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On Mount Diablo: 1946 Plane Wreckage

Large portions of a military plane that crashed near the summit still lie in a grove of oak trees near Ransom Point

It's something few people who have visited Mount Diablo have seen.

In a grove of oak trees about 800 feet below the summit on the mountain's northern side lies the wreckage of a military aircraft that crashed 66 years ago.

The plane, a U.S. Army Air Corps C-45F twin engine transporter, slammed into the mountain at 11:20 a.m. on the cloudy morning of April 8, 1946.

The aircraft had taken off from Oakland airport and was headed to Los Angeles. The pilot, Lt. Woodrow Davis, and his passenger, Major William Kettler, were killed instantly.

Their bodies were removed later that day. Over the years, some of the smaller plane pieces have also been removed and donated to the Oakland Aviation Museum at Oakland airport.

However, larger pieces of the wreckage remain on the mountain.

Last week, retired park ranger Burt Bogardus was kind enough to escort a Patch editor to the crash site just below and to the west of Ransom Point.

After an intensive search, Bogardus found the site he has visited a handful of times over the past three decades.

Amid the oak trees is the torn-up remains of the plane's fuselage. Sitting near it is a large portion of one wing. Down the hill is a significant chunk of the other wing. A few small pieces of metal are scattered across the hillside.

Other plane crash sites on the mountain have been cleaned up over the years. The same is true for automobile crashes. However, this particular wreckage has been allowed to remain for almost seven decades.

Bogardus and others participated in one clean-up operation in 2003 authorized by state park officials. They stuffed canvas sacks with metal scraps and carted them out through the rough terrain.

However, after that effort, state park officials told Bogardus and others to leave the remaining wreckage on the mountainside. The fuselage and wings would need to be taken out via helicopter.

The hike to the wreckage site is not an easy one. There are two ways to get there.

There is no trail

One is to follow North Peak Trail from the summit down to Bald Ridge Trail. From there, hike a little west of Ransom Point and head up the mountainside. There is no trail. You need to hoof it through some loose hillside and you need to know exactly where to get off the trail.

The other is to follow an unofficial trail from the observation deck on the Mary Bowerman Interpretive Trail down to Ransom Point. From there, you traverse the west side of the rock formation and head into nearby trees. You need to keep looking until you see the metal debris.

It's not an easy hike either way. There is a lot of loose ground and some poison oak. There are times when you need to stoop or even crawl to get through. It's also easy to get lost those under this canopy.

You need to be in good shape and be sure to bring plenty of water.

More information on the crash site can be found on an aviation history website known as Check-Six.

In addition, Rich McDrew, the author of Mountain Lore: History and Place Names of Mount Diablo, has written about the site for the Mount Diablo Review.

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paul hoffman August 24, 2012 at 03:18 PM
I'm a bit surpised you'd print rather detailed ways to get to the wreckage, even with the extensive warnings about how difficult it is to hike, and to find. I >think< (but am not sure) that the park rules are to stay on established trails...and the level of detail given in the article will almost certainly lead some to try to find it. Hopefully we won't read future articles about rescue or recovery efforts for those who try.

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