Research Document #33
The Luke Field Crash Report: Exhibit E
This document is provided on this web site as a matter of general interest and to aid in research by individuals. No permission to reproduce or transmit it is implied or granted.


Luke Field, T. H.
March 25, 1937.

STATEMENT OF FIRST LIEUTENANT DONALD D. ARNOLD, Air Corps, Engineering Officer, Hawaiian Air Deport, Luke Field, T. H.

          On March 12, 1937, I was verbally notified by Major Chas. E. Branshaw, Air Corps, that I was appointed to act as Hawaiian Air Depot Representative in connection with the Amelia Earhart Putnam Around the World Flight. My understanding was that the facilities of the Hawaiian Air Depot were at the disposal of Mrs. Putnam's representatives and that I was to coordinate all activity between Wheeler or Luke Field and the Depot. I was directed to report to Major S. G. Frierson, Air Corps Officer in charge of activities at Wheeler Field, and did so on March 12, 1937. He directed that I deep in touch with him and that I report to him at the scheduled hour of arrival of Mrs. Putnam.

          During the few days prior to the arrival of Mrs. Putnam I organized an alert crew, and the following named Depot employees agreed to offer their time and services without extra compensation:

R. C. Miller, Shop Superintendent
B. M. Johnson, Administrative Assistant
H. L. Roberson, Propellers
H. R. Beacom, Instruments
L. A. Fry, Engine Mechanic
C. J. Murphy, Airplane Mechanic
H. F. Geslien, Electrician
F. C. Jones, Welder
V. H. Dittmer, Welder

          It did not become necessary to use this alert crew.

          On March 17, 1937, I received word that Mrs. Putnam, Mr. Paul Mantz, Captain Harry Manning, and Captain Fred Noonan had departed for Wheeler Field at 2:05 P.M. in a Lockheed Electra Airplane NR16020. At 8:00 P.M. I visited the Fleet Air Base Administration Building and followed the radio progress reports of the flight until 4:00 A.M. the following morning. I then departed for Wheeler Field and was on hand for the arrival at 5:45 A.M. March 18, 1937. A wheels-first landing was made satisfactorily.

          Subsequently I became acquainted with Mr. Paul Mantz, Technical Advisor on the flight, and talked briefly about the mechanical performance of the airplane. He stated that the right hand constant speed Hamilton Standard propeller blades had become inoperative about six hours before he reached Hawaii but that during the first part of the trip everything functioned satisfactorily. He stated that just prior to the propeller difficulty he had experienced icing conditions for a brief time. Inasmuch as the 75th Service Squadron mechanics had the situation in hand, Major Frierson notified me that the services of the Depot would not be required from present indications. Mr. Mantz contacted Mr. Thomas, Pratt& Whitney representative, and explained the check-over he wanted made on the S3H1 type engines. Mr. Mantz requested thirty-six new spark plugs from the Wheeler Field Station Supply, but it developed that the Air Corps could furnish only reconditioned plugs, as the supply of new plugs had long since been exhausted. Mr. Mantz and Mr. Thomas decided that the plugs did not require replacing and the thirty-six Air Corps plugs were returned to stock.

          I remained available at Wheeler Field and watched the progress of the maintenance work on the airplane during the day, but did not engage in any operation. The Wheeler Field mechanics removed the right propeller from the airplane and attempted to disassemble it, under orders of the Station Engineering Officer. At 2:40 P.M. I was asked by Mr. Mantz to take both propellers to the Depot as Wheeler Field lack special tools to complete the disassembly. Mr. Mantz was reluctant in asking for services so late in the day and I assured him that we were willingly at his disposal. He did not accompany me to the Depot but returned to Honolulu for a much needed rest. However, before he left I explained that whereas the Depot facilities were at his disposal, we could do no work on his airplane without specific instructions from him and requested his supervision where possible.

