lake.123
The nine men who were killed were 2nd Lt. Hayden W. Barrows, 22, from
Jamaica, New York; 2nd Lt. Melvyn T. Ellis, 22, from Forrest Hill, New York; 2nd Lt.
C. D. Crawford, 21, from Houston, Texas; Pvt. Casimer P. Kopera, 25, from Buffalo,
New York; Sgt. Harry A. Krebs, 27, from Louisville, Kentucky; Cpl. Kenneth L. Stinnette,
19, from Vincennes, Indiana; Sgt. Paul E. Michael, 22, from Russell, Kansas; Sgt.
Seymour Wadler, 19, from Chicago, Illinois; and 2nd Lt. James P. Rogers, 25, from San
Smoke from the burning plane could be seen from Altair and the rural area
between there and Columbus. Afterward, local volunteer firemen who put out the fire
and removed the bodies had vivid stories to tell of the day the war seemed to come to
Colorado County. So did numerous other witnesses, among them the writer's grand-
mother and mother, Florence Blessington and Jerri Fling, who arrived at the site so soon
after the crash that they could smell burning flesh.125
121 Eagle Lake Headlight, May 8, 1942; Colorado County Death Records, vol. 5, pp. 596, 597.
122 Colorado County Death Records, vol. 6, pp. 18, 19, 21, 22; Eagle Lake Headlight, October 2,
1942, October 9, 1942; Colorado County Citizen, April 1, 1943.
123 Colorado County Citizen, October 1, 1943; Eagle Lake Headlight, October 1, 1943.
124 Colorado County Death Records, vol. 6, pp. 83-87.
125 Many county residents of war age have reported that a bomber also crashed in the Shaw's Bend
area, killing all on board. No confirmation of this story has been found. If it is a separate incident from the Altair
crash, it may have occurred between wars, or during the Korean conflict.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 3, September, 1995, periodical, September 1995; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151395/m1/53/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed January 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.