Aviation archaeologist uncovers county’s flying past
Aviation archaeologist David Trojan, right, and high school Colson Johnson, examine the wreckage of an F8F Bearcat fighter that crashed in Eastern Contra Costa County in 1945. Trojan researches and finds the crash sites of military aircraft. (Ian Thompson/Daily Republic)
FAIRFIELD — Navy Ensign Robert Clark was returning from a training mission to Naval Auxiliary Air Station Santa Rosa on July 17, 1945, when he decided to throw his F8F Bearcat fighter into a series of barrel rolls while facing into the sun over Eastern Contra Costa County.
The young pilot lost control and slammed into the west slope of a grassy hill, starting a 1,000-acre grass fire in what is now the Round Valley Regional Preserve southwest of Brentwood.
"One witness, Michael Arat Jr. of Brentwood, said the plane was practicing dogfighting with two other planes when it suddenly spun out of control and plummeted to the ground in a trail of smoke," an article in the Oakland Tribune stated. "It buried its motor 5 feet into the ground and exploded." Continue Reading