A final resting place
The crew of the B-25 Mitchell Bomber made the ultimate sacrifice on Sharp Top Mountain
Kevin Myatt | The Roanoke Times
A wing of the B-25, with the star emblem still noticeable, lies next to a tree on Sharp Top Mountain. The cause of the 1943 crash is still unknown.
Unlike the rest of my hiking columns, I am not giving specific directions to this destination, out of respect for what has been practiced in the past by park officials and others connected with the crash site.
Viewed one way, it's so much junk marring a gorgeous natural setting, mere heaps of scrap metal littering a forest.
But viewed against the backdrop of history and the angst of war, past and present, it's jagged pieces of a nation's broken heart smashed against the rocks of time.
On Feb. 2, 1943, a B-25 bomber on a training mission out of South Carolina crashed into the southeast flank of Sharp Top Mountain, killing all five servicemen aboard. The cause of the crash is still somewhat of an enigma, as a war-stressed military could not devote many resources to solving the mystery of the crash. Nor, did it have the time or inclination to remove the wreckage from the steep mountainside at 3,000 feet elevation. Most of it remains to this day, a true-to-life memorial to World War II sacrifice amid the Blue Ridge grandeur.
I hiked to these ruins on Feb. 2, 2003, 60 years to the day after the crash. I did not know it was exactly 60 years to the day until I found the plaque etched in a boulder amid the debris field.
My hike was on the day after the space shuttle Columbia had disintegrated on re-entry, and it seemed eerily appropriate to be seeking out this debris as investigators sifted through miles of Texas swamps and pine forests to find pieces of the fallen shuttle. In my mind, a World War II-era aviation mishap and a 21st-century spacecraft disaster were forever linked.
A somber feeling pierced my heart on that sunny, mild winter day as I wandered among the wreckage. A wing with its star emblem lay propped beside a tree. A hollow piece of fuselage clung precariously to the steep mountainside. The chrome on a piece of landing gear shone like it had just come off the assembly line.
It struck me quickly that the ruins were not just metal fragments of an airplane, but in effect, tombstones in a graveyard where the earthly dreams of five men in the prime of their life ended.
These young men were not flying a combat mission over Berlin or Baghdad, but a training mission over Bedford. Their sacrifice is just as important, though. They died for their country without leaving it.For more about the B-25 crash on Sharp Top link to:www.wp21.com/b25crash/