Crash site revives 60-year-old memories

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Pacific Historian
Jun 4, 2005
Orange County, CA
Saw this in todays OC Register

Article - News - Crash site revives 60-year-old memories

Crash site revives 60-year-old memories
Ohio woman visits Laguna Beach hillside where her husband survived a midair collision with another pilot during dogfight training in 1946.
The Orange County Register

Betty Sadeski stood on the Laguna Beach hill Saturday staring toward the Saddleback Mountains as though seeing the ghosts of two F4U fighter planes colliding in midair.

The Marine training accident in 1946 almost killed her husband 30 days after they were married. Miraculously, Al "Ski" Sadeski survived the crash and died 10 months ago of heart failure, his widow said. The other pilot was killed when his plane crashed nearby.

"I never in my life dreamed I'd be here," Betty Sadeski said of her trip from her home near Columbus, Ohio, with her daughter and a friend to see the crash site discovered in 2000 by Orange County park ranger Tom Maloney.

The goats had grazed the hillside bare, uncovering an impact crater. Maloney collected a few metal pieces, from which aviation archaeologist Pat Macha of Mission Viejo was able to identify the specific aircraft, an F4U Corsair. Research of local newspaper archives identified the April 23, 1946, accident.

2nd Lt. Sadeski, based at the Marine Corps Air Station at El Toro, was training Capt. Constantine Paizis of San Francisco. They were attacked in a simulated dogfight. Paizis' plane hit Sadeski's F4U, sending it into a spin.

"Ski couldn't get the canopy open; they didn't have ejection seats in those days," Betty Sadeski said. "He told me, 'Can you imagine cussing and praying at the same time?' "

She couldn't really describe her need to see the site in person following her husband's death.

But as she knelt by debris in the crater, her eyes glistened with tears. Where had her husband laid, she asked.

Sadeski's parachute had just opened when he hit the ground hard, injuring his ankle and his back, which hurt him for years afterward, Betty Sadeski said.

Marines had to hike into the hills to rescue Sadeski. Most of the wreckage was salvaged. Remaining pieces and the site were forgotten.

Paizis' plane crashed a half-mile south of Sadeski's, Macha estimated.

"These hills and canyons are covered with crash debris," he said, waving his arms across the crash site's panoramic view.

Another researcher, David Schurhammer of Fullerton, said the El Toro base had 50 crashes from 1943 to 1945 alone. He brought a metal detector on Saturday's excursion to uncover bits of plane.

Macha put the Sadeski crash on his Web site of military plane crashes, Aircraft Wreck Finders Home Page. The Sadeskis learned of the discovery when grandson Kevin did an Internet search for the family name.

The close call didn't stop Sadeski, his widow said. He was a Marine pilot for 23 years and then was a test pilot for Rockwell.

Daughter Gail Evanguelide, who accompanied her mother at the crash site, said her father had flown 97 night raids in Korea after the crash. He won two distinguished flying crosses. He retired as a major.

He had other close calls, but never crashed again, Betty Sadeski said. "He wouldn't have given up flying for anything."


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