BLOCKVILLE - On July 15, 1944 an Army Air Force B-24 bomber crashed in Blockville, resulting in the deaths of six crewmen. Sixty-eight years later, on the anniversary of the incident, a memorial dedication ceremony will be held at the Harmony Historical Society on Sunday at 3 p.m.
The event will include: a Civil Air Patrol exhibit, a salute and taps by Vietnam veterans, the Panama Fire Department will place a wreath, a dedication speech will be given by the plaque donator, an invocation will be given by the pastor of the Blockville United Methodist Church and remarks will be made by Chautauqua County historian, Michelle Henry. Refreshments will be provided.
A plaque will be placed at the Harmony Historical Society, 200 feet from the site of the incident. The plaque was donated by former Ashville resident Paul Densmore, who grew up on a farm about a half mile from the site of the crash.
As a consequence of the event, the story became ingrained in the community. So, about a year ago, Densmore began conducting research on the incident, and concluded that there should be some form of memorial.
With a lot of help from the residents of Harmony, people like town secretary Nancy Thomas, Pam Brown and her sister Heather, plans were made to display a memorial.
"They have a terrific venue there (Harmony Historical Society)," said Densmore. "It's right along Open Meadows Road, and within sight distance of where the incident happened. So, I decided to do the plaque, and they can do the display."
There are several reasons why Densmore decided to make the donation, but according to him, most importantly it is to recognize and respect the heritage of the community, and to commemorate those who have given their lives in military service.
"After 70 years the incident deserves recognition," said Densmore. "One thing that perhaps people don't realize is that the pilot, Lt. Levine Nelson, resident of Blockville, and the crew, had finished their training and were ferrying the airplane themselves from Kansas to England to get into the fight. Their flight path was along the Southern shore of Lake Erie, so they weren't out on a Sunday drive; they were going to war."
According to Densmore, Nelson had received 32 hours of training in that type of aircraft before the incident.
"I've done a little flying myself, and I have always been an aviation enthusiast," said Densmore. "Consequently, I know some details about what it would be like to be stuck into a aircraft like that. This was the second most complicated and sophisticated strategic bomber in our arsenal, and it had four 2,000 horsepower engines. As you know, when you get into a car and there is nobody in there with you it feels one way, but then you get a bunch of buddies in and fill up the trunk, then all the sudden it feels a whole lot different."
Another reason Densmore believes it is important to recognize the incident is because Nelson's wife was pregnant with a son during the time of the crash.
Densmore will be available to meet residents at the ceremony, and he will give a speech on the many reasons why he believes the dedication is a necessity.
"I myself was a combat veteran of Vietnam, and that was a contentious era," said Densmore. "We can vigorously participate in competitive politics, but there has to be a limit where we stop to say we are all Americans. Levine and company had the support of the entire nation because we were unified, and that showed what we could do. And, I am very concerned that the challenges of peace are beginning to be as critical as the challenges of that war. So, if we don't wise up, we're going to lose the challenges of peace, and be as worse off as if we had lost a war. There are often times where we have to put aside our petty differences and realize that we are on the same team."
Harmony Historical Society representative Pam Brown agrees that the marker and dedication are important ways of commemorating the lives of the soldiers involved.
"We want to remember those folks who sacrificed their lives," said Brown. "Whether or not they were in combat or in a related incident, they are still serving the country in our military. Nelson was the oldest crew member on the plane. They were all very young and still had their whole lives ahead of them. So, I think it's a good thing that we remember and give them respect."
Invitations to the event have been extended to the families involved with the incident. The event will be open to the public.
The Harmony Historical Society is located at 1943 Open Meadows Road in Blockville. For more information visit harmonyhistoricalsociety.org or call 782-3074.