Staples pilot’s crash novel

From the October 5, 1944, Staples WorldA World War II pilot from Staples is the subject of a new book, “Fatal Incident,” a novel by Jim Proebstle of Deer Park, Illinois.

The book is centered around the plane crash, reported in the Oct. 5, 1944, Staples World of Captain Roy Proebstle, Jim’s uncle.

Proebstle did extensive research on the crash, which he said still leaves mysteries as to what actually happened and why. Proebstle said those mysteries will likely never be explained, but his book is full of conjecture of why it happened.

“ Since we will never really know why that plane was so far off course, nor will we know the motivation of the military for not conducting a rescue and waiting seven weeks before a recovery was attempted, my hypothesis was naturally going to be fiction,” he said.

The details printed in the Staples World included a report from Captain Proebstle’s brother Leonard: “His ship was lost on Mt. McKinley in Alaska where it lays at 10,000 feet elevation in an area of glaciers, perpetual snow, and extreme mountainous conditions. We are informed that the ship can never be reached, so he must remain in those regions where even the stout of heart hesitate to go. It is fitting that he should have such a landmark.”

The Staples World article also states that “Army officials could not reveal very much information,” but they did show family members photos of the crash.

Jim Proebstle said “It has always been my opinion that something, or someone, or some purpose existed regarding that flight that has never been disclosed. My goal was to present a plausable story.”

For his research, Proebstle was able to obtain a copy of the fieldnotes from Bradford Washburn, one of the lead individuals on the recovery team. He said “In addition, I have several recounted articles from 1944 describing the crash.

The possible reasons for the crash at the time were general references to pilot error related to weather, which wasn’t likely due to the routine nature of this flight and the normal flying conditions.”

Another theory was that the plane crashed during a siteseeing side trip for photographic purposes near Mt. McKinley. Proebstle said that doesn’t seem likely “due to the cloudy conditions coupled with the responsible reputation of the pilot. You don’t take a C-47 into the McKinley range with 18 people on board.”

While Proebstle said he wrote the book to help recover family history, he made it a fiction novel because he didn’t want to connect families and decendents of the passengers who were killed with negative elements of his hypothesis that is played out in the story.

“I feel it is a family story that needed much more clarification,” said Proebstle. “None of the logic presented over the years has ever made sense. When the Freedom of Information response came back, ‘All files have been lost,’ it only added fuel to the fire. From a writer’s perspective, I feel good about my developing writing skills, particular around dialogue and character development.”

The description of Captain Proebstle in the 1944 Staples World gives a pretty good start on the lead character in the novel: “Curly, as he was better known here, was a graduate of the Staples High School with the class of 1933. While attending high school, he was one of the outstanding athletes in the school. He was a member of both the football and basketball teams, and was captain of both teams during his high school days.”

Halfway through writing the book, Proebstle came across a box of old family keepsakes, including photos, aviation charts and old Staples newspapers. “I was pretty fired up about taking on the story when I found this,” he said. “I always have a soft spot in my heart for Staples.”

Proebstle said reader’s responses have been very favorable, “which always feels good.”

The book is available everywhere books can be purchased, Proebstle said, includig indie bookstores, chain bookstores, online bookstores, most all e-book formats. He said signed copies can be ordered fromwww.fatalincident.com.

By Mark Anderson, News Editor of Staples World. Originally published in the June 30, 2011 edition of Staples World, page 1. Photo is from the October 5, 1944 edition of the paper. Republished with permission from the author.