          The Commanding Officer of the Depot was notified and the following qualified employees were assigned to the propeller job:

R. C. Miller, Superintendent
R. G. Owens, Inspector
R. L. Heidlebaugh, Foreman
H. L. Roberson, Mechanic
Cpl. E. J. Cashman, Assistant
Pvt. T. A. Dybicz, Assistant

          The propellers arrived at the Depot at 4:00 P.M. March 18, 1937, and were returned to Wheeler Field via their own transportation on the 12:45 A.M. Ferry Boat the following morning. These employees worked continuously on the job and I obtained sandwiches and coffee through the courtesy of the 65th Service Squadron Mess. Colonel Harmon, Major Branshaw, and Mr. Thomas visited the Depot at 8:00 P.M. I kept Mr. Mantz frequently informed by telephone of our progress.

          The blades of the right hand propeller were found to be frozen solidly to the hub approximately half way between high and low pitch, and it was necessary to use hot kerosene to accomplish disassembly. The bearing surface was found slightly galled which was removed by hand honing. The hub was found lubricated with a soft putty-like compound which, according to the consensus of opinion, was much thicker than our Air Corps Specification Grease. It may have been the icing encountered on the flight by Mr. Mantz that rendered this compound useless as a lubricant, thereby causing the blades to bind in the hub. On this type propeller the blades should have a certain freedom of movement between low and high pitch positions. Inasmuch as it was desired to reassemble this propeller at the designed pitch, I contacted Mr. Mantz for information, but as he did not have this information about the pitch angle he ordered that the maximum pitch be made to correspond with the left hand propeller which we had not yet disassembled. This was found to be twenty-six degrees and that setting was made. We then overhauled the left hand propeller and found that slight galling had occurred. Both propellers were cleaned and lubricated with Mobile No. 2 lubricant which is Air Corps Specification for summer use.

          I went to Wheeler Field on the morning of March 19, 1937 and explained thoroughly to Mr. Mantz the exact procedure on the propellers at the Depot and he agreed to give me a report after his test flight. At noon Mr. Mantz, Mr. Chris Holmes, and Miss Terry Minor made a normal take-off from Wheeler Field and landed at Luke Field shortly thereafter. A satisfactory wheels-first landing was made at Luke Field and the following crew was assigned to Mr. Mantz.

Fred Wood, Chief Inspector, in charge
Geo. Miller
A. L. Sanderson
L. Lewis
L. Fry
E. L. Heidlebaugh
H. R. Beacom
L. V. Young

          Mr. Mantz reported to me that the propellers worked excellently and functioned better than they had ever done previously. This remark was made in the presence of General Yount.

          In the early afternoon Mrs. Putnam told me that her plans were dependant on the weather entirely. Mr. Mantz requested me to house his airplane and the following procedure was outlined by him.

          1.  Furnish him with Sperry Instrument Mechanic. Mr. Gibson and Mr. Beacom were assigned, and after a brief check of the instruments they were pronounced OK by Mr. Mantz and no work was performed or was necessary.

          2.  The right oleo leg clearance was 2-1/8 inches and the left was 2-5/8 inches. A leaky valve core was found in the right leg and Mr. Mantz requested Mr. Young to replace this and bring the right leg up to the measurement of the left leg. This was accomplished, inspected by Mr. Mantz, and pronounced OK.

          3.  The engine oil screens needed cleaning and Mr. Mantz specified this was to be accomplished under the supervision of Mr. Thomas, Pratt& Whitney Representative. Mr. Thomas chose Geo. Miller, L. D. Lewis, and A. L. Sanderson to assist him.

