|A Mystery Solved 1945 to 2006
|A page dedicated to all of the photo-recon pilots who took flight during the war, and Barnsdall,
Oklahoma, the small town where this story took place.
| Over the years, I have heard the story many times. It occurred while my father was growing up in his hometown of Barnsdall, Oklahoma (Osage
County) during the war. Over and over, he related the story to me in exactly the same way. He recalled seeing two planes, that he identified as P-38's,
dog-fighting at high altitude over his home town. At 13 years old, he was already an admirer of the P-38 from the magazine articles he had seen and
could not resist watching this display taking place before him.
After several minutes, he noticed that one of the P-38's was diving down at a high rate of speed and appeared to spiral a little as it came down. He
recalled hearing the engines sounding as though they were at full throttle, making a very loud screaming sound. As the P-38 rushed closer to the
ground, it appeared that the pilot was attempting to roll the aircraft into an inverted attitude. My dad guessed that the pilot was attempting to bail out
of the aircraft. The P-38 remained inverted and struck the ground a short distance outside of town. Like many others, my father ran to the nearby
crash site. When he arrived there, he recalled that the majority of the plane had all but disintegrated upon impact and caught fire. It was obvious that
the pilot had been killed. My father found a small piece of the aircraft and kept it for many years, remembering the dreadful event he had witnessed.
Once I began collecting WWII aviation related items, he gave the piece of metal to me and related the above story to me many times. Each time, the
story was told with the exact same details.
After having this piece of the P-38 for almost 15 years, I decided to try and verify my father's story of the crash and see if I could find any evidence of
a P-38 having crashed near Barnsdall, Oklahoma during the war. After searching many internet sites and contacting several "wreck chasing"
investigators, I came up empty as there did not appear to have been any P-38's that had crashed near Barnsdall during the war. I thought maybe my
father was incorrect on the aircraft type involved.
I was then lucky enough to come across Jeff Wilkinson at www.okwreckchasing.com! After only one email, Jeff researched the incident and it was
discovered that my father was correct. An F-5, the reconnaissance version of the P-38, had in fact crashed 2 miles west of Barnsdall, Oklahoma on
July 2, 1945. Thanks to Jeff, the mystery of this crash was solved. Within a week or two, I received a copy of the official Army Air Corp. crash report
relating to the crash. I could now fill in the gaps relating to the crash my father had witnessed almost 60 years ago.
|A wartime photograph showing the business end of
an F-5 in the field. Close examination reveals the
modification to the front of the nose cone and the
window on the side for the installed camera.
|The official crash report by the Army Air Corp. identified the aircraft involved in the crash as an F-5-E Lightning, assigned to the 3rd Air Force, 3rd TAD,
379th AAF BU, Squadron S, Coffeyville Army Air Corp. Field, Coffeyville, Kansas. The aircraft No. is listed as 44-23602.
The pilot killed in the crash was identified as 2nd Lt. Charles R. Schleifer, ASN 0-705999. 2nd Lt. Schleifer was also assigned to the 3rd Air Force, 3rd
TAD, 379th AAF BU, Squadron S, Coffeyville Army Air Corp. Field, Coffeyville, Kansas. At the time of his death, 2nd Lt. Schleifer was 24 years old.
Schleifer had attended Primary Flight training with the 310th AAFCS in Oklahoma City, OK. in August of 1943, attended Basic Flight training in Garden
City, KS. in November 1943, and attended Advanced Flight training in Pampa, TX. in January of 1944. He was received to the Coffeyville Army Air Corp.
Field on July 1, 1944, exactly one year and one day before his death. The crash report summary reads as follows:
"On 2 July, 1945, at approximately 0810 CWT, F-5 aircraft serial No. 44-23602 was seen by eye witness to be flying "at an extremely high altitude" in
trail behind another unknown aircraft of similar type. Aircraft serial No. 44-23602 was seen to half roll to an inverted attitude and dive "straight
towards the ground", recovering momentarily to level flight in an inverted attitude. This aircraft was not further seen but the crashing impact was
heard by the only eye witness this panel was able to locate. Evidence at the scene of the crash would indicate that the aircraft struck the ground in an
inverted attitude at angle of approximately 60 degrees with the horizontal. The accident was fatal to the pilot; aircraft burned and was declared totally
wrecked. The identity of the pilot of the accompanying aircraft has not been determined.
Probable causes are unknown."
The report is endorsed by 1st Lt. Daniel M. Flynn, 1st Lt. Jack W. Miller, 1st Lt. Robert W. Stalcup, Capt. Sam S. Chudde, and Capt. Edgar C. Hamilton.
According to my father, a number of people had witnessed the crash from town. However, the only witness listed on the crash report is a farmer
identified as C. Art Jones of Barnsdall, Ok.
|I would enjoy hearing from anyone with any additional information regarding this crash and 2nd Lt. Charles R. Schleifer. I would appreciate any information
that could help me to find squadron mates or family members of Mr. Schleifer to help me add to this page, dedicated in his memory and for his brave service.
