Mount Tamalpais Aircraft Crash Site – Mill Valley, California - Atlas Obscura
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Mill Valley, California

Mount Tamalpais Aircraft Crash Site

Law-protected wreckage serves as a peculiar memorial for an almost forgotten World War II tragedy. 

On a wet and windy night in late November 1944, a US Navy plane crashed into Mount Tamalpais and killed eight aviators and crew. The aircraft had taken off from Naval Air Station in Alameda when it developed engine trouble shortly after takeoff. The aircraft radioed that it was having mechanical problems as it headed past the Golden Gate Bridge and into the darkness. The plane was never heard from again.

The owner of the Mountain Home Inn on Panoramic Highway was the first to report the crash after hearing a loud noise and seeing a giant fireball just before midnight.

The next day, a few boys from Mill Valley found the wreckage scattered across a 300 yard area. The debris was still smoldering, including what was left of the eight Navy fliers. The boys later reported that the sight was so horrific that they had nightmares for years afterward.

The Navy came and cleared most the wreckage soon after the crash. However, a small portion of the debris was left behind and is still there today. Visitors will find mostly nondescript scraps of metal and rubber strewn about the hallowed ground, though it is rumored that one of the plane’s machine guns is still missing among the wreckage.

Please be aware that the site and debris are US government property and therefore protected by law. Removal or tampering with the wreckage is a felony.

Know Before You Go

Take the Vic Haun Trail about a mile and a half from Panoramic Highway. Look for a side trail to the crash site. If you own a GPSr, use the coordinates N 37° 55.376' W 122° 34.436'.