By TIM YOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WORLD WAR II PILOT’S HARROWING plane crash drove his son to find out more about the accident — which led him to a Warren veteran.
It was July 4, 1943. It was also the first and last time Warren’s Cornell Corsatea saw the plane’s pilots, 1st Lt. John Seamans and 1st Lt. Oscar D. Shoup.
Corsatea “very possibly saved my father’s life,” said Seamans’ son Gary, of Wyalusing, Pa.
Corsatea, Seamans and Shoup were members of the Army Air Forces’ 19th Ferrying Squadron. The squadron’s mission was to ferry B-24 Liberators — four-engine bombers — from near Dearborn, Mich., where they were built during the war, to Kelly Field in San Antonio and other destinations.
Corsatea recalls the flight. He was sitting between Seamans and Shoup as the plane was on final approach to Kelly Field at night. The nose of the large bomber rose, and the plane began to lose lift.
“I put my hand on the throttle. I put my hand over his [Shoup’s]. The engine revved,” Corsatea remembered.
But it was too late, and the B-24 bellied into the Texas sage brush. A tree branch broke through the windshield and whacked Seamans in the head. He was critically injured and bleeding badly, Corsatea said.
Corsatea said he wrapped Seamans’ head with a bandage. Corsatea’s flight suit was covered in blood. Shoup, who had been knocked unconscious, came to.
Since they were 4 miles from the airfield, Corsatea and Shoup flagged down a rare passing car because help from the field hadn’t yet arrived.
“That was a godsend,” Corsatea said, noting the driver rushed them to the medical facility at the airfield.
Never to see them again
That was the last time Corsatea saw the men. He continued to ferry B-24s, B-25s and B-17s to Scotland and Canada.
His last assignment took him to India where he was assigned to change plane engines for six months.
After the war, Corsetea often wondered what had become of Shoup and Seamans.
“Sometimes I would lay awake at night thinking about what happened,” he said.
Gary Seamans, the pilot’s son, was 2 years old when his father crashed. His father spent nine months in a Memphis hospital. He lost his sight in one eye, and a metal plate was put in his forehead.
Seamans said his father and mother divorced when he was 6, and he didn’t see his father much after that. Seamans’ father died in 1968.
As the years passed, Seamans said, he wanted to know what happened to his father.
“I just wanted to find as many details as I could about the accident,” the pilot’s son said.
In May, he discovered that Web site, www.accident-report.com, had copies of the World War II reports, which were finally released by the military in 1996. Corsatea’s name was on the report filed about the crash.
The report showed that though the B-24 had lost its hydraulics, the crash was blamed on pilot error.
Seamans, 66, said he also wanted to know if his father was flying the plane when it crashed.
Contact after many years
So, he went to www.WhitePages.com and found Corsatea’s name and phone number. He called Corsatea, now 87, to find out.
“Boy, that’s got to be him!” Seamans recalled of seeing Corsatea’s name on the computer screen.
Seamans said he was reluctant to call because he didn’t know how the veteran would react to him.
Seamans wanted to assure himself that his father was indeed the pilot.
“I told him his father may not have been paying attention,” Corsatea said of the conversation with the younger Seamans.
“We talked for an hour and a half. I think he’s pretty neat,” Seamans said of Corsatea, who he contacted last month.
The elder Seamans had traveled the country fixing appliances. He was able to fly small planes as a civilian, but not the large aircraft he flew as a pilot for two major airlines before the war, nor the bombers he commanded during the war, because of his blinded.
Seamans said he has been unable to find Shoup, the co-pilot.
But he and the man his father knew for only one day while on their first mission together have exchanged phone calls and e-mails. He has also exchanged calls and e-mails with Corsatea’s son, Neil, of Cortland.
“I was impressed with him,” Seamans said of Corsatea, who retired in 1985 from the Ohio Edison Co. “He is pretty sharp.” The two haven’t met face-to-face yet.
Seamans said he would like to visit, but medical problems keep him from traveling very far.