Bryan County Schools plans to honor three Air Force crew who died in a 1956 crash near what is now the district’s administration office in Black Creek, saving the lives of more than 100 students in the process.
The incident occurred Oct. 29, 1956, when a B-26 crashed near what was then Black Creek School. According to media reports at the time, school Principal J.O. Hurst and other witnesses said the disabled plane appeared to be heading for the school when the pilot “made a successful attempt to miss the brick school occupied by 110 students.”
Janet Collins, who helps coordinate the Bryan County Schools museum inside the administration office, received permission from the school board Thursday night for a four-foot monument honoring the three crew members of the B-26 to be placed near the American flag in front of the building.
“What they did was very heroic,” Collins said. “They saved a lot of lives.”
Killed in the crash were 1st Lt. Don Newnon Hodges of Lebanon, Tenn., 2nd Lt. Bertel Carlson of Flushing, N.Y., and 2nd Lt. David Joseph Paul of Cleveland, Ohio. Hodges was 24 at the time, while Carlson and Paul were both 21.
A ceremony to unveil the monument will be held on Oct. 29, a Saturday, marking the 60th anniversary of the crash. A time has not been set yet.
“There are students and people who live in this area who still remember it,” Collins said.
The bomber ended up crashing into a field about 100 yards from the school where Black Creek Animal Hospital and a Shell gas station now stand. The defunct Pembroke Journal reported that the impact left a crater that witnesses said “you could put a house in” and that the explosion was heard up to five miles away.
The aircraft and crew were part of the Second-Tow Target Squadron based at Mitchell Field in New York and were on temporary duty at Travis Field, an Air National Guard base located at what is now Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport.
The Pembroke Journal also noted that “Some witnesses said the pilot seemed to maneuver the craft so as to miss the school. The occupants of the ill-fated plane seemed to be aware of their danger. One person in the school building said the roar of the plane was terrific and the building seemed to shake as the noise increased. It seemed to her she said, that the plane was on fire underneath and the pilot appeared to be making a definite attempt to get away from the building.”