          4.  The gasoline tanks were to be serviced as specified to Mr. Young by Mr. Mantz, direct from the Standard Oil Company gas truck, through a chamois lined funnel. Mr. Mantz left Luke Field at 1:30 P.M. and the gasoline arrived at 2:30 P.M. Mr. Wood, Civilian Depot Inspector, supervised the servicing. Fifteen gallons of gasoline were pumped during a forty-minute period, due to the failure of the gasoline to flow freely through the chamois. Mr. Wood found that considerable sediment had collected from the gasoline hose and clogged the chamois. I ordered the servicing stopped and immediately telephoned Mr. Mantz in Honolulu of our findings. He requested that servicing be continued with Air corps gasoline, which was subsequently arranged for through Lieut. Colonel Peabody, who was at the Depot at that time. I requested Mr. Mantz to handle this matter himself direct with the Standard Oil Company Representative, who was also at the Depot at that time, and placed that gentleman on the telephone connection I had made with Mr. Mantz and gathered from their conversation that considerable wrangling and arguing was taking place over the gasoline situation. I had suspended all servicing operations at the request of Mr. Mantz, pending his arrival from Honolulu at 4:15 P.M. In the meantime the Standard Oil tank man drew off a sample of gasoline through a chamois and our Mr. Wood observed tiny, hard specimens of sediment on the chamois. Lieut. Colonel Peabody, Lieut. Colonel Harmon, Major Reeves, and Lieut. Bishop were present and each examined the chamois but made no open comment. I extracted a small piece of sediment and examined it under a microscope. The Standard Oil Representative asked if he might also take a look. He made the statement to Lieut. Bishop and me that it looked like rust. He urged me to proceed with the servicing and while I awaited the arrival of Mr. Mantz he made the following overtures to me:

     a.  Pump the gasoline out of his truck into an empty Air Corps truck and repump through our truck's segregator into the airplane.

     b.  Rearrange his truck hose so as to draw off gasoline from the top of his tank rather than from the bottom.

     c.  Service the airplane with Air Corps gasoline and permit him to dump the equivalent amount from his truck, into the Air Corps underground tanks, thus hoping to satisfy Mr. Mantz.

          After listening to his proposals I informed him that the Air Corps had no interest in the matter whatsoever and I had neither official nor personal authority in connection with the flight, the crew, or the sponsors, and must wait for Mr. Mantz.

          Mr. Mantz arrived and ordered the Standard Oil Representative to pump some gasoline through a chamois. This was done and a deposit of sediment was found. The Standard Oil Representative argued with Mr. Mantz that the dirt was already in the chamois and did not come from his tank. Mr. Mantz procured a new chamois and another test showed signs of sediment. Mr. Mantz then requested Air Corps gasoline and we placed 515 gallons in the airplane. The airplane was then locked in the Final Assembly Hangar at 7:30 P.M. and a guard was furnished by the Commanding Officer of Luke Field.

          I obtained eight sets of sleeping equipment from Major Reeves and the crew of Depot employees retired in the Final Assembly Hangar at 11:30 P.M. Mosquitoes, however, prevented their sleeping comfortably.

          At 3:45 A.M., March 20, 1937, we opened the Hangar and placed the airplane on the Line. Mrs. Putnam and crew arrived about 4:30 A.M. Mr. Mantz requested an additional seventy-five gallons of gasoline, making a total of 590 gallons furnished.

          At 4:45 A.M. Press representatives arrived and established themselves in my office without advance notice. As soon as this was brought to my attention I notified these gentlemen that all telephone charges were to be reversed and positively not charged to me or to the Government. I arranged specific desks for their use and notified the Luke Field Operator of the telephones designated for Press use. At 5:00 A.M. Mr. Mantz thoroughly inspected the airplane, tested the engines, and shut them off. The flood lights were turned on and Mrs. Putnam inspected the runway from the cockpit of the airplane. A light rain during the night had wet the runway. The lights were turned off and Mr. Noonan and Mr. Manning boarded the airplane. Mrs. Putnam started the engines at 5:30 A.M. and at 5:40 A.M. taxied Northeast down the Navy side of the runway to the lower end accompanied by Mr. Young and Mr. Mantz on the ground with flashlights. After Mrs. Putnam had taxied about one-third of the way down the runway a Grumman Amphibian taxied out from the Navy Hangars and followed her airplane down the Field. I believe it parked at the far end of the Field as I did not see it take-off. One of the Naval Officers present with our own group attempted to signal the airplane to stop but his efforts were unavailing. I took position on the Final Assembly ramp with Mr. Chris Holmes. The tee indicated wind direction exactly on the center line of the runway from the direction of Barbers point. A very slight intermittent breeze was blowing, possibly not more than one mile per hour. The buildings and various objects were distinguishable in the grey dawn but there was insufficient light to permit photography without flashlights. The sky toward Honolulu was dark and Koolau Range was barely discernable against the background of dark clouds. Off Barbers Point, however, the sky was surprisingly bright with good visibility. Smoke from two dredges at the mouth of Pearl Harbor was plainly noticeable. A scattered broken ceiling was perhaps 3,000 feet.

