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Thread: Cool discovery in our B-25
12-15-2005, 02:03 AM #1
With all the WWII Rosie stuff, this is kind of timely (no pun intended, but I'll take it).
Tuesday afternoon about 2:00, I had just walked out into the shop from a typical beaurocratic grant-writing meeting that had lasted nearly four hours. I was just glad to be back out in my shop, just got a fresh cup of coffee, smelled the oil and dirt, life is getting better, and then suddenly somebody working in the nose section of the B-25 shouts out, "WE'VE GOT A WATCH!!!"
Sure enough, trapped up under the instrument panel for the past 62 years was a very small and slim gold rectangular watch with a narrow leather band. It was so delicate I thought it might be a ladies' watch at first. I would have expected to find a genuine GI hack watch in there. Turns out it is a man's dress Bulova tank watch, from what I can tell either a Minuteman or Ranger model. This would have been a 17 or 21 jewel with a small sweep second hand in the 6:00 position.
It gets even better, it is engraved on the back... "Ruth to Bob 03-05-43". The entire case and band are intact and actually in near-perfect condition. The face and movement didn't fare so well. The inside of the crystal is just a metallic wash. The serial number and "14 carat gold filled" are still clearly readable on the back. Other than the corrosion of the internals, the watch looks nearly brand new. The plane went in the drink on 04-04-43, only 29 days after the inscription. The watch IS nearly brand new!!
I at first figured this must have belonged to a mechanic who left it in the front end there and forgot it. Turns out the copilot's name was Robert. The copilot, and presumed owner of the watch, was killed in a training accident only a month later in May 1943. Whoever "Ruth" was had a hard couple of months there. First, the expensive $50 watch she gave Bob is lost in the lake and then Bob is gone only a month later. The first thought that hit my mind when I saw the inscription was "poor Ruth", whoever she might have been.
Tracking "Bob" down is obviously impossible. We are indeed going to try to track down who "Ruth" is but our prospects are very dim with so little to go on and so much time past.
This personal stuff is what keeps me going. The hat emblem off the bombardier instructors cap he told us about leaving in teh navigator's area, the E-6B with the wind marks on the face found in the nose greenhouse, the altitude computer with arithmetical figures on the back side in pencil, the girlfriend's names scribed in the side of the nose, "Bad Check" penciled on the side of the nose nearby the names... now a genuine and very personal artifact with TWO names, a date, etc... I had been really getting kind of sick and tired of dealing with this plane of late. It is in SUCH awful condition it is overwhelming and just seems downright pointless at times. Finding stuff like this is what keeps you plowing ahead, though.
12-15-2005, 02:10 AM #2
Here's to finding "Ruth".
12-15-2005, 02:18 AM #3Here's to finding "Ruth".
12-15-2005, 10:57 AM #4
Deep in gummint records, somewhere, is all the info you seek. Wonder where?
12-15-2005, 11:28 AM #5
A B25 restoration in progress?
Are there any pictures?
12-15-2005, 01:25 PM #6
12-15-2005, 02:54 PM #7
12-15-2005, 03:02 PM #8
There is a PBS show called I think " History Detectives". They would eat this up, might take a long time though. The info should be on the net.
12-15-2005, 03:20 PM #9
That sounds really neat.... it is so wonderful to put a name of a person with a machine.... and the story. The History Detective's is a great idea..... they did really good on my Power's pin...... tracked down people I could have never found. and wouldn't have even thought to look for... ... email them!
12-15-2005, 08:08 PM #10
The best place to see some shots of our airplane is www.airpirates.com Gary Larkin is the guy who actually orchestrated getting the plane out of 147ft of water.
Just type "Lake Murray B-25" into your favorite search engine and you'll hit on a lot of stuff, too. When we started this, there were about 20hits on Google just as a frame of reference.
I will indeed try the History Detectives.
12-15-2005, 09:33 PM #11
WW2 personnel records are held by the National Archives in Saint Louis. However due to a huge fire in the early 1970's many records were lost.
