This project involved a large number of individuals and institutions, all of whom I owe my sincerest appreciation for their hard work, dedication to the project's goals, and support to me as a friend. I hope I have not tested these friendships too sorely. Truthfully, none of the activities described in this report could have been done without the assistance of all those mentioned here. Because they are so many I have organized them by phase, not by significance, because every one of their contributions were significant and deserve acknowledgement. To all I extend my most heart-felt appreciation.
During the first phase of the project the crew consisted of John W. (Billy Ray) Morris, III and Marianne Franklin of Southern Oceans Archaeological Research, Inc., and Curtis Deyo of Sea Hunt Scuba. We were ably assisted by Henry Sykes and Rick Tinsley in the D-Marie, a boat, donated by Rick and Diane Siskey. David Grant and David Howe from the Naval Historical Center encouraged the team by driving from Washington D.C. with the Center's side-scan-sonar, donating the equipment and their time to assist in the search. In addition, Ray Tubby of the International Institute for Maritime Research provided invaluable expertise in interpreting the initial magnetometer data.
Crew number two consisted of Commander Anthony R. DeMan, Officer-In-Charge Detachment Eight; ITC Roy L. Dowell, Chief Petty Officer-In-Charge, Detachment Eight; MMC Carl R. Myers; ENC Douglas A. Eymer; ET1 Terry M. Parker; GM1 Thomas A. Geiger, of EOD Mobile Unit 10. These reservists put in many days of hard work, enduring equipment failure, difficult conditions and a "cursed lake" all in an effort to discover the truth about the loss of PBJ-89050.
Major contributors include Bill and Michele Akerman, who provided housing for the second crew, and money for many aspects of the entire project. Michele's tireless efforts on behalf of the project cannot ever be adequately enumerated. Her support during discouraging moments was a true godsend. Likewise, I would like to acknowledge other contributors, including Tommy Richardson Jr. at Reed Insurance Agency; Ramona Ingram and Libby Saunders at Badin Lake Realty; Mr. and Mrs. Don Roberson; Sheriff Tony Frick; the entire Badin Police Department; the staff at Precision Printing in Greensboro; Leslie at Graphic Science for her assistance with the T-Shirt promotion; Ben Marion and all the restorers at the Peddycourt Aircraft Museum; Frank Jacobs at Pinehaven Marina; Richard Lawrence, NC State Underwater Archaeologist; Norm Pierson and the staff at ALCOA; Fred Gurley and his Coast Guard Reserve Unit; Jim Ellyson, survey tech at T.W. Harris Surveyors in Albemarle who assisted with USGS data; Erik Kirzinger and Tony Furr who assisted in funds raising; Rick and Dottie Tinsley, Grant and Melba Awtrey; Eric Eschert; Jack Finch; Lamar Gunter; Gene Isenhour; Gene Mitchell; Richard Pietrantozzi; W. Clark of Rogers Design; William Tucker; G. Leslie Browne; William Fagg; David and Pamela Ford; Fred Gurley, Jr.; Dixie Kearnes; Coy Newport; W. G. Plyler, Jr.; Alfred Starling; Gene Whitlock; Elizabeth Curtis; Nadine and Larry Fee; Sylvia Glenn; Richard and Ramona Ingram; Les Meyberry; Edward Phifer III; Robert Storck; Jan Thompson; my parents Louis and Joy Coble; Evelyn Coble; Martin Coble and my many friends who provided encouragement and support in the tough times.
The support, encouragement and assistance provided by the Carolinas Historic Aviation Commission, its board, members and founders cannot be overstated. Floyd and Lois Wilson were crucial to the success of the project. Tom and Bryan Hall of Graphic Printing Services were extremely generous supporters of the project and provided the reproduction of the Final Run print to help raise much needed funds for the project. The encouragement and support of their staff was also greatly appreciated. Roger and Cindy Thomas of Thomas Art Gallery were another godsend of encouragement, an understanding ear, and are valued friends. Roger's unselfish donations of time and artistic talents in the creation of the Final Run print were greatly appreciated.
Other contributors included, from the Naval Historical Center, James Hunter, Barbara Voulgaris, Steve Schmidt, DeLaine Heinlein-Mayden and Dr. Robert Neyland, Mark Evans, Cdr. Jim Carlton (ret.) and Morgan Wilbur; from Tidewater Atlantic Research and the International Institute for Maritime Research, Dr. Gordon P. Watts, Jr., and Raymond Tubby; the entire staff of Pee Dee Lakes Development Project, both past and present; Barry Zerby and all the archivists in the military history division at the National Archives and Records Administration; and Brian Nicklas and Kristine Kaske at the National Air and Space Museum's Library and Archives Division.
Several people who also deserve thanks were those who provided eyewitness and historical document assistance. These individuals include: Bob Paulin, James Gulledge, Don Garren, Byron Allgood, Bill Love, and Tiny Norden.
Valuable media coverage was provided by the following:
Stanley News and Press (Stanly County, NC)- Doug Sams, Terri Cooper, Jenny Darby
Today in the Triad- Bess Lewis
News and Record (Greensboro, NC)- Parker Lee Nash
High Point Enterprise- Chris Vaughn
Winston-Salem Journal- R. Kim Underwood
News and Observer (Charlotte, NC)- Bruce Henderson
Montgomery Herald (Montgomery County)- Linda Beaulieu
Courier-Tribune (Asheboro, NC)- Mary Anderson
Denton Oracle- Lorraine Trotter
Pittsburgh Times (Pittsburgh, PA) - Kim Pascours
The Dispatch (Lexington, NC)- Sherise Wright
Volaré- Pierluigi Duranti
Fox News Channel- Malinda M. Adams
WMAG- Bill Flynn
WTVD- Larry Stogner
WGHP- Bob Buckley
WXII- Janelle Martinez
WFMY- Doug Allred
WSOC- Sandy Durham
WMFR- Dennis Elliott
WLXN- Wes Jones, Willy Edwards
These reporters saw and appreciated my goals for the project and through their efforts money was raised to support it. Often the work of reporters goes unnoticed and unappreciated, but in this small way I hope they know that their contribution made a difference.
Lastly, I'd like to extend my appreciation to the families of the crewmen. Although I did not meet most of Mary McDaniel's family I very much appreciated the assistance of her brother Alvin W. Hill, her daughter Mary Jo Bailey, and son John D. Cutrell. Raymond P. Withrow, the brother of co-pilot John E. Withrow, was a constant and unfailing support to the project. Rebecca Sykes, Charles McDaniel's sister, could not have been more supportive, kind, understanding or faithful. It is for all of the family of the crewmen that this project was done. I apologize for any anguish activities resulting from my actions may have caused them. I deeply regret causing any further pain by antagonizing those whom brought unsubstantiated claims, raising false hopes. I ask forgiveness and hope that this report will provide some measure of closure for them. Through this project we memorialize the sacrifice of 2nd Lt. McDaniel and Ens. Withrow in the hope that none forget their story or the cause of freedom for which their lives were sacrificed.
The Badin Bomber Project was a scientific search for, and investigation of, a World War II aircraft crash site. PBJ-89050, a U.S. Navy version of the B-25, crashed into Badin Lake, North Carolina on June 8, 1944. The crew consisted of pilot Second Lieutenant. Charles M. McDaniel, USMC and co-pilot Ensign. John E. Withrow, USNR. 2nd Lt. McDaniel and Ens. Withrow were ferrying the plane from Ohio to Cherry Point, NC, but had made an unauthorized detour over McDaniel's family home in Palmerville as a romantic gesture to his bride of seven months. For unknown reasons the plane crashed in the lake and both crewmembers were lost. Speculation over the cause of the crash ranged from pilot error to equipment failure. Navy divers and salvage teams arrived shortly after the crash and located the plane, but were unable to retrieve the crewmen. The plane has remained undisturbed since then.
This project was led by underwater archaeologist Wendy M. Coble, MA with the assistance of the Naval Historical Center, managers of the Navy's underwater cultural assets, and under North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources permit number 99BAL597. The project's goals were to locate the plane and determine the reason for the crash. Additional goals were the potential for retrieval and burial of the crew, and display of the aircraft as a memorial to the lost pilots. Evidence gathered as a result of this project demonstrated that it is likely the plane crashed violently, breaking into several pieces. Although these pieces could be retrieved, the cost associated with conservation and restoration would be prohibitive. In addition, altering the damaged aircraft to make it show quality would divest the artifacts of their value as historic objects.
The project's main concern is that the site be treated with dignity and respect, and that the maximum information be obtained for educational and memorial purposes. Hopefully the material contained within this project report will provide closure to grieving families, information to the local community which reveres the site, and a sense of the enormity of the contribution these servicemen and many others provided during World War II in the cause of freedom.
It was cold, very cold in fact. In the still darkness of the early morning, anticipation ran high. Reporters hovered, onlookers strained to see if anything was discernible on the lake surface, and they waited. They watched as the sun came up, live reports being quickly sent back to home stations. They shivered in the February wind and they waited. It was daylight now, and still there was no sign of the search vessel on the wind tossed waves of Badin Lake. Many people grew anxious, and some left, replaced by others eager to see the search for PBJ-1-89050 begin. After nearly two years of research and planning, overcoming immense hurdles, any one of which could have halted the project indefinitely, and long hours preparing for actual fieldwork, the team was stuck waiting. The wait seemed endless as the telephone rang incessantly from those checking on progress. Frustrated by equipment failure and problems in locating U.S. Geodetic Survey markers, half of the team worked, while the other half wondered. Finally, near noon a call came in that the marker had been located, and that the equipment was successfully running. Eagerly the other half of the team gathered equipment and gear hoping to salvage what was left of the day. It was not until 3:00 p.m. on the first day that the team finally got underway, and the search for the plane began.
History of the Site
Weather on the 8th was clear, with only a few cumulus clouds. In a prearranged signal McDaniel agreed to circle the little town of Palmerville where his parents, wife and in-laws would be watching before heading on toward his destination. This signal would let her know that he was continuing on his way and not returning to Morris Field and to her for another night.1 This detour of 15 miles from his approved route was circumstantial evidence used against him during the Navy's inquiry into the crash.2 The plane reportedly made the circle twice, with no apparent trouble, but on the third circuit, the family listened in horror as a sputtering sound was followed by a loud explosion. They never saw the plane or its occupants again.PBJ-1-H-89050 crashed into Badin Lake June 8, 1944 at 12:45 p.m. Piloting the U.S. Navy bomber were 2nd Lt. Charles Merton McDaniel, USMC and Ens. John Earl Withrow, USNR. The pilots were ferrying the new plane from an Ohio factory, probably a munitions supply station, to Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, North Carolina. The plane was scheduled to arrive at Cherry Point the previous night, but due to bad weather or engine malfunction the pilots decided to land at Morris Field in Charlotte, NC and spend the night in McDaniel's hometown of Palmerville. Although McDaniel told his family he often flew over their house at night, he had never stopped previously. The fact that McDaniel's family home was Palmerville, and his wife of only seven months was living there temporarily with her family, appeared to many to be the real reason McDaniel chose to stop for the night. However, it is likely that there was some legitimate reason for stopping, or the crew never would have been given permission to do so.
Mary Elizabeth Hill McDaniel, Charles' new bride, looked at her younger brother with shock and then in tears fled into the house. Family and friends rushed to the lakeshore to see if they could rescue the men, but found only floating debris. Accounts vary, but items listed by witnesses include: a portion of a wing, the forward landing gear, government papers, and various other flotsam. The plane was positively identified from an acceptance form for the new plane found floating at the scene.3 A brown sock and a uniform shirtsleeve were all that was recovered of the crew.
