Monday, November 12, 2012

Plane crash survivor recounts disaster on Pine Mountain, Georgia

PINE MOUNTAIN, GA (WTVM) -  Months following the Korean War, five airmen died on U.S. soil in a plane crash that left only one survivor.  A B-25 bomber came down in a storm over Harris County on its way to Andrews Air Force Base. 

On Saturday, a monument was dedicated in Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park at the spot where the plane fell 59 years ago.  The park is named for the 32nd president because he use to frequent the grounds when he visited nearby Warm Springs, Georgia for medical treatments.

The crash site is less than 1,000 feet from Dowdell's Knob, one of F.D.R.'s favorite picnic spots. A barbecue pit that the president and his company were known to use still stands nearby, along with his recently erected statue.

Richard Schmidt, the only living member of that plane crew, was the guest of honor at today's event.  Also attending the ceremony were several family members of the servicemen who died and one of the people who helped rescue Schmidt from the wreckage.  He was visiting a relative's house when he saw the bomber flying too low to clear the mountain.

Lee Wadsworth said, "I looked, and I saw him going behind the trees, and I knew he couldn't make it."

Wadsworth visited Schmidt in the hospital later that week, but two never saw each other again until today's event.

"The fellas who came up here, think of this, it was raining cats and dogs, it was a cloudy night, stormy night, they're near their homes, and they think they hear a plane crash.  Now, who in their right minds is going to say, ‘let's go take a walk up the mountain and see if a plane crashed.'  If it wasn't them, I might not be here because I was pretty well beat up," said Schmidt.

A plaque will now mark the place where these historic events occurred.  Schmidt says he still carries a souvenir from that day in 1953.

"The funny part about it is, I have a scar from the crash.  Periodically, I can still get a little piece of something- sand or glass or something- out of my scar."

The tragedy was not well documented until recent years, but thanks to recent efforts by park historians, memory of this incident has officially been captured forever.

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