Remembering the Liberator Crash
WALNUT -- On March 8, 1944, Ronald Paasch witnessed the tragic death of seven men in a bomber crash in Walnut.
Today, Paasch owns the land where the accident occurred and has dedicated a memorial to the victims with a replica of the B-24 Liberator aircraft that crashed.
Paasch, now 93, was a sophomore in high school when the incident occurred. He had just come home from school with some friends when they noticed something in the sky.
“One girl, her mother, was in the yard waving and pointing to the sky. So, we kids get out quick and look,” Paasch said.
Paasch saw an object in the sky moving closer and closer to the ground, traveling in a circle that he estimated had a mile long radius.
“Well, it can’t be a bird. It was flipping in the sun; it had to be metal,” Paasch recalled. “So it had to be an airplane coming down.”
Paasch watched as the plane spiraled out of control, loudly ripping through the air.
“As it came down, the noise got louder and louder and louder,” Paasch said.
According to declassified records on the incident, eyewitnesses described the airplane as descending “in a series of dives, spins, tumbles and rolls, with engines roaring and smoke pouring from the wings.”
The plane plummeted to the ground and landed on a farm about four miles south of Walnut.
After watching the plane descend, Paasch decided to drive to the crash site in his Ford Model A car with the other teenagers. However, a snow bank blocked the road and they had to take an alternative route.
“We went this way and that way around and came back on the lower side of where it crashed,” Paasch said.
They arrived within an hour of the collision and were the first people to the scene.
“We walked up and we could see the pilot and the copilot sitting in the nose of the plane,” Paasch said.
The bomber had caught fire and smoke fogged the area. Bullets from the machine guns in the plane were exploding and popping in the wreckage.
“It’s just a very shocking thing to see a plane on fire,” Paasch said.
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