The lake, known by various names at the time, was owned by ALCOA aluminum company. They purchased the lake and the hydroelectric plant near the factory from a French aluminum firm that in 1914 dammed the nearby Yadkin River in several places, creating a series of reservoirs. The swollen river created the reservoir and covered a multitude of natural and man-made obstacles. Whole towns, including churches and graveyards, mines, railroad tracks and unfelled forests were covered by the rising water. The lake's bottom is not uniform along any section. In some areas, the lake's depth reaches 200' or it can be less than a foot deep. This drastic change in depth comes without warning and can take the unwary boater by surprise. The lake now known as Badin Lake, for the town where ALCOA's factory resides, was also known as Yadkin Reservoir and Tallahassee Lake in 1944. PBJ-89050 was lost in one of the lake's deepest sections, in a stand of submerged unfelled trees. Little has changed in the lake's aquatic environment since the crash. High particulate concentrations and unique currents maintained by the original river's flow, create very muddy, opaque-looking water. The ancient riverbed is still discernible on the lake's bottom through remote sensing equipment and the currents created by the opening and closing of the dam at the hydroelectric plant cause sediment to pile up at underwater river bends and produce dangerous conditions for swimming or Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA) diving. These conditions combine to make searching for the lost plane extremely difficult and dangerous.
Within hours of the crash, military police from Morris Field in Charlotte arrived to begin gathering the floating material, interviewing eyewitnesses and securing the area. They posted a watch to guard the evidence for investigators and to maintain wartime security. Because of the need for wartime aluminum, the aluminum plant was considered highly valuable. No one was allowed on the lake in order to ensure the dam's safety. In addition to protecting the site for investigators, military officials may have wanted to keep curious individuals and souvenir hunters from becoming cover for a saboteur to damage the plant or dam.
Immediately after Morris Field was notified, dispatches were sent to Washington DC to the Experimental Diving Unit (EDU) based at the Washington Navy Yard. This elite unit, created during wartime, was trained to perform underwater salvage and maintenance work. They were equipped with the latest in diving technology: hard hats, surface supplied air and weighted suits. They trained in the low visibility, high silt waters of the Anacostia River, which runs past the Navy Yard. The team was trained in the use of underwater metal cutting, welding, salvage, recovery and repair equipment. Once they completed their training these divers were sent into the fleet to repair ships at dock, or at sea. The EDU was used to working in difficult conditions, but nothing really prepared them for working in Badin Lake.
Upon their arrival on June 12, the EDU crew rigged their equipment and began searching the area indicated by eyewitness accounts. Unfortunately, none of the eyewitness accounts agreed. Nonetheless, the EDU salvage team began dragging grapnel hooks in an attempt to find the wrecked plane. Four days later, with still no trace of the wreckage, but losing several grapnel hooks in the submerged, unfelled trees, the salvage team decided to attempt something a little more drastic. They purchased and began setting off dynamite charges in the lake. When local witnesses watched the divers setting off dynamite, they concluded that the Navy was attempting to destroy the wreckage to keep some secret from being discovered. There is, however, no indication that the divers were attempting to destroy the aircraft, and despite the large charges, apparently did very little damage to the already crushed aircraft.
EDU set off several carefully positioned charges. They began with 86 sticks of dynamite along a line of sight from the edge of the dam established by an eyewitness named Mr. Vinters. They had no luck. Next, they purchased 1000 lbs. of dynamite from Stanly Hardware Company in the nearby town of Albemarle, NC, and set out ten charges of approximately 25 lbs. along each of the lines of sight from all eyewitnesses. This too proved fruitless. Then on June 17, as a last attempt, EDU set four charges each containing 50 lbs. of dynamite, along an arbitrary line which can only be described as a "best guess scenario." To their relief, those charges brought up flecks of paint; blue on one side and yellow on the other, and small specks of hydraulic fluid.4 The dynamite had done its job, that of simply shaking something loose that could be followed down to the wreckage. The charge was detonated at an angle so as not to further damage the plane or the remains inside. EDU immediately buoyed the site and divers went below to inspect the spot.
What they found on their initial dives was only to be described through what they learned through touch, as sight was nonexistent in the murky environment. They made a total of six dives that day, during which one diver was pulled up unconscious because of a problem with the air compressor used to pump air to the divers nearly 150' below. Using an underwater telephone device, the divers communicated with the salvage barge above that they had located the wreckage. The following is a portion of their report:
...the plane was badly crushed but seemed to be pretty much in one spot. A thorough search of what appeared to be the nose and the pilot's compartment, by feeling with their hands, revealed no bodies to the divers.5
The salvage team decided to suspend operations until better equipment and more divers could be obtained.
EDU ended their report by stating that they believed the plane could be raised using flotation devices and winches. This was not what happened to the site, however. The plane was never recovered, although large pieces were taken away, reportedly as much as a truckload.6 The team worked on the site until July 15, 1944, when this report was sent to the Chief of Naval Operations:
Portions of the plane were recovered during the period of renewed salvage operations, but the bodies of the pilot and co-pilot were not recovered. From the report of the officer in charge of the salvage party, it is quite evident the aircraft disintegrated on impact, and that the parts are well buried in the silt on the bottom of the resevoir. As some little wreckage in the form of cables, wires and tubes was found in the trees still standing on the reservoir bottom, it is possible that the bodies may be caught and tangled with similar wreckage in the trees. No seats were recovered from the wreckage and it is possible that the bodies may still be strapped in the seats which, by their weight, would cause them to be buried in the mud on the bottom of the reservoir.7
The report continued that further salvage operations would be extremely hazardous and endanger the lives of the divers for no real purpose consequently, salvage operations were suspended.
Throughout the entire search and salvage effort Mr. McDaniel, the pilot's father, sat on a hill overlooking the crash site. Mr. McDaniel said he wanted the plane raised and asked that ALCOA officials request that the Navy have it removed. Rebecca McDaniel Sykes, Charles' sister, recalls the anguish her family felt during the long, fruitless operation. Although so much time has passed and she has moved away from the area, she remembers her brother every time she passes the lake. When questioned whether she would support a renewed search in 1999, Mrs. Sykes said she felt this was something her father would have supported, and she too felt a desire to find some answers to her brother's death. Mrs. Sykes' only caveat was that at no time should the safety of any diver or team member be in question. She did not want to see anyone else get hurt or possibly die because of such a search. Mrs. Sykes remains a strong supporter of the project.
Ens. Withrow's family lived in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. They were deeply disappointed that their son's remains could not be returned. John's brother and only surviving relative, Raymond Withrow, was a serviceman stationed in Italy at the time of the crash. He learned about his brother's death from a girlfriend's letter.
During a trip from Florida to his home at Beaver Falls in 1947, Raymond Withrow stopped at Badin Lake. He stood on the shores and said goodbye to his brother, then drove the short distance to Palmerville to meet McDaniel's parents. The two families relived cherished memories and celebrated the lives of their lost relatives. When approached in 1999 about the project, Mr. Withrow was also an enthusiastic supporter and continued to hope that perhaps some answers would be forthcoming from the new investigation.
In addition to the McDaniel and Withrow families, another family's life was altered. Mary Elizabeth Hill was devastated by the loss of her high school sweetheart and new husband, Charles McDaniel. She and Charles had grown up together in Palmerville and everyone said they were a beautiful couple who seemed meant for each other. Surrounded by her large family, she grieved for many years. Mary eventually remarried, becoming Mary Elizabeth Hill Cutrell, and had two children, Mary Jo and John. She never talked about her first marriage and even kept all of her memories, photos, and first wedding dress stored away in a locked closet in her parents house, where she lived with her new family. Her son, at the age of 16 decided find out what she kept so secret. To his surprise and wonder, he found a photo album of his mother with Charles standing in front of many of the aircraft Charles flew for the Marine Corps. He also found her wedding dress and various other items from her brief marriage to McDaniel. When he confronted his mother about these items she broke down crying and told him a few details, but never talked unreservedly about her previous life. Mary divorced her second husband years later, and died in 1986. She is buried in the small cemetery where a stone and plot were set aside for Charles if he were ever recovered. Her family says she went to her grave loving Charles.
Mary had several siblings who survive her. Alvin W. Hill felt his sister would have wanted the new project to take place and provided information key to developing the search area. In at least one interview with the press, one of Mary's brothers stated that if it were up to him, he would rather see the aircraft remain untouched, but as he realized that Mrs. Sykes, Mr. Withrow, and even his sister would have wanted to see it progress he would not stand in the way of the project. It was with the blessing of these surviving family members that the project went ahead.
The Search Begins
This project drew the attention of underwater archaeologist Wendy M. Coble when her parents moved to Albemarle, NC. At her parents' new church, someone stopped her to tell her about the story of the bomber in Badin Lake.8 Coble has a master's degree in Maritime History and Underwater Archaeology from East Carolina University. It was while in graduate school that she began working with sunken aircraft the first of which was a PBY-5 Catalina sunken in Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, Hawai'i during the Japanese attack 7 December 1941. Through this work, Coble met many veterans who shared their stories, many of whom helped augment and explain what was found on the bay floor. Coble quickly realized that this was an untapped area in underwater archaeology. She also realized that archaeology had a lot to offer in interpreting and documenting historic submerged aircraft. By the time Coble heard the Badin story, she had devoted nearly all of her career energy to dealing with sunken aircraft.
Coble quickly saw the potential assistance her career choice could bring to the town of Badin and the families of 2nd Lt. McDaniel and Ens. Withrow. The science of underwater archaeology utilizes state-of-the-art equipment that can locate and aid in interpreting the remains. By studying the crash site family and friends could begin to understand what had happened on that fateful day. In addition, because of the lake's highly silted bottom, there was a chance that the men's remains were sealed inside the plane, and if handled properly could be recovered for burial. With these two goals in mind, Coble set out to find more information about the crash.
The Navy keeps records of incidents involving aircraft crashes. These records are housed at the Naval Historical Center (NHC) and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).9 Both of these repositories housed crash reports, salvage reports from EDU, telegrams, and other official documents useful to the investigation. Initially there was excitement as one of the reports listed the exact location of the wreckage as an appendix. Unfortunately, when all copies of the report were tracked, none of the appendices survived with the reports.10 Next, local newspaper accounts and eyewitness accounts were gathered. The crash and ensuing search garnered much press, and proved just as interesting in 1999, 50 years after the incident. Unfortunately, eyewitness accounts were more confusing than helpful. Occasionally, too much information can be a problem. Nearly everyone in nearby towns had a theory, story, or memory, and none agreed.
Coble even got her family involved. Her father, Louis Coble, tracked down newspaper accounts and maps and did some of the legwork she could not do not living in the area. Louis Coble stopped by the Yadkin Pee Dee Lakes Development Organization to inquire about a map of the lake, and shared with them Coble's ideas for renewing the search for the plane. Alex Cousins and Michele Ackerman enthusiastically offered their assistance in approaching ALCOA, as the company still owned the land under the lake. They also felt that their organization might be able to assist with publicity and funds raising.
Not long afterward, Coble learned about Floyd Wilson, President of the Carolinas Historic Aviation Commission (CHAC) in Charlotte, and Mayor of the nearby town of Richfield, in connection with an earlier search for the bomber. Coble called Mayor Wilson and discussed her plans with him. Wilson enthusiastically supported her ideas and offered his assistance. CHAC had shown interest in looking for the bomber years before, and now pledged its full support of the new project. With the two non-profit organizations backing the effort, Coble began to plan the search.
In establishing an archaeological investigation, one of the essential elements is permission to conduct the activity. In this situation, many organizations and people required consultation. First were the families of the missing crewmen all of whom agreed with the goals and plans outlined. The plane itself remains Navy property, which is managed by the NHC. A plan, budget and justification for the work were sent to the NHC. Not only were the plans approved, but an offer of equipment donation was extended. This offer was gladly accepted.
The state of North Carolina requires archaeologists to obtain a permit to conduct archaeological surveys. A permit to conduct the project was applied for through the Underwater Archaeology Unit in Kure Beach. State Historic Preservation Officer Billy Oliver expressed concern that the project might endanger one of North Carolina's oldest prehistoric American Indian sites, which is on land not far from the search area. Oliver reasoned that since the lake was created by flooding land near the river, and the Indians had lived by the river, that perhaps this search might disturb some ancient site. He questioned whether researchers would be able to tell the difference between a skull found from the plane, and an ancient skull that might have been buried at the site hundreds of years earlier. With the assurance that the plan only called for survey and that nothing would be uncovered without their permission, the state granted the project permit number 99BAL597.
