STEVENS, Vernon C.
STEVENS, Vernon Clark (1919-1943)[Service Number T-376], pilot killed along with all twelve passengers in the Consolidated B-24E that crashed into Green Mountain on San Miguel Island on July 5, 1943.
Stevens was born in Elmwood, Minnesota, the son of Charles Wesley Stevens, Sr. and Verda Olive (Crane) Stevens. His brother was Charles Wesley Stevens, Jr. His hometown was Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Stevens was married and his wife was living at Salinas, California at the time of his death.
Stevens was the Pilot of the B-24E [#42-7160] that was following B-24E [#42-7011] 'The Eddie Rickenbacker', Major Thorel 'Skip' Johnson's Crew, on a search and rescue mission for two that had bailed out over the Pacific Ocean. Their ship had been using fuel at an excessive rate prior to losing two engines over the Pacific off the coast of Santa Barbara. Pilot Johnson ordered the crew into their parachutes and turned the plane around, heading back towards Santa Barbara. Two airmen, Dannhardt and Prosser, not knowing they were still over the Pacific, bailed out prior to the pilot giving the order and thus were lost at sea. The remaining eight crewmen bailed out safely once the plane had reached land over the mountains. The unmanned plane crashed 10 miles north of Santa Barbara on 04 July 1943. The Command Pilot of B-24E [#42-7160], Lieutenant Douglas J. Thornburg, was one of four survivors who bailed out of B-24E [#42-7119] that crashed three weeks earlier. B-24E [#42-7160] descended in heavy developing fog to take a closer look, and crashed head-on into Green Mountain on San Miguel Island, one of the California Channel Islands. A search was initiated for their plane once it was known that they had lost contact. Eventually the search was called off and it was thought that the plane must have ditched in the Pacific. The following March, San Miguel Island lessee, Robert Brooks, found the plane and the remains of the twelve airmen on 800-foot Green Mountain. The plane and crew had crashed at approximately the 500-foot elevation. In 1954, additional crew remains were reported, and the Coast Guard Cutter Morris was dispatched, however, it collided with the yacht Aloha, resulting in two civilian casualties.
There is a grave for Stevens in Cedar Memorial Park cemetery, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
In the News~
July 5, 1943: Consolidated B-24E (#42-7180) U.S.A.A. F. crashed on Green Mountain. Twelve men died in the crash. The site was not located until March 19, 1944. The bomber had been dispatched to find a missing B-24 that was later found 10 miles inland from Santa Barbara. All personnel were members of the 2nd Air Force, 34th Bomb Group, 7th Bomb Squadron stationed at Salinas Army Air Base, Salinas, California. The remains of the crew were returned to their next of kin:
- Vernon C. Stevens, Pilot
- Douglas Thornburg, Command Pilot
- Floyd P. Hart, Copilot
- Justin M. Marshall, Bombardier Instructor
- Bose Gorman, Navigator
- Noah H. Yost, Bombardier
- Bernard Littman, Engineer
- Ralph S. Masterson, Assistant Engineer
- Lyle L. Frost, Radioman
- Walter P. Eisenbarth, Gunner
- Lee E. Salzer, Gunner
- Henry L. Bair, Assistant Radioman
July 13, 1943 [Santa Cruz Sentinel]: “Bomber From Salinas Missing In Flight Over Ocean. Salinas, July 12 —The Salinas army air base disclosed today that a heavy bomber with 12 officers and men has been missing since July 5 on a flight over the Pacific ocean. The air base list of the men who were on the plane included:
- First Lieut. Douglas Thornburg of Casa Grande, Ariz.
- Second Lieut. Floyd P. Hart of Bakersfield, Calif.
- Second Lieut. Noah H. Yost; wife, Salinas.
- Second Lieut. Bose Gorman; wife, Salinas.
- Second Lieut. Justin M. Marshall; wife, Salinas.
- Flight Officer Vernon C. Stevens; wife, Salinas.
- Staff Sgt. Bernard Littman, Pittsburgh, Pa.
- Staff Sgt. Ralph S. Masterson, Voth, Tex.
- Staff Sgt. Lyle L. Frost, Mountain, Wis.
- Staff Sgt. Walter B. Eisenbarth, Route 1, Hazelton, N. D.
- Staff Sgt. Lee E. Salzer, Pittsburgh, Pa.
- Pvt. Henry L. Blair [sic], LaTrobe, Pa.
March 21, 1944 [Santa Cruz Sentinel]: “12 Killed in Army Bomber Crash. Santa Maria, Cal. March 20 — Wreckage of an army bomber missing since last July has been discovered on San Miguel Island in the Santa Barbara channel with 12 bodies aboard, Santa Maria army air field officials reported today.”
March 21, 1944 [San Bernardino Sun]: “Plane wreckage Found on San Miguel Island. Santa Maria, March 20 — Wreckage of an Army bomber missing since last July has been discovered on San Miguel Island in the Santa Barbara channel with 12 bodies.”
October 2, 1954 [LAT]: “Air Force Seeks Names in 1943 Crash On Island. A special Air Force identification team flew by helicopter to lonely San Miguel Island off Santa Barbara yesterday to undertake the grim task of identifying the remains of 12 crewmen killed in the crash of a Liberator bomber July 5, 1943. The World War II wreckage, more than 11 years old, was discovered several days ago and has been definitely identified as that of B-24 No. 27180 that took off from Salinas Air Force Base with eight officers and four enlisted men. Last Report. It was last reported two hours later near Santa Barbara and apparently the pilot attempted to crash land the Liberator on the grassy tableland of the island some 60 miles off the California coast. Robert W. Ralston and George J. Schwanderer were assigned out of Air Material Command headquarters (Memorial Affairs Branch) to attempt identification of the crew and return the bodies to the mainland for burial, according to Brig. Gen. Victor Bertrandias, Air Force Deputy inspector general, Norton Air Force Base, San Bernardino. Names of the dead were withheld pending identification and notification of next of kin. The 12 men had been listed as missing and presumably dead.”