I recently published a post about the life and death of 1st. Lt. William Rueckert, who was killed on his first and only operational mission from RAF Hardwick in Norfolk.
Since then, I have been able to obtain, thanks to the Air Force Historical Research Agency Maxwell AFB, copies of another accident report that William was involved in.
The story was retold by Dee, William’s young wife as occurring at Biggs Field, El Paso in Texas and involved a B-24 colliding with another aircraft. It is now believed this was in fact a collision at Lemoore AAF as the details of the incident are very similar to those originally told by Dee.
At the time, the Army Air Corps used a range of aircraft to train pilots in basic flying, one of the more powerful and complex models was the single engined aircraft the Vultee BT-13 (replaced by the Vultee BT-15). On May 20th, 1943, William was flying solo in BT-15 #42-1957 at Lemoore AAF, and was approaching to land.
The official records (crash number 43-5-20-6) held at the Air Force Historical Research Agency, states that:
“At 17:02, May 20, 1943, while upon final approach at Lemoore Field at the termination of a routine training flight, Student Officer, 1st. Lt. W.G. Rueckert collided with A/C D.W. Christedsen [sic].
Both airplanes were approaching the field in the usual manner. The wind was slightly from the right at 10 mph. Position of the approaching ships gave the control ship stationed on the south-west corner of the mat no cause for alarm. A/C Christensen in ship 32 was in front below and to the right of Lt. Rueckert in ship 12. Several hundred yards from the south-west edge of the mat. Lt. Rueckert noticeably dropped the nose of his ship which struck the A/C Christensen’s airplane behind the canopy. Both airplanes remained in contact and fell to the edge of the mat from a height of about 50 feet. A/C Christensen plane landed on its back, exploded and burned killing A/C Christensen immediately. Lt. Rueckert’s landed nose first, broke clear of the other plane and the pilot jumped out and attempted to extinguish the blaze with his fire extinguisher. He sustained a cut on his forehead and shock. The fire truck and ambulance arrived immediately afterward, put out the blaze and conveyed Lt. Rueckert to the hospital.
Lt. Rueckert stated that he never saw A/C Christensen’s plane in the traffic pattern.
It is probable that one or both pilots were making improper correction for wind drift although witnesses were located at angles which made it impossible to verify this fact.”
The enquiry that followed concluded:
“Failure of pilot in airplane to look around. Poor correction for drift on the part of one or both pilots. Lack of control tower in the vicinity of mat. Present control tower is approximately four thousand feet from the scene of the accident.”
Dee would later retell the story to Bill, describing how she went to the hospital and how she had to remove little splinters of the shatter windshield from William’s forehead for weeks after the crash.
As a result it is now believed that the accident William suffered was indeed at Lemoore and not at El Paso. I shall continue to search for any evidence to the contrary, but it is almost certain that this is now the case.
Another small part of the jigsaw has fallen into place, and I once again thank Bill for allowing me to publish his father’s story.
See the full story of William’s life and death at under Heroic Tales – 1st. Lt. William G. Rueckert.
Accident number 43-5-20-6 Lemoore Army Air Field provided by the Air Force Historical Research Agency.