Next were the landowners, ALCOA Aluminum Company. The land under the lake belongs to the company, but the water column belongs to the state and is under the jurisdiction of the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers. Thankfully, the local Coast Guard Reserve were enthusiastic supporters of the project. The Army Corps of Engineers would not be involved unless the lakebed was disturbed. With the help of Mr. Cousins from the YPDLDO and Mayor Wilson from CHAC, Coble met with Norm Pierson of the Badin ALCOA plant.
Pierson listed the many failed attempts to find the plane in the past and speculated that this search would be no different. The new plan was outlined and Pierson agreed to send the request to ALCOA's lawyers for their comments. ALCOA opted not to financially support the project. During this meeting, Coble requested from Pierson any maps the company had that would aid in the survey. Pierson said he did not know of any, but would look through the company's files.
Retired ECU professor Dr. Gordon P. Watts offered the rental of equipment from his survey company Tidewater Atlantic Research. Watts also suggested the names of survey professionals he had worked with to assist in the Badin project. It was at his suggestion that John W. Morris, III and Marianne Franklin of Southern Oceans Archaeological Research in Florida (SOAR) were hired. Watts provided the needed equipment at a daily rate, and allowed Coble to pick up and return the equipment to save on shipping charges. Insurance for the equipment was donated by Reed Insurance Company through Tommy Richardson, Jr.
The improvised budget went from approximately $13,000 to less than $5,000 and was shortened from two weeks to less than four days. The SOAR crew agreed to drive from Florida rather than fly to save money, the equipment was picked up rather than shipped, and logistical support was donated by the community. Housing for the crew was provided by Sun Realty. The boat and its crew were provided by Rick and Diane Siskey of Charlotte, NC. Gas for the boat and food for the crew were provided by several contributors; among them Bill and Michele Akerman, Rick and Dottie Tinsley and several others. Additionally, positive media coverage enabled another $1000 to be raised to pay for the fourth day of the survey. The project was truly developing widespread community support.
Media attention for the project astounded its participants and blanketed the area for several months. Newspapers in Stanly County, Albemarle, Asheboro, Denton, Salisbury, Thomasville, High Point, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Charlotte, Raleigh and the Associated Press kept America apprised of the progress of the search. Television news cameras began covering the story at least a month prior to the beginning of the search and crowded around the dock daily to secure updates for the 6:00 and 11:00 news. Stations in High Point, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Charlotte, Raleigh, along with CBS and FOX national news were among the television press vying for coverage. A magazine article in Italy's premier flying magazine Volaré brought the attention of Europe. Internet coverage of the story guaranteed worldwide attention. In fact, NHC contract archaeologist Dave Grant was notified that someone was attempting to sell the aircraft on the Internet even before it was raised.11
Anxious to accomplish some of the larger goals, the team set out to search for four days in a search area established through thorough research. Based on the most reliable sources, Coble set up the search area based on line of sight. If a person were standing at one of three key areas there was only one area that was visible. Therefore, this triangulation of known positions delineated only one locus for the plane. It was time to begin searching.
The equipment responded beautifully on the second day, and the interference noted the previous day was nonexistent. Upon completion of nearly two-thirds of the first half of the survey area, the team realized that they had several promising ferrous targets. The team was anxious to view these targets with the side-scan sonar equipment due to arrive that night from the NHC in Washington, DC. All the lanes run the second day confirmed the same targets established the first day. There was definitely scattered metal in the area being searched.A large portion of the survey area was covered in the first day. The survey area encompassed 1/2 mile by 1/4 mile of the lake. (Appendix A) The survey team gathered for the search consisted of Principal Investigator Wendy M. Coble, John W. Morris, III and Marianne Franklin, all experienced underwater archaeologists, and Curtis Deyo, the project's Dive Safety Officer. David Grant and David Howe of the NHC's Underwater Archaeology Branch joined the crew for one day. The initial plan was to cover the search area in regularly spaced lanes using a magnetometer sensor. Despite the name, the magnetometer is not a large magnet that attracts metals to it. It detects the presence of ferrous metals (iron), and judging by the intensity of the reading, can tell the relative size of the metal concentration. To the teams surprise and delight, the first lane run detected several targets of ferrous metal. Interestingly, all targets were running in a straight line parallel to the shoreline. Although initially exciting, there was concern that this might indicate some man made object such as railroad tracks. That possibility was ruled out a few days later.
The third day dawned bright and a bit warmer. Although there was snow on the ground, the temperature had risen and the wind had died down. Grant and Howe had arrived in the early hours of the morning. The sonar equipment was donated by the NHC, as was the participation of both personnel. Unfortunately, the interference experienced on the first day returned and the equipment did not respond for several hours. Although this delayed the start of the survey, the team got in a full day's work and were able to cover all the previously-run lanes using the side-scan sonar. To the team's dismay, nothing but trees and boulders were visible above the sediment layers on the lake's bottom. Despite heavy disappointment, the team continued the survey for the rest of the day.12
The fourth and last day of the search found the team back out with the magnetometer finishing the rest of the half section started on Monday. Grant and Howe returned to Washington, DC with the side-scan sonar, having only been allowed to leave their offices for one day. On the last day of the search, the magnetometer sensors picked up targets that seemed more indicative of an aircraft. Earlier targets had consisted of large iron concentrations; too large, in fact, to be the aircraft's engines. Further disturbing evidence was that these targets were in water too shallow for the proposed crash site. Initially the team suspected that many feet of silt covered the lake bottom and had changed the depth of the lake since 1944. This hypothesis was proved incorrect later. Although inconclusive at the time, this search provided evidence for drawing new theories and helped support many that were previously held.
Results from the February 1999 Field Work
Several months after Phase I was completed, the magnetometer data was analyzed by Raymond Tubby of the International Institute for Maritime Research (IIMR). Ray's report is included as Appendix B. Ray's analysis of the data concluded that within the area searched 11 targets of ferrous metals were discovered. Five of these targets appeared to be a cluster of iron objects of low intensity and might represent parts of the plane. Because of these characteristics these targets were marked as high priority locations for further research. One target was marked a moderate priority that could be investigated if the high priority targets proved not from the plane crash site. The remaining five targets seemed to be too small to be a part of the crash site and were probably pipe, anchors or other similar debris.
Post Phase 1 Research
Due to the astounding media attention the initial fieldwork received, interest remained high in the project long after the team left the area. Every day during the initial survey crowds of onlookers and media jammed the Badin town dock. Nearly everyone wanted to ask questions or share a theory. Many offered eyewitness accounts. The number of "eyewitness" accounts quickly grew overwhelming, in fact. News of the search stirred memories of what some had seen or what they had been told by others who had witnessed the crash. Unintentionally, stories were jumbled, facts were skewed, and team members began trying to avoid the flood of information. Consequently, many were offended that no one seemed to heed their account or change the survey area based on their information.
In an effort to sort out the reliable from the unreliable information, Coble sent a request for information to a few promising sources. Included with the request was a map of the area and instructions to mark both the place where the witness stood and the area where they last saw the plane. An example of one map returned is included in Appendix D. Because of the information contained in the replies to these requests, the search area for future fieldwork was expanded. A map of the expanded area can be seen in Appendix E.
New Fund Raising Efforts
Despite the fact that relatively little money had been raised during the initial search, it was believed that with enough time adequate funding could be secured. A few weeks after the initial fieldwork, Roger Thomas, an artist in the town of Badin, contacted Coble and offered to create an original artist's impression of the bomber. He felt that this could be used to generate limited edition prints to sell to fund the project. The entire profit from Thomas' painting Final Run was donated to the project through CHAC. The original oil painting of Final Run was commissioned by a local businessman so that those profits too could be donated to the project. Reproduction of 575 limited edition prints was donated by Graphic Printing Services of Greensboro, NC.
The image portrays the bomber in the air shortly before it crashed over the area believed to be the crash site. Eyewitness accounts indicated it to be an accurate representation of the attitude and altitude of the plane. The highly detailed and realistic print was quite popular and raised several thousand dollars toward the next phase of the project.
In the fall of 1999, Thomas allowed the print to be reproduced on a T-shirt that could also be used to raise money for the project. The T-shirts were sold locally from Thomas Art Gallery and at the 1999 Better Badin Festival. Many people that could not afford to buy the print or that simply wanted a souvenir of the project, purchased the shirts.
Trouble with Salvors
Unfortunately, fundraising efforts stirred trouble with salvors across the country. Evidently, the allure of a difficult search proved impossible to ignore. One group, Vintage Military Aircraft Recovery of Los Angeles, California, tried to convince the town to work with them to recover the plane for restoration. They announced plans to remove the plane to California, and after it was restored, bring it back to Badin--for a price. When the town declined their offers of assistance, they threatened to come at night and take the plane when no one was watching. Local animosity toward any group wanting to take "their plane" effectively prevented any attempts by "outsiders" to search for it.
It should be explained that people in Badin, and to some extent the surrounding towns, consider anyone not born in the area to be an outsider. Countless "transplants" which have moved to and lived in the area for many years are never fully trusted. This inclusive feeling did not even extend to the city of Greensboro, only 45 minutes away, where Coble was born. To a certain extent, Coble received cooperation because taking the plane somewhere else was never an option, but on the other hand, this could explain why raising funds within the area proved such a difficult task. It could also explain why even more trouble developed when two local men claimed to have located the plane, and more significantly, at no cost to anyone.
Danny Carlisle and Mack House began searching for the bomber on their own sometime in the fall of 1999, after reading comments in the press regarding the California salvors. House told Coble he took particular umbrage over a statement in a local paper where she stated that she did not believe anyone could find the plane without the experience and equipment her team used. House said he and Carlisle set out to prove her wrong and to do so without financial assistance from anyone. This was an issue of local pride.
Neither man had the permission of the NHC, ALCOA or the State Cultural Resources Office to conduct a search. They operated on SCUBA from a wet (as opposed to a sealed) submarine, working at night so that their activities would not be monitored. They claimed to have sonar capabilities, but if this is true it was not side scan sonar. As no one was allowed to inspect their equipment, all claims are suspect. House and Carlisle searched for the plane on weekends, and after several operations, announced that they had found the plane. They claimed to have attached a plaque to one wing stating that this was a war grave and that no one should touch the remains. They claimed connections to the Pentagon and the Navy through their service as SEALS.13 Investigation by the local press revealed no government connections nor any record of either man serving as a SEAL. Although their descriptions of the purported wreckage sounded accurate, they offered nothing more than that found in Navy documents, which are publicly accessible.
Local media were initially receptive to the claims and credited the salvors with finding the plane. When the NHC was advised of their claims, Barbara Voulgaris, Acting Head of the Underwater Archaeology Branch requested proof. When none was provided, the media began retracting earlier statements. Most of the local populace also questioned the salvor's claims because they would not provide proof. In this instance, the claims of locals were not above reproach. Overall, the area's media and local support remained with Coble, although interest in the project diminished considerably after this incident. Consequently, no more funds were raised and sales of the print dwindled.
Shortly thereafter, Coble began working for the NHC's Underwater Archaeology Branch. Although the offer of employment and the project at Badin were not connected, the salvors mistrusted the Navy, and claimed this was the reason they refused to provide evidence of their find. The salvors have not been in contact with anyone in connection to the plane since early January 2000. Because there was no proof of illegal tampering the salvors were not prosecuted by the State, the Navy or ALCOA.
Phase II Begins
In early 2000, Bill Love, a local historian who had once aided House and Carlisle, wrote to the NHC requesting assistance to continue the search for the plane. Love had been responsible for initiating a search by Navy Reserve Mobile EOD Unit 10 in 1993. He requested that the NHC contact the unit to see if they would revisit the site. Coble contacted Roy L. Dowell, Chief Petty Officer-In-Charge of the unit, and explained the situation. Dowell was enthusiastic about bringing his unit back to Badin to complete the search. He offered to return to the lake with the unit for a training exercise and use their side-scan sonar to check targets established with the magnetometer during the most recent survey.
