El Toro Marine Air Station, CA Air Disaster Kills 84, June 1965

JET CRASHES NEAR EL TORO.

84 DIE IN CALIFORNIA'S WORST AIR DISASTER.

PLANE FAILS TO MAKE LEFT TURN.

Marines Believed Bound for Viet Nam.

El Toro Marine Air Station, Calif. (UPI) -- A mililtary jet transport, unaccountably failing to make a scheduled left turn, plunged into a fog-shrouded mountain and exploded after takeoff early Friday, killing all 84 men aboard -- including 72 Marines believed bound for Viet Nam.
There were no survivors in one of the worst military air disasters in peacetime history. It also was California's worst air disaster.
The C135 air transport, military conuterpart of the commercial Boeing 707 jetliner, smashed into a mountain 4 1/2 miles directly north of the end of the runway from which it took off moments before.
Turn Scheduled.
But Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) inspector ELMER PARKS said the flight plan called for the Air Force jet to have made a left turn two miles after liftoff.
In aq news conference late Friday, PARKS would not disclose whether the tape recording of the final conversation between tower and pilot indicated why the airman did not make the specified turn.
The pilot, Capt. WILLIAM F. CORDELL, JR., was a veteran of 3,000 hours flying time.
PARKS also declined comment on whether any sabotage was suspected. He said an investigation would be completed within 10 days.
"There was no indication the pilot didn't know the flight pattern," PARKS said.
Below Normal Altitude.
Under normal conditions the aircraft would have been at an altitude of 4,000-4,500 feet about 4 1/2 miles from takeoff.
A Marine officer, declining to be identified, said if the plane "lacked power, and went into its bank it might have wiped out a part of Orange," a suburban community near El Toro. He speculated the pilot might have tried to avoid such a disaster by keeping the plane on a straight course.
Orange County Coroner DR. RAYMOND BRANDT said all 84 bodies have been recovered. Ten had been positively identified by late afternoon.
The powerful jet "completely broke up: when it hit the mountain at the 1,500-foot level, about 75 feet below the summit.
The largest single piece of wreckage was the flattened out cockpit area, about 10 feet in diameter. The pilot's body lay inside.
Loma Peak Turned Into Nightmare.
El Toro Marine Base -- The sun heated fog clung to the human and airplane debris littering the mountain top.
Boots, some of them with feet, were scattered about.
Papers, technical manuals, some with singed edges, personal letters, cards, and official envelopes containing travel orders lay in disorder in the mesquite that covered the top of Loma Peak except where it had been burned by the explosion of 8,000 gallons of plane fuel.
Scattered pieces of uniforms tallied with the report that 72 of the 84 victims were U. S. Marines en route to Okinawa, staging point for South Viet Nam. The other 12 were the Air Force plane crew.
The first man at the scene, Sgt. BILL HASTINGS of the Marine Air Rescue Squadron from El Toro, said his first reaction was to radio for salvage crews to clean up the wreckage.
"I just felt that no one could have survived this one ... it was just that bad ... When I walked up from where the chopper landed me, and into that scene I felt as though someone had kicked me in the stomach ..."
Shortly before noon Gen. HOWELL M. ESTES, commanding general of the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) at Scott Field, Ill., arrived by jet. When he stepped from the T-39 sabreliner, he was wiping his tear-stained eyes. He looked hard hit.
"Those guys were the greatest," he said, "I'm just sick." He was visibly shaken when he returned from the crash scene.
In the bustling flight operations office at the Marine air field at El Toro, a girl, obviously not more than 20, appeared distraught.
A sergeant was talking to her. She looked down most of the time, but glanced up to say, "But they haven't notified me ....."
The sergeant looked away.
She asked, "What should I do?" She appeared ready to faint.
The sergeant called another Marine, "Get the chaplain."
The girl stared dazedly at the sergeant, "I love him and now, I know he's ... d .... gone. What'll I do? ... Yes, I know he was on the plane because he left late last night, and he was in the Third Marine Division ..."
The sergeant took her into the secluded recess of the weather station. As she went with him she nervously twisted the new rings on the third finger of her left hand.

Continued

Comments

C-135 at El TORO MCAS

I would like to get in touch with William F. Cordell III. His dad, Bill Cordell was aircraft commander on C-135 00373 that crashed at El Toro.
I was an aircraft commander in the 18th ATS, also worked in pilot scheduling, and scheduled the pilot crew for that mission.
William III's dad and his mom, Jean, were friends when we were stationed at McGuire. I knew that Jean was expecting when this event occurred.
I escorted Bill's body back to Bryan, TX for interment.
I can be contacted at [email protected].

No survivors

I was in separation barracks we had to go help clean it up there were no survivors!!!

