Norman O. Richards (1952/03/26)
Norman Richards was one of the few men in history to survive a prolonged free fall from an airplane and live to tell about it.
Norman Orin Richards was born on December 4, 1918, in Alameda County, California. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Roy I. Richards, lived in the Green Valley sector of the Pajaro Valley before moving to Los Gatos. The Richards family also included two daughters, Joan and Edie. Norman grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and before the war, lived in Berkeley and attended the University of California for a year.
On November 5, 1942, Richards entered the US Army as a private and was assigned to the Army Air Force. He was accepted into its aviation cadet program and at its conclusion was commissioned and assigned to a bomber squadron in Europe. When a plane he was piloting over Vienna exploded, Lt. Richards fell several thousand feet without a parachute and after landing in a tree, received only minor injuries. Subsequently he was captured and spent sixteen months in a German POW camp.
Following World War II, Richards returned to California and settled in the Pajaro Valley community of Corralitos. Norman married Betty and the couple had a son, Warren, prior to their divorce. After Betty and Warren moved to Palo Alto, he remained in the Pajaro Valley working as the appliance department manager for Freiermuth Hardware and Plumbing. Later he operated the Coffee Cup Restaurant at the Town and Country shopping center in Watsonville. While living in Corralitos, he was the local grange master, active in the Baptist Church and a member of the Country Cousins Folk Dance Club.
When the Korean War started, Norman Richards was recalled to active duty and assigned to the 43rd Air Refueling Squadron stationed at Davis Monthan AFB near Tucson, Arizona. On March 26, 1952, Captain Norman Orin Richards was flying a modified B-29 Superfortress in a refueling operation near Tucson when engines number three and four failed and the plane crashed into the desert, killing him and eight others. His remains were recovered and returned to California for a funeral in Los Gatos followed by interment in the Golden Gate National Cemetery.
(CBR; USDVA; NARA2; Warbird Central.Com, B-29 Serial 87782, http://warbird-central.com/american/bombers/B-29/B-29_serials. html [16 September 2008]; WRP March 28, 1952, March 31, 1952 2:5)