The EOD unit's costs were supposed to be provided by money raised through donations and the sale of Final Run, but difficulties in transferring funds resulted in the EOD unit donating their time and equipment as a training exercise.14 Just as during the initial search operation, local donations were the main source of funding for this phase. Housing was donated by local trailer owners at Whip-O-Will campground owned by Bill and Michelle Ackerman. Gas for the boat was provided through CHAC's Badin Bomber Fund as a direct expense.
Because of problems experienced with local salvors claiming to have found the plane, the second search was conducted with no fanfare and no press coverage. Only those actively involved in the operation were aware of its activity until after the fieldwork was completed. No one had any desire to debate the legitimacy of the salvors' claims or why the Navy was continuing to search. Once the work was completed, however, a short press release was issued to local media sources to confirm the legitimacy of the unit's search should it ever fall under suspicion.
Several news sources wrote articles or notices for their organizations. All but one stated the material in the release. One, however, published a story leading readers to believe that the Navy had found the plane. This material was exaggerated and untrue and caused many that were involved to question the integrity of the Navy. Fortunately, the story was countered by other news organizations, and the fact that no decision on the material discovered during Phase II had been made caused the furor to die down again.
The amount and quality of the work accomplished was extraordinary when all the field complications are considered. The entire survey area, plus an expanded zone around it, was searched with the aid of side-scan sonar. (Appendix E.) As with the initial search, there were equipment problems during the second search. There were so many problems, in fact, that reservists began to believe that the whole operation was "cursed."
With only a few days to conduct the second search, delays caused by malfunctioning or damaged equipment caused the crew to become exasperated. On the first day, the side-scan computer's motherboard was damaged, and the keyboard had to be replaced. The GPS system malfunctioned, and one of the four towing cables stopped working. No work was completed on that day. On the second day, the survey boat ran into a submerged sediment hill, damaging the propeller of one of its two engines. The hill, created by active underwater currents in the lake had been marked for boaters, but the markers had floated away. Because the hill rises sharply on all sides, a boater unfamiliar with the area is incapable of assessing the danger until it is too late. This spot is impossible to predict even with a depth finder. Because of the damage, the entire survey had to be continued with only one engine. Anyone who has ever captained a remote-sensing survey boat can appreciate the difficulty of maintaining straight survey lines with an off-center engine.
On the last day of the search, two additional towing cables malfunctioned. In addition, the sensor stuck in one of the standing submerged trees. Luckily, it was freed with only slight damage to the sensor. The wood removed from around the sensor was extremely waterlogged, but still structurally sound. It appears unlikely that these trees will decay and fall anytime soon.
These problems and the problems experienced by researchers during the first operation all point to the difficulty of working in the lake. While it is unlikely that the area is "cursed," it is probable that many environmental factors coalesce to make work in Badin Lake an enterprise only for the determined. The GPS interference could have come from waves bouncing off the surrounding hillsides. The undulating lake bottom and standing submerged forest create hazards to equipment. The fact that the area is so isolated from large suppliers of computer parts only exacerbates the problems created by computer failure.
Because of all the difficulties, it is amazing that any data was recovered. Fortunately, when the equipment was working it worked very well, resulting in new targets for investigation. The sonar images in this report, except for the example of standing hardwood trees, reflect probable man-made anomalies that may be parts of the Badin Bomber. Before discussing specific images and their possible interpretation, it is important to outline the characteristics of the plane to make it easier to correlate its features with the archaeological evidence.
Characteristics of the PBJ-H
America first learned about North American's new medium bomber, the Mitchell B-25 after Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle led an attack force of 16 bombers over Japan on April 18, 1942. The aircraft was initially conceived in early 1936, and following various design changes was finally under contract for production in August 1939. The bomber was designed for long range, large capacity bombing and strafing runs. It was North American's first bomber design.15
The bomber's designers modified several versions of the plane for different uses and specific needs. Starting with the B-25-NA, subsequent versions were the B-25 A, B, C, D, F-10, G, H, and J. Each design incorporated improvements over the preceding one. For instance, many felt the bomber lacked sufficient defensive capabilities, so North American made significant armament changes in the B-25 H. The first model utilized one forward fixed .30 caliber gun in the nose, two .30 caliber waist guns and one .50 caliber fixed gun in the rear. All positions were manned rather than fired by remote control. Later models added another .30 caliber gun in the nose and a twin ADF "football" turret in the top aft fuselage. As some believed this new turret eliminated the necessity of the tail and waist guns, the B version had smaller waist gunner's windows, and usually no guns were used at all.16
By the time designers had begun production of the H version, the type represented by PBJ-89050, there were extensive additions to the armament. Beginning with the G model, the earlier glass-enclosed nose gunner's position had been replaced with a shorter nose compartment housing a 75mm cannon operated remotely by the pilot. In the H version, an additional arsenal of four .50 caliber machine guns, also operated by the pilot, were installed. In order to make room for this additional machinery, the co-pilot's seat was removed and the gun cartridges were placed to the right of the pilot. The dorsal gun was considered useless in combat and was removed. The "football" turret introduced on the B version was moved forward, making room in the navigator's area aft of the wings for staggered waist guns. These areas bulged slightly and were covered with perspex to allow more movement and thereby better defensive capabilities. The tail gunner's position was also adapted in the H. The aft fuselage area was increased by 7 inches, and two .50 caliber machine guns in a Bell electro-hydraulic tail turret were installed. The gunner was able to sit on a stool in a glass greenhouse first introduced on the C and D versions, and modified on the H and J versions to be wider and deeper. This allowed the gunner more visibility, more range of motion, and much more firepower. In addition to all of these were added two single-gun packs to the right (starboard) side of the forward fuselage. Some models included these guns on the left (port) side as well. With this increased firepower, coupled with its payload of bombs and long-range capabilities, the B-25H was considered a force with which to be reckoned.17
The B-25 was adapted and built for all branches of the military, including the Navy and Marine Corps. Beginning with the B version, the Navy/Marine Corps adapted the C, D, G, H and J. These were referred to as PBJ: "PB" for Patrol Bomber and the letter designation "J" for North American, the manufacturer. The U.S. Navy acquired over 700 of these various versions, 236 of which were the PBJ-H. BuNo PBJ-H-89050 was the last in its job order and very nearly the last of that model purchased by the Navy.18 A few PBJs were equipped with an arresting hook for use in landing on aircraft carriers, and although the Marines held this aircraft in high esteem, the Navy never fully adapted any version of the B-25 for carrier based duties.19
Another adaptation was the PBJ's color scheme. The first production of the B-25 was made with unpainted metal. This pre-war version had vertical red, white and blue stripes, and wing insignia. Most versions, including those of foreign uses, were painted Army Green. Some included camouflage for desert use, such as those assigned to the 489th bomb squadron operating in Tunisia in 1943. Another alternative for desert work was "desert pink" and neutral grey. Frequent additions of "nose art" appeared as pilots personalized their aircraft. Most Marine Corps PBJs were painted in a tri-color scheme of Dark Sea Blue on top, Intermediate Blue in the middle and Flat White underneath. Very few ever had distinctive markings or unit insignia.20 Yellow primer was applied at the factory prior to any paint scheme being placed on the aircraft.21 The PBJ-H/J versions had a wingspan of 67' 7".
The dihedral wing was "broken" with a different angle between the fuselage and the engine as opposed to fuselage to wingtip being one angle. This gave it a "gull wing" appearance, helping to stabilize the aircraft from "Dutch roll," a wingtip to wingtip rolling motion experienced during early testing. The wingtips of the B-25 were also upturned to decrease stalling and allow relatively short take-offs and landings.22 The length of the plane nose to tail was 52' 11", with a height from the ground to the tip of the top turret of 15' 10". Two Wright R02600-13 three-bladed propeller engines, each with a maximum horsepower of 1,700 rpm, were its powerplant. The PBJ had a fully retractable tricycle landing apparatus. Two retractable landing wheels were housed behind each engine in nacelles on the wings. The third smaller landing wheel retracted into the forward fuselage of the plane. It had a twin-ruddered tail designed to offset the thrust of the powerful twin engines and provide a more stable craft. Armor plating on the left and right forward fuselage provided some protection for the pilot, but added to the plane's weight. The aircraft had a gross weight of 33,500 lbs. when fully manned by six crew and laden with 3000 lbs. of bombs. Empty it weighed 19,975 lbs. Fully loaded it had an initial rate of climb of 790 feet per minute. Its maximum speed was 275 mph at 13,000 ft., with a ceiling of 24,800 ft. Its average ferry range was 2,700 miles.23
Based on the information gathered to date, some theories should be discussed. It cannot be overly stressed that these are theories based on remote sensing and archival data. In most cases, archaeologists require visual inspection of anomalies and will rarely publish incomplete data. It should also be stated that these theories are those of the Principal Investigator only and are based on the information gathered from all sources. While it would be fair to say that for the reasons outlined below there is a high probability that these remains represent the aircraft, it would be untrue to state that the Navy or Coble, for that matter, completely believes the plane has been found. These theories are being published however, because Coble feels it is important to share with the community the results of fieldwork they helped fund. There is also a staggering amount of evidence that cannot be easily explained and must be outlined and discussed in order to be understood. Therefore, the following theories are published along with their pros and cons so that readers can decide for themselves.
The search area was established based on eyewitness reports included in the EDU reports as well as reports from surviving eyewitnesses. EDU included eyewitness lines of sight in their report, along with a map of the lake bottom pinpointing the wreckage. These enclosures have been separated from the reports over the years and are no longer available. Newspaper reports at the time of the crash said eyewitnesses could not agree where the plane sank. Various stories of what was seen, the surrounding area, and the possible depth of the wreckage circulated through the area for weeks. One eyewitness was fishing illegally on the railroad trestle on the south side of Palmer mountain .24 Another eyewitness, evidently an ALCOA employee named Mr. Vinters, reported seeing the plane crash from his vantage point at the end of the dam.25 Because the official report enclosures are missing it is unknown how many eyewitnesses were consulted and lines of sight investigated in 1944. The most current search area included both previously mentioned lines of sight and a third from the pilot's brother-in-law, who watched the salvage operation from a point on shore. Based on this information the survey parameters were designed. There is little doubt that whatever remains of the plane is within this small area of the lake.
The entire area within the initial and secondary search area parameters, including a much wider periphery were investigated using side-scan sonar. Any object rising above the lake's sediment would be detected by sonar.26 Researchers believe that unless the wreckage is completely buried in lake-bottom sediment it is likely that the wreckage is depicted in at least one of the side-scan images.
Researchers expected to find very deep sediment, based on a statement in a telegram sent from MCAS Cherry Point to OPNAV:
In conjuction salvage peter baker jig airplane my...survey party reports plane resting in one five zero feet muddy water x ten dash fifteen feet silt bottom...27
Contrary to this statement, however, if the sediment were actually 10-15 feet as reported, nothing of the plane would have been visible above the sediment for the divers to find, as the uncrushed fuselage of a B-25/PBJ is only 8 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Researchers believe that the depth of the sediment layer was estimated much as the depth of the water was estimated, and that perhaps the divers had stirred the sediment by their activities. Stirring these sediments would have introduced particles into the water column, making it appear that the mud was 10-15 feet deep. There is no doubt that the visibility at Badin Lake is virtually nil; however, when adding to this condition the fact that EDU divers were wearing weighted boots and not floating above the sediment on SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) it is easy to see why they might consider the sediment very deep.
On the other hand, if the fuselage were moved, as was reported during the Experimental Diving Unit's salvage attempts, it might have originally been in 10-15 feet of sediment. The mud bottom hampered the divers so much that they could not see anything:
A thorough search of what appeared to be the nose and the pilot's compartment by feeling with their hands, revealed no bodies to the divers. 28
EDU divers were used to working in zero visibility. They were stationed at Washington Navy Yard and often trained in the Anacostia River next to the base. Although the river has been heavily polluted since World War II and only recently has been cleaned somewhat, the river has never been anything other than muddy and sediment filled.
