Sunday, September 27, 2009

Selfridge Airplane Crashes in Avon Township

On a Thursday afternoon in March 1940, residents of Avon Township and the village of Rochester were looking up to watch two pursuit aircraft from Selfridge Field practicing dog-fighting maneuvers in the skies over town. The pilots of the two airplanes were assigned to the 39th Pursuit Squadron based at Selfridge, and they had been performing pursuit tactics in the area all afternoon when, at about 4:30 p.m., the P-35 airplane piloted by 2nd Lieutenant Wilmer W. Munzenmayer went into a stall. Having lost control of the craft, Lt. Munzenmayer bailed out, but plummeted to the ground when his parachute failed to open. His P-35 exploded upon impact and was destroyed by fire. The accident occurred over the Ferry-Morse Seed Farm in the area of Rochester & Auburn roads, and the wreckage was scattered over the entire seed farm area, the largest intact piece being the landing gear. Lt. Munzenmayer, age 23, was killed in the mishap and his body was removed to Selfridge Field by military ambulance. His remains were returned to his home in Kent, Ohio, for burial.

If you are interested in the history of Selfridge Field and the base's impact upon the history of southeastern Michigan, you are invited to attend the regular meeting of the Rochester Avon Historical Society on Thursday, October 1 at 7:00 p.m. in the auditorium of the Rochester Hills Public Library. Deborah Larsen, co-author of the book Images of Aviation: Selfridge Field, will present the program on the history of Selfridge, illustrated with photographs and newsreel footage of the historic airfield. The program is free and open to the public. Please join us.

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