Honolulu, HI Military Plane Crashes Into Mountain, Mar 1955



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. 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.
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.
NATHAN WEBB, TE1, Louisville.


R6D1 US NAVY Mar 22, 1955 Hawaii

Only memorial that exists is on-line. More info contact me at the E-Mail listed.

R6D1 (DC-6) US Navy Palikea Mountain Mar 22, 1955

My name is David Dunnavant. A fromer Marine Gunnery Sergeant retired 20 years and now, retired 24 years since 2009 from US Civil Service. My place of assignment was US Naval Maghazine, Lualuali on the west side of the island of O'ahu. My job while assigned there from 1991 to 2009 from Pearl Harbor Naval Base. I was a Physical Security/Law Enforcement for the Navy.
During this time, I took great enterest in an old military crash site that was located on a mountain called, "PaliKea" a half a mile forward on the leftside at an altitude up the mountain at about 800 years.
I conducted much research on that incident. Even have the crash report. Through time and about eight trips climbing the mountain. There is a large debree field scattered at the crash site. The plane exploded with tremenous force. All were killed instantly. Very little from the crash site was brought own for disposal. The ship burned for three days. There was no way to extinquish the fire. You can still see parts of the wreckage. A lot is overgrown with thick vegetation. I think there is still humane remains up there. It took three days to recover the victims of that crash.
At this point. I would like to defende the crew of that ship. A lot of people blame the crash on the pilot. The concluded that the weather, for it was raining at that time. Had affected the instrumentation. I also have the crash report. Investigation was conducted by the Navy and the aircraft manufacturer. McDonald Douglas. As the story goes.
The ship came in from Tokyo, Japan via Wake Island and Guam and to stop over at Hickham AFB. It landed in the afternoon hours of Mar 21, 1955 for layover and service. The ship reloaded about six that evening to depart for Travis AFB, Ca. At about four hours into flight. The crew on-board developed a problem with the Long range attena. The plave belonged to VR-3 at moffet Field. There policy should things take place like that. To return and have the problem corrected. They could not talk to Travis to complete the flight.
Returning to Honolulu. They had to relay their conversations of status through other aircraft in the area. They could not talk to Hickham or US Naval Air Station Barbers Point.
Coming back to the islands. They came in from the east flying over Koloekole Pass at about 2,00 feet altitude. and over US Naval Magazine, Lualualei and US Naval Communication Group. Restricted airspace by the US Navy. A configuration of antena's at 600 feet altitube is what made it restricted.
The US Marine sentury's on duty. Both ammunition and communications were were guarded by. Stated, they noticed the aircraft over Kolekole Pass headed toward the ocean over the restricted area and went into alert. The plane traveled on out to sea. Then over the ocean . The ship lowered it's altitude returning from the ocean. There were six antena with blinking marker lites for there height. Thew ship came in at 800 feet. Flew up the left side of the Antena's on a heaing towards Hickham and Barbers Point. Over the Maingate of Lualualei. He turned righjt and went back out over the ocean. The ship then returne back over the restricted area flying up the left side on a heading for Hickham. All this was taking place about 2:30 am in the morning. The sound of the aircraft was very load with four engines and hand awakened most of the resients of Lualualei. He was at an altitude of about estimated 800 feet up. The conclusion by the investigation. The pilot thought he was over Barbers Point.
To finish the story. His heading passing over the main gate of Lualualei was by compass headed for Hickham.
The story goes further. Landing lights were turned on as the pilot thought he was nearing a mountain to his from, PaliKea. In Hawaiian means (Cliffs Cross).
The pilot according to witnesses on the ground. His landing lits eluminated the mountain directly to his front. He banked a sharp right following the contour of the valley he was in. They almost made it out. Unfortunately, the left wing caught on a protruding part of the cliff and ripped the leftwing from thje craft. The aircraft went nose first into the mountain. Witnesses testified the explosion was very load with a fireball rising to the sky about three hundred feet. He still had most of his fuel on-board. No one they claim survived. There wer 66 victims by manifest that parrished.
For respect for the lost. I entered all on the Find a Grave site. Someone ask me from the Find a Grave community. They wanted to make a mass memorial. I sent them the information. In your search engine to your computer. Type" Aircrash Hawaii March 22, 1955". I am a member of Find a Grave. You might see along with the links. Find a Grave Contributor.
Looking at all I have typed here. I can tell you about spiritual things of that mountaiun. A fgew times I encounterd a few up there. I even had a Spirtual Median to clear it. The person I encounter up there was the Pilot and another. I thought I had put the mountain to rest. I do not think so.
To finalize that incident. They wer in the wrong place at the wrong time. Should ever come to the islands and desire to locate the crash site. Let me know by e-mail. I can tell you more. David.

It is very possible that it

It is very possible that it was my fathers seat that your Grandpa was given. My father was supposed to be on this plane, but had a change of plans at the last minute. My uncle, also a sailor and a pilot, was called to fly another plane out of Hawaii, his wife was pregnant and due in a couple weeks. My dad offered to stay an extra day in Hawaii until my uncle returned.

My Father

My father was supposed to be on this plane but was pulled at the last minute by his Commander. He wants to go to this site in memory of his fallen friends. Is there a memorial for this plane crash?

My Grandpa, M/Sgt. EUGENE E.

My Grandpa, M/Sgt. EUGENE E. BENNETT, of Orange, CA was on this flight on leave to visit his family: my Grannie, my mother, my aunt, and my uncle. My mother is the oldest of his children and she was just eleven years old when he died. Supposedly, someone had given up their seat for my Grandpa, Sgt. Bennett, in order for him to be with his family that day. My Grannie died of lung cancer thirty years later, but all of his children still live today in California and Colorado.