The Experimental Diving Unit and their Capabilities
The Deep Sea Diving School/Experimental Diving Unit were under the command of the U.S. Navy's Bureau of Ordnance and the Naval Gun Factory. Perhaps because of this connection EDU divers placed more emphasis on retrieving ordnance. Theoretically, the guns from the wrecked plane could be retrieved, cleaned and refitted for future use. The PBJ-H was a veritable flying gun, bristling with ordnance. In addition to the 75mm nose cannon were 18-50mm guns mounted along the fuselage nose, sides, top, bottom, and tail section. The number of guns and the possibility of reuse could provide evidence supporting the theory of heavy salvage of PBJ-89050:
The purpose of the school is to train officers and men in all phases of deep sea diving. Included in the course of instruction are practice dives of 300 feet, breathing compressed air, and to 320 feet breathing a mixture of helium and oxygen. Training includes the teaching of divers to do underwater welding and burning. . . Next comes instruction in the use of all kinds of diver's tools, both for the surface and under water. Burning and welding, both surface and subsurface, receive a great deal of time. There is instruction in all types of air compressors, and two weeks work at torpedo recovering at a depth of from 60 to 100 feet, in mud ranging to 10 to 30 feet. Students have two weeks of diving on a sunken vessel, at a depth of 140 feet, with no visibility and a strong current moving. Five weeks are given over to open water diving in the Anacostia River at a 30 foot depth, in four feet of mud, and no visibility. Under these conditions, students are required to perform most of the various tasks expected of a diver; burning, welding, tool handling, and the like...29
Knowing both the characteristics of the PBJ-H and the capabilities of the EDU can aid in analyzing and interpreting the sonar images obtained from Badin Lake.
The Theorized Fuselage
The sonar image of the object theorized to be the fuselage of PBJ-89050 displays four or five similar objects lined up in a row. These objects display a "shadow," a particular characteristic of side-scan sonar, which gives objects depth in an image. The different wavelengths of sonar sound as it is bounced back to the receiver are what create this shadow, but sonar operators use this characteristic to determine if something has height as opposed to lying flat on the sediment surface. Based upon the shadow cast by the objects, they are hollow and shaped like croquet wickets; curved on top with both sides extending into the mud. This object is definitely man-made. It is about 25-28 ft. long and approximately 8 feet wide.
During World War II most bombers were built in sections, each section being constructed by a different factory and sent to one location for assembly. Several sections could be manufactured together, but all sections were joined by bulkheads. In fact, North American was the first factory to build aircraft, specifically the B-25, in segments to ensure efficient quantity production. This practice is still widely used. The B-25 was broken down into 48 major component sections.30
Aircraft bulkheads are not the same as those found on a ship. The term is used to describe a stronger framework section within the aircraft. These bulkheads were not completely closed sections with hatches,but were, instead, open, much like a donut with a large open center. Between the bulkheads were "formers," which are latitudinal frames, and "stringers," which are longitudinal frames. These make up the structure to which the aluminum outer fabric is attached.
The B-25/PBJ had six bulkheads.31 It is theorized that the anomaly in Figure 11 is what remains of the fuselage. Each piece of the man-made anomaly corresponds to approximately where one would expect to find a bulkhead on the fuselage. This image reveals what appears to be a piece of curved structure that has offset, perpendicular spine-like objects on either side of the structure.
Not far from this anomaly are several small objects that have some of the same offset perpendicular characteristics. It is a distinct possibility that this could be all that remains of the formers and stringers between the bulkheads. The curved structure could be a bulkhead or a former with the stringers cut on both sides. It appears to be peeled back from the rest of the anomaly.
EDU had the technology to cut metal underwater.32 They often practiced this type of salvage in the Anacostia River off the Washington Navy Yard where they were based. The EDU spent approximately two weeks on the crash site in 1944 and reportedly hauled away "a truckload of material." Newspaper accounts describe part of this material as the nose wheel and portions of a wing.33
Clues from historical documents generated during the salvage state:
"Portions of the plane were recovered during the period of renewed salvage operations...No seats were recovered from the wreckage...34
Barrett Crook and Earl Beck picked up, among other wreckage turned over to Army authorities, a piece of flesh or skin about 6" long by 2" wide. This flesh was thin and was attached to a piece of smooth board...They also picked up an aluminum tank of about 30 gallons capacity, on (1) first-aid kit, one (1) GI shirt sleeve, and one (1) brown sock.35
...AIRCRAFT DEFINITELY IDENTIFIED AS PETER BAKER JIG BUREAU NUMBER EIGHT NINE ZERO FIVE ZERO FROM PILOT FINAL ACCEPTANCE FORM FOUND FLOATING SCENE OF ACCIDENT..."36
In addition, Bill Love, local historian and witness to the plane's flight over Albemarle, has a bulb from a light said to have originated from the crash site. According to Love, one of the men who had transported wreckage material to the authorities missed this bulb when cleaning out his vehicle. It appears to be from one of the plane's wing lights.37
Numerous archival searches failed to reveal the exact material removed, but it is not unreasonable to believe that any equipment, including guns that could be reused, were taken from the wreckage. The guns mounted on the sides of the fuselage were located between two bulkheads with reinforcements on each of the nearest bulkheads.38 To retrieve these guns it would have been necessary to remove the fuselage structure between the bulkheads. It seems likely that the main nose cannon, as well as any of the four nose guns, were not retrieved, but only because they were too badly crushed to make retrieval worthwhile.
Despite rumors to the contrary, there was never a Norden bombsight on PBJ-H-89050. These bombsights, extremely valuable during the war, were kept with plane commanders while on a bombing run or locked in a vault when not in use. Since PBJ-89050 was a brand-new plane, being delivered, there is no reason to believe a bombsight was ever on board. The Norden sight was not standard equipment and moved with commanders rather than planes.
It is reasonable to theorize that Anomaly 1 could be the shell of the fuselage; all that remains of the wreckage after EDU completed their salvage work. It is the approximate size and shape, and its characteristics can be reasonably explained. There is more environmental evidence to support this location as the final resting place of PBJ-89050 and its crew.
Salvage divers detonated dynamite in an attempt to locate the plane. Initial research into this crash seriously questioned the value of using dynamite and the consequences of using such a violent search method. Local lore indicated that the military was trying to destroy the plane so that whatever secrets it held would remain hidden forever. In reality, the use of dynamite, while crude, was actually an effective method of locating the plane.
EDU used dynamite in an attempt to shake loose wreckage with the blast concussion. It was believed that, by doing so, something would be dislodged from the plane and would float to the surface to identify where the wreckage lay. It is also possible that EDU hoped the concussion would cause the crewmen's bodies to float to the surface, as this method was occasionally used to find drowning victims during that time period. Side-scan images of the proposed site display what appears to be evidence of blast activity. Such blasts would have stirred the sediment, and possibly felled trees nearby. In the area where the suspected fuselage rests is a crater of unknown depth. The area surrounding the crater appears to have a ring of piled sediment such as would be expected around a blast crater. Only a few trees are standing near this crater and evidence of felled trees are visible. The sediment surrounding the crater shows no evidence of being disturbed by an underwater craft. In a line not far from this large crater are smaller craters that would appear to be evidence of smaller blasts set off several days earlier.
The dynamite blasts did not cause aviation fuel or oil to surface, but rather hydraulic fluid. Hydraulic fluid could have come from any of the wheel wells, including the landing gear assembly in the severely crushed nose of the plane. This evidence would seem to indicate that the engines were not near the wreckage that was found by EDU in 1944. There is no indication within the report whether the wings were still attached to the plane. The only evidence of the plane's condition are three statements found in three different reports. None mention the wings or engines.42
The divers thoroughly examined the wreckage, and it was determined by conversation with them while on the bottom that the plane was badly crushed but seemed to be pretty much in one spot.43
Diver reported parts of the plane strewn all over the bottom. The main part of the plane seems to be intact and about twenty-five (25) ft. long, and very badly crushed.44
From the report of the officer in charge of the salvage party it is quite evident the aircraft disintegrated on impact, and that the parts are well buried in the silt on the bottom of the reservoir...some little wreckage in the form of cables, wires and tubes was found in the trees still standing on the reservoir bottom...45
These passages suggest a substantial portion of the aircraft was found in 1944. Researchers initially believed this portion to be part of the fuselage from which the aft third of the plane including the tail section had been removed. The material revealed by side-scan sonar is approximately 25 to 28 feet long and 8 feet wide. The fuselage depth of a B-25/PBJ from top to bottom is 8 feet. This piece does not look like the fuselage of a plane and there are no wings visible in the image. If the aircraft hit the surface of the lake at a steep angle and a high rate of speed, the resulting high impact crash could potentially leave a portion of fuselage without the wings.46 If the act of crashing ripped the wings off the fuselage, it would likely fall onto its right side because of the heavy nose cannon and other guns on the right forward side of the fuselage.
The Theorized Tail Section
The B-25/PBJ is heavier in the nose of the plane. Too much stress on the structure of the plane such as the nose section plunging downward would cause the fuselage to break aft of the landing gear. Navy Divers reported that the portion of the plane on which they began salvage operations was approximately 25 feet long. A measurement from the nose section to a point 25 feet aft would be approximately where engineers stated a stress fracture would occur. Sonar evidence points to the possibility of the tail section lying several hundred feet from the proposed fuselage section.
Contrary to a high impact crash, most ditchings or "belly landings" on land do not result in the loss of the tail section. This is mainly because there is no unusual stress placed on one half of the structure. A proper ditching or belly landing will support the entire frame equally. Because the plane is nose heavy, that portion of the fuselage would sink quickly. The tail section was much lighter and might have floated for a short time, giving the impression that the plane was hanging inverted in the water. One eyewitness, a small boy at the time of the crash, provided a map pinpointing where he last saw the tail section of the plane. This location was almost even longitudinally with Hardaway Point. Having thoroughly surveyed the area indicated on this map, it is clear that there are no anomalies within the indicated parameters. One anomaly that cast a sonar shadow resembling a PBJ twin rudder tail was marked closer to where researchers expected to find the plane. The object is in line with the theorized trajectory of the plane, but the computerized measurements of the sonar shadows appear to be larger than the dimensions of a PBJ tail assembly. It would be impossible to gain an accurate measurement of an object by measuring only its shadow, as there are too many variables to consider. This could account for the difference in dimensions, or the anomaly could be something completely unrelated to the crash.
When the sonar towfish went directly over Anomaly 2, it appeared to be a telephone pole.
Had it not been for the shadow the object cast, it would not have been considered a significant target.
When compared to an image of a PBJ tail assembly there are some notable similarities. It is theorized that this shadow represents one of the rear stabilizer fins of the plane, lying on its side with only one fin and the rear gunner's window visible. To further illuminate this association, consider the following description of a PBJ tail assembly:
The fixed empennage (tail group) structure consists of a metal-covered horizontal stabilizer with a metal covered vertical stabilizer attached to each tip. Metal-framed, fabric covered elevators and rudders are hinged to the horizontal and vertical stabilizers. The horizontal stabilizer is attached to the upper rear fuselage section by means of bolted fittings that join the front and rear stabilizer spars to the fuselage. Each vertical stabilizer is an all-metal structure bolted to the front and rear spars of the horizontal stabilizer. The vertical stabilizers extend both above and below the horizontal stabilizer. The structure of ribs, spars, and light rolled stringers is covered by 24 ST aluminum skin. Detachable tips provide access to the interior structure of the vertical stabilizers. All-metal trim tabs are attached to the elevators and rudders by three sealed ball-bearing hinges. A horn protruding from the side of the tab at the center hinge provides means of attaching the tab actuating rod.47
Visible on a high-resolution screen are two thin, short objects that appear to be falling from the top irregular object. These could be the cables that hold the rear stabilizer, which is fabric covered and would be invisible to sonar if the fabric still remains. The rear stabilizer, rather than its usual straight attitude, would fall if there were no tension on the cables that held it straight, just as this image suggests. The smaller shadow to the right of the larger image could be the reflection of the sonar through the bomber's window.
