Occasionally I revisit my WWII photo collection to cull through material I’ve overlooked. In this instance, I found a real gem that I somehow never took the time to research. I remember buying this photo at a local flea market with the intention of doing some research on the crash incident, but never got around to it. I assumed that the wreckage in the image was from a B-17 or C-47, but it turns out to be from two B-18 bombers that collided mid-air over Bellerose, Long Island on June 17th, 1940. Eleven men died in the crash, and one Bellerose citizen died of burns following the event. Scanning the internet, I was able to find an advertisement for asbestos siding from 1940 that makes reference to the event. This photo is an incredibly close up shot of the event. A fireman’s hat and jacket can be seen on the wing of the B-18 in the backyard of the burned home. Incredible.
I was able to find an article written by one of the local survivors of the crash:
Also, a minor league baseball played died in the fiery inferno. Here’s an excerpt from the Baseball in Wartime website:
“On Sunday, June 16, 1940, Bedient sent his parents a telegram stating that he was spending the day with his wife at Great Neck. At around 9:00 A.M. on Monday, June 17, two twin-engined Douglas B-18 Bolo bombers, escorted by two fighter planes, left Mitchel Field on a routine training flight. The two bombers carried a crew of 11, including Second Lieutenant Bedient. Just 15 miles from Mitchel Field, above the densely populated area of Bellerose Manor on the eastern edge of Queens, New York, the two bombers were executing a maneuver at 2,500 feet. One plane had to pass under the other and there was not enough clearance. The two planes collided and crashed in flames. One landed within a block of a school and the second smashed into a one-story residence that instantly went up in flames. All 11 crewmen — two of whom unsuccessfully attempted to escape by parachute — perished in the wreckage.”
An author who is writing a book on the B-18 emailed me with the following technical info on the two planes that crashed.
Douglas B-18A – AAC 37-576 Accepted 17 May 1939 and immediately assigned to Langley Field, VA. To Mitchel Field, NY 10 November 1939. Accident 17 June 1940 at Bellerose, Long Island, NY 1LT P. Burlingame, collided with B-18A 37-583 (q.v.), w/o. Coded 9B45 and 9B43 at the time, order uncertain.
Douglas B-18A – AAC 37-583 Accepted 9 June 1939. Assigned to Langley Field, VA 10 June 1939. To Mitchel Field, NY 12 November 1939. Accident 17 June 1940 at Bellerose, LI, NY, 2LT R. M. Bylander, collided with B-18A 37-576 (q.v.), w/o.