On July 20, 1944, two Army P-51 Mustang fighter planes crashed in our neighborhood killing both pilots and one civilian. The crashes damaged or destroyed eighteen houses and four apartment buildings, twelve garages and eight vehicles. On July 21, 2012, The Jenks House hosted a remembrance of the little know tragedy. Co-hosted by the Jacksonville Historical Society and emceed by local historian Wayne Wood, the event drew over 200 people. It began with Wayne showing a newsreel video and previously unreleased photos of the immediate aftermath of the crashes. The most sobering part of the event immediately followed as seven people spoke of their personal experiences, some quite graphic, of that day. Several, including R. Murray Jenks, spoke of knowing Lt. John (Jack) Egar, one of the pilots. Egar’s parents lived ½ block east of the Jenks family home, now our bed and breakfast. One speaker said that Mrs. Egar was actually outside raking leaves when the planes crashed. Reportedly she immediately sensed that her son was involved as he and his pilot friend had previously buzzed the neighborhood. The Jenks family home was the first residence damaged. Lt. Egar’s plane sheared off the top of a tall pine tree, which fell on the house. The pine tree survived but the Jenks family removed it months later at Mrs. Egar’s request. Seeing the damaged tree every day was too painful a reminder of her son’s death. R. Murray said that his family for years would find plane remnants in the yard as they gardened. Speaking of plane remnants, the morning of the remembrance Jerry Rowe brought us a fragment of a machine gun clip consisting of five 30mm bullets. His mother had found them the day of the crash.
For more information about the event and the 1944 crashes, check out the very well done Times-Union stories below. The first link is the background story that Charlie Patton and Nicole Fernandez did the morning of the remembrance. There are links to interviews with R. Murray Jenks and George Carswell who both knew Lt. Egar, links to the newsreel video, numerous previously classified photos of the damage and a link to the short version of one of the crash reports. The second link below has video of the actual remembrance including people talking about what they witnessed that day.