THORNBURG, Douglas

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Command Pilot, lst Lietuenant Douglas Thornburg
B-24E
Consolidated B-24E wrecked July 5, 1943, San Miguel Island

THORNBURG, Douglas (1918-1943)[Service Number O-801227] lst Lieutenant command pilot of the Consolidated B-24E that crashed on Green Mountain, San Miguel Island on July 5, 1943, killing all twelve people on board.

Thornburg was born in Los Angeles, CA, the third of three children of Charles Hix Thornburg and Dorothy Eloise (Brown) Thornburg.

Three weeks before his fatal crash, Thornburg had successfully bailed out of B-24E [#42-7119] when it crashed due to mechanical failure over Weed, Siskiyou Co, CA on 10 June 1943. After Lieutenant Thornburg was reported missing, a friend wrote the following poem for his parents:

TRIBUTE TO DOUGLAS THORNBURG
Just feel proud, dear mother heart,
Your precious son, a glorious part
Has taken in this world wide fray
To free all lands from Axis sway;
The silver wings that bore him hence
While you each day endured suspense,
Flashed through the sky on duty bent
The job to do with full intent;
And though his ship may missing be,
Perhaps on land, perhaps on sea,
At conflict's end your gallant son
May come again when war is won;
But should there be a different story,
Just know he flashed his way to glory.

-Gertrude J. Hager



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:


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.”