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Newberry, South Carolina Historical Events



<2000, Feb 5
Learning about and Visiting the Newberry Feb 5, 1943 Plane Crash Site
Let Us Not Forget: Part 2
For some families, every day is Memorial Day. For some families, every day is a day of remembrance for loved ones who sacrificed their lives in service to their country. Jim Clamp of Newberry and Jean Street of New Jersey have never forgotten the brothers who died in separate plane crashes only months apart during World War II. 2nd Lt. Ira Clamp died in Colorado Springs on Sept. 28, 1943, and 2nd Lt. Francis Bardell died in Newberry on Feb. 5, 1943.
On the 57th anniversary of his death, Jean Street visited the crash site where her brother died. Jim Clamp served as her guide. In preparation for the visit, Clamp gathered as much information about the crash as he could. The first order of business was to locate the exact site where the planes went down. "I thought if anyone remembered the location, Ned would, and he did," Clamp said. Clamp then talked with Bill McSwain, whose mother owned McSwain's Funeral Home at the time. He was on the team that searched for survivors and helped to retrieve the bodies after the crash. He provided some good information, as did others who lived near the crash site. Clamp also talked with the investigator Parisi employed to research the ill-fated flight. "We agreed to meet after the first of the year with metal detectors to search for physical evidence of the crash site," Clamp said. From November through January, Clamp exchanged correspondence with Parisi, who sent pictures and information about his uncle. The day before the visitors were scheduled to arrive, Clamp and Carlisle visited the crash site. "It was just after a winter storm, and there were fallen trees and limbs blocking part of Monument Road. This necessitated some extra walking, but we made it to the site," Clamp said. Carlisle pointed out where one engine fell, where one plane crashed across the ravine, where the other plane fell in an open field further over the hill. The open field was later planted in pines, and now the whole area is dense forest. Clamp enlisted the help of another good friend, Bill Turner, and together they cleared Monument Road to the area of the crash site.
"On Saturday morning, Feb. 5, exactly 57 years after the crash, Bill McSwain and I met Fred Parisi and his mother, Mrs. Jean Street, at their motel and drove to the site. We stopped first at the monument, where they placed a beautiful wreath of red carnations. We then proceeded down Monument Road to the site," Clamp said. The investigator met Clamp at the site, and both brought metal detectors. They walked over to the ravine and up the other side and immediately found bits and pieces of metal. They walked on and found the deep gully, where metal fragments were prolific and easily identifiable as pieces from a military aircraft. Without a doubt, this was the actual crash site. Mrs. Street was most appreciative that she was able to visit the site of her brother's death, Clamp said. "Her brother had always loved flying, even before he joined the Air Corps. Their father was a building contractor in New York, and he wanted his son to stay at home to help him run the family business. But Francis Bardell was determined to serve his country and joined the Air Corps to become a bomber pilot," Clamp said. The Bardell family was devastated to learn of the sudden death of their loved one. When the sealed coffin was sent to New York, it remained in their home until the funeral. Mrs. Street's mother never could bring herself to believe that her son was in that coffin because she couldn't see him. McSwain explained to Mrs. Street why her brother's coffin was sealed, and how the two funeral homes in Newberry that embalmed the bodies worked closely together to see that they had all of the right body in the right coffin. Personnel from Donaldson Air Base came down from Greenville, and positively identified every body before it was sent home. "Mrs. Street expressed her appreciation and said that she just wished that her mother and father could have known all this before they died," Clamp said. Mrs. Street and her son returned home on Sunday morning with an assortment of airplane pieces to show other relatives they had found the actual crash site. Yes, there was evidence of the crash: chunks of plexiglass, the case of a navigator's watch, the air speed dial from the instrument panel. Molten metal welded to a rusty bolt offered mute testimony as to the heat of the fire. A thin sheet of twisted aluminum, the size of a child's hand, spoke powerfully as a reminder that young men had fallen from a gray sky here: a shattered tube of Barbasol shaving cream. Clamp plans to mount the identifiable pieces in a glass covered case, along with his account of the plane crash, for display in our Newberry County Museum.
"I want future generations to remember this event. I want others to know about the sacrifice of these young men in defense of their country," he said. He makes this offer to family members of other brave young men killed in the crash. If any of them would like to visit the site, he will guide them there: call (803) 276-4929 or write Jim Clamp, 1520 Calhoun Street, Newberry, SC 29108.
Since that cold day in February when Mrs. Street visited the site of her brother's crash, Jim Clamp has begun to considering a visit to another crash site--in Colorado Springs, where his brother's plane went down. "Some things I wasn't sure they would want to know or to see, but I think it helped her to heal," Clamp said. It was a cold, rainy day in 1943 when two planes collided and fell in Newberry County. Fourteen men died, and for their families: Memorial Day has been every day since. In 1944, to honor the young men who died in Newberry on that gray afternoon of 1943, American Legion Post 24 erected a monument at the intersection of Monument Road and Beth Eden Church Road, about a mile from the crash site in Sumter National Forest. The monument lists the names of those died in the crash: lst Lt. John E. Wilson, Muscatine, Iowa; 2nd Lt. Francis Bardell, Brooklyn, New York; 2nd Lt. Randolph V. Donalson, San Luis Obispo, California; 2nd Lt. Donald G. Halley, Rockford, Illinois; 2nd Lt. Kauko K. Mannio, Crystal Falls, Michigan; 2nd Lt. Julius X. Zarchin, New York, New York; S/Sgt. Harold B. Brown, Aledo, Illinois; S/Sgt. Dean L. Loren, Minneapolis, Minnesota; S/Sgt. John B. McFalls, Gastonia, North Carolina; S/Sgt. Franklin G. Morris, San Francisco, California; S/Sgt. Walter W. Pratt, Muncie, Indiana; S/Sgt. Basil R. Sink, Camden, Indiana; S/Sgt. Allen M. Steen, Farmerville, Louisiana; and T/Sgt. Lyle E. Vinson, Arrow Smith, Illinois. For these families, Memorial Day never ends. They cannot forget the sacrifice of loved ones in service to their country--and neither should we.
Submitted by Sue Summer



1943
Plane Crashes for Newberry Resident and other plane crashes in the area

Let Us Not Forget...
Let us not forget: for some families every day is Memorial Day. For them there is always an empty chair at the family dinner table, a missing smile in family photographs, a painful absence at family reunions. For these families, every day is a day of remembrance for sons and daughters who sacrificed their lives in service to their country. For some families, like the Clamps of Newberry and the Bardells of New York, Memorial Day never ends.
Not for one day in all her life did Jim Clamp's mother forget her son Ira who was killed on Sept. 28, 1943. "The mother of the family never gets over the loss. I noticed it in my family. Something always felt not complete," Clamp said. 2nd Lt. Ira Clamp Jr. of Newberry was a good son and an indulgent big brother. Although he was seven years older than Jim, he often let "the kid" tag-along to ball games. Ira loved to work on cars, too, and could take apart a Model-T and put it back together. His pride and joy was a '29 Model-A roadster he maintained in top condition. While in service, he wrote home and told his parents to transfer the title to Jim when he got a driver's license. Jim Clamp still has the car, and he still has the navigator's ring his brother was wearing when his plane went down in Colorado Springs. For many years Jim wore it every day to honor the big brother who never returned from war.
Ira Clamp was serving in the National Guard when World War II started, but he soon transferred to the Army Air Corps and studied to become a navigator. He had earned his navigator's ring only months before the crash of a B-24 heavy bomber claimed his life. He was only 22 years old. The plane was spanking new and on its maiden flight from Denver, Colorado, to Santa Ana, California, when it crashed. All aboard were killed. Cynthia Martin, a friend of the Clamp family through the A.R.P. Church, worked in Army Intelligence at the same air field where Ira Clamp was stationed. It was she who informed the family about the cause of the crash: sabotage in the factory. Another family in New York, however, never knew what happened to their beloved son and brother. The family of 2nd Lt. Francis Bardell received only a death certificate signed by President Roosevelt, and it said little more than Lt. Bardell died in the service of his country near Newberry, South Carolina, on 5 February 1943.
Every day until his parents died, they remembered their son and they wondered: what happened? For 57 years his little sister Jean asked herself the same question. Last year her son decided that the time had come for answers. Fred Parisi is a retired state trooper from Little Falls, New Jersey. He never knew the uncle who was killed in the plane crash, but he was determined to give his mother a special Christmas gift last year-peace of mind, at last. He hired an investigator from Lexington to research the crash, and he was planning to bring his mother to Newberry on the anniversary of the crash so that she could visit the site where her brother died. In November he called the home of Jim Clamp, a local historian and retired National Guardsman. He asked of Clamp: do you know anything about a military plane crash near Newberry in 1943? He was only 14 at the time, but Jim Clamp remembered the plane crash vividly. It was imprinted in his memory when his own brother died in a plane crash only seven months later. Of course, he would gather information about the incident for Parisi and his mother. Of course, he would guide them to the site. Of course, he would help any way he could: he understood how they felt. Clamp's research revealed there were two fatal military plane crashes in Newberry County during World War II. Two B-25 medium bombers were involved in the crash that claimed Bardell's life, and he was the co-pilot of one. Two or three years later, a P-51 fighter plane crashed near Silverstreet. From newspaper clippings and witness accounts, Clamp pieced together this story of the crash in which Bardell perished. On Feb. 5, 1943, a squadron of 15 B-25 bombers from Donaldson Army Air Base in Greenville was involved in a routine training mission. The squadron had refueled at Morison Field in Tampa, Florida, for the last leg of the return trip home. By the time the squadron reached South Carolina, the sky was overcast with rain and dense fog. Under these poor flight conditions, the standard procedure at the time would have been for