Neighbors: Mystery of 1941 military plane crash has been solved

A few months before the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, a local man stationed at a Louisiana air base witnessed the crash of a military plane that killed the pilot.
Historical photo of an O-47 observation monoplane. Boeing / Special to The Forum
Historical photo of an O-47 observation monoplane. Boeing / Special to The Forum

A few months before the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, a local man stationed at a Louisiana air base witnessed the crash of a military plane that killed the pilot.

Decades later, that man wrote Neighbors about the horror of seeing this tragic event.

Difficult though the story was, that column turned up a fact about people in the area: No matter what topic appears in this column, there probably are people who are knowledgeable about it.

In the case of this story, it was the plane that crashed that brought responses. The witness to the crash wasn't sure what kind of plane it was.

Well, thanks to a couple of you readers, the mystery has been solved.

Fred Quam, Fargo, wrote that it was an O-47 observation plane, and sent in a picture of it. Jim Hetland, Fargo, agrees.

"There was an O-47 which was built by North American Aviation in the late 1930s," Jim wrote. "It was a low-wing, single-engine monoplane that was used as an observation aircraft by the Army Air Corps in the early '40s. But it had many shortcomings and was later abandoned by the Corps."

Fred adds that the O-47 was of all metal construction, had retractable landing gear and carried two machine guns.

So there's some information for all you aircraft buffs.

By the way, the air base where the crash mentioned above was named Esler Field in honor of the pilot of that name who died in the crash.

Hearing problem

Now, a request to you who are are trying to make contact with the writer of this column by phone.

Friends, I have to tell you you're dealing with an old deaf guy who has real trouble understanding voices on the phone, either live or by voicemail.

I have several voicemail messages I've been unable to answer because I'm unable to understand the message. I apologize for that, but it's the way it is.

So may I ask that if you are trying to reach me, would you please send me either an email or a postal note? Happily, the old eyes haven't faded as badly as the hearing, so I can still read messages.

Thanks for your understanding, neighbors. And do write in. Neighbors loves to hear from you.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 241-5487 or email blind@forumcomm.com.