Figures 26 and 27. Compare the shadow (left) with the stabilizer of a PBJ (right). Used with permission. From Squadron/Signal's Walkaround B-25, 1997.
A third anomaly appears to be made of many valves and other working parts. Its position is in line with the theorized wreckage trajectory and is possibly one of the plane's twin engines. It is also possible that this anomaly represents an intrusive engine that was used as an anchor or discarded in the lake at a later. Each engine had its own serial number manufacturer's plate. If this anomaly were ever visually inspected, the plate would identify it as once belonging to PBJ-89050.
In addition, if the propeller blades were found still on the propeller hub their attitude, either feathered (each blade straight rather than tilted to catch the air) or not, could reveal information about the last minutes of flight. Pilots would feather propeller blades of engines that were not working. Feathered props do not usually change position during an aircraft wreck and are often indicators of how and why a plane crashed. Since it has been theorized that PBJ-89050 crashed because of engine trouble, this might provide solid evidence. This element of the crash scene has remained untouched since the crash as EDU did not discover it in 1944.
Based on the evidence, theories can be postulated about how the plane crashed. These are only theories and cannot be proven because the aircraft's remains have been altered. Key evidence and indicators to what happened have been removed from the crash site, but based upon what is left a likely scenario can be elucidated.
The plane's nose wheel was found floating on the lake surface shortly after the crash. If the pilot was trying to ditch the plane, the landing gear should have been up. If the pilot was caught off guard and crashed, the landing gear would also be up and the nose of the plane would have been severely damaged. In either scenario, the nose wheel floating on the surface of the lake indicates that the wheel compartment in the nose was badly damaged from the impact of the crash. This in turn seems to indicate a high impact crash at a high rate of speed.48
The B-25/PBJ had zero tolerance for stunting.
"The prohibited maneuvers in this plane are: loops, spins, rolls, vertical dives, immelmanns, inverted flight, vertical banks. These maneuvers are not prohibited because of the flying characteristics of the airplane, but because they impose severe structural stresses on it."49
McDaniel trained on the aircraft using the manual quoted above. He had 128.4 hours flying this type of aircraft and knew its tolerances.50 It seems logical that knowing these limitations McDaniel would not have taken the risk of stunting over his parent's house. On the other hand, pilots showing off for family and friends do not always think logically.
There is no evidence McDaniel stunted over the town or anywhere people could see him. Once he passed over his house, even his family could not see any fancy flying if he had performed any. No one was allowed on the lake during World War II. The only eyewitness who was actually at the lake was illegally fishing on the railroad trestle near Palmer Mountain. Although McDaniel was blamed for the accident because he was showing off in a term known as "flathatting," no eyewitness ever accused the pilot of doing anything other than flying in a wide circle over the lake. This may indicate that the plane was experiencing some sort of mechanical failure and McDaniel was attempting to line up his approach to ditch.
The position of the material thought to be the wreckage, however, would indicate the pilot was dipping low over the lake in order to sharply rise over Palmer Mountain and "pop into view" near his parents home. If this is the case, then the pilot must have misjudged his descent and "swooped" too low. This theory is also backed by the sonar images of what appear to be the plane's wreckage. This indicates that the plane struck the water with massive force, at a steep angle, and plowed straight to the bottom, tearing off both wings and the tail section.
Eyewitnesses recount that the plane flew low over the town of Albemarle 15 miles West of Badin. The term "rattled the windows" is frequently recounted. The pilot could have flown over the town, showing off by flying at a dangerously low altitude, or there was some mechanical failure with the plane so that it could not gain altitude.51
If Anomaly 1 is the fuselage then where are the wings, and why is it theorized to be lying on its side? As stated in earlier sections it is now believed likely that PBJ-89050 met the surface of the lake at a high rate of speed. The wings likely were sheared off from the impact of the fuselage plunging through the water column. If the chain of events happened as suspected, the fuselage would not only be nose heavy, but would also be heavier on the right side. In the PBJ-H version, the ammunition box for the nose guns sat in the right side of the cockpit area where a co-pilot would sit in any other B-25 configuration. Without the wings to keep the plane upright, it is reasonable to expect that the plane's fuselage could tip over to the right. If Anomaly 1 is viewed as the left side of the plane's fuselage, then the total width of the anomaly, approximately eight feet, corresponds to the depth of a B-25/PBJ fuselage at 88 inches.
Because of the high stresses placed on the after end of the fuselage during the crash, the tail section, or empennage, likely separated from the aircraft. Being lighter, it would have floated for some time after separating and prior to sinking. If this is what happened, it could explain why several eyewitnesses said it took a long time for the plane to sink. It may also explain why eyewitness reports netted no results when EDU divers attempted to drag for the plane. The segment suspected to be the tail would provide a very small target for grapnel hooks. It would not emit any fluid leaks after dynamite blasting if any was done in this area. Most importantly, its position, likely reported accurately by eyewitnesses did not mark the resting place of the plane, only the tail. Eyewitness accounts of the crash location, while not entirely erroneous, were based on the position of the floating tail section, which was located a considerable distance from the main wreckage. This anomaly is far enough away from the largest pieces of Anomaly 1 to have gone undetected by EDU divers. There is no evidence that EDU or anyone else had any idea where the tail section of the plane was located.52
During its original testing and design, a modified version of the B25 H broke up and crashed in a manner similar to that proposed for PBJ-H-89050:
On 24 April 1944, after these men had completed a number of flights on the 98X airplane, Major Ritchie, as he had done previously after all flights, finished this day's flight with a high-speed, low-level pass over NAA's flight ramp followed with a steep spiral pull up. Coming from the west, Ritchie pulled up as usual. At about 200 ft, both of the outer wing structures ripped off the engine nacelles and, immediately afterward, they impacted the tail assembly and tore it off completely. In a matter of seconds, with no time to bail out of the wingless and tailless fuselage, the plane crashed to destruction and both crewmen were killed....Ritchie, as later concluded, had exceeded 98X's structural limitations.53
Perhaps in the low level, high-speed final flight of PBJ-89050, the pilots also exceeded the plane's structural limits, creating a similar chain of events. The degree of similarity in both crashes should not be ignored.
Anomaly 1 is oriented in an east/west direction. While this is not the orientation expected from eye-witness reports, it is in line with the supposed flight path around Palmer Mountain.54 While much could be made of the orientation, this evidence is nebulous since the fuselage could have spiraled downward or EDU could have moved it. All EDU reports conclude with statements that work was curtailed due to lack of equipment or because of dangerous conditions. Roy Dowell with Mobile Unit 10 reported discussing the operation with a diver who was with EDU in 1944. According to this diver, EDU attached cables to the wreckage and began pulling it towards shore when the cables broke unexpectedly and the wreckage was completely lost. EDU discovered the wreckage the first time by ollowing hydraulic fluid leaks. With their salvage operation nearly complete, they would have had no way of relocating the wreckage if the above account is true.
This account seems unlikely, especially in light of the fact that EDU mentioned the use of lift bags and cranes in their report.
It was the joint opinion of the divers and Warrant Officer Boone that raising the plane by flotation of large pieces and winching of small pieces is the only method of recovering the bodies due to the depth of the water...55
It is suggested that in order to recover bodies plane must be raised with proper equipment of which we did not have at the scene of operations.56
Apparently, something happened to cause the divers to leave the scene. As previously stated, EDU divers were used to working in deep, zero visibility, high current conditions. The cause for the abandonment of dive operations remains unknown. A possible explanation is equipment failure similar to that experienced by modern day searchers.
A total of six dives were made on the wreck [17 June 1944]. During this time trouble was experienced with the air compressor and one diver had to be pulled up unconscious.57
Secured all operations for reason that the standby diving equipment was faulty and had to be replaced before additional diving operations could be resumed.58
It is considered that further salvage attempts would be extremely hazardous and endanger the lives of the divers. Consequently it is recommended that no further salvage attempts in the above mentioned case be attempted.59
When discussing the salvage operations with McDaniel's family and in-laws, his brother-in-law Al Hill stated that the operation was cut short because it was proving too dangerous for the divers. According to Rebecca McDaniel Sykes, the pilot's sister, her father sat on the hillside near Palmer Mountain, watching the salvage crew all day long. He met them every day when they returned from their work, and always remained hopeful that one day his son's body would be recovered and returned.
Mr. McDaniel stated that he felt that he wanted the plane raised and that he would request the ALCOA officials to request removal of the plane by the Navy Department.60
Mrs. Sykes mentioned this to Coble when asked if she preferred that the researchers avoid the crash site. She took up the role of her father during the recent searches, maintaining contact with the team and often meeting them at the dock when they returned from work at the end of the day. Mrs. Sykes stated that as long as the divers were safe she would like to know what happened to her brother. She insisted, however, that the project not endanger any more lives. Assuming that Anomaly 1 is the wreckage of the plane, and that it was not moved as has been suggested, then an east/west orientation would preclude a ditching scenario. Researchers assumed they would find the wreckage in a north/south orientation, which runs parallel to the longest, widest area of the lake. This portion of the lake would have provided an ideal location for ditching, with added room to maneuver. Anomaly 1 is located in one of the shortest open areas on the lake within the search area. See Appendix F for more information concerning the area surrounding Anomaly 1.
Evidence Against the Anomalies Connection with PBJ-H 89050
Despite the many theories and the evidence that supports them, there are a few important factors that preclude a connection between these anomalies and the wreckage of the missing bomber. The largest and most disconcerting of these is the fact that none of the sonar anomalies match with the magnetometer work. There could be several reasons for this discrepancy. Consider that the two types of remote sensing equipment were used at separate times. Additionally, both field sessions experienced trouble with GPS equipment, introducing the possibility of error. The second field session attempted, but could not repeat, the exact search pattern of the first field session, introducing the possibility of still more error.
It should be noted that the NHC's remote sensing specialist feels that hypothesis based on anomalies that are not substantiated by magnetometer data would be unwise. He recommended a new survey, using both types of sensors at the same time to better analyze the anomalies. Other specialists, however, see no reason to discount the sonar data simply because it does not correlate with magnetometer data. In order to be as thorough yet accurate as possible, it was decided to theorize but to include a caveat that none of the theories presented in this report can be proven until the anomalies are visually inspected.
Another problem with the anomalies association with the wreckage is that the most promising sonar images do not look like pieces of an airplane. They do not look like anything recognizable, but they are definitely not naturally occurring shapes. Due to their proximity to the dam it is possible that they are associated with its operation or construction. One anomaly was discovered within yards of the dam, and may be directly associated with the dam itself, however its identity and use are equally unknown.
Circumstantial evidence weighs heavily in favor of the Badin Bomber's wreckage being located. This circumstantial evidence could lead to false conclusions, however. It would be incorrect to state that anyone believes absolutely that the material found during any of the searches represents the aircraft's wreckage. The only way to achieve certainty would be to revisit and visually investigate the anomalies. If these objects are the wreckage, however, the following theories can be postulated.
The plane hit the water at a high rate of speed. It does not appear by the orientation of the wreckage, which includes a debris field, that the plane was attempting to ditch. A highly likely scenario is that the plane came from the south, approached with Palmerville on its right side, dropped low over the hillside, and attempted to swoop down low and climb quickly back up to go over the house. While flying at this angle, the plane's right wing dipped causing the plane to immediately nose over.
