Cornelia Clark Fort Crash Site Memorial
Mulberry Canyon, Texas

A memorial erected by a local man who located the actual crash site in 2000. The existence of this memorial was unknown to but a very few and photos of it have never been published before. The memorial is on private property, it's exact location a secret to protect the owner of the property. MaritimeQuest was given permission by the property owner to photograph the site and was guided to the site by the man who erected the memorial.

Cornelia Clark Fort (19191943) was an aviator in the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) later called Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), who became the first female pilot in American history to die on active duty.

Fort was born to a wealthy and prominent Nashville, Tennessee, family; her father, Rufus Elijah Fort, was a founder of National Life and Accident Insurance Company. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1939. After college, Fort would join the Junior League of Nashville. She showed an early interest in flying, ultimately training for and earning her pilot's license in Hawaii.

While working as a civilian pilot instructor at Pearl Harbor, Cornelia Fort inadvertently became one of the first witnesses to the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the United States into World War II. On December 7, 1941, Fort was in the air near Pearl Harbor teaching takeoffs and landings to a student pilot in an Interstate Cadet monoplane. Hers and a few other civilian aircraft were the only U.S. planes in the air near the harbor at that time. Fort saw a military airplane flying directly toward her and swiftly grabbed the controls from her student to pull up over the oncoming craft. It was then she saw the rising sun insignia on the wings. Within moments, she saw billows of black smoke coming from Pearl Harbor and bombers flying in. She quickly landed the plane at John Rodgers civilian airport near the mouth of Pearl Harbor.

The pursuing Zero strafed her plane and the runway as she and her student ran for cover. The airport manager was killed and two other civilian planes did not return that morning. With all civilian flights grounded in Hawaii, Fort returned to the mainland in early 1942. She made a short movie promoting War Bonds that was successful and led to speaking engagements. But later that year, Nancy Love recruited her to serve in the newly established Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS), precursor to the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). She was the second woman accepted into the service. The WAFS ferried military planes to bases within the United States.

Stationed at the 6th Ferrying Group base at Long Beach, California, Cornelia Fort became the first WAFS fatality on March 21, 1943 when another plane being ferried by a male pilot struck the left wing of the BT-13 she was ferrying in a mid-air collision ten miles south of Merkel, Texas. At the time of the accident, Cornelia Fort was one of the most accomplished pilots of the WAFS. The footstone of her grave is inscribed, "Killed in the Service of Her Country".
(Text courtesy of Wikipedia)

The Cornelia Clark Fort Crash Site Memorial.

The back side of the memorial showing the date erected, Dec. 7, 2000.

A general overview of the crash site, the memorial is seen at center.

A general overview of the crash site, the memorial is seen at the bottom left.

A general overview of the crash site, the memorial is seen at bottom center.

An overview of Mulberry Canyon seen from atop the 500 foot tall Trent Mesa. The crash site is seen in the distance.
All photos © 2010 Michael W. Pocock
and MaritimeQuest all rights reserved

July 18, 2016

Thank you very much, for your article on Cornelia Fort. I had just read a photo story in my EAA publication. The story was about the aircraft she had flown during the early attack on Pearl Harbor. The plane, as you know, is an Interstate Cadet S-1A. CAA number NC37266, has been found and restored. To make this short, the story went on to say that she had died. Having heard about her before, I now wanted to know more. Coming across your site, filled in some missing parts. I'm very happy that you were able to go the  "memorial", and take photos. So my "THANKS" to you, and the person who found the location, made the marker, and let you go with him. If you would like to see the story: EAA, Sport Aviation, July 2016, Vol.65 No. 7 By: Elizabeth Gibbs and Lyle Jansma Staff of the Heritage Flight Museum, Burlington, WA.

Skip Dietz

Page published May 9, 2010