Plane crash- June 1965

I was in separations at El Toro, about to be discharged, the morning the crash occurred! I was with the first group to go to the crash site to start the clean up process! I had three friends on the plane but could not identify any of them! I still live with this disaster, 51 years later!! Sad time! Semper Fi !!! Dan

A close family friend, Henry

A close family friend, Henry Delbert Grimm was also on that flight. My husband at the time and I were expecting a child is Sept. who we named after Henry. I, too, looked for Henry's name on the Viet Nam Memorial Wall and was given the same information stated in previous comments. I think all those military personnel should be listed on that wall.

My Brother LC Ronald F. Smith was on Crash of June 1965 not list

My Beloved Brother, LC Ronald F. Smith was also killed that day on that flight. He was from Lynn Mass.
I too have Dearly missed him, and never knew as much as I found on this page tonight. I am 71 and recently married to an awesome gentleman who was also in Vietnam. We have only been married 10 months and I was telling him about my Brother whom I Love and Miss still today. I was 21 when he died and he was twenty five would have turned twenty six in July. I decided to see if I could find any information on the Internet when I found your page.
Please accept my heartfelt gratitude for everything you and all of the others did to assure true dignity and Honor for each of them. I also would like to send my heartfelt sorrow to each and every family of each lost Hero....
I would love to hear from anyone who knew my Brother or anyone who would like to write to me. I promise I will write back.....contact me [email protected]
Sincerely Yours Barbara Borders....

Memorial FB page for families of the 1965 El Toro crash

Elaine,
Please visit this memorial Facebook page dedicated to the honor of the servicemen lost in the El Toro crash of 1965.
Please contact us through the FB page. We are trying to contact all of the family members of those involved.
We want to honor each man with a photo and brief Bio on the FB page, as well as on the brand new Memorial Kiosk located in "The Great Park" on the site of the old El Toro MCAS in CA. These servicemen will also be honored in the future at the "Hall of Heroes" in a building on the Orange County Fair Grounds.
If anyone from your family contacts us, we can get the process started.

Steve B.

1st Lt. Robert Shannon

I was a C-135 navigator in the 28th squadron stationed at McGuire AFB when the crash at El Toro occurred. After the crash, my duty was to take care of the family of 1st Lt. Robert Shannon, one of the navigators on the plane. I was at Andrews AFB training in a decompression chamber, when we heard of the unfortunate accident. My recollections are getting a little fuzzy with my advancing age of 75, but I do recalled several flights into Ell Toro to pick up Marines to fly to Vietnam. My prayers are for you and all those affected with this incident. I too believe that their names should appear on the Vietnam Memorial. You may contact me at [email protected]

Memorial Kiosk at Heritage and Aviation Exhibition, MCAS El Toro

Butch,

I am the mother of the Eagle Scout, Jordan. I am pleased you are coming to the dedication ceremony. You must be in communications with Lisa?! I really look forward to meeting you.

I don't know if Lisa told you that we have a digital display that is installed in a Kiosk? Anyway, it would be wonderful if you could scan your report (if it isn't too graphic) and get that to us prior. If it is not copyrighted we can include in our accident history section. The military also provided me with a report but it didn't say anything about it being too heavy or mention demineralized water.

Looking forward to your response.

Regards,

Adriana Fourcher

Memorial Kiosk at Heritage and Aviation Museum, MCAS El Toro

We have been working for a year to have this project completed on time for the 50th Anniversary of the Loma Ridge crash. If anyone is related or served at MCAS El Toro in 1965 and remembers this event they may be interested in knowing that as of 6-25-15 there is a Memorial at the former hanger 244 (near the Orange Balloon) now called The Great Park.

I wanted the author of the GEN Disaster article to know that much of the information was helpful. However, there are numerous misspellings that we found out as we were trying to locate gravestones and relatives. (I can only imagine how much information you sift through for the articles and are not able to double check with multiple sources.)

If you are interested in correcting the names please follow up and I would be happy to provide for your record.

Regards.

mr fraud....steve whatever

I've READ SOME STORIES AND FROM MY EXERIENCE......AINT NO WAY HE WAS SUPPOSE TO BE ON THAT PLANE.

IT WAS FULL.....HAD MARINES, no sailors, AND THE PLANE SAT FOR hours OUTSIDE MY HANGAR AT EL TORO BEFORE LEAVING IN THE EARLY MORNING......IT WAS NOT PARKED AT THE OR IN THE AREA OF THE CONTROL TOWER.......AND IT WAS PARKED, I LEARNED, SO THAT THE FLIGHT CREW COULD GET THE ordered REST THEY NEEDED TO FY TO HAWAII.....NO OLANE ISSUES, WEATHER ISSUES....THE GUYS JUST SAT AROUND WAITING.....TIL THE usaf MEN COULD GET THEIR NEEDED REST FROM FLYING IN FROM THE EAST COAST.... jIM kEITH -USMC RECOVERY TEAM MEMBER.... 6/25/65