I would start a search there and then go to local newspapers next. Finally appeal to local news outlets.
Finding people is not as hard as it seems.
12-15-2005, 10:45 PM #12
Rick, yes... we are going to check there and have a couple of inside lines there, too. It's not that all those records were destroyed, it is just a smelly nasty job fishing through the remainder now. Unless you have a REALLY good reason to convince those in charge to dig in there, the pat answer is "lost in the fire".
The hanging point is that it is VERY likely that Bob and Ruth may NOT have even been married. Bob was 19 I think. If he wasn't maried to Ruth it will be extremely difficult to track her down with no last name or location to go by. Was she from his hometown, Columbia, Randolph Field in San Antone? who knows.
I emailed the Detectives just a while ago. Massive publicity is going to be the only way to figure this out. Ruth is going to be near 90, if she is even stil alive. If she was NOT married to Bob, and that watch was lost and then Bob only a month later, she may have never really said anything about it to her kids or anyone else.
12-16-2005, 12:25 AM #13
If she was the same age as Bob she should be about 82, assuming she was about 19 at the time of the loss of the watch. Thats very plausible, best of luck. Think of the possibilities. I bet you would make quite an impression if you showed her that watch. What if she is alive and has pictures!
12-16-2005, 01:17 AM #14
I looked at the webshots on line and you are correct in saying the old girl was in pretty sad shape. I admire you for trying to restore her to any kind of decent condition.
I always thought of the B-25 as one of the best looking of the bombers from that era.
12-16-2005, 07:49 AM #15
You may want to also look at the units day roster for that time period. It should show who was on leave and who was avialable on 3-5-43. If Bob was availble for duty that day then Ruth was probably a local.
Any surviving crew members to ask if Bob ever mentioned or knew Ruth? They might be a good place to start as well.
12-16-2005, 10:14 AM #16
Maybe you should start at the top here. Give this chore to Good Morning America. I'll bet they would be all over this project of finding Ruth and presenting the watch to her.
(Maybe Ruth ran a turret lathe!)
12-16-2005, 10:15 AM #17
"I always thought of the B-25 as one of the best looking of the bombers from that era. "
30 Seconds Over Tokyo is possibly my all-time
12-16-2005, 10:19 AM #18
Start by trying to find the next of kin . If bob had brothers or sisters that are still alive they may remenber Ruth. THe next of kin may well be available fron a obit in the local newspaper where he was from . If the old newspapers are on microfilm you could find it fairly quickly since you know the date of death
12-16-2005, 11:40 AM #19
Good ideas rolling out here! I'll see about using several of them.
Drycreek, this plane is so far gone it is totally beyond restoration. It will be displayed in as-found condition except for cleaning, some corrosion removal and application of a corrosion inhibitor to keep it from falling apart over the next several years.
The pics of it do not convey the severe corrosion damage present on nearly every square inch of the airframe. There is not a single aluminum part that does not have a perforation every four inches in any direction. Skins, formers, stringers, wing spar webs, ribs... everything has not just severe corrosion, but actual holes in it and would require replacing.
The original intent was to do a "Glacier Girl" like restoration, rebuilding any damaged parts, and make the plane fully flyable. Even with the broken nose, we were still hopeful. Once inside, the damage was obvious. Simple fact is that over 99% of the airframe would have to be replaced or recreated... even the serial number plate would have to be recreated as it is rotten. In my personal opinion, it would not only be a near impossibilty, it would be a historically criminal act to make this airplane as-new.
We have actually caught a lot of flak from some folks in Columbia about NOT restoring it fully. Our director finally got through to them this way... Would you restore the Hunley to like-new condition, replacing every rusty part? This is the same situation.
12-16-2005, 12:02 PM #20
Mike - good to see that some sound financial decisions have prevailed. It looked bad from the photos and apparently is worse. Kind of surprising to me, being in a fresh water lake, but time and Mother Nature always win over mans creations.