Clyde Bartel visited Blanco last week on his 90th birthday. He was last in town in 1944 after the T-45 airplane he was flying in crashed south of town, near Twin Sisters. Bartel was in the Army back then; he and three others lifted off from Austin despite warnings about a thunderstorm. The lieutenant colonel with the group wanted to be in San Antonio for his anniversary, Bartel recalls.
He and the others in the plane never made it to Randolph Field. Bartel was the sole survivor of the crash.
The plane went down on Tom Fleming's ranch. With severe burns, Bartel cleared the blood out of his eyes and crawled out of the woods, following the rising sun. Fleming found him in with the cows around a pond and brought him into Blanco to the hospital at the courthouse. Bartel remembers that the doctors had him on plasma for four to five days, and that he was the hospital’s first burn patient.
They called Randolph and notified the Army of the crash, says Bartel, and then called his wife. They started with "Clyde is OK" and then told her the story.
Bartel now lives in Sun City, Florida. He found it interesting that he was in Blanco for his 90th birthday, where, 64 years ago, a rancher and the doctors at the courthouse saved his life.