the squadron commander to give the order to break formation. Each flight of three planes would be expected to proceed back to Greenville on its own, taking a slightly different course. The three planes in a flight would maintain radio contact with each other and would fly at slightly different altitudes so as to lessen the chances of collision, Clamp said. Pilots of today have sophisticated equipment that warns them when another plane or object enters their flight path. The planes of World War II, however, had no such warning system. To navigate in overcast weather, World War II pilots had only a compass, air speed indicator, altimeter and a radio beacon from an airport, if in range. "No one knows exactly what happened, but about 4:30 p.m. a flight of these planes was passing about eight miles north of Newberry. Two of them collided in mid-air and fell to the ground. After losing radio contact, the third plane proceeded to Donaldson Air Base and landed safely. Some residents in the area claimed to hear the planes approaching, heard the collision and the crashes when the planes hit the ground. Others for several miles around heard the crashes, and a loud explosion afterward," Clamp said. The engine from one plane was severed, and it fell on the near side of a ravine about 100 yards from present-day Monument Road. The rest of the plane impacted on the other side of the ravine, within and on both sides of a deep gully that drained into the ravine. It was demolished and burst into flames. The other plane impacted in an open field about a quarter of a mile from the first. It, too, was completely demolished but did not burn. According to authorities, pieces of the two planes and bodies of the 14 crew members were spread over a half square mile area. A number of bodies were attached to open parachutes. This would give a first impression that the crew members had bailed out too close to the ground for their parachutes to open, but Clamp said the parachutes were probably forced open from the impact of the crash rather than opening in the air. "I am told that the crews never wore parachutes in normal flight. They wore the harness, and each man kept his parachute nearby. He could have it on in a matter of seconds in case of an emergency, but there were only two small openings to bail out of a B-25. One was near the front of the plane and one at the back behind the bomb-bay. In an emergency such as this, if the pilot was not able to hold the plane stable for a long enough time, or if the plane was not at a high enough altitude to give time to climb out, chances of the crew bailing out before impact with the ground were small," Clamp said. After the crash, a question arose as to whether these planes may have been connected in some way with the famous Doolittle Raiders, who staged the first bombing raid on Tokyo. They flew B-25s, too, and took off from aircraft carriers. There is probably no connection, however, since the Doolittle raid took place ten months before the crash, in April of 1942. These two planes with their crews were still in training and had not yet been overseas. The 14 young men killed in the crash gave their lives for their country as surely as if they were killed in combat overseas, Clamp said. Yet, they received no medals or commendations, as would soldiers killed in combat. To honor their memory, the American Legion Post 24 erected a monument in 1944--and in February of 2000, Lt. Bardell's little sister visited the monument with Ira Clamp's little brother. For both of them, every day had been Memorial Day for 56 years. Let us not forget.
Submitted by Sue Summer

This page is for perpetual written accounts of historical events that have occurred in the city. Anyone who feels they have pertinent information may submit it. This includes all people in or out of Newberry and could involve any interested adults or children with events or items that are of interest. Items may be submitted for publication on this page where they will remain as part of a historical archive for the city. Items of interest may include noteworthy events, special events of historical importance, information about area growth that pertains to the history of the city, and other pertinent notes. We hope to establish a large data base of information about the history of each city. Historical Societies are encouraged to open their own page on Key to the City for more extensive historical information.


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