In 1944 Planes Crashed and Damaged The Jenks House

Lily Mains had told us the story.  So had  Nell Crews and Mrs. Waller, both long-time residents of Post Street.  Now we have the official, declassified  report of a WWII accident that even changed the the appearance of the Jenks House.

At about 7:45 AM on July 20, 1944, two P-51 Mustang fighter planes crashed on our street killing both pilots and one civilian.  The crash began just a few houses to the east of the Jenks family home.  The link below has newsreel coverage of the immediate aftermath of the accident.  At 32 seconds into the newsreel video, in the upper right hand quadrant, you see a hole in the brick wall of a building.  The hole, with a window above it and below it, is where the engine  of one of the P-51’s crashed into the bathroom of M. E. McGhee killing him as he was shaving.

We have just acquired the official government crash reports (one for each plane).  They are detailed, with lots of pictures and eye witness accounts of what happened.  In its Description of Accident it summarizes the incident:

“1.  On 20 July 1944 Lt. Egar was scheduled to fly a camera gunnery mission at 0700 EWT with Lt. Cope.  The flight took off at 0700, but Lt. Egar and Lt. Cope flew to Jacksonville, 180 miles distant, instead of performing their mission in the local area of Pinellas.  At 0745 Mr. Stanis Van Meensel, CAA Air Carrier Inspector, observed two P-51 type airplanes come over the city of Jacksonville at 1000 feet in close formation and dive in a bank to the left to a very low altitude over Post Street.  Lt. Egar was leading the two ship flight at an altitude of approximately 75 feet along Post Street, heading west.  At a point across the street from the home of his mother, 2749 Post Street, approximately 50 feet to the west, his plane sheared the top of a palm tree which extended about 10 feet above the high power electric lines.  The electric lines are approximately 50 feet high.  The plane then appeared to be out of control and lopped 10 feet of a pine tree at the next corner, James and Post Streets.  Skidding across the street, Lt. Egar’s plane struck a third tree, several houses, and a line of garages. The airplane was completely demolished and was scattered through a number of houses and yards. The engine went through an apartment building and fell in the street on the far side.  Lt. Egar’s body was found in the wreckage.

2.  The accident is due 100% to pilot error since the pilot was negligent in violating flying regulations and direct orders from his flight commander”.

The pine tree on the corner of James and Post Streets fell onto the Jenks home.  Enough of the roof’s clay barrel tiles were damaged that they re-roofed the house with asphalt shingles.  R. Murray Jenks, one of the three sons of Marjorie and Thomas Jenks, told us that years later they would still find small pieces of airplane in their yard.  The obituary for Lt. Egar said that he and Lt. Cope  “had developed a warm friendship and an understanding that when one was in trouble the other would come to his aid and that if necessary they would go down together”.

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