I’m Deb Bisel. Welcome to a very special episode of Around Kansas. We’re in the quaint little cemetery of Elmdale, and then we’re going to go back home to Patrick County, Virginia, to my home where this young man, Sergeant Neale Narramore gave his life during WW II in the service of his county. You won’t want to miss this incredible episode of Around Kansas.
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(Deb) Welcome to Around Kansas. I’m Deb Bisel. What an incredible story we have for you today. What a gratifying story this has been for me to research. Now I grew up pretty much knowing about the plane crash in 1944 on Bull Mountain in Patrick County, Virginia, that killed the 11 crewmen aboard, including Neale Narramore from Elmdale, Kansas. There was a, just a few years ago, a memorial was placed on the courthouse lawn back in Stuart, Virginia. And there’s a memorial on the mountain to them thanks to my good friend Clarence Hall. In researching this story though, I’ve come across a much bigger story. I actually went to Elmdale and we visited the Methodist Church where Sergeant Narramore’s funeral was held in 1944. The other piece of the story, and what the good folks in Chase County have made me aware of is just incredible. Now, Neale Narramore had an older brother Roth Narramore who was stationed in North Africa when Neale was killed. And the Army brought him back for his funeral. They brought him into Miami and then flew him into Dallas/Fort worth and then Wichita where a highway patrolman picked him up and brought him to the Elmdale Methodist Church for his brother’s funeral. What an incredible feeling that must have been for in 1941 in Roth Narramore’s funeral had been held in that same church. He was presumed killed in action at Pearl Harbor. He and some other boys from Chase County were at Pearl Harbor. In fact, four of ’em were from Elmdale Marvin Dole, Roth Narramore, Bill Pretzer, and Richard Bale were all from Elmdale. And then there was a Dale Bowers from Clements also in Chase County. So, when the bombing occurred Roth Narramore sent his parents a telegram, just four words- “Am safe don’t worry.” So, how relieved they must have been to have gotten that telegram. But not long afterward they got a telegram from the War Department that said their son had in fact, been killed in action at Hickam Field. So, a week later they had a funeral for Roth Narramore at the Elmdale Methodist Church. Of course, the entire community, a little bitty community like this, everybody’s going to be affected by that. Ten hours after Roth Narramore’s funeral they get another telegram from the War Department – “We are gratified to inform you that our previous telegram was in error and your son is severely wounded but alive.” Can you imagine what this poor family had gone through? Thinking he was OK, then thinking he was dead, having a funeral for him and then realizing that he was alive. And can you imagine when they got word that the younger son had been killed back in Patrick County, Virginia, just in a training mission? Can you imagine how hopeful they must have been that that report too must have been an error. And how they must have waited hoping that they would receive yet another notice that their son was still alive. What a heartbreaking story. I just can’t imagine the roller coaster of emotions that this family went through. And we were able to contact several of the family members and some of the folks back in Chase County and I want you to know these men aren’t forgotten. And we’re just so pleased to share their story with you today. Stay with us.
