Honolulu, HI Military Plane Crashes Into Mountain, Mar 1955
2 AREA MEN LISTED IN 66 CRASH DEAD.
WORST AIR TRAGEDY IN HAWAII.
Pilot of California Plane Saw Peak, Swerved Too Late.
Honolulu (UP) -- A big military plane flying through the darkness with a faulty radio crashed into a mountain Tuesday and exploded, killing all 66 persons aboard.
Two men from the Long Beach area perished in the flaming wreckage, according to a list released by the Defense Dept. They were:
Army Sgt. ROBERT L. THOMPSON, son of Mr. and Mrs. Jess E. Thompson of 5493 Lemon Ave., North Long Beach.
Marine M/Sgt. EUGENE E. BENNETT, whose next of kin was listed as Mrs. Eugene E. Bennett, 296 S. Citrus St., Orange.
Among the dead also is Navy man JAMES BRIC QUINN, JR., AN, who with his wife, Mrs. Sybil Byers Quinn, formerly resided at 2130 Florida St., Long Beach. QUINN was the son of Mr. and Mrs. James B. Quinn, Blacksburg, S. C. MRS. QUINN recently moved to Glover, N. C.
The plane carried soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines from 28 separate states. A family group of three -- a sailor, his wife and daughter -- were among the victims.
The military transport was carrying the servicemen back to California for leaves or reassignment in the United States when its radio went bad. It turned back to Hawaii for repairs and slammed into the mountain despite a frantic last minute maneuver by the pilot.
The crash was termed the worst aviation tragedy in the history of Hawaii.
The big plane, carrying 57 passengers and nine crewmen, had turned back from a flight to Travis Air Force Base near San Francisco because of radio trouble.
It roared in low over the Navy's tightly-guarded Lualualei Ammunition Depot at about 2:16 a.m., HST, and plowed headlong into a steep ridge about a mile from the main gate of the reservation.
The huge aircraft virtually disintegrated on impace and the wreckage burst into flame like a gasoline torch.
The 57 passengers aboard included 17 Air Force, four Navy, 12 Marine and 22 Army personnel and a civilian woman and her baby daughter.
Military authorities were unable to offer any explanation for the crash, which occurred in clear weather, except to surmise that the pilot had wandered off the approach pattern to Hickam Field.
The plane was attached to air-transport squadron three at Moffett Naval Air Station, about 40 miles south of San Francisco, and was en route to Travis AFB, some 50 miles east of the Golden Gate.
The aircraft took off from Hickam late Monday and reported three hours east of Honolulu that is was turning back due to radio trouble. It was 36 minutes overdue at Hickam when the crash occurred.
Hickam tower said the plane was about 800 miles out when it turned back, reporting its long-range radio transmitter had failed. The pilot kept in touch with the tower by relay through another plane and last reported he was making his letdown approach to Oahu. This was just minutes before the crash.
Sentry Saw Plane Hit.
Marine Pfc. JOSEPH T. PRICE, of Carlsbad, N. M., a sentry at the ammunition depot, was an eyewitness to the tragedy. He said the plane came roaring over the depot at an altitude of about 600 feet -- narrowly missing a 700-foot radio antenna.
He said the pilot switched on his powerful landing lights and apparently saw the ridge ahead. PRICE said the plane banked sharply to the right a split second before the crash, but it was too late.
The sentry said the valley in which the ammo depot is located "lit up like daylight" from the flash of the explosion and said the fire burned fiercely for several minutes.
CLARENCE HOE, a civilian ordnance man at the depot, said he was awakened from a sound sleep by the roar of the plane's engines and then heard a sound "like a gasoline drum explosion."
HOE climbed to the scene, some 650 feet above the valley floor, and said the plane was still burning when he arrived, some 45 minutes after the crash.
No Sign Of Life.
"It was pretty hot and there were small explosions which sounded like small arms ammunition going off," he said.
He said he searched the perimeter around the plane with a flashlight to see if any survivors had been thrown clear, but found no signs of life. A 24-man rescue team which arrived a few minutes later likewise found no life.
"Everything was burned," HOE said. "I couldn't recognize anything I saw. The wreckage smelled of burning hair and you could tell there were bodies in there."
Because of the inaccessibility of the scene, rescuers were having difficulty removing the bodies.
Reporters and photographers were not allowed to climb to the crash scene until after daylight and all photographs were being screened by Air Force security officers because of the presence of classified material aboard the plane.
The plane obviously was lost on its approach to Hickam. It crashed far south of the normal landing pattern. Had the pilot been only half a mile north of his fatal course, the plane would have cleared a wide gap in the mountain range known as "Gunsight Pass."
