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Vermont man solves mystery of 1943 B-17 crash

RANDOLPH - Historical researcher Todd Griswold of Randolph likes a good mystery. In the case of Vermont's well known June 27, 1943, crash of a B-17F Flying Fortress-nicknamed Small Arm by her crew, Bomber Crew 31-Griswold was determined to uncover the true nature of the World War II-era crash that involved the deaths of three U.S. airmen.

In recent years, the Vermont crash has received considerable attention-it been featured on several television documentaries about aviation mysteries and World War II. And in light of last week's Chicago-area crash of one of the last remaining airworthy B-17s, Griswold's findings are all the more newsworthy.

Griswold spent several months combing the Small Arm crash site for physical evidence as well as tracking down documents about the B-17F's avionics and flight crew.

"It was very exhilarating. I was able to go through 68-year-old aircraft pieces and know what they are and their importance to the crash. They are now going into the Randolph museum for everyone to share, instead of someone's mantle or eBay," Griswold said.

Last month, Griswold turned over aircraft artifacts he discovered to the Randolph Historical Society Museum in downtown Randolph.

The exhibit opened to the public last week on Father's Day.

Griswold said one of the most persistent legends of the 1943 crash was that it was caused by sabotage. Griswold said there's no evidence to support the sabotage theory.

"Well, it certainly was not an act of sabotage," Griswold said, "so I wondered what really caused the crash?"

In 1991, a memorial stone and plaque marking the crash was placed on Fish Hill Road in Randolph. Engraved words on the stone tells the story of how seven airmen who parachuted to safety; also engraved are the names of the three aviators who perished with their aircraft.

"As I began to put documents together, it became obvious to me that this plane crash was not the result of sabotage," Griswold said. "The tragedy was the result of human error, in this case, co-pilot error."

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