June 28, 1944 a B-17G Flying Fortress (similar to the one pictured above) #42-97619 (same type of aircraft as the famous “Memphis Belle”) took off from Yuma Army Airfield (now known as Marine Corps Air Station Yuma) in Arizona just shortly after 1:15am, for a night navigation training mission. The plane took off with an instructor pilot, two pilots in training, a flight engineer, and a crew chief. Just a few weeks earlier, one of the pilots, 2ndLt William Richell, 22 yrs old from upstate New York was home on furlough. He was excited to be a newly trained pilot for the Army Air Corps (US Air Force today) as he recently completed his 4-engine training at Roswell Army Air Base before being assigned to Yuma. His younger 15 year old brother Fred, asked of his older brother, what the hardest part of being a pilot was. William told him it was the night flying he was not fond of. On that fateful early morning hours of June 28th, 2ndLt William Richell radioed the tower to request landing instructions. Ten minutes later, the B-17 slammed into the Gila Mountains. Witnesses 20 miles east of Yuma saw a massive fireball when the crash occurred. It was not known who was at the controls of the WWII bomber at the time of the crash, but investigators believed that the pilot had been using the lights of Yuma as a navigational aid, and inadvertently let the bomber descend too low before the city lights became obscured by the mountain ridge the plane impacted. Most of the debris from the bomber remains today, but almost seven decades of rock & mud slides and steep terrain have covered up much of the wreckage. There were no survivors. The following airmen were killed in the crash: 2ndLt William Richell, 2ndLt Angus MacArther, 2ndLt Sheridan Marek, Sgt Manteu Jones, and Cpl Merle Ice. My buddy Jon and I were looking for some scenic places to hike and one of the locals mentioned a B-17 crashed up in the mountains and that there was a rough hiking trail that not many people know about that we could take and see the wreckage. So, yesterday we decided on the fly that we’d climb up into the Gila Mountains to view what we could of what was left of the wreckage just to see what was there. The first few hours started out bad, as we started out climbing the wrong peak, and had to transverse over two mountain ridges to get to the correct one. There were no signs or anything that pointed us the right way except for a Canadian “eh” that was down here on vacation we came across on a quad who warned us about the Rattle Snakes all over and he wasn’t for sure where the plane was either, but he guessed it to be over the next peak… so Jon and I kept moving, only now we were paranoid of rattlers. Here are some of the views of the rocky terrain and rattle snake infested areas we hiked through… very rocky areas and very challenging as well. We were in constant look out for Mojave Rattlers as they have been slithering about today. Also pictured are parts of the plane that we found in the impact area. We had almost given up looking as we didn’t run across anything and we were losing daylight fast… at the last minute of when we decided to turn back, we came across the wreckage. It made the climb worth it.