Michigan Aviation Archaeology
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F-4D #66-7594 & F-4D #66-7617 - 28 August, 1979


# 66-7594, a MiG killer from Vietnam before the crash - flying for the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing (Vietnam circa 1968)



# 66-7617 before the crash - flying for the 49th Tactical Fighter Wing (location unknown circa 1976)

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Crew (aircraft unknown): Pilot: Captain Ronald L. Diehl, WSO: Captain Ray H. Littge
                                         Pilot: Robert W. Newman, WSO: Patrick Y. Nakagawa

28 August, 1979 – Three aircraft of the 474 Tactical Fighter Wing from Nellis AFB were flying an Air Combat Maneuvers (ACM) training flight. After the first tactical intercept occurred without incident, the two planes collided while maneuvering for a second intercept attempt of the unidentified third plane at approximately 9:14 am. The crew of one craft ejected successfully and landed with only minor injuries. The crew of the second jet, Capt. Diehl and Capt. Littge were able to eject but were fatally injured on impact.

The above is taken from the official report and is all that was made available to the general public.
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Crash site visit, 29 April, 2011

After a harrowing drive down a dusty desert road from the P-39 site in our economy rental car, the caravan stopped and Craig pointed off in the distance. Just barely visible on the side of a mountain, about 2 miles away from the parking spot, we could barely make out a shiny white spot. With that, Wendy took off like a shot, not waiting for anybody else to get ready. Even though I am known to prefer a more leisurely pace when hiking, I thought I’d better go with her. After catching up to her and forcing Wendy slow down, for my sake, another couple, Dave and Vicky caught up to us. The shiny white spot would turn out to be a nose cone from one of the F-4s and they are a lot bigger than you’d think. Strangely, the solitary nose cone was all the wreckage seen in the immediate vicinity. With the rest of the group still lagging behind, we scanned the area looking for clues and noticed something on the next ridgeline over. By the time we got there and found a large debris field, Craig and the rest of the group had made it to the nose cone. Craig was gesturing wildly at the four of us (too far away for shouting) indicating that the wrecksite was in the other direction. He sprinted over from the opposite ridgeline and told us we were in the wrong place and we had to go further up the other ridge. At that time we pointed to the debris field and asked, “What’s this?”
Craig looked in disbelief and explained that we’d found the other F-4 that they had been looking for, for some time! He excitedly got on the radio to tell the others and people began to fan out in all directions. In all we found at least three mostly intact engines, one nose cone and one intact canopy, as well as a host of random pieces and parts of all shapes and sizes. An expedition by a fellow wreckchaser a month earlier yielded a control panel clock that was burned, melted and stopped at 9:14, the official time of the accident. We covered at least a two square mile area and probably could have found more outside that area had we had more time. All artifacts were left at the site.

                              
             Me next to the nose cone                                 Wendy holding a grenade (not really, but I forget what they told me it was!)


Instead of a single file procession to the cars, we fanned out and kept finding parts as we walked out.
After a long dusty day in the desert we all met at a bar near Nellis to recount the day. Craig was so excited by the find of the second F-4 that he had to post it immediately. It was then we discovered that the wreckchaser who had discovered the clock a month earlier had also found our initial debris field as witnessed by his pictures posted to the message board, nobody had realized it until our expedition.


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   We had a moment of silence and placed a small flag in memory of the sacrifices of Captain Diehl and Captain Littge.
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The gallery below gives an idea of the scope of the site.

Crash Site, today



                                                   Once you click a page in the gallery, you have to scroll down to see the pictures (sorry)


Another gallery found here contains more pictures of the site as well as information regarding the identification of parts by people more knowledgeable than myself in these matters.