Republic P-47D Thunderbolt 42-22491 of the 552nd Fighter Training Squadron / 495th Fighter Training Group USAAF, crashed in the village of Upper Tean on the 14th July 1944
|Donald Martin Pfaff||2nd Lieutenant||Pilot||Killed|
22 Year old 2nd Lieutenant Donald M. Pfaff, pictured above, of Homestead PA (to the SE of Pittsburgh) was flying in the No.3 position of a 4 ship battle formation lead by 1st Lt Andrew Barba. They had taken off from Atcham near Shrewsbury at 17:30 and having been airborne for between 40 and 50 minutes were flying at between 6500 – 7000ft when the formation was intercepted, or ‘bounced’, by two other aircraft reported to be P-47s. The flight leader called to his formation to break as though being attacked by enemy fighters.
While breaking from the formation it would seem that 2nd Lt Pfaff lost control of his aircraft and it entered a spin which was observed by other members of the flight, when the aircraft reached the cloud tops at between 5000 – 6000 ft the flight leader radioed for the pilot, not knowing which aircraft it was, to bail out.
After loosing sight of the spinning aircraft the other pilots all descended through the cloud and observed a column of smoke rising from a building and the wreckage of the aircraft lying amidst it and no sign of a parachute. The aircraft had fallen into a row of houses in Riverside Road in the southwest of the village.
2nd Lt Pfaff had made no attempt to abandon the aircraft even though he possibly knew he had insufficient altitude to recover, it was stated that it required up to 7000ft to recover properly from a spin and resulting dive.
Six days earlier he had been involved in another accident, a mid-air collision between the aircraft he was flying, 42-74720, and P-47C 41-6203 over Llangollan. The pilot of 41-6203 performed a crash landing on farm land not far from Llangollan while Pfaff returned to Atcham and made a wheels up landing on the runway. He was asked after this incident whether he had considered abandoning his damaged aircraft, he replied that he was afraid to do so after two other pilots had been seriously injured while abandoning their aircraft after a mid-air collision.
At the time of the crash there were two people in the house, 1 year old Ivan Wood and his grandfather Ambrose Hill, both were rescue from the rubble. Ivan was rescued by local resident Arthur Simcox.
The photographs below were taken for the USAAF Accident Report, two show the front of the house which took the full force of the impact and collapsed with one of the rear of the building with the complete empennage hanging off the roof.
2nd Lt Pfaff’s death was commemorated on Sunday the 18th October 2009 with the unveiling of a memorial plaque on the re-built cottages in Riverside Road. It was organised by the Tean Branch of the Royal British Legion. One of the two people who unveiled the plaque was the pilot’s sister.