The plane did not settle gently. The proposed wreckage is oriented perpendicularly to what was expected, evidence of the sudden crash of a plane out of control. The impact would have been severe and quick. Since eyewitnesses remark that the plane took 10 minutes to sink, they were most likely observing the tail section, which immediately broke from the fuselage at the point of impact and may have taken some time to sink. The pilot and copilot were probably killed instantly and may have been thrown from the cockpit by the impact. There are documented cases of crewmen being hurled through a fuselage despite safety harnesses, if they were used. The possibility exists that the crew might not have been using their safety harnesses. If the copilot were sitting behind the pilot, as would be expected in a ditching scenario, he would not have had the option of a harness. It is likely that the co-pilot was sitting somewhere forward of the wing section. He was not likely in the top turret. Likely, he was sitting behind the pilot on a padded wooden seat. Evidence for this is that there is no co-pilot seat in the H version. Virtually the only wooden parts on this plane were seats. At the time of the crash, a wooden board was retrieved with skin attached. No seats were found. It is possible the crew, still attached to their seats, were thrown from the wreckage and the bodies were held down by the weight of the seats. This also points to a violent crash.
It would appear that the wreckage was thoroughly investigated, ripped apart and salvaged. This indicates the salvage team's desire to retrieve all weapons and to recover the crew. If the wreckage was as thoroughly salvaged as theorized there is no reason to believe that the crewmen's remains are still inside the wreckage. There is no reason to believe further investigation would net any clues to the cause of the crash. Evidence from the wreckage has been so altered from salvage activities that much of it is suspect.
There is no reason to pursue retrieval and display and although a substantial hulk remains on the bottom of the lake, it is of little or no value to museums or collectors. Consequently; there is not enough left to determine cause of crash; all evidence would be suspect as it may have been altered during salvage; nothing visible to date indicates any reason to alter the ruling of "100% pilot error;" the plane is not a candidate for recovery and display; the crewmen's families can be assured that their brothers cannot be retrieved and reburied.
The plane should not remain under threat from illegal salvage once its true characteristics are known, however the location of wreckage will be kept confidential to prevent damage to the site by divers and to discourage divers from attempting a dive in a very dangerous area.
Although circumstantial evidence indicates the likelihood that these anomalies represent the remains of PBJ-H 89050, confirmation would require visual inspection. Use of a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) would be highly recommended. Site conditions such as blackwater, depth, water column obstructions and easily disturbed bottom sediment preclude the recommendation of visual inspection by SCUBA divers. Archaeologists work in such conditions but the risks involved outweigh the need to simply determine whether the anomaly is the wreckage. Once a positive identification is made and the exact site conditions are assessed, archaeologists might chose to visit the site if preliminary ROV investigations should warrant such activity. It is believed that the goals of the project have been met.
Based upon the preliminary theories, Coble is convinced that there is little left of the plane to warrant expenditure for recovery or museum display. The available evidence suggests it is unlikely that the remains of McDaniel and Withrow are with the plane, if they ever were. ROV or diver inspection would be ideal, but both would have to be done under Navy archaeological permit, available by application through the NHC's Underwater Archaeology Branch. Further investigation would also require the permission of ALCOA and the State of North Carolina. Applicants must have the needed funds for the project and proper training to secure an NHC permit for archaeological work. Any unauthorized disturbance of the remains is subject to criminal prosecution from the United States Government. While visually inspecting the anomalies would erase all doubt, Coble has decided to indefinitely postpone such activities and will no longer solicit funds. The remainder of the funds raised were used for a stone memorial dedicated on Veteran's Day, November 11, 2001.
James Gulledge, Badin, NC.
Don Garren, Winston-Salem, NC. (spoke to eyewitnesses)
Byron Allgood, Pfafftown, NC (Cold weather test pilot)
Bill Love, Albemarle, NC (witnessed the plane as it came over Albemarle)
Albert Alman, Albemarle, NC (witnessed divers)
Al Hill, Badin, NC (brother-in-law, witnessed divers)
Tiny Norden, Badin, NC (witnessed crash)
Army Air Force. Pilot Training Manual for the North American B-25. St. Louis: Con. P. Curran Printing Co., Revised 1 April 1945. Obtained from the National Air and space Museum.
Kinzey, Bert. B-25 Mitchell. Carollton, TX: Squadron Signal Publications, 1999.
Correspondence regarding the crash and salvage of PBJ-89050. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Record Group (RG) 127, (USMC) Office of the Commandant, General Correspondence, 1-1939-6-1059, 1030-10 (9/44) to 1030-10 (4/44), Box 6, File 10.
Correspondence regarding the crash and salvage of PBJ-89050. NARA. RG 127, (USMC) Office of the Commandant, General Correspondence, 1-1939-6-1059, 1030-10 (9/44) to 1030-10 (4/44), Box 7 File 9.
Vintage newspaper accounts obtained from the Albemarle Museum in Albemarle, NC. Their
original sources were not retained. The articles not attributed are likely from Stanly News and Press. Their titles and dates are as follows:
With Stanly Men in U.S. Services. (no date)
New Salvage Crew at Badin to Raise McDaniel's Plane. (no date)
Bodies Remain in Lake. (no date)
Withrows Made Visit Here Over Week-end. (no date)
Lt. Charles McDaniel Is Plane Crash Victim. (no date)
McDaniel Plane Finally Located in Lake Sunday. 6-20-44
Service Plane Crashes in Lake at Badin Thursday. 6-9-44
Crash Kills Tar Heel. Charlotte Observer 6-10-44
Divers Have Not Yet Found Plane of Lt. McDaniel. 6-16-44
Salvage Group Leaving Badin. 7-7-44
McDaniel Plane Finally Located in Lake Sunday. 6-20-44
Memorial Service for McDaniel Set. 9-22-44
1. There is another version of the story that says the plane had trouble and had stopped in Charlotte for repairs. In this version he tells Mary that he will circle the house as a signal that the plane is okay and that he is heading on toward Cherry Point rather than staying another night with her.
2. Aircraft Trouble Analysis Card, commonly referred to as the AAR, Naval Historical Center, Washington DC.
3. Telegram from MCAS Cherry Point to OPNAV, June 10, 1944, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), College Park, Maryland, Record Group (RG) 127, papers of the Office of the Commandant, USMC, Box 7, Folder 9. This is further proof that the plane was brand new, rather than
a refit as has been suggested.
4. Letter, 20 June 1944, from W.O. E.E. Boone, Jr., to The Operations Officer, USMCAS, Cherry Point, NC., NARA, RG 127, Box 6, Folder 10.
6. Roy Dowell, Officer-in-Charge of Mobile Unit 10 reported talking with one of the salvage divers who worked on the site. According to this diver, EDU attempted to winch the fuselage out of the lake, but the cables snapped and the wreckage slumped back into the lake. The divers were unable to relocate the wreckage and gave up.
7. Letter, July 15, 1944, from P.E. Conradt, Commanding Officer Cherry Point, to CNO, NARA, Box 6, Folder 10.
8. Coble has been told that Mary Hill McDaniel Cutrell was once a member of this congregation, or at least attended the church.
9. More recent crash reports are sent to the Naval Safety Center in Norfolk, VA.
10. Noting the military's penchant for multiple copies Coble searched the NHC, NARA, Cherry Point, EDU and requested information from ALCOA officials.
11. This was an ad placed by Mary Cutrell's son John. Although expressing surprise that the aircraft still remained the property of the U.S. Navy, when questioned he said his note was misunderstood and that he was only asking for support for the project. He amended the message from the internet that day.
12. Later analysis of the data proved that the sensor was not deep enough to view the lake bottom
adequately. The sensor was towed at a higher height than usual to avoid being caught in the trees.
13. These claims were made to local press. To Coble House claimed to be a former SEAL, Carlisle claimed to be a former Green Beret. That claim too, has proven unjustified.
14. This was because the unit could not receive funds from a non-profit organization, only government sources. As the NHC is a government organization it also could not accept the money and therefore could not transfer the money to the unit for the same reasons.
15. Bert Kinzey, B-25 Mitchell, In Detail and Scale (Carrollton, TX: Squadron/Signal Publications, 1999), 4.
16. Kinzey, 1999, 21.
17. Kinzey, 1999, 52, 53.
18. The U.S. Navy uses Bureau Number or BuNo as its tracking number system. All other branches of the military use Serial numbers which include the year of the contract. The USAF Serial number for BuNo 89050 is 43-4883. Steve Pace, B-25 Mitchell, (Osceola, WI: Motorbooks International, 1994), 122, 123.
25. Letter, 20 June 1944, from W.O. E.E. Boone, Jr., to The Operations Officer, USMCAS, Cherry Point, NC., NARA, RG 127, Box 6, Folder 10.
26. NHC Remote Sensing Specialist Steve Schmidt's analysis of the side scan data stated that for at least part of the search the sonar equipment was set incorrectly and thereby suspected that portions of the lake bottom had not been adequately covered.
27. Telegram from MCAS Cherry Point to OPNAV, June 10, 1944, National Archives and Records Administration, RG 127, Papers of the Office of the Commandant, USMC, Box 7, Folder 9.
28. Letter, 20 June 1944, from W.O. E.E. Boone, Jr., to The Operations Officer, USMCAS, Cherry Point, NC., NARA, RG 127, Box 6, Folder 10.
29. U.S. Bureau of Ordnance U.S. Naval Gun Factory, First Draft Narrative Prepared by the Historical Section, Naval Gun Factory, 401, 404-405.
30. Pace, 1994, 17.
31. Kinzey, 1999.
32. Letter from Officer in Charge, Deep Sea Diving School to the Bureau of Naval Personnel,
9 November 1943, Bureau of Naval Personnel General Correspondence 1940-1945 RG 24, NC 49  to NC 52 box [1/1/43] 1100.
33. SNAP, 6-9-44.
34. Letter from the Commanding Officer, MCAS Cherry Point to Chief of Naval Operations, July 15, 1944. NARA, RG 127, USMC, Office of the Commandant General Correspondence, 1-1939- 6- 1950, 10-30-10  to 10-30-10 [4/44].
35. Letter, 20 June 1944, from W.O. E.E. Boone, Jr., to The Operations Officer, USMCAS, Cherry Point, NC., NARA, RG 127, Box 6, Folder 10.
36. Telegram sent to MCAS Cherry Point, received on June 12, 1944, NARA, RG 127, Box 7 Folder 9, [USMC] Office of the Commandant 1-39-6-50, 1030-10[6/44], 1030-10[4/44]
37. Conversations with Love in 1998 and 1999.
38. Kinzey, 1999, 58.
39. Letter, 20 June 1944, from W.O. E.E. Boone, Jr., to The Operations Officer, USMCAS, Cherry Point, NC., NARA, RG 127, Box 6, Folder 10.40. Ibid.
46. A Badin police officer reported seeing three objects bobbing in the water shortly after the crash including a wheel of the plane and what he thought were pieces of the wing. Stanley News and Press, June 8, 1944.
47. Pace, 1994, 22.
48. PTM, 147.
49. PTM, 87.
51. Conversation with Bill Love of Albemarle 1998. Love watched the plane go over the store where he was working in Albemarle.
52. Conversations with Mr. Gulledge and Tiny Norden, of Badin, both eyewitnesses. Gulledge was a young boy who ran to the lake's edge. Ms. Norden worked at the Alcoa plant and was watching from the steps of the plant.
53. Pace, 1994, 50.
54. Danny Carlisle reported that the wreckage of PBJ-89050 was lying in a North/South orientation.
55. Letter, 20 June 1944, from W.O. E.E. Boone, Jr., to The Operations Officer, USMCAS, Cherry Point, NC, NARA, RG 127, Box 6, Folder 10.
56. Memo, June 20, 1944, from Ens. M.R. Hill, USN and Edw. J. Kratochvil, Carp. USN [both of EDU] to Col. R.A. Black, USMC, NARA, RG 127, Box 6, Folder 10.
57. Letter, 20 June 1944, from W.O. E.E. Boone, Jr., to The Operations Officer, USMCAS, Cherry Point, NC, NARA, RG 127, Box 6, Folder 10.
58. Memo, June 20, 1944, from Ens. M.R. Hill, USN and Edw. J. Kratochvil, Carp. USN [both of EDU] to Col. R.A. Black, USMC, NARA, RG 127, Box 6, Folder 10
59. Letter from the Commanding Officer, MCAS Cherry Point to Chief of Naval Operations, July 15, 1944. NARA, RG 127, USMC, Office of the Commandant General Correspondence, 1-1939- 6- 1950, 10-30-10  to 10-30-10 [4/44].