The Long Beach Independent California 1955-03-23
Fatality List taken from The Oakland Tribune 1955-03-23
Lt. Comdr. HAROLD M. O'LEARY, 35, the pilot, of Mountain View.
Lt. Comdr. MARK M. TEAGUE, 39, the co-pilot, of Sunnyvale.
Lt. LEE A THOROUX, 31, navigator, of Mountain View.
AD1 CHARLES L. OSBORNE, 35, of 544 Leland Ave., San Francisco.
AT3 CHARLES M. PRESTON, 24, of Mountain View.
AN JAMES B. QUINN, JR., of Long Beach.
The pilot and co-pilot left three children each.
T/Sgt. ALBERT E. DAWSEY, Selma, Ala.
T/Sgt. JOHN T. POWELL, Mitchallville, Md.
T/Sgt. ROLAND B. WILHELM, Baltimore.
S/Sgt. SAMUEL J. ALVARADO, El Paso.
S/Sgt. WILLIAM F. BRITT, Amarillo.
S/Sgt. CARLYLE J. HUMMEL, Bismarck, N. D.
S/Sgt. EUGENE L. LOFTON, Winchester, Va.
S/Sgt. THADDEUS F. SHYDA, Lebanon, Pa.
A/1c WILLIE G. HARRELL, Austin, Tex.
A/1c MILTON O. MATTHEWS, Bordentown, N. J.
A/1c AUBREY G. MORGAN, Union Springs, Ala.
A/1c EARL G. SISSON, Depew, New York.
A/1c ALVIN ALEXANDER, Sunnyside, N. Y.
A/2c JOHN D. ANTHONY, Hobart, Ind.
A/2c DAVID L. BOYLE, Osaka.
A/2c STANLEY B. HORTON, Indianapolis.
A/3c DANIEL K. EATON, Winslow, Ariz.
Cpl. DONALD B. ANDERSON, Brockton.
Pfc. PAUL B. BAYER, Chicago.
Cpl. DEAN C. BULLEN, Smithfield, Utah.
Pvt. ROBERT E. DELHAGER, Chase, Kan.
Sgt. RAYMOND L. SMITH, Oakland.
Sgt. ROBERT L. THOMPSON, North Long Beach.
Sgt. REXIE L. DEWESSE, Lake Creek, Tex.
Sgt. LARRY P. DIEUOLO, Nutley, N. J.
Pfc. ROBERT G. DUNCAN, Robbinsdale, Minn.
Cpl. EDWARD J. HALVEY, JR., Chicago.
Cpl. WILLIAM B. HENDON, Brownwood, Tex.
Pfc. ROBERT E. HILL, Waterloo, Ind.
Cpl. KENNETH G. HOFFMAN, Glyndon, Minn.
Cpl. DAVID A. HORNE, Somersworth, N. H.
Pvt. CHARLES J. COMBS, St. Louis.
Sgt. WARREN R. HULER, Shamokin, Pa.
Pfc. JOHN R. IRWIN, JR., Elbow Woods, N. D.
Pvt. CHARLES M. JOHNSON, Cleveland.
Pfc. BERNARD J. KURAS, Gaylord, Mich.
Pvt. LOUIS F. MONTANEZ, Bronx, N. Y.
Pvt. JOHN R. PANETTI, Windber, Pa.
Sgt. JAMES L. WHITE, Minneapolis.
M/Sgt. FREDERICK L. WILLIAMSON, Oceanside.
M/Sgt. EUGENE E. BENNETT, Orange.
Cpl. RICHARD C. HARRISON, Inglewood.
Lt. Col. C. G. EDWARDS, Philadelphia.
M/Sgt. GORDON B. MURRAY, Wilmington, N. C.
S/Sgt. MORGAN L. OGDEN, Stafford, Va.
Cpl. WALTER W. CHASE, Mendham, N. J.
Cpl. DALE L. LAKE, Jolley, Ia.
Cpl. MICHAEL J. MESZAROS, Asbury Park, N. J.
Cpl. ALMERON FREEMAN, Mauston, Wis.
Cpl. CECIL A. BRITTAIN, Timpson, Tex.
Cpl. RICHARD R. BROOKS, Brookville, Ohio.
CHARLES WAYNE ENLOE, AN, Kansas City.
WILLIAM RICHARD RIMER, NA, Edina, Mo.
GERALD JOSEPH ROBICHAUX, SA, Monteget, La.
ALFRED DEWEY SCHROEDER, AE3, Cannelton, Ind.
CHARLES EDWARD SHEEHAN, Bangor Me.
NATHAN WEBB, TE1, Louisville.
MRS. RITA LAVERNE WEBB and daughter, YOKOHAMA.
GERALD DEAN WHITE, ADAN, Lawton, Okla.
Researched and Transcribed by Stu Beitler. Thank you, Stu!