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Crash of SBD Dauntless 06662
Eyewitness account

"I was a witness to an SBD crashing in the jungle. At our new command post location at dusk, we were all in our sacks.This was very thick jungle with areas cleared only for tents, galley and paths. As usual for this hour planes were passing overhead to land. One plane's propeller started clipping the tree tops and he cut the power. He came down thru trees bringing branches and debris and landed with a thud. No explosion.

We rushed toward the sound. He landed on the path between the tent area and the galley. About 100 yards separates the two. He had hit a big tree at almost ground level and had spun around 180 The engine was laying to one side with just a flicker of fire. As it was dark a lantern was brought out. Only the fuselage remained in one piece. The pilot was a Marine Captain [Captain Bill Spang] alive, incoherent and in bad shape. He was a big man.They cut him out of the plane and onto a stretcher where the Bn. doctor attended him but to no avail. The next day airfield ordinance arrived to salvage the 1,000 lb bomb that had jarred loose but didn't explode. I hadn't noticed the aerial gunner but had heard he was O.K.

After more study of your information I am convinced the plane in the photo has to be the plane that crashed into our Company area. The darkness and restricted light from the lantern would explain my not seeing the wings as everything was focused on removing the pilot who was completely exposed with nothing in front of him except a few strands of metal and cable. The next day I had to leave early to accompany a G Company patrol, which was a daily routine event.When I returned late afternoon the ordinance people had already left.

As this happened 58 yrs ago I can't be sure of my memory but I don't remember seeing that plane again or any parts of it. It would have been logical for ordinance to remove it along with the bomb as it would've been a safety hazard {gasoline} so close to our living area.{only yds.}. It being a Carrier plane I assume the wings folded and with the loss of weight {engine & bomb} it wouldn't be as difficult as I first thought .Anyway it was moved at that time or later. This C P location was not that close to the Lunga R. I can only guess 3 or 400 yds. or more.

The crash site was in thick jungle and the plane had spun around creating a small clearing as it came to rest. Radio Section people were the first there and were the ones that pulled the pilot out. I don't recall seeing wings left on the plane.There was no odor of gas and the rescue person was standing on something so there must have been at least partial wings left. I wasn't there the next day when the bomb was removed. It was difficult I heard because the ground was so soft.

I do remember clearly Captain bars on the pilots shirt and a wedding ring with others on his left hand.We left the area around the 15th of December.I don't remember clearly but I think the plane was still where it fell{along with the engine closeby}.It was probably 50 yds. or so to the galley where there was a jeep & truck road , so I suppose it could have been dragged out with some difficulty.I can't see this happening with the wings left on unless they cut down jungle. Your location of the plane (west bank of the Lunga) on the aerial photo is exactly right."

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