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Thread: Help Needed in Seattle

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    Default Help Needed in Seattle

    Is there anything in the Seattle, Washington newspapers to substantiate a claim that an RCAF pilot, flying a B-25 Mitchell, buzzed the city of Seattle about 5.30 a.m. of 6 December 1944 ? He purportedly "flew through downtown canyons of office buildings and at rooftop level over residential neighbourhoods. He executed barrel rolls, loops, Immelmans and low level passes over Seattle airport. A commercial airline pilot, preparing to take off, was stunned to see a military bomber coming straight at him on the same runway. A coat of paint sepatated the two two planes."

    It is a matter of record that an RCAF pilot did indeed "shoot up" sections of British Columbia on that day before fatally crashing. The story is much told in Canada - but though often retold I suspect it is seldom checked in all its details. Hence my wish to check one detail as close to the source as possible.

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    The British Columbia incident was reported in the Toronto 'Globe & Mail', no mention of Seattle:

    Vancouver, Dec. 8 – Sgt. Donald Palmer Scratch of Ashmont, Alberta was the airman who staged a sensational display of aerial acrobatics in a Mitchell bomber at Boundary Bay, Wednesday, before plunging to his death, Air Force officials announced today.

    It was a repeat performance for Sgt. Scratch. He had been discharged from the R.C.A.F Aug. 31, in Newfoundland, after another such unauthorised flight in a monster Liberator bomber. Before his wild sky-ride over the Boundary Bay station, 20 miles south of Vancouver, and briefly over Vancouver, Sgt. Scratch badly damaged a Liberator at the Boundary Bay field in an attempt to take off. Scratch left the damaged plane and took off in a Mitchell for his 4 ½ hour ride.

    Air Vice-Marshall F.V. Heakes, air officer commanding Western Air Command said Scratch was an officer when he staged his wild ride in Newfoundland, presumably because he had not been permitted to fly as a first pilot. “He was court-martialled and dismissed from the service” said Air Vice-Marshall Heakes. He was permitted to re-enlist as a sergeant pilot at that time when there was a scarcity of flying personnel. He said that under present rules it is not possible for an airman to re-enlist after being dismissed from the service.

    Air Vice-Marshall Heakes said there are not more than five persons who could have given such a display of flying as put on Wednesday by Scratch. “We have included a psychiatrist on the court of inquiry” he said.

    Sgt. Scratch enlisted in the RCAF July 18, 1940. Air Vice-Marshall Heakes said the crash could have been caused by failure of Scratch’s gas supply. “The motor on one side may have failed and the other have pulled him over in a roll and into the ground”, he said. Scratch’s ship rolled over just as it began its vertical dive into the ground.

    The account of a B-25 flying through the canyons of downtown Seattle at 5:30 a.m. does seem unlikely as sunrise in Seattle was at 7:43 a.m. on that date.

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    Hugh
    Have you seen this

    http://warbirdinformationexchange.org/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=20763&sid=2083c1cddc13471c45eda936 4f604f61

    Paul

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    Default Scratch

    I have looked at the website mentioned but it does not serve my purpose, which is to check whether there is a contemporary account of the Scratch B-25 flight re Seattle. The Vancouver papers wrote it up without mentioning the Seattle visit. Ken Mclean advises us that a Toronto paper wrote it up, without mentioning the Seattle visit. Neither does Seattle figure in the accident investigation proceedings, the diary of Western Air Command or the OTU diary.

    Other details appearing in accounts published 50 years after the event do not gell with contemporary documents, and I am trying to sort out historical fact from recollections "spam".

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    Default Sgt. Don Scratch

    G'day Hugh

    Have you seen the article (The Last Flight of Sergeant Don Scratch) written by Ottawa-based journalist Pat MacAdam in the latest editon of Airforce Magazine?

    Cheers...Chris

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    Default Help Needed in Seattle

    Yes, I have seen the McAdam article - a reprint of a 2001 article in the Ottawa Citizen based on other people's recollections which do not necessarily mesh with contemporary documents. I disagree with the writer's assessment of Scratch as one the RCAF's "most gifted pilots". If that were so, then the people who drag-race on city streets are NASCAR level drivers. The man wasted two good airplanes and threw away his life to prove - what ?

    It seems that nobody on the forums I have posted this query lives in Seattle - the place where one is most likely to find a contemporary account.

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    McAdam claims Scratch to have been one of the RCAF's 'most gifted pilots'.

    Hugh disagrees (me also):

    >--------------- altitude and safety ---------------
    :
    :
    :
    :
    :
    :
    :
    :
    :
    >----ground, crashed bomber/Scratch one pilot-----

    Q.E.D.

    Errol

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    Hugh,

    If Seattle can be discounted, then no use in us searching. It's hard to look for something that isn't there, let alone to proof it.

    If there was a flight over Seattle, then perhaps no report in US newspaper. Would the US military been happy with a story that a "foreign" bomber could display aerial stunts (almost) unchallenged near strategic sites such as Boeing factories?

    Perhaps a Seattle newspaper can help you out with their archives?

    Regards,

    Leendert

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    Default Help Needed in Seattle

    I would think that if the Vancouver papers could report the incident on that side of the border, the Seattle papers could do the same without reference to the U.S. military. I had hoped that at least one member of either this forum or Twelve O'Clock High would have been able to access a microfilmed Seattle newspaper in their public library, but as I say, there seem to be no Seattleites (Seattleians ?) registered or reading this thread.

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    Default Help Found in Seattle

    I sent a query to the Museum of Flight in Seattle, and have now received a reply from Mr. Steve Ellis, a volunteer and researcher with that institution. He was assigned my case, and has now communicated with me as follows:

    "I checked the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Seattle Times. In both papers, I found virtually identical Associated Press stories datelined Vancouver, BC. It appears that the flight in question never left the Vancouver area. Apparently, the pilot performed a series of maneuvers over an airport where he reportedly pulled out of dives below the tops of hangars. Bystanders were quite frightened. Fighter aircraft tried to get him to land, but failed. He plunged to earth from an altitude of about 1,000 feet over Tilsbury Island six miles southwest of Vancouver. I suspect that would be very close to where the current Vancouver International Airport is."

    This supports my feeling that the Seattle portion of the Sergeant Scratch story was, in fact, an "add-on", probably several years after the fact.
    Last edited by HughAHalliday; 3rd April 2008 at 22:28. Reason: clarification

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