          General Yount assured himself that the crash truck and ambulance were placed on the alert. Mrs. Putnam made a 180 degree left turn at the far end of the runway and momentarily halted the airplane on the center line of the runway. The air being still, there was but the usual lag in sound travel and as soon as the airplane moved forward I heard the steady synchronous roar characteristic of full throttle application. The airplane appeared to assume the normal initial attitude for the take-off and slowly gained speed. Before the airplane had reached the halfway mark on the Field the right wing seemed to drop slightly lower than the left and the airplane made a slow even forty-five degree turn to the left. Half way between the center of the runway and the Navy side I saw a long streak of flying sparks under the airplane, followed instantly by the sound of grinding metal. The airplane instantly dropped on its belly and slid to a stop, right side up, but headed in the direction from which it had come. No fire ensued. I grabbed Mr. Chris Holmes by the arm and together we sped to the scene of the crash in my car. Mrs. Putnam was standing upright in the cockpit but Mr. Noonan and Capt. Manning had not yet alighted. Mr. Holmes proceeded to assist Mrs. Putnam and the crowd formed immediately. Lieut. Colonel Harmon established a guard around the airplane. The Luke Field crash truck was at the airplane when we arrived with fire hose extended to the fuselage. None of the crew was injured. Mr. Manning slightly bruised his right arm at the elbow. I escorted Mrs. Putnam, Mr. Holmes, Mr. Noonan, and Mr. Manning to my car down the runway while she reconstructed the accident. I made no attempt to question her and she volunteered all information. The Press had not yet interviewed her as we were alone in my car. I heard her say to the crew, "The ship functioned perfectly at the start. As it gained speed the right wing dropped down and the ship seemed to pull to the right. I eased off the left engine and the ship started a long persistent left turn and ended up where it is now. It was all over instantly. The first thing I thought of was the right oleo or the right tire letting go. The way the ship pulled it was probably a flat tire." We stopped at intervals and she examined the marks of the tires and mentioned that the right track was much wider than the left. Mr. Noonan remarked, "This is a piece of G. D. bad luck." Mrs. Putnam replied, "Yes, it is a little bit disappointing." Mr. Manning was non-committal. We returned to the airplane for a closer examination and the Press began firing questions from all sides. It was noticeable that most of the questions were leading questions, such as, "You ran through bunches of grass, didn't you?" Her answer to this was, "The runway was perfect. The grass had nothing to do with it. I am sure of a structural failure." She then asked me to drive her to a telephone where she could make a Trans-Pacific call to her husband. Mr. Holmes suggested we all go to his house. I drove them to the Navy Boat Dock and they departed for Honolulu. Mrs. Putnam and her crew were profuse inexpressing their appreciation for the cooperation of the Air Corps. The morning she arrived at Luke Field she remarked, "My Goodness, none of you people have had a moment's rest!"

I immediately returned to the airplane and found that Mr. Mantz had already begun unloading equipment from the airplane. I reported to General Yount that Mantz had requested me to move the airplane to the Final Assembly Hangar and store the personal effects in the tool room of that building. I assigned the following employees, with Mr. Wood in charge, for this purpose, and he received instructions from Mr. Mantz. I obtained trucks for the use of Mr. Mantz and commandeered one of the Luke Field guards to accompany each load of baggage to the Final Assembly tool room, and all articles received were locked up.