60. Memo, June 20, 1944, from Ens. M.R. Hill, USN and Edw. J. Kratochvil, Carp. USN [both of EDU] to Col. R.A. Black, USMC, NARA, RG 127, Box 6, Folder 10.
Magnetometer Data Analysis Report
Badin Lake lies within the piedmont region of North Carolina along the western edge of the Uwharrie National Forest near the town of Albemarle (Appendix A). The project area is located at the southern end of the lake between the town of Baden and Palmer Island. The survey area is rectangular in shape and covers an area of approximate two and one-quarter square miles.
Field Research Methodology
Magnetic Remote Sensing
An EG&G Geometrics 866 dual channel proton precession magnetometer capable of plus or minus 0.1 gamma resolution was employed to collect magnetic data during the survey. To produce the most comprehensive magnetic record, data was collected on a two-second interval and the sensor was deployed and maintained in the water column at a depth of 15 to 20 feet above the bottom surface. An analog recorder provided a continuous permanent record of the magnetic background and target signatures. Because of the potential for limited ferrous material on the wreck site, magnetic data was collected along transects spaced on 50-foot intervals. Upon completion of the general magnetic survey, strip charts were examined and magnetic anomalies identified. Magnetic data was also recorded as a data file associated with the computer navigation system. Data from the survey area was contour plotted using QuickSurf computer software to facilitate anomaly location and definition of target signature characteristics. All magnetic data was correlated with the acoustic remote sensing records.
During the survey, positioning and lane spacing were maintained with a Navstar XR5-M differential global positioning system (DGPS) interfaced with a BSI-486 laptop computer. Navigation was controlled and data recorded by Coastal Oceanographics' Hypack Navigation software. This navigation system affords a positioning accuracy of plus/minus three feet. All magnetic and acoustic records were tied to positioning events generated by Hypack. Positioning data generated by the navigation system was tied to magnetometer records by regular annotations to facilitate target location and anomaly analysis.Annotations included lane number, date and time of start and end of each lane,
and target identification.
Target signatures suggestive of significant submerged cultural material were isolated and analyzed in accordance with anomaly intensity, duration, areal extent and signature characteristics suggestive of the material generating the anomaly. Analysis of each anomaly included consideration of magnetic signature characteristics previously demonstrated to be reliable indicators of historically significant submerged cultural resources. Final assessment of each target will include recommendations for additional investigation to determine the exact nature of the cultural material generating the signature. A magnetic contour map of the survey area was produced using QuickSurf to aid in the analysis of each target. To accompany the contour map, IIMR has prepared a description of all magnetic targets located during the survey. That description includes an assessment of each target's potential association with signature characteristics consistent with the remains of an aluminum-bodied aircraft with few iron components.
Assessment of the Findings
Due to time constraints, only the southeast section of the project area, between the entrance of Badin Dam and the town of Badin, was surveyed during this phase of fieldwork (Appendix B). Analysis of the data generated during the survey revealed eleven magnetic anomalies within the surveyed area. Five of the anomalies appear to have been generated by a cluster of iron objects of low intensity and may represent material common to aluminum aircraft. One appears to have been generated by a small concentration of ferrous material and the remaining five anomalies contained signature characteristics suggestive of small, single ferrous objects such as pipe, anchors or other modern debris. Each of these targets are discussed individually and illustrated.
High Priority Targets
Target BL-01 was located along the eastern edge of the survey area (Appendix C). The magnetic signature was identified on lanes 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23 and the contoured signature consisted of data from the anomalies identified as I, J, K, L and M in the magnetometer records. The detectable signature had a maximum intensity of thirty-one gammas and a maximum duration of nine two-second pulses. The contoured multi-component signature covered an area of approximately 37,000 square feet. Signature characteristics, intensity and duration suggest that the target was generated by a cluster of small, single ferrous objects of low intensity. An aluminum-bodied aircraft containing few iron components may generate a signature similar to that observed for target BL-01. As the target compares favorably with the low intensity signatures associated with submerged aircraft remains, additional investigation of the material generating the signature is recommended.
Target BL-02 was located along the eastern edge of the survey area (Appendix C). The magnetic signature was identified on lanes 21, 23 and 24 and the contoured signature consisted of data from the anomalies identified as N, R and S in the magnetometer records. The detectable signature had a maximum intensity of 44 gammas and a maximum duration of 30 two-second pulses. The contoured multi-component signature covered an area of approximately 12,350 square feet. Signature characteristics, intensity and duration suggest that the target was generated by a cluster of small, single ferrous objects of low intensity. An aluminum-bodied aircraft containing few iron components may generate a signature similar to that observed for target BL-02. As the target compares favorably with the low intensity signatures associated with submerged aircraft remains, additional investigation of the material generating the signature is recommended.
Target BL-03 was located in the northern end of the survey area (Appendix C). The magnetic signature was identified on lanes 15 and 17 and the contoured signature consisted of data from the anomalies identified as H and Q in the magnetometer records. The detectable signature had a maximum intensity of 11 gammas and a maximum duration of 16 two-second pulses. The contoured positive monopolar signature covered an area of approximately 6,300 square feet. Signature characteristics, intensity and duration suggest that the target was generated by a cluster of small, single ferrous objects of low intensity. An aluminum-bodied aircraft containing few iron components may generate a signature similar to that observed for target BL-03. As the target compares favorably with the low intensity signatures associated with submerged aircraft remains, additional investigation of the material generating the signature is recommended.
Target BL-04 was located in the northwestern edge of the survey area (Appendix C). The magnetic signature was identified on lanes two and four and the contoured signature consisted of data from the anomalies identified as A and D in the magnetometer records. The detectable signature had a maximum intensity of 16 gammas and a maximum duration of 12 two-second pulses. The contoured positive monopolar signature covered an area of approximately 9,000 square feet. Signature characteristics, intensity and duration suggest that the target was generated by a cluster of small, single ferrous objects of low intensity. An aluminum-bodied aircraft containing few iron components may generate a signature similar to that observed for target BL-04. As the target compares favorably with the low intensity signatures associated with submerged aircraft remains, additional investigation of the material generating the signature is recommended.
Target BL-11 was located in the northern end of the survey area (Appendix C). The magnetic signature was identified on lanes 15, 16 and 17 and the contoured signature consisted of data from the anomalies identified as U, V and W in the magnetometer records. The detectable signature had a maximum intensity of 12 gammas and a maximum duration of 16 two-second pulses. The contoured positive monopolar signature covered an area of approximately 11,100 square feet. Signature characteristics, intensity and duration suggest that the target was generated by a cluster of small, single ferrous objects of low intensity. An aluminum-bodied aircraft containing few iron components may generate a signature similar to that observed for target BL-11. As the target compares favorably with the low intensity signatures associated with submerged aircraft remains, additional investigation of the material generating the signature is recommended.
Moderate Priority Targets
Target BL-05 was located in the northern end of the survey area (Appendix C). The magnetic signature was identified on lane 24 and the contoured signature consisted of data from the anomaly identified as O in the magnetometer records. The detectable signature had a maximum intensity of 25 gammas and a maximum duration of 27 two-second pulses. The contoured multi-component signature covered an area of approximately 7,000 square feet. Signature characteristics, intensity and duration suggest that the target was generated by a concentrated cluster of ferrous objects of low intensity. Though the target was detected on only one lane, the signature compares favorably with concentrations of low intensity ferrous objects often observed associated with submerged aircraft remains. Additional investigation of the material generating the signature is recommended.
Low Priority Targets
Target BL-06 was located in the north central part of the survey area (Appendix C). The magnetic signature was identified on lane 12 and the contoured signature consisted of data from the anomaly identified as G in the magnetometer records. The detectable signature had a maximum intensity of 10 gammas and a maximum duration of eight two-second pulses. The contoured negative monopolar magnetic signature covered an area of approximately 900 square feet. Signature characteristics, intensity and duration suggest that the target was generated by a small, single ferrous object of low intensity such as an anchor, pipe or other modern debris. As the target signature does not compare favorably with clusters of low intensity ferrous objects often observed associated with submerged aircraft remains, no additional investigation of the material generating the signature is recommended.
Target BL-07 was located in the southwestern edge of the survey area (Appendix C). The magnetic signature was identified on lane two and the contoured signature consisted of data from the anomaly identified as C in the magnetometer records. The detectable signature had a maximum intensity of nine gammas and a maximum duration of seven two-second pulses. The contoured positive monopolar signature covered an area of approximately 3,600 square feet. Signature characteristics, intensity and duration suggest that the target was generated by a small single ferrous object of low intensity such as an anchor, pipe or other modern debris. As the target signature does not compare favorably with clusters of low intensity ferrous objects often observed associated with submerged aircraft remains, no additional investigation of the material generating the signature is recommended.
Target BL-08 was located in the southern part of the survey area (Appendix C). The magnetic signature was identified on lane 10 and the contoured signature consisted of data from the anomaly identified as F in the magnetometer records. The detectable signature had a maximum intensity of 14 gammas and a maximum duration of eight two-second pulses. The contoured negative monopolar signature covered an area of approximately 900 square feet. Signature characteristics, intensity and duration suggest that the target was generated by a small, single ferrous object of low intensity such as an anchor, pipe or other modern debris. As the target signature does not compare favorably with clusters of low intensity ferrous objects often observed associated with submerged aircraft remains, no additional investigation of the material generating the signature is recommended. Target BL-09 was located along the western edge of the survey area (Appendix C). The magnetic signature was identified on lane 2 and the contoured signature consisted of data from the anomaly identified as B in the magnetometer records. The detectable signature had a maximum intensity of 18 gammas and a maximum duration of nine two-second pulses. The contoured positive monopolar signature covered an area of approximately 900 square feet. Signature characteristics, intensity and duration suggest that the target was generated by a small, single ferrous object of low intensity such as an anchor, pipe or other modern debris. As the target signature does not compare favorably with clusters of low intensity ferrous objects often observed associated with submerged aircraft remains, no additional investigation of the material generating the signature is recommended.
Target BL-10 was located in the northern part of the survey area (Appendix C). The magnetic signature was identified on lane eight and the contoured signature consisted of data from the anomaly identified as E in the magnetometer records. The detectable signature had a maximum intensity of 22 gammas and a maximum duration of eight two-second pulses. The contoured positive monopolar signature covered an area of approximately 5,000 square feet. Signature characteristics, intensity and duration suggest that the target was generated by a small single ferrous object of low intensity such as an anchor, pipe or other modern debris. As the target signature does not compare favorably with clusters of low intensity ferrous objects often observed associated with submerged aircraft remains, no additional investigation of the material generating the signature is recommended.
Conclusions and Recommendations for Phase I
The remote sensing survey carried out for the Badin Lake Archaeological Survey Project by Tidewater Atlantic Research, Inc., was designed to locate and identify submerged cultural resources in the southern section of Badin Lake, North Carolina. The objective of the survey was to generate sufficient data to make an initial assessment of each anomaly's potential association with a B-25 bomber known to have crashed in the lake on 8 June 1944 and provide recommendations for further investigation designed to identify that wreck.
The survey identified a total of 11 magnetic anomalies. Five of those anomalies, BL-01, BL-02, BL-03, BL-04 and BL-11, compare favorably with the magnetic signature of wrecked aluminum-bodied aircraft. Because of potential association with the bomber, these targets have been selected as high level priorities and are recommended for testing. Another target, BL-05, though less likely to be associated with an aircraft, contained sufficient signature characteristics to merit as second level priority and was recommended for testing should the primary targets prove not to be associated with the bomber.
The remaining five targets, BL-06, BL-07, BL-08, BL-09 and BL-10, contained signature characteristics suggestive of single, small ferrous objects such as pipe, anchors or other similar debris. Consequently, there appears to be little possibility of association with the lost bomber and no additional investigation at those sites is recommended.