(Deb) Welcome back to Around Kansas and we’re with Lock Boyce. He is the local veterinarian here in Stewart, Virginia. But he is also one of the owners of Bull Mountain. And Bull Mountain of course, is the sight of the plane crash in 1944 that killed the crew, including our boy Neale Narramore from Kansas. And Lock, thanks so much for joining us. (Lock) Oh well thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here. (Deb) Now you’ve…tell us, you’ve got a little bit of interest in World War II and then you came to own the mountain and got interested in this crash sight. So, just tell us how that came about. (Lock) Yeah, my family purchased the land actually where the crash sight is in 1976. And we moved a cattle operation up here. The crash site is of no real commercial value. It’s up about 3,200 feet in altitude up a very steep, rough mountain. I’m very sorry that we couldn’t go up there today, but it’s pouring down rain here and the entire mountain is encased in fog. That’s almost exactly the weather conditions at the time of this crash. Of course it was a big thunderstorm, but when the clouds moved in, the cloud banks move in, that mountain disappears. And we know of at least five major airplane accidents that have occurred on Bull Mountain including tragically the Hendrick crew airplane crash that occurred a few years ago associated with the NASCAR race in Marksville. (Deb) Right, exactly. Now the model that you’ve got, tell us what that is. (Lock) Most people don’t… nowadays, aren’t familiar with World War II bombers. But the airplane that crashed on Bull Mountain and in which your Kansan was riding in, was a B-24 Liberator. It was built by the Consolidated Aviation Company. The first prototypes of this aircraft were actually sea planes. This thing was going to be a sea plane. But when the war came, there was a requirement for a heavy bomber to supplement the B-17, which most people are more familiar with. It was a four engine, radial engine aircraft. It was gasoline fuel. That was not a good thing. The B-17 built a fuel that was more similar to kerosene, it was a little bit harder to catch fire. When a B-24 would take a good hit with anti-aircraft fire or rounds from an attacking fighter, they had a tendency to explode in a large fireball. So, there weren’t as many survivors of combat action in B-24’s, percentage wise than there were in the B-17’s. And most of the other bomber aircraft of World War II. This aircraft had a speed of just over 300 miles an hour and an operational ceiling of just under 30,000 feet. And they used typically an 11 man crew. So there were 11 men on board. In 1944, the Bull Mountain airplane had a crew of young kids. They started training at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, now it’s an Air Force Base in Ohio. And they were headed on a more or less shake down flight to Charleston, South Carolina, where the airplane was to be placed on ships and taken to the European theatre. You’ve got to understand that these crews were in their early 20’s. Twenty, 21 years old. Their life experience was one or two years of college for some of them. There were some college graduates, but most of them were just kids. And if you had two years of college, you were eligible to be a pilot or a navigator. And the training at the Wright-Patterson was about six weeks. This bomber was the most common, this was the highest produced bomber in World War II. We built almost 20,000 of these. Twenty thousand of these large airplanes to fight the war. And they served in every theater and every action of the war. It was extremely long range and it could really carry a large bomb load. A B-24 could carry twice the bomb load of a B-17 and over a much longer range. (Deb) We’re gonna take a break real quick. We’ll be right back with more of Around Kansas. So stay with us.
(Deb) Welcome to Around Kansas. And with me is Lock Boyce here in Stewart, Virginia, where I went to high school by the way. And we’re talking about the plane crash on Bull Mountain in 1944, killed 11 crew members including Neale Narramore from Elmdale, Kansas. So Boyce, the night of this crash exactly what happened, so we know? (Lock) As I said the plane was ordered to fly from central Ohio to Charleston, South Carolina, for embarkation to the European theater. The pilot was a kid from Elkin, North Carolina. (Deb) Not too far from here. (Lock) Not too far from here; it’s in Yadkin County. And he had written his Daddy, owned the local drug store, and he wanted to fly his airplane over his Mother’s house on their way to Charleston. And he told her that he was going to let down his landing gear during the day time, or flash on and off the lights if it was at night, so she would know that that low flying airplane over their little farm was him headed to war. But he had a young, very inexperienced navigator and they got lost. And they wound up in one of these early spring thunderstorms that we have here in Virginia, as you know, which are really stupendous. Especially along these mountains. And the reports were that because there was no direct radio contact with this aircraft, the reports were that the airplane was flying very low trying to find a hole in the cloud cover so that they could identify any ground feature to reorient themselves and tell where they were. They flew up this road here, which is now called Tudor Orchard Road, following the path of that road. The road goes between two big mountains. When they got through that the airplane gained altitude, evidently the pilot became aware that there were mountains around him. So, they gained altitude, they went up over the top of Bull Mountain and then they turned back to the south and as they turned back south the plane impacted the ridge of Bull Mountain, just below Ridgewood knob. Fifty more feet, 50 feet and this airplane would have cleared the ridge and you might be interviewing Mr. Narramore to get his memoirs. It was tragic. To this day and had we gone to the crash scene you can see the damage to the side of the mountain where each of these four engines impacted and the nose. So there are five holes in the side of the mountain, just below the ridge line. Now the right outboard engine actually hit the mountain and broke off and continued to fly if that’s what you call it, over the top of the ridge and went quite some distance down into a valley of Ridge Creek Gorge. And we found it in 1979, along Ridge Creek. So, parts of this airplane were not discovered until relatively recently. (Deb) We’re gonna take a break real quick. We’ll be right back with more of Around Kansas so stay with us.
