Historical marker memorializes WWII plane crash in Patrick County

Published: Oct. 1, 2018 at 6:46 PM EDT
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Seventy-four years ago, on October 1, 1944, a field in Patrick County became the final, fiery resting place of a WWII B-17 bomber, but that's not the end of the story, nor is it the beginning.

The plane that crashed was part of the government's "Buy a Bomber" fundraising program.

"It was a very clever way to get people involved," Sandra Warren said.

Warren is the author of the book, "We Bought a WWII Bomber: The Untold Story of A Michigan High School a B-17 Bomber & The Blue Ridge Parkway!" It chronicles the life of one of those Bombers bought by the students of South High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

At the time, they bought the bomber for $300,000, raising the money in just two weeks. That's the equivalent of about $4-million today.

"It was dedicated, they named it the Spirit of South High, it flew off, and they never knew what happened to it," Warren said.

A few years ago, Warren learned that the plane had crashed in Meadows of Dan a year after it was purchased. She began interviewing people who saw what happened, including Patsy Cockram.

"Quite a lot of stuff and pieces of metal everywhere," Cockram described.

She was 11 when the plane crashed.

"It's exciting to think about, but still it's scary to think about what we could go through," she said.

Now a plaque stands near the Mabry Mill along the Blue Ridge Parkway, ready to inspire future generations.

"I hope kids can look at it and say, 'Wow, look what kids did,'" Warren said. "That kids can make an impact and that with the support of adults, they can do anything and they can really make a difference in our country."

The crash destroyed the B-17 Bomber, but its six crew members miraculously survived.