E. L. Heidlebaugh H. E. Hicks G. F. Brady J. Nelson )
L. V. Young C. DeVelschow R. G. Owens F. A. Enos)Supply
Geo. Miller M. M. Summers E. E. Finch J. Frias
L. D. Lewis Cpl. E. Cashman Pvt. F. E. Gains  
A. L. Sanderson F. O. McFall Pfc. A. F. Harger  
L. A. Fry F. Holloway Pvt. E. V. Kosloski  
H. R. Beacom C. F. Bay F. D. Wood, Acting Supt.  
Pvt. E. C. Schultz F. Jurgens E. Baker, Supply Supt.  

          At 11:00 A.M. Major Branshaw informed me that all members of the flight had left Luke Field to sail on the Malolo at noon for the mainland and that he had obtained a release from Mrs. Putnam. The cranes available at the depot were of insufficient capacity to lift the airplane to a trailer, and through the courtesy of Commander Mullinix a large crane was obtained from the Fleet Air Base. As the Base is closed all day on Saturdays, and as the services of a qualified operator are required to operate this complicated machine, it was necessary from them to order out their civilian crane operator from his home in Honolulu. In spite of a continual tropical rain, all workmen continued steadily on the job of salvage, and at 3:00 P.M. all property was under lock and key and Major Branshaw was so notified by telephone. Before the airplane was removed from the runway 650 gallons of gasoline were pumped into the 72nd Squadron Service truck to lessen the weight of the airplane and reduce the fire hazard. This truck was turned over to Lieut. Bishop, Station Engineering Officer, Luke Field. On March 21, 1937 Sergeant Charbough and I plotted the wheel marks on the runway and a chart was prepared. The permanent white center lines of the runway were used as base lines in preparing this chart, and measurements were frequently checked back on these lines. A sheet of graph paper was used and the track was plotted at five-foot intervals. Due to the many automobile and airplane tracks on the runway at the turn around and beginning of take-off it was impossible to identify the Lockheed tracks, and no attempt was made to plot unidentified tracks or to locate position of actual turn around or point of take-off. Only those points easily identified were plotted. Mr. Williams, Department of Commerce Inspector, had taken only a few measurements of the tracks, and I deemed it advisable to preserve as much information as possible. At 9 A.M. March 22, 1937, Mr. Williams arrived at my office and announced he was prepared to begin his investigation. I requested Mr. Williams to please Advise General Yount of his intentions, and he did so. General Yount ordered me to render Mr. Williams such assistance as was necessary in connection with his official duties. General Yount also advised that the forming of an opinion of the accident was Mr. Williams' own responsibility. Mr. Williams spent the entire day in routine investigation work on the airplane and did not discuss the accident with me. He left Luke Field at 3:00 P.M. Depot employees removed the wings from the airplane upon order of Major Branshaw but no further work was done. On March 23, 1937 the remaining 165 gallons of gasoline, which could not be removed when the airplane was on the runway, was drained. This gasoline was placed in 55 gallon drums, marked with the number of the airplane, NR16020, and the words, "Hold Until Further Notice." The drums were turned over to the Depot Supply Officer with verbal instructions as shown in quotes above. Major Branshaw notified me at 10:00 A.M. to withhold all work in connection with the airplane until further orders. However, I was to lay temporary plans to crate and prepare for shipment upon short notice. Baker of the Depot Supply already had plans laid and material ready, including engine crates, in case the engines are removed for shipment. Mr. Williams was on duty all day and asked the following employees for statements on what they saw at the time of the accident.