I would also like to thank my father for providing me with the piece of the F-5 he found so many years ago, and allowing Mr. Schleifer's story to come to life.
A special thank you to Jeff Wilkinson for all his help and hard work. I appreciate it.
|The surviving piece of F-5-E No. 44-23602. As you can see, it is a small piece of the aircraft, still retaining the olive
drab paint scheme on one side and bare metal on the other. The edges are jagged and it is obvious that this portion
was torn from the rivets holding it in place. There is no evidence of fire damage to this portion of the aircraft.
|To Photo-Recon Joe
Of all the Air Force pilots that I most deeply admire, I give my
top-notch vote to Photo-Recon Joe
Who goes it alone, unarmed, and braves the enemy's fire By taking
crucial photos which spell doom to the Axis foe.
Ahead of his Lightning's sound, his F-5 zips in at tree-top level; Too
late they hear him coming, now he's already gone past
A flashing form, a blast of wind, the Fork-Tail Devil, His photos taken,
speeds home, no higher than a mast.
On lists of fighter aces, his name is never placed,
And sadly, he's soon forgotten after the war has ended,
But war historians know that priceless F-5 photos based
The Normandy invasion so air, sea, and land attacks all blended.
"Unescorted, unarmed, and unafraid" Joe wings his gutsy way
Into the lethal Axis Reich, where death waits in that murky air.
But he presses on, he shoots his films, and dearly earns his pay
By these "dicing," flack-filled missions that only he would dare.
So now I raise a grateful toast to Photo-Recon Joe,
And, Joe, I also bow to you-and believe me, I bow low.
|Wartime, color photo of a P-38 cockpit.
|A not so innocent, but entertaining poem of admiration for the P-38.
|5/11/05 It is with great pleasure that I recently learned that the Barnsdall Times of Barnsdall, Oklahoma, recently wrote an article to
commemorate the 60th anniversary of the crash of this F-5/P-38. I would like to thank everyone at the Barnsdall Times and all of the
citizens in the Barnsdall area who came forward and helped to tell this story and get the article written to remember the sacrifice of this
brave U.S. aviator. (Click on either of the two pictures above to read the article.)
|As a result of the Barnsdall Times article, I have extended my search for information
concerning Mr. Schleifer to the state of Wisconsin. This was new information as I had
no information concerning where he was originally from. While searching resources in
Wisconsin, I found a memorial for WWII veterans with Mr. Schleifer's name under the
section for Ozaukee County Wisconsin veterans who lost their lives during WWII. (Click
on the two photographs to the right for additional details, Mr. Schleifer's name is circled
in red.) Hopefully this new information will lead me closer to finding a photograph of Mr.
Schleifer in an attempt to complete his story!! I will update this page as information
|5/20/06 Over the past two weeks, I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to correspond with J. Hope, formerly of Barnsdall,
Oklahoma. Mr. Hope has been extremely gracious in taking time from his schedule to help me in finding additional information concerning the crash
and Mr. Schleifer. Over the past two weeks, Mr. Hope has helped to provide technical information concerning problems encountered with the
operation of the P-38/F-5 and other theories on the possible cause of this crash. Mr. Hope was also kind enough to provide additional research
material which identified the home town of Mr. Schleifer as Cedarburg, Wisconsin. With this new information, my search has now extended to
Cedarburg in an effort to find a photograph of Mr. Schleifer to add to this page. As time permits, I will add more information to this page that was
obtained from Mr. Hope.
|Victim of P-38 Crash
Second Lt. Charles Richard
Schleifer Dies in mishap.
An Army Air Corps pilot was killed
when his P-38 photo-reconnaissance
plane crashed three miles southwest
of Barnsdall, Oklahoma, yesterday.
He was on a routine training flight
from Coffeyville Army Air Field. The
plane was destroyed.
Lt. Schleifer. whose home was
Cedarburg, Wisconsin, came to the
local field May 5. He was first
commissioned at Pampa, Tx., Jan.
7, 1944, having entered service in
He was not married.
The body will be sent this afternoon
from the Ford funeral home to
Cedarburg, Wisconsin for funeral
services, and burial. Second Lt.
Edward J. Neville will serve as
escort of honor from CAAF.
(This is a verbatim, typed version of
an article which appeared in the
Coffeyville Daily Journal, Sunday,
July 3, 1945.) Thank you to Mr.
Hope for providing me with a
photocopy of this article.
The pilot of a P-38 from the Coffeyville Army Air Field was
killed when his plane crashed early today about three miles
southwest of Barnsdall, Oklahoma, officials of the field
revealed this afternoon. Name of the pilot cannot be
disclosed until identification is completed and next of kin
have been notified. The plane was a total loss.
