Billings, MT 'Flying Boxcar' Crashes In Flames, Nov 1952




A toll of eight dead, with the same number surviving, was counted Monday night from the flaming crash, at 2:45 p.m., of an Air Force "Flying Boxcar" transport, which hit in a field 12 miles east of Billings, a few hundred feet north of Highway 10.
The huge plane of the type designated C-119C and distinguished by its twin tail booms struck a hilltop irrigation ditch and bounced into a blazing pyre of wreckage after one of its two engines dropped off west of the Roundup road. According to eye witnesses, the pilot appreared to be attempting a belly landing in the field.
The survivors apparently were thrown clear when the plane plummeted into the field. One officer told bystanders he had seen the end coming and had "rolled out." He was too shocked to explain what he meant.
Three airmen were pulled out of the flames by three men who watched the crash. JOHN BRAUNSTADTER of Huntley suffered burns of the hand in the rescue. With another man whose name was not known and who could not be foundm, he pulled two airmen out of the fire. STANLEY HENSON of 416 S. 32nd St., pulled out another.
Of the dead, four were burned to death and four died of injuries. The charred bodies were huddled in the center of the white-hot fire, which shot flames and a great pillar of smoke into the air for nearly two hours after the crash.
Two-way police radio made it possible for police, ambulances and fire apparatus to be on the way from Billings in a matter of minutes.
State Highway Patrolman LOUIS O. ALEKSICH was in his patrol car on a hilltop an eighth of a mile away when the great plane wavered down onto the irrigation ditch.
"I had the mike in my hand when he hit the ditch," ALEKSICH said. "I'd seen him come around losing altitude, and I knew he was going to crash."
Ambulances raced to Deaconess and St. Vincent Hospitals with the survivors after first-aid treatment had been given at the scene. The injured lists issued by the hospitals follow:
Those injured:
At Deaconess:
Col. WILLIAM E. SHUTTLES, pilot, 45, cut eye and burned hand, 443rd troop carrier wing (4401 McFarlin Blvd.) Dallas, Tex.
Maj. JOSEPH SEVERANCE, 33, lacerations and shock, 337 S. Birchwood, Louisville, Ky.
Capt. DANIEL H. RUCH, 37, head injuries, condition serious. Home address unknown.
S. Sgt. JOSEPH P. SNOW, 21, injured ankle, 589 E. 348th St., Willoughby, Ohio.
Capt. WILLIAM L. RICHARDS, 29, lower leg fractures, 3500 Southwest Blvd., Dallas.
At St. Vincent:
S. Sgt. HOUSTON DILLON, 34, burns on hands, face and thigh, compound fracture of left ankle, 524 W. 12th, Dallas, Texas.
Pilot Officer DUDLEY MILLS, 21, head and face cuts, 18A Rockford Rd., Prittlewell, Essex, England.
Pilot Officer JOHN W. DOWNS, 21, face and leg cuts, 16 Mt. Pleasant Rd., Lewisham SE, London 13, England.
The plane was said to be from the Eighteenth Air force base, Greenville, S. C., and was on its way from Great Falls to Denver.
The first report of its destress reached the Billings Air Force filter center from its Roundup observation post. Other posts in the netweork called in as it passed over them, apparently headed for the Billings Municipal Airport. The tower at the airport received no radioed distress call from the craft.
GERALD TURLEY of Musselshell was on the Roundup road when the transport zoomed down out of a cloud over him and tipped up on one wing. RALPH PETERS of Route 3 saw the same thing.
"She dropped the engine over there west of the Roundup road," said PETERS. "I heard her blow there. She gained a little altitude then. They were coming in to land."
LEE W. ADSIT, of Rte. 3 was in the upper story of his barn over-looking the CARL THAUT farm field on which the crash occurred. He heard the terrific esplosion and saw the bloom of smoke tower toward the sky.
BRAUNSTADTER was at Dave's Inn, about a quarter of a mile from the crash.
"We heard the crash and the vibration shook the whole building," he said. "I had the baby in my arms. I shoved the baby at my wife and took off across the slough."
One of the men he pulled from the wreckage was lying on the rim of flames around the twisted mass of aluminum. It was in rescuing him he suffered burns on his finger tips.
BRAUNSTADTER said airmen were crawling on the ground away from the wreckage when he ran up. He dashed toward the plane, without a thought of the chance of further explosions.
STANLEY HENSON was driving along the highway on his way to Worden. He slammed on his brakes and jumped out. The airmkan he pulled out had a great gash in his head.
All the airmen wore parachutes, but only one was open. It was worn by one of the men who were killed. The plane was too low for a safe jump in the time it made its last circle and headed down toward the field.
The alarm transmitted from the Billings police station after receipt of ALCKSICH'S call brought state highway patrolmen converging on the scene, along with Yellowstone County sheriff's officers, the county fire truck, Billings Ambulance Service vehicles, Billings policemen and the city fire department. The last answered the alarm on orders of Mayor Tom T. Rowe, who went to the crash scene with Comptroller D. E. Hageman.
The Great Falls air force base Tuesday released this list of the men who died when a C-119 Flying Boxcar crashed near Billings:
Capt. H. MANNING of Donaldson air force base, Greenville, S.C.
Major L. L. WITHERS of Stewart AFB, Smyrna, Tenn.
Lt. O. D. ECKSTEIN of Donaldson AFB.
Lt. R. W. JOHNSON of Donaldson AFB.
Staff Sgt. T. R. RICHARDSON of Elmendorf AFB, Anchorage, Alaska.
Airman First Class R. O. HOLLAND, of Donaldson AFB.
AIrman Second Class JAMES F. HARVEY of Great Falls AFB, whose home was at Dallas, Texas.
Airman LAWRENCE E. FINCH of Great Falls AFB, whose home was at Lyons, Kan.

Billings Gazette Montana 1952-11-18