Miss K. A. Haenisch A. L. Sanderson Pvt. E. C. Schultz
Fred Wood S. L. Heidlebaugh H. R. Beacom
T. D. Lewis G. H. Miller L. A. Fry
Cpl. E. J. Cashman L. V. Young  

          On March 24, 1937 no work was accomplished on the airplane. The Air Corps Accident Board, consisting of Major Melville, Lieut. K. A. Rogers, and Lieut. H. S. Bishop, inspected the airplane. On March 25, 1937, at 9:10 A.M. Major Branshaw notified me to proceed with preparing the airplane for shipment on the Lurline. Mr. Hood and I checked the pitch angle of both propellers after they were removed from the engines and found them to be in low pitch position and identical as to setting. Both oleo leg air valves were inspected and found apparently in good order. The engines were removed and crated and all miscellaneous articles were inventoried by the Supply Section and packed for shipment. The airplane fuselage and engines were coated with a rust and corrosion preventive. Fabric covers and boots were installed over the engine nacelles and wing butts. A cradle was fitted to the fuselage as a support in place of the landing gear. Due to the short notice given on deadline for shipment, the crew worked continuously on the job until 8:00 P.M. Very close supervision has been given all operations on this airplane since it was placed in the Depot's care by Mrs. Putnam, and absolutely no damage was done to the airplane or accessories while in our care. The Cost Accounting Department has maintained an accurate record of time and labor on all operations in which this Depot was involved.

          Depot employees were cautioned from time to time that although there was no secrecy concerning this flight, it would not be considered good policy for them to express themselves on any matter involving their personal opinion. All inquiries were referred to members of the crew on the flight when possible, or were referred to Major Melville. On March 26, 1937 the process of completing the airplane for shipment was completed. Slings were adjusted and wrapped with felt padding to prevent scratching the fuselage. A thorough inspection was made of the completed job by Major Branshaw, and the windows and nose section compartment were sealed. The cabin door was locked and all property was officially placed in the care of the Young Brothers Representative at 2:30 P.M. All Depot employees cooperation whole-heartedly and willingly. In spite of long hours and adverse conditions they enjoyed it.

  arnold sig
1st Lieut., Air Corps,
Depot Engineering Officer.

Crash Report Cover Pages Exhibit "G" Statement by Mr. Fred D. Wood, Hawaiian Air Depot.
Proceedings and Findings Exhibit "H" Statement by Mr. E. L. Heidlebaugh, Hawaiian Air Depot.
Exhibit "A" Statement by the Engineering Officer, Wheeler Field, T.H. Exhibit "I" Statement by Mr. Lynn V. Young, Hawaiian Air Depot.
Exhibit "B" "Plan for Amelia Earhart Putnam Flight", Headquarters Wheeler Field, T.H. Exhibit "J" Statement by Corporal E. J. Cashman, R-4311524, 65th Service Squadron.
Exhibit "C" Letter, "Amelia Earhart Putnam Flight", Headquarters Wheeler Field, T.H. Exhibit "K" Statement by Private E. C. Schultz, 6678961, 65th Service Squadron.
Exhibit "D" Statement by the Operations Officer, Luke Field, T.H. Exhibit "M" Inventory of property shipped.
Exhibit "E" Statement by the Engineering Officer, Hawaiian Air Depot. Exhibit "N" Request for shipment and release from responsibility.
Exhibit "F" Statement by Mr. Geo. H. Miller, Hawaiian Air Depot.  

Archived Documents Earhart Project Home Page

About TIGHAR Join TIGHAR TIGHAR Projects TIGHAR Publications Contract Services


Copyright 2021 by TIGHAR, a non-profit foundation. No portion of the TIGHAR Website may be reproduced by xerographic, photographic, digital or any other means for any purpose. No portion of the TIGHAR Website may be stored in a retrieval system, copied, transmitted or transferred in any form or by any means, whether electronic, mechanical, digital, photographic, magnetic or otherwise, for any purpose without the express, written permission of TIGHAR. All rights reserved.

Contact us at:  •   Phone: 610.467.1937   •   JOIN NOW