Curtiss P-40N Warhawk, serial number 42-105534, crashed on July 19, 1945, 25 miles NW Luke Field
This crash site is of particular interest to me in that I was able to take this unknown crash and after extensive work, identify the make and serial number of this aircraft. After a reader shared the coordinates, I made the trip out there to investigate this new, unknown crash to see if I could determine what it was.
It had crashed approximately 25 miles northwest of Luke AFB and had been covered in sand. Surprisingly, a large amount of wreckage was still left. Observing the aluminum skin, rivets and olive paint scheme, I suspected it to be a WWII era fighter as most training planes (primarily AT-6's and BT-13's) were of natural aluminum color. The area west of the White Tank Mountains had been used extensively during WWII by Luke Field pilots as a practice area for honing flying skills and the numerous wrecks out there are a testimony to it.
Next, I tried to find a part number or heat stamp, which would ID the manufacturer and aircraft type. As the metal was twisted and covered with 60 years of silt, this proved to be a difficult task. Finally, I was able to find a heat stamp with an "H" in a circle, which indicated the manufacturer as Curtiss Aircraft Corporation. Next to it was a part number with the "87" prefix, confirming it was a P-40 Warhawk.
That night, I went home and pulled up the reports I had on P-40's in that area. There were four it could have been, but I narrowed down my search to two that were involved in a midair collision. In this report, there was a witness who mentioned he saw both planes crash; one pilot bailed out successfully while the other pilot did not. I knew I needed to go back to try and find something that could confirm which plane it was. Hopefully there would be something buried in the sand that could solve this puzzle.
Back at the site, I spent hours cleaning the silt off metal parts hoping to identify it. Finally, I reached down to grab a jagged piece of aluminum sticking out of the dirt and was amazed to see it was part of the Curtiss aircraft data plate! It was jagged, torn and partially melted, but it had the aircraft's serial number to confirm it was Lt. Edward Linderman's plane. Unfortunately, he was killed when he struck the tail during bailout.
The report stated that on the afternoon of July 19, 1945, the two pilots, Lt 's Edward Linderman and Melvin Slate were engaged in dogfight maneuvers when they accidentally collided. Lt. Slate was able to bail out successfully while Lt. Linderman unfortunately was not.
|View of the engine and exhaust manifold at the impact point.||A close-up photo of the engine buried in silt. The crankshaft is sticking out.||Part of the instrument dash.||One of the temperature guages.|
|Three foot section of skin with olive drab paint.||Heat stamp and part number helped to ID the aircraft type.||Rudder pedal parts.|
|The battered manufacturers data plate confirming the plane.||Faint, but states it is "P-40N 5CU" and "42-105534"|