(Deb) Now when the plane crashed did that set the mountain on fire? (Lock) It started a major fire. Remember these were gasoline powered aircraft, so there was quite a big fire and even in a thunderstorm some of the surrounding vegetation caught fire from the heat, so there was a fire to put out. Mr. James Marshall Ore, at that time, was the senior equipment operator for Cabel Tudor who owned the property in those days. And he took an old Caterpillar Crawler and hooked tobacco sleds to it and went up the mountain. There was no road up there at that time. He went directly up the mountain following old lumber trails and deer trails to get to the crash sight and he was the first one on scene. And he recovered the bodies. Some of ’em were badly burned. But one body, had been ejected from the aircraft strapped to its seat. And this poor guy was found seated in his seat, still strapped in and looking relatively unscathed in the woods. He was just sitting there. And Marshall Ore told me that he actually walked up to the guy and started talking to him and asking him if he was OK and that was heck of a crash he’d just survived, and found later that a large piece of metal had actually gone into his back. So, evidently this guy, whoever he was, or where he was seated in the aircraft had been blow out with the impact. (Deb) So, he was already dead when he was… (Lock) He was dead. There were no survivors. They were all killed instantly on impact. And most all of the other ones were severely burnt. (Deb) Now when they… I can’t even imagine what it was like to recover those bodies from up on the mountain and in the debris. And somebody told me that there are places to this day that the grass won’t grow because it was so badly scorched. (Lock) Well, that’s kind of an exaggeration. The grass won’t grow cause it’s really rocky up there. (Deb) OK. (Lock) But you’re right, that when you walk around that crash sight you’re walking on melted aluminum. These things were built out of aluminum. And incidentally this particular aircraft that crashed on Bull Mountain was not painted. It was a bare aluminum with no paint on it. When the paint… it wasn’t that the paint was burnt off, but if you notice the pieces of the airplane that you saw that was natural aluminum and that was normal because a lot of ’em went actually all the way to Europe before they actually painted them. These guys never made combat but none the less, they were real heroes. And it’s a shame that they didn’t get to do their bit. It does point up non-combat deaths as they’re called in the military service, are none the less, deaths and that the victims of non-combat mortality are missed and mourned just as much as those who actually get shot down by German fighter aircraft over Europe. (Deb) We’re gonna take a break real quick. We’ll be right back with more of Around Kansas, so stay with us.
(Deb) Well Lock, thanks so much and again, I’m sorry that we can’t go up on the mountain today and visit but if people want to come to Patrick County and do that, can you arrange that? (Lock) Oh yeah. I want to extend an invitation, anybody from Kansas please come to Patrick County. I think it is as beautiful as anywhere else in the country. We do have some… many tourist attractions and if you would like to visit this crash sight, you can contact me through the veterinary hospital here and we’ll arrange for you to make a trip up there. (Deb) Wonderful. (Lock) And if I got any time at all I’ll go with you. I love going up there. It’s a beautiful, isolated place in the mountain and it is a very to me, it is almost a like a war graves memorial and it’s a very solemn, somber and interesting and beautiful place to be. And I’m sorry these guys didn’t have 50 feet more altitude. (Deb) Thanks so much.
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