(This is a verbatim, typed version of a bulletin which appeared in
the Coffeyville Daily Journal, Saturday, July 2, 1945.) Thank you
to Mr. Hope for providing me with a photocopy of this article.
|The story comes to an end:
I just recently received an email from the librarian (D. Barth) of the Cedarburg High School in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, indicating that several
photographs of 2nd Lt. Charles R. Schleifer had been located. An old friend of Mr. Schleifer's was kind enough to this story began and my research
into this crash started several years ago, this story of the tragic crash of this F-5 Lighting has a face. Above are two photographs of 2nd Lt.
Charles R. Schleifer. I also learned that Mr. Schleifer went by the nickname of "Kelly." The female in the photograph to the right is unidentified.
I was so excited to see the photographs only to feel a little sadness in seeing this young, happy gentleman who ultimately met his end in this terrible
incident. However, I am happy to have the opportunity for everyone to see who this brave aviator was and to bring this story to an end. I would like
to sincerely thank Mrs. Barth, J. Hope and all of the other people across the country who helped to contribute to this story and the research behind
this terrible incident. I would also like to say thank you to the Barnsdall Times and the people of Barnsdall, Oklahoma who provided me with much
needed assistance in helping to research and tell the story of 2nd Lt. Schleifer.
If anyone has any additional information, photographs or comments regarding this story, please feel free to contact me at
email@example.com. I would be very interested in hearing from any family or friends of Mr. Schleifer who may wish to add more to this
|While researching this crash, I have come into contact with a number of terrific people who were very helpful in providing information. The
photograph above is an F-5E taken in 1945 at Will Rogers Air Field. This F-5E was flown by one of the terrific gentleman who have been kind
enough to answer emails and provide much appreciated background to this story. Thank you to 2nd Lt. Paul McAfee for all of his help and time.
|Above: An original, wartime photograph showing an unidentified
pilot sitting in the cockpit of a Lockheed P-38 Lightning.
|Left: An autographed photo in my collection of Barnsdall resident and American ace, Joel Owens. (A
copy of this photograph can be seen in the Big Heart Museum in Barnsdall, Oklahoma.) He enlisted in the
Army Air Corps in October of 1940 and earned his wings on May 29, 1941 with Class 41-D at Randolph
Field, Texas. Owens was assigned to the 27th Fighter Squadron, 1st Fighter Group and eventually flew
missions from Goxhill, England, before his group was transferred to Algeria, to support the invasion of
North Africa. Owens was promoted to Captain and took command of the 27th Fighter Squadron. He
scored his first air victory on November 30, 1942, downing an Me-109, while flying his P-38F-1 Lightning,
"Daisy Mae". Later, after being transferred to the 14th Fighter Group as a deputy group commander,
Owens continued downing Me-109s, eventually becoming an ace with 5 confirmed air victories, one
probable destroyed and one damaged aircraft to his credit. Following his combat tour, Owens was
assigned as an operational training unit commander and completed active duty in late 1945.
After the war, Owens attended Tulsa University, Colorado He re-enlisted in the now Air Force and retired
after 25 years with the rank of Major in August of 1972. Having met Mr. Owens in person on more than
one occasion, I can tell you he is a generous, humble and down to earth man and an Okie at heart.
|A patriotic, WWII postal cover sent from on A.L. Barnes of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, to one D.W. Neal in Kokomo, Indiana, postmarked from a Bartlesville post
office on February 14, 1944. For those not familiar with the area, Bartlesville is located approximately 19 miles from Barnsdall. The post marked date and the
message of the cover show that at this point, the war was getting better for the Allies, but was far from over.
A written statement by Barnsdall resident, farmer C. Art
Jones. As you can see, the statement provides Mr. Jones'
version of the events surrounding this crash.
Having just recently been to the town of Barnsdall (May
2008), I spoke with the current owner of the Jones farm
where the accident occurred. At the time of our
conversation, it was not known exactly where on the
property the crash had occurred. However, within Mr.
Jones' statement, the mention of a hill might help to locate
the actual impact area.
It is believed that pieces of the aircraft are still present at
the crash site. It is hoped some of these pieces can be
recovered and reunited with the sole piece of F-5 44-23602
in the near future. Aviation archeology sites through
England and Europe have revealed that major portions of
aircraft wreckage are often found 20 to 30 feet down, even
in hard soil.
|Like every county throughout the country, Osage County, Oklahoma proudly provided it's share to the war effort.
According to facts and figures provided by the National Archives, a total of 106 Osage County residents died during WWII, while in service with the
United States Army. This figure does not include Osage residents who were killed while in the service of the United States Marine Corps, United
States Navy or the United States Coast Guard.
|A new addition to my collection, a United States Army Air Corps Coffeyville Air Field vehicle license plate.
|Above: Four photographs of the crash site, obtained from the original United States Army Air Corps crash report and investigation.
The photographs clearly show the total destruction of the F-5 and the state of the wreckage leaves no doubt about the unfortunate fate
of the pilot. The date of the occurrence and the serial number of the aircraft are clearly shown on the photographs.