Ardmore, OK Airliner Carrying Troops, Apr 1966

Ardmore OK  Memorial Site.JPG



Gene Autry, Okla. (UPI) -- Investigators found the flight recorder intact Saturday in the charred wreckage of an airliner shuttling troops and set up an emergency center to investigate the cause of the crash that killed 81 of the 98 persons aboard.
FBI agents, military investigators and officials of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) sifted through the debris in hilly southern Oklahoma. There was no indication of sabotage in the wreck -- the first in 27 years of flying for American Flyers, a charter airline.
Survivors, many of them cruelly burned, were being questioned when possible to help piece out the story of horror.
The pilot, who was president of the firm, was among the dead.
The four-engine turboprop Electra, with 92 GIs and 6 crew members, smashed into a brushy, rocky hillside Friday night in a thunderstorm.
Bodies, debris and cattle from a herd caught in the plane's path were scattered hundreds of yards. The aircraft burned.
Some survivors were still in their seats with their seatbelts attached when found by rescuers.
Teams of burn specialists were sent to hospitals that held the injured.
The dead were clumped in groups along the mountainous terrain, some in their seats, some badly mutilated, some with arms and legs sticking out at hideous angles.
The crash was the third worst military air disaster in United States history.
Most of the passengers were bound from Ft. Ord, Calif., to Ft. Benning's airborne training achool in Georgia, some possibly destined for Viet Nam.
Sixteen CAB specialists flew from Washington to Perrin Air Force Base, Sherman, Tex., then were taken by bus to Ardmore, Okla., near the crash secne.
A spokesman said the flight recorder, a basketball-sized instrument package with the vital data on an airline's performance, was recovered in good condition.
The flight recorder was to be checked for the plane's speed, altitude, direction and acceleration forces at the time of the crash.
"There were bodies scattered all over," Sheriff Harold Rudd said of the crash scene. He was one of the first there.
"Live ones were screaming and hollering," he said. "The first thing we did was get the live ones out, then we started working on the dead."
One of the survivors was PVT. JAMES GORMAN of Bellerose, N.Y., who vowed, "I am never going to fly again."
The president of American Flyers, REED PIGMAN, a man who devoted much of his life to training pilots and who helped in early development of instrument flying, was the pilot. The five other crewmembers who died with him were co-pilot WILBUR MARR, engineers CHARLES GRAY and ANTHONY PICA, all of Ardmore, and stewardesses WANDA STONECIPHER of Stratford, Okla., and DYANA DUNCAN of Texas.
PIGMAN was making his landing approach at the airfield at Ardmore where American Flyers has its pilot training school and operations headquartes. It was raining and there was some lightning and thunder.
He decided the first approach was not quite right. J. E. Wright, who works at the flight service station, said PIGMAN radioed he was making another approach.
"He said, 'I'm going to come back -- I like Runway 12,'" Wright said.
The plane never reached it.
It "wobbled" GORMAN recalled, then smashed into the rocky hillside, bursting into flames and scattering debris.
GORMAN saw a flashing light and was surrounded by fire. He was strapped to his seat. Another seat pinned him, but he struggled loose and summond strength to stand up. His hands were burned badly and he could not help those around him.
"A farmer came up and got the main out of the wreckage," GORMAN said. "I held a flashlight while he helped the man out."
The injured went to several hospitals in the area, then 10 were transferred to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, 90 miles to the north. Six of those were later flown out to Brooke Army Hospital in San Antonio, a burn center with better facilities to treat them.

Washington -- (AP) -- (UPI) -- The Defense Department issued Saturday the following list of names of soldiers killed when an Army charter plane crashed Friday night in Oklahoma.
FRANK CROPEZA, wife, Mrs. Betty Jo Cropeza, San Francisco.
DANIEL F. GRUENSKI, wife, Mrs. Sandy A. Gruenski, Camden, N.J.
BANNIE R. SCOTT, Taylor, Mich.
JOSE D. ARCHULETA, Colorado Springs, Colo.
MICHAEL E. McLEOD, father Frank McLeod, Altandena, Calif.
LARRY E. NEWPORT, parents Mr. and Mrs. William Newport, San Diego.
GARY W. KEPIRO, mother Mrs. Mildred Horstman, Los Angeles.
DENNIS R. DAWKINS, parents Mr. and Mrs. Parter Dawkins, Chicago.
OSCAR BENEVENTO, JR., parents Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Benevento, Sr., Hilltown, Pa.
GEORGE BRACKETT, son of Jessie Brunson, Clarksdale, Miss.
GILBERTO GARCIA, mother Lucy J. Garcia, Tucumcari, N.M.
CHARLES E. JOHNSON, parents Mr. and Mrs. Calvin Johnson, Baton Rouge, La.
RAYMOND VOGT, JR., parents Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Vogt, St., Middletown, Pa.
JOSEPH R. STALLBAUM, mother Mrs. Jean M. Stallbaum, Philadelphia, Pa.
THOMAS C. WARD, father Thomas G. Ward, 424 Peroria Ave., San Francisco.
RICHARD J. MOSEMAN, parents Mr. and Mrs. Richard D. Moseman, Citrus Heights, Calif.
EDDIE L. RIPPEE, parents Mr. and Mrs. Edward L. Rippee, Hollandale, Tenn.
ELIJAH WALKER, JR., parents Mr. and Mrs. Elijah Walker, Sr., Memphis, Tenn.
ROBERT WRIGHT, mother Mrs. Lana H. Wright, Charleston, S. C.
THOMAS C. SMITH, wife Mrs. Thomas Smith, New Orleans, La.
WILLIAM TAYLOR, mother Mrs. Fern M. Taylor, Chicago.
ROBERT F. McGUIGAN, parents Mr. and Mrs. William McGuigan, Burlington, N.J.
JOHN J. LITTLE, parents Mr. and Mrs. James M. Little, Seal Deck, Orange, California.
RICHARD GRIEGO, parents Mr. and Mrs. Rene Griego, Fort Stanton, N.M.
PAUL E. LOWERY, wife Mrs. Margy G. Lowery, Memphis, Tenