Mysterious wreckage identified
as World War II dive bomber
The wreckage of a World War II Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless dive bomber,
like the one pictured above, has been discovered in a Pajero field.
U.S. Navy photo courtesy commercemarketplace.com
By Jeremy Lipps
August 17, 2007
The wreckage of a plane found in a Pajaro field July 3 has been
identified as a lost dive bomber that crashed in 1944 during a
training mission intended to prepare the two-man crew for service
in the Pacific during World War II.
The war in the Pacific was raging and pilots were in high demand
with aircraft carriers losing 10 percent of their planes each
month, according to Jack Green of the U.S. Naval Historical Center
in Washington, D.C. The United States was mass-producing planes
and pilots to defeat Japan and Germany.
On Jan. 14, 1944, U.S. Navy Reserve pilot Ensign Delbert Cramer
Goodspeed and his radio operator and gunner Aviation Radioman
2nd Class Robert Henry Paulson drifted from a formation at 10,000
feet above Watsonville during a training mission.
The Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless dive bomber gently veered left in
clear nighttime skies and hit the ground, killing the two men
and shredding the Douglas, according to Green. The Douglas SBD-5
was made famous for its performance during the battle of Midway.
The official crash report was inconclusive as to why the young
pilot crashed. No radio transmission indicated problems and it
was concluded that Goodspeed was likely unconscious, although
no one will likely ever know.
Goodspeed earned his wings April 16, 1943, and had almost 700
hours of airtime under his belt, with no incidents on his record,
"This loss reminds us all of the great losses, not only
in combat but training too,'' Green said. "Aviation duty
was glamorous, but dangerous too.''
The Navy did locate the crash site in 1944, removed the bodies
and any live ammunition they could find. Both men's remains were
returned to their families in 1944.
Green did not know if any remains were found in the rediscovery
of the plane July 3 but should any more remains or personal belongings
be found, they would be returned to the Navy, which would attempt
to locate surviving family.
Goodspeed and Paulson would likely have gone on to fight with
the rest of the squadron in the crucial Battle of Leyte Gulf in
the Philippines in October 1944 aboard the aircraft carrier USS
The plane was found by a Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency
work crew digging a trench in the area of Trafton Road in Pajaro.
The bulk of the aircraft was likely removed by Navy officials
leaving only aluminum bits, Green said.
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