Park City Memorial Day program will focus on bomber crew that crashed into Iron Mountain |

Park City Memorial Day program will focus on bomber crew that crashed into Iron Mountain

A B-18 bomber, similar to this aircraft, crashed into Iron Mountain on Nov. 17, 1941. A Memorial Day service will honor the crew on Monday at the Park City Cemetery.
Courtesy of Steve Leatham

The Memorial Day Service will start at 9 a.m. on Monday, May 28, at Park City Cemetery. The event is free and open to the public.

Park City’s annual Memorial Day program at the Park City Cemetery will be a little different this year.

In addition to speeches by officials and a performance by the Park City Treble Makers, the ceremony will feature a service dedicated to the crew of a B-18 Bomber that crashed into the Iron Mountain saddle on Nov. 17, 1941.

The service will remember the deaths of Maj.Robert E. L. Pirtle, the flight commander of the 88th Squadron, and Sgt. Jack D. Anderson, the flight’s engineer.

It will also honor those who survived the crash — pilot, 1st Lt. William E. Basye, co-pilot and 2nd Lt. Mabry Simmons, passengers 2nd Lt. C.A. Smith,, Staff Sgt. Eugene V. Bynum, and the radioman Pfc. Raymond L. Torgerson.

The ceremony was instigated by Park City research historians Steve Leatham and David Nicholas, who have presented a couple of lectures in the past few months regarding the crash.

“This was a story that had gotten lost in Park City history, because when it happened none of the survivors told their families about the event,” Leatham said during a phone interview. “We almost feel a kinship with those airmen, and feel they want their story to be told.”

Thirty of the airmen’s family members who were contacted by Nicholas and Leatham during their research plan to attend Monday’s ceremony.

Attendees will also include members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and other armed forces organizations.

“One is our guest speaker, Rory Murphy, a paratrooper who served in the Airborne Corps, and Hill Air Force Base Vice Commander Col. Dave R. Dunklee will be our second speaker,” Leatham said. “Utah Air National Guard Brig. Gen. Darwin Craig will be the ranking officer.”

Members of the Park City Historical Society and others who have helped with the research will also attend, Leatham said.

“We refer to all those folks and/or organizations that helped us as our ‘Village,’ and the ‘Village’ includes more than 100 people from 10 different states,” he said.

The service will include a Missing Man Formation flyover by the Commemorative Air Force and the unveiling of memorial plaques on the cemetery Memorial Wall.

“Two of the plaques will be titled the Iron Mountain Tragedy, which will commemorate the two deaths of the crash,” Leatham said. “The other will be called The Iron Mountain Miracle for those who survived that evening.”

A bigger memorial is being planned for the future.

“In conjunction with the museum, we have a B-18 memorial fund, and it’s our goal to raise $6,000, which would be the cost of a large plaque that will be put in an area that is easily accessible for people to look at Iron Mountain,” Nicholas said.

Donations can be made to the B-18 Memorial Fund in care of Park City Museum’s Executive Director Sandra Morrison. Donations can also be made online at

After the ceremony, the Park City Museum will host a reception for the airmen’s family members. During this time, family members will be taken by bus, provided by Park City, to visit the crash site.

Leatham added that, even though this year’s service will focus on the B-18 airmen, the ceremony will be a tribute to the country’s veterans and those who are serving today.

“Memorial Day is a time to honor all those who have served our country,” he said. “And this is one way we will do this.”

The Memorial Day servive will start at 9 a.m. on Monday, May 28, at Park City Cemetery. The event is free and open to the public. 

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