Page 14 - Discover Winter 2023
P. 14

Tragedy on Sharp Top CONTINUED

      years without ever suspecting what                      war was far from won. Training time was

      might lie on the terrain below them.                    compressed, and the B-25 was used in
                                                              every theater.”
         In spite of the seeming oddity of
      such a crash, it was actually one of six                   For the sake of reference, remember

      such incidents that were handled by the                 that the crash occurred on February 2,
      Army over a two day period. In at least                 1943, less than two months after the
      one of those crashes, workers had been                  attack on Pearl Harbor, so for us, the
      busy trying to extend the runway of                     war had barely begun.

      an airfield in Richmond. As these men
                                                                 Since the crash site is within the
      were working, the runway remained in
                                                              boundaries of the Blue Ridge Parkway,
      use, and a fighter pilot ran his plane off
                                                              the National Park Service also has
      the end of that runway.
                                                              jurisdiction and responsibilities with
         An Army officer on scene was quoted                  respect to protect it as a historic
      in a telephone transcript, saying, “If they             resource. In addition to scavengers
      have got to work on it and fly on it too,               and souvenir hunters, the Park Service
      all they can do is fly over their heads and  reports that one group had desecrated

      hope nobody gets hurt. But they say this                the site by attempting to rearrange the
      is war.”                                                pieces of the wreckage back into the
                                                              original shape of the plane.
         The reply on the other end: “Yes, that’s

      the answer we get, too.”                                   Compounding these challenges, the
                                                              rocky slope upon which the wreckage
         It’s difficult to imagine such a
                                                              rests is treacherous to hikers, and every
      conversation taking place in the present
                                                              year there are people who venture there
      day. The horrors of World War II
                                                              only to injure themselves and then have
      were felt everywhere. In fact, William
                                                              to be carried out. Given the rugged
      McClure, one of the five men who were
                                                              terrain, this means that rescue workers
      killed in the Sharp Top crash had two
                                                              have a risky job of carrying those folks
      fraternity brothers who were also killed
                                                              to safety. This is why the location of
      in related incidents. In fact one of them
                                                              the crash site has not been widely
      was his best friend, and he died on the
                                                              publicized, in spite of the fact that a
      same day as McClure.
                                                              memorial plaque is placed there.

         Army Chaplain Jeffrey Clemens
      explains why such crashes were

         “The war wouldn’t wait. We had to
      train 200,000 pilots, and in 1943, the

      12     Discover Smith Mountain Lake  WINTER 2022
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