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Author Topic: Luftwaffe Aircraft Parts Found at Freeman Field  (Read 3431 times)
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« on: 16 June 2012, 02:21:02 »

Luftwaffe Aircraft Parts
Found at Freeman Field

by Lou Thole

In late 1997, a large quantity of Luftwaffe aircraft parts and other equipment was unearthed at Freeman Field, in Seymour, Indiana. This discovery came after several years of research and exploratory digging. The story of the finding of the World War II German aircraft parts is an interesting one that helps answer many of the rumors about the field's activities at the end of the war.

Freeman Field was an advanced twin engine training field, one of the hundreds used to train aircrew personnel during the war. The field is on the outskirts of Seymour, Indiana about 60 miles south of Indianapolis. It was named to honor Captain Richard S. Freeman, a 1930 graduate of West Point. Captain Freeman helped establish Ladd Field which is today's Wainwright Army Base just outside Fairbanks, Alaska. He was Ladd Field's first commander. Freeman Field had four runways, each 5,500 feet long and 413 buildings. Today, it's a thriving general aviation airport with the former cantonment area converted into an industrial park. Located in one of the former Link Trainer buildings is a small by growing museum that honors the field's contributions during WW2. The museum was founded by the airport manager, Mr. Ted Jordan.

Freeman Field's unique story begins while the war in Europe was nearing its end. Training at the field had stopped and it became the site for the storage of American and foreign aircraft. Most of the foreign airplanes were German, but there were also Japanese, Italian and English planes. Nowhere in the United States would there be such large numbers of foreign aircraft, many of which were rare and incredible advanced for their time, In addition, there were warehouses full of Luftwaffe equipment. This equipment was there as a result of a directive from the Commanding General of the Army Air Forces, H. H. Arnold that an airfield be found to be used as a repository and testing center for "enemy aeronautical equipment"./ In June 1945, Freeman Field was placed under the direct command of the Air Technical Service Command with the mission of receiving, reconditioning, evaluating, and storing at least one each of every item of enemy aircraft material. The field was also charged with the mission to receive and catalogue U. S. equipment for display at the present and for the future AAF museum.

With the end of the war, activities at the field were gradually shut down and efforts were made to dispose of the surplus equipment. Most of the aircraft were transferred to other Air Force facilities. In addition to the aircraft, there were several buildings full of captured Luftwaffe equipment. No funds were available to maintain and store this equipment, nor was there much desire to do anything but forget the war and move on to a peacetime footing as soon as possible. So the excess material was discarded.

Since the field's closing, many people have come forward and talked about either seeing being involved in the dumping of planes and parts at Freeman Field. Serious efforts to recover this material began in early 1992. However this work did not produce any significant results and the group lost interest. There was no further activity until 1995. At that time, Lex Cralley, the founder of Salvage I headquartered in Princeton, Minnesota, went to the Aviation Board of Freeman Field with his plan to find and recover the material. For Lex, the recovery of WW2 aviation artifacts is a labor of love, so he spends much of his free time looking for the planes that flew long ago. This time there would be a different search methodology that would include ground imaging radar. In addition, Lex is a strong believer in getting the local people involved in the search by asking them to review their memories of the field's activities in 1947 and 1947. Thorough this method, he found some who did remember digging activities at the field at war's end. By August 1995, everything was ready to dig in a different site. However, Freeman Field was not going to give up its secrets easily. After several days of exploring, mostly via small holes, it was decided that nothing was buried in that spot. Over the next several months, other areas were searched but nothing was found.

In early 1997 the first solid evidence of buried aircraft parts was uncovered at Freeman Field. The parts were found as a result of intensive ground imaging radar study and the use of sophisticated metal detectors. Only small items were found, all of which were of American manufacture: however, they did confirm some of the long standing rumors. By now, Lex had been joined in his search by Dallas Tohill, an aircraft historian who works with Gerald Yagen, president of Tidewater Tech. Tidewater Tech, an aviation maintenance school located in Norfolk, Virginia. The school also operates its own historic aircraft restoration facility. Tidewater Tech had joined Lex as an equal partner and was making the major contribution toward financing a new and concentrated effort to locate the buried material.

It was now late August and the search had moved into a different area of the field. The group had learned that, even using the best of search equipment, it was still necessary to dig small holes in order to confirm the presence of buried artifacts. Also learned was that one could dig a hole ten feet deep and yet miss an object that might be just an inch away buried to the side of the hole. This was a discouraging thought in view of the fact that there were about 2,100 acres, any part of which could contain the artifacts. It was like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack.

Finally it happened. Dallas and Lex had been digging small exploratory holes for about three days in late August and had found nothing except junk buried during the fifties and sixties, i.e. the same mixture of old tin cans, bottles and an occasion tire or piece of steel. Everyone was feeling more than a little bit discouraged and miserable because of the mosquito bites and poison ivy rash. Then it was decided to dig in another spot about five feet away from a previous hole. And there it was. Not more than three feet below the surface, the backhoe uncovered an engine cylinder head. Additional digging brought up almost a hundred cylinder heads, many from different engines. Continued digging, in a different direction turned up propeller blades, some clearly from FW190s, two from an AT-10 and others not yet identified. Also wooden props were discovered - huge one, with some kind of number written on the. The condition of the metal props was extremely good. One was still in cosmoline ( a thick protective grease), with several names scratched into the grease. One read "J. M. Muldoon, 550 Grah (last letter unreadable), Bky NY". This was probably written by a GI or civilian employee of the sub-depot just before the material was transported to the dump site.

At this point it was very difficult using the backhoe for fear of damaging the parts. It appeared the parts were loaded on trucks, transported to the site and just dumped. By now, Lex and Dallas were running into parts of aircraft, i.e. wheel faring doors (at least one from a Spitfire), landing gear struts, German aircraft tires, instruments (mostly radio equipment, some with their Luftwaffe data plates), and engine parts. Also found was most of a vertical tail grouping from an FW190. Some of the paint was well preserved with part of the Swastika easily visible. It was difficult digging because it was done in mid-eighty degree heat with a high humidity that was most uncomfortable. The mosquitoes were especially thick, because the area was in heavy brush. In some cases, it was necessary to remove the parts by hand. Often they were laying on top of each other, weighed down by 50 years of settling, the weight of the other parts and several feet of mud. Only the thrill of finding this treasure of the Luftwaffe material made up for the oppressive heat and constant unwanted attention from the bug population of southern Indiana.

One puzzling thing was that no jet engine or jet aircraft parts were found. Our research indicated Luftwaffe jets were on the field. Also, we clearly had hit what was a dump site for parts from the old Freeman Field engineering shops. Work was performed on the jets while they were at the field, but where were the parts ? The insidious nature of this dig soon came to light. The parts were found in a separate pit not more than 15 feet away from the hole that contained the piston engine parts. One of the better finds was an eight stage compressor from a Junker Jumo 004 engine, the type that powered the Me262.

After several years of painstaking and sometimes frustrating research and exploration, the existence of buried German aircraft parts at Freeman Field was finally proven. The amount of buried material recovered is quite large and exceptionally interesting. However; still persisting, is the rumor that unopened crates of Luftwaffe material are buried somewhere on the field. If these crates do exist, their contents will prove to be of significant value to museums all over the world. So, the search continues. 



We are more often treacherous through weakness than through calculation. ~Francois De La Rochefoucauld
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