Memorial Case Study
This is presented to give a sample of what can be done to create a memorial of a crash site. AAIR set up a memorial for Warren Olsen who, on 24 May 44, was killed in crash 9 miles east of Annapolis, CA while flying P-38J s/n 43-28859.
Initiating the Project
AAIR learned that a property owner was looking to have a "mess" (the P-38 wreck) cleaned up from his property. On a neighbor's property, scrappers had cleaned up a B-24 wreck in the 1950's. We contacted the owner and offered to do it at no charge if AAIR could decide what would be done with the wreckage after the recovery.
AAIR checked with the Redwood Empire Aviation Historical Society which provided newspaper articles that helped to determine the date of the crash. We used the date to look up the crash report which collaborated with eye witness statements we had gathered from the landowner.
A letter to the editor of Warren Olsen's hometown paper brought a contact from his brother, Donald Olsen who was stationed in Panama at the time of the crash. Donald Olsen was very helpful in providing background information and photographs of Warren.
After researching the crash and contacting relatives of the pilot, we decided to use one engine and part of the 20mm cannon as a display for the Pacific Coast Air Museum. The P-38 was stationed and took off on it’s last flight from Santa Rosa Army Airfield, which is currently the airport where the Pacific Coast Air Museum is located. Many people do not realize that Santa Rosa airport was an Army Air Base during WWII. AAIR felt that the display would serve to help educate the many visitors of the museum about local area history as well as the many losses that occurred during wartime training.
A few small pieces of the aircraft were given to Warren Olsen's relatives for sentimental value and in appreciation of their contribution to the project.
The rest of the P-38 (a wing, one engine, two flaps, a rudder, the landing gear, and a few small miscellaneous parts) were given to a restoration project in Southern California. The P-38 is a very historically significant aircraft. There are currently only somewhere between six to twelve flying P-38's. These parts can be used to help bring back another of this endangered species.
Documenting the Site
Using AAIR's Historic Crash Site Report Form, a combination of the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) Factual Report, Aviation (form 6120.4) and the California Archaeological Site Record, we documented the crash site.
The recovery operations were documented through photographs. As new parts were discovered, their location was recorded on the site map and photographed as well.
Final Product: The Memorial
There is now a display along with an information board that talks about the flight and the pilot, has newspaper articles, part of the government report and photos of the pilot provided by his relatives.