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McKENZIE (August 9) — A roadside marker was recently erected by the Tennessee Historical Commission to designate the site of a fiery B-17 crash east of McKenzie that claimed the lives of eight crewmen during a training mission in 1943.
On the 75th anniversary, last Thursday, the members of one of the families traveled to McKenzie to commemorate the tragedy. August 9, 1945 was also the date the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, ending World War II.
The marker is located on Fields School Road near Liberty Church, adjacent to the field where, on the foggy Monday morning of August 9, 75 years ago, the B-17 (also known as a Flying Fortress) crashed after suffering a structural failure that rendered it uncontrollable. Part of the tail of the plane was found over a mile away near Lake Isabel.
Killed in the crash were Second Lt. George L. Moles of Kansas City, Missouri; Second Lt. Thorniel O. Haugen of Madison, Wisconsin; Second Lt. George T. DeCesare of Brooklyn; Second Lt. Ivan W. Oaks of St. Louis; Col. Walter G. Sancomb of Schenectady, New York; Sgt. Frank Rye of Detroit; Sgt. James D. Kenney of Cumberland, Maryland; and Sgt. Roy E. Snyder of Wellsville, Ohio.
According to the Friday, August 13, 1943 edition of The McKenzie Banner, the sound could be heard and the fire seen for many miles. Residents attested that the plane circled the field as though the pilot was attempting a forced landing, but at some point the effort failed and the plane nosedived.
The McKenzie Fire Department fought the fire, allowing the bodies to be extricated by members of the military.
William Smith of McKenzie said he came to the scene shortly after the crash. He said the fire kept everyone at bay. Firefighters from McKenzie worked to extinguish the fire and soon firefighters and soldiers from nearby Camp Tyson arrived to extricate the victims.
Paul Toombs, who was six days old and still in a Nashville hospital, said his family resided across the street from the crash. Every window in the house was blown out, said Toombs.
George Snyder said the marker was made possible with very supportive help of local residents, the Tennessee Historical Commission, and the support of the Halls Veterans Museum.
George said he was assisted by Paul Toombs, Jere Cox, Jennifer Waldrup, and Robbie Story. George and Robbie walked the field and found a small piece of the crash – 75 years after the incident.