May 27, 2013

Find triggers memory of Maine war tragedy

A local man recalls the 1943 crash that killed two British pilots in training – and has debris that fell from the sky.

By Eric Russell erussell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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An artifact found by Phil Blake contains the make, model and serial number of one of the planes that collided, an F4U Corsair JT 190. He found it in a drawer at the house of his late father, Everett Blake, on Penney Road, which was once owned by Phil’s great-grandfather.

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Phil Blake displays parts of a British fighter plane that were recovered after a midair crash over New Gloucester in 1943. He wants to add the pilots’ names to the town’s planned veterans monument. Town archivist Linda Gard, right, helped Blake research the incident.

Photos by John Ewing/Staff Photographer

Other members of the veterans monument committee unanimously agreed with him.

The monument is still about a year away from completion. The committee needs to raise between $60,000 and $75,000 and so far has received about $28,000 in donations and in-kind services.

But the idea for a veterans monument has generated buzz in the small town. During this year's Memorial Day parade, the town's Republican Party Committee has built a float that will include a replica of the proposed monument, complete with the names.

The artifacts recovered from Blake's family home are now housed at the New Gloucester History Barn on Route 231 behind the Masonic Hall.

Blake said he hopes people will feel inclined to learn a little about a part of history that many of them probably don't know. The only reason he learned about it is from information passed down to him from another generation.

He also hopes other townspeople who were alive in the 1940s will come forward if they have any knowledge of the crash.

Already, one man has done that -- longtime resident and historical society member Pete Wills.

Shortly after Blake shared his story, Wills went home and retrieved a unique piece of glass he found while walking along the railroad tracks near the crash site as a boy. The glass, to the best of Blake's research, appears to be a lens from one of the fighter planes' gun sights.

"There could be more out there," Blake said.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

erussell@pressherald.com

Twitter: @PPHEricRussell

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