Adams County

Lt. Roger M. Lewellen



News From Quincy

Lieutenant Roger Lewellen made his mother and father happy last week by a visit. Roger is recovering from a recent operation and cannot serve as pilot until he has fully regained his former health.

Source: Adams County Free Press, Corning, Iowa, Thursday, March 30, 1944, Page 11

Army Douglas Cargo Plane In
Forced Landing Here Sunday


An Army Douglas C-47 two-motored cargo transport plane, piloted by Lt. Roger Lewellen, son of Mr. and Mrs. M. E. Lewellen of Corning, made a forced landing about noon last Sunday in the pasture west of John Stepheny farm buildings, four miles northwest of Corning. The pilot and three passengers in the large plane escaped serious injury. Experienced air corps officers who were sent here to investigate the crash, marveled over the fact that those in the ship escaped with such slight injuries or even without being killed.

As the plane made a “belly landing” in the mud, fire broke out in the front part of the ship. The fire started slowly, thus preventing the possibility of the crash victims receiving serious burns. None of the 100-octane gas remaining in the fuel tanks ignited. Investigators stated that they believed the fire started from the batteries and the electrical system. They stated that if the gas had been ignited as the plane crashed, in all probability all of the passengers would have burned to death. Officers estimated that about 300 gallons of the high-explosive fuel remained in the supply tanks.

Came From South

The cargo ship was first noticed in the air here, approaching Corning from the south, a few minutes before noon Sunday. The ship flew over Corning, south to north, on a line nearly parallel to the sidewalks on the east side of Davis avenue. At that time there was no indication as to the identity of the person or persons in the plane, although it was generally supposed it was someone familiar with this community. A few minutes later the word was flushed that the plane had crashed northwest of town.

Military secrecy prevents publication of much of the authentic information concerning the crash, although the air force officers who were here in charge of the investigation extended every possible liberty to the Free Press in the matter of assembling facts for our news story of the crash landing.

The fact that Lt. Lewellen, pilot of the plane, is a resident of this community, makes handling of the story more difficult. Naturally the true facts, as found by the investigating board, are military secrets and will probably never be made public. The investigating officers stated that the pictures taken by the Free Press could not be legally confiscated but the officers requested that the pictures be “killed’ and we are gladly complying with their wishes on this point. To do otherwise would be unpatriotic.

Early reports on the accident stated that five persons were in the plane when it crashed but official verification of the passenger list reveal only four. In addition to Lt. Lewellen, the pilot, the other passengers were co-pilot, 2nd Lt. Robert Jones of Dodge City, Kansas; Army Nurse Lt. Eileen Wahley of Pennsylvania but stationed at Dodge City, Kansas. The identity of the fourth passenger was reported as being a Mr. Burt, a civilian pilot but in the employ of the government of the Kansas City Airport.

First To Arrive

John Stepheny, who resides near the scene of the accident, was the first to arrive after the plane crashed. Charles Bixler was the next to arrive and both report that the passengers were out of the plane when they arrived. Lt. Jones and Burt were not injured except slight cuts and bruises. Lt. Jones remained with the ship while Burt looked after bringing Lt. Lewellen and the nurse to Corning. A physician could not be located immediately and the injured persons were taken to the Creston hospital by Chas. Bixler.

Physicians who attended the injured stated that Lt. Lewellen had minor lacerations about the head and face which required several stitches. Lt. Whaley received lacerations and an injured ankle but no fractured bones. Both were released from the hospital within a short time. Lt. Wahley was taken to Des Moines. Burt returned to Kansas City from Creston and Lt. Lewellen returned to Corning and the home of his parents. Monday a transport plane came from Bowman Field, Louisville, Ky., and took Lt. Lewellen and Lt. Jones back to their base.

Word of the crash spread rapidly and hundreds of people visited the scene of the accident during the afternoon and evening. The Corning Fire Department members were called and had the blaze under control before the flames reached the gas tanks. Members of the crew which prepared the plane for return to Rosecrans Field at St. Joseph, Mo., stated that the heat had burned the rubber off the caps of the gas tanks and it seemed almost a miracle that the gas did not explode.

