Fort Dix, NJ Jet Crashes Into Soldiers, Aug 1951
JET CRASH NEAR G.I.'s FATAL TO 13.
SCORE INJURED AS PLANE PLUNGES INTO FOREST EXERCISE SITE.
Fort Dix, N.J. (UP) -- Eyewitnesses said it was like a ball of fire from the sky when a jet plane crashed near a truckload of soldiers, spraying them with flaming gasoline. Thirteen persons were killed and 20 injured, none critically.
Pvt. JOSEPH B. SUZANSKY, New York, was one of those injured when the training version of the F-80 Shooting Star crashed Monday in a scrub pine forest where 54 soldiers were grouped in an army communications exercise.
"All we saw was fire coming at us -- a ball of fire," SUZANSKY said. "Somebody yelled 'Hit the ground' and we did."
"There was a terrific whoosh and the flames shot up all around. All those killed were in the truck. They were going to ride and we were going to walk."
The soldiers were assigned to B battery of the Ninth division's 26th field artillery battalion.
SUZANSKY said he believed more would have been killed had it not been for "our army training."
Capt. WILLIAM H. RAUB, 31, Seattle, pilot of the two-place T-33 trainer, and Major THEODORE DEAKYNE, 30, Leavittown, N.Y., his passenger were killed.
The 11 soldiers killed were from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut and most had been in the army less than five months.
Privates GEORGE and ROBERT POOLE, 22, Camden, N.J., twins, were the oldest in the group.
SUZANSKY said the soldiers had completed their signal wire problem and were preparing to return to their barracks when "we heard a crackling noise as the plane clipped some trees by the clearing."
The truck, the famed six-by-six troop carrier of World War II, was parked about 50 feet from the spot where RAUB'S plane crashed on its belly. Burning fuel geysered into the truck, SUZANSKY said, as soldiers were climbing aboard.
"We wanted to do something about the plane but we couldn't even get near it to try to get the men out of it," he said. "The heat was too much."
The crash occurred only a few seconds after the plane faltered on takeoff from McGuire field, which adjoins Fort Dix. The wooded area is on the Fort Dix reservation.
Army and air force spokesmen said a board of officers had been appointed to investigate the crash.
Cedar Rapids Gazette Iowa 1951-08-21
TRAINEES LOST LIVES BY ONLY 30 SECONDS.
By Associated Press.
Fort Dix, N. J., Aug. 21. -- Thirty seconds could have spelled life Monday for 11 young soldier trainees fatally sprayed by flaming fuel from a crashing jet plane, an Army spokesman said today.
The 11 soldiers -- all under 24 years of age -- and two plane crew members died after the jet plane, unable to gain altitude, plunged in flames into a scrub pine belt where a 54-man Army detail was winding up a day of communications training.
Twenty other Army men were injured, none critically.
The Army spokesman said the soldiers, some aboard a truck, others lined up in march formation, were about to head for camp when the accident occurred.
"It was an unfortunate tragedy -- a remarkable coincidence of circumstances which brought the plane to the spot where the men were on the verge of moving out. Thirty seconds later might have made a lot of difference," Lt. Bertram Brinley, Fort Dix public information officer, said.
A seven-man Air Force investigating board probed into the cause of the crash of the T-33 Air Force trainer, which skimmed over the Army training detail "like a ball of fire" and crashed about 50 feet from them.
An Air Force spokesman said a report from the board probably will be made in about four days.
He added that a representative of the office of Lt. Col. J. Marcchinni, director of Flight Safety Research, Norton Air Force Base, California, was due later today by plane to conduct an investigation. The Flight Safety unit, the Air Force spokesman said, investigates all accidents to Air Force planes and makes a separate report.
Eight of the G.I.'s were killed almost instantly. Three others died in the base hospital later. Twin brothers, 22 year old Pvts. ROBERT W. and GEORGE W. POOLE, Camden, N.J., were among the G.I.'s killed.
The crash was the second worst in the Fort Dix area in two years. A Navy plane and an airliner collided in the air July 30, 1949, killing 16 persons. An Air Force transport last July 2 skimmed past McGuire base into pine woods with a loss of five lives.
San Antonio Express Texas 1951-08-22