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Ed Talbott | profile | all galleries >> P-51 Mustang Crash Site - Beartown Wilderness Area, Virginia tree view | thumbnails | slideshow | map

P-51 Mustang Crash Site - Beartown Wilderness Area, Virginia

Click Here for Crash Site Web Page


In 2007, I located what I believed to be the remains of a military aircraft located near the summit of Beartown Tazewell Mountain (sometimes called Balsam Mt.) in Tazewell County, Virginia. The mountain is the 4th highest in Virginia and is one of the border mountains around Burke's Garden, the highest valley in Virginia. The paint appeared to be military in color but I had no experience with military aircraft. The elevation of the wreckage is approximately 4,650 feet with the peak elevation of the mountain at 4,710 feet. The wreckage is located in a very dense rhododendron thicket.

After some research, and a lot of help along the way from many different people, it is now apparent that this is the crash site of a WWII-era P-51D Mustang [Serial #44-73077] of the Michigan Air National Guard 172nd Fighter Squadron on a training flight from Battle Creek, Michigan to Charlotte, North Carolina. 1st Lt Robert Brannon Smith (born 23 Feb 1922), of Lansing, Michigan, was killed on 19 March 1954 when his P-51 crashed in the mountains near Tazewell VA. The aircraft was on a heading of approximately 150 when it impacted the ridge at about 4,700 feet - in heavy cloud cover and just below the summit. The newspaper accounts from the Bristol Herald Courier are both scanned and typed out below. If anyone has any additional information concerning this crash site, or any photographs of this plane or how a Michigan ANG P-51 would have been marked in 1954, please contact me at the e-mail address below. I'm planning on making return trip at some point to look for additional pieces, etc. I am also considering building a model of this plane. Thank you.

History of this P-51 Serial #44-73077:
Assigned to the Iowa ANG 174th Fighter Squadron / Assigned to the Pennsylvania ANG 148th Fighter Squadron
Assigned to the USAF 87th Fighter Interceptor Squadron / Assigned to the Oklahoma ANG 185th Fighter Squadron.
Assigned to the Wyoming ANG 187th Fighter Squadron / Assigned to the Michigan ANG 172nd Fighter Squadron.
Crashed on March 19, 1954


Ed Talbott
Richmond, Kentucky (hometown is Grundy, VA)
aquilaet@yahoo.com
Right side Inner Gear Door
Right side Inner Gear Door
Confirmation of P-51 Inner Gear Door
Confirmation of P-51 Inner Gear Door
Military Color of Paint
Military Color of Paint
Aluminum panel ?
Aluminum panel ?
Aircraft wreckage
Aircraft wreckage
Twisted Aluminum
Twisted Aluminum
Olive green paint
Olive green paint
Panel
Panel
Panel - Other Side
Panel - Other Side
Broken Bracket
Broken Bracket
Markings
Markings
Pieces of wing ?
Pieces of wing ?
Compass is 2 on short side
Compass is 2" on short side
Compass is 2 on short side
Compass is 2" on short side
Twisted Support
Twisted Support
Markings
Markings
More Markings
More Markings
Wreckage
Wreckage
Wreckage
Wreckage
Grommet
Grommet
Tree Impact ?
Tree Impact ?
Parts
Parts
Parts
Parts
Compass for Sizing
Compass for Sizing
3 pieces
3 pieces
Brackets
Brackets
P51 Mustang
P51 Mustang
Maiden Marker - 4,710 feet
Maiden Marker - 4,710 feet
Wilderness Area Marker
Wilderness Area Marker
March 21, 1954 Article
March 21, 1954 Article
March 22, 1954 Article
March 22, 1954 Article
March 23, 1954 Article
March 23, 1954 Article
172nd Air National Guard Insignia
172nd Air National Guard Insignia
172nd ANG P-51 Mustang
172nd ANG P-51 Mustang