Viewed Photos

Officers, when they viewed Free Press pictures of the crash, showing people standing close to the plane, stated that undoubtedly some would have been killed by the flying debris if the 100-octane gas had been reached by the flames and the fuel exploded. The officers urged us to warn the public to always keep a long distance away on any occasion where there is a danger of high octane gas exploding. Sheriff Russell Roland, Deputy Horace Wilson, Highway Patrolman and two Burlington railroad detectives who happened [Page 6] to be here on other business, assisted in policing the area about the wreck until the military police arrived.

A group of air corps medical officers and attendants and military police, in charge of Capt. Domonic A. Bartol, Assistant Provost Marshal, all from Rosecrans Field at St. Joseph, Mo., were the first official army representatives to arrive after the crash. After learning that the passengers were not seriously injured and all was in order from that point, the medical detachment returned to St. Joseph early Sunday evening. The military police remained until the last load of the wrecked ship was taken out of town Wednesday morning. The ship was cut in pieces with torches, loaded on two huge “crash trucks” and one smaller truck by the wrecking crew and taken to St. Joseph. This required two days work. The trucks were brought to Corning Tuesday evening and were parked during the night on Benton avenue, between sixth and seventh streets.

The wreckage drew many interested spectators and the military were kept busy policing the crowd away from the trucks.

Notified Commander

Lt. Lewellen, as soon as possible, notified his commanding officer, by telephone, at Bowman Field, Louisville, Kentucky, of the accident. Sunday evening a group of officers from Bowman Field arrived here by plane. They circled the wreck twice and then flew to Atlantic, as there was no landing space here large enough to accommodate the Douglas transport they were flying. The officers transported a jeep in the plane, which furnished their transportation from Atlantic to Corning and return. This group was in charge of Maj. W. D. Well.s

Darkness had fallen when the Bowman Field officers arrived at the wreck and nothing was done officially until Monday morning. The group called at the Free Press early Monday morning to study our photos of the wreck and discussed with us the news releases. After a preliminary investigation the Bowman Field group, who were all well acquainted with Lt. Lewellen, decided to turn the official investigation work over to a more neutral board. The investigation was placed in the hands of the Rosecrans Field board at St. Joseph, Mo., headed by Maj. G. E. Katzman. This group arrived here shortly before noon Monday. Other members of the board who came with Maj. Katzman were Maj. W. J. Sutton, Maj. Perry J. Hudson, Capt. Marion V. Miller and Capt. C. F. Lay.

Interviewed Citizens

These officers also met with the Bowman Field group at the Free Press office at noon Monday, viewed photographs of the wreck and discussed further the approved news releases. The Free Press wishes to express appreciation for the consideration shown the press by the investigation officers while here. The men spent most of Monday afternoon interviewing citizens who saw the plane over the town and others who were in a position to furnish information. The group left for Rosecrans Field Monday evening. Later the information assembled will be reviewed by the proper authorities and an official report will be made but of course this report will be strictly a military matter and not for publication.

As stated at the beginning of this story, the plane involved in the crash here Sunday is a Douglas C-47 cargo transport ship. The same model used by the Navy is called the DC-3. This is the same type of plane which pulled the gliders in the invasion of France and also transported paratroopers. It is comparatively slow but sturdy ship. Pilots on the C-47 are trained to fly low and many of their training trips require hours of flying at not over 300 feet. Cargo and transport ships in combat areas are flown just as near the ground or water as possible.

Many Rumors

Since the crash, dozens of reports, rumors and wild stories have been afloat in the community regarding the cause of the crash, why the ship was in this vicinity, etc. Also there are similar stories about “what they will do” with Lt. Lewellen. We have heard the punishment rated almost all the way from being quartered and drawn to complete exoneration.

Persons who are indulging in all of this type of conversation are doing a grave injustice to Lt. Lewellen, an Adams County boy who is doing a lot more for his country than many who are doing so much loose talking. Such talk also does not do much toward helping the war effort.

The case of Lt. Lewellen is in the hands of men trained to handle such situations and who understand the rules and regulations of military flying, many of which laymen know nothing about. Army authorities obviously would make no statement for publication about the probable cause of the crash, what passengers were authorized, flying altitude, etc. All these points are military records of no concern of the public and for military reason should be left out of public conversation.

On Routine Flight

It can be stated with authority that Lt. Lewellen was on an authorized routine flight. The flight included six hours of flying between Kansas City and Louisville, Kentucky. The direct flight line between the two point would be much less than 6 hours and in such cases pilots re permitted to consume the time in what would be classed more or less as “pleasure flying” but still authorized.

Wednesday morning The Free Press talked by phone with Capt. Edward Emerine, head of Public Relations office at Rosecrans Field, St. Joseph, Mo. Capt. Emerine stated that the information was being examined and the board would file its findings with higher officials for review. As stated before, the findings are secret military records which the public can not expect to be released for publication.

Source: Adams County Free Press, Corning, Iowa, Thursday, June 15, 1944, Pages 1 & 6

News From Quincy

Mr. and Mrs. Morton Lewellen have heard from Lieut. Roger Lewellen in Cairo, Egypt and later in India. Well, Roger flies high now! Above the Himalayas, highest mountains on earth, if that suits some “cracker box critics” better! Out here we all hope he has happy landings and can get home whole before too long with the rest of our lads we so greatly miss these anxious days. Our prayer continues to be God end it soon for all concerned and let those in conflict enjoy a better way of life.

Source: Adams County Free Press, Corning, Iowa, Thursday, September 07, 1944, Page 5

News About Adams County
Men and Women in the Service

Mr. and Mrs. Forrest H. Hardisty have received word from their son, Pfc. F. Delmar Hardisty, who is with the Airdrome Sqdn., that he has landed safely somewhere in India. Pfc. Hardisty also stated he was very glad to find Lt. Roger Lewellen stationed at that same base, who is also from Corning.

Source: Adams County Free Press, Corning, Iowa, Thursday, December 07, 1944, Page 2

Iowa Flyer Before Army Court Martial

A fine of $2,000 and a suspension of promotions for a period of one year were assessed against Lieut. Roger M. Lewellen, of Corning, by a Bowman Field Army court martial Monday at Louisville, Kentucky. Lieut. Lewellen was the pilot of the C-47 two-engined cargo plane which wrecked northwest of Corning, June 11.

Lewellen was charged with “unauthorized low-level flying on a cross-country flight.” Flying regulations provide that planes must be kept more than 1,500 feet in altitude when flown over congested areas and it was charged Lewellen flew his plane over Corning at an altitude less than 1,500 feet.

Source: Adams County Free Press, Corning, Iowa, Thursday, May 03, 1945, Page 6

News From Quincy

We are all glad to congratulate Capt. Roger Lewellen on his advancement in rank. We believe he was advanced in July; and “Rod” earned it!

Source: Adams County Free Press, Corning, Iowa, Thursday, September 13, 1945, Page 4

News From Quincy

Word has reached our community of the marriage Saturday, Nov. 24 at the home of the bride’s parents in Cadiz, Ohio, of Capt. Roger Lewellen and Miss Ida Norquest, a Registered U. S. Nurse. These young people were attended by the groom’s brother, Marion and wife as best man and matron of honor; Marion lives in Illinois. Capt. Roger Lewellen has recently returned from service in India and Asia and his wife was a trained Registered U. S. Nurse in an American Hospital in France. Roger has a 55-day furlough and will remain in Army service by having re-enlisted to do so. The parents, Mr. and Mrs. M. E. Lewellen, were not able to attend the Ohio wedding because of their plans to go again soon to Boston to spend a year in the home of their eldest son, Warren and wife.
Congratulations to “Our Quincy Captain” and wife!

Source: Adams County Free Press, Corning, Iowa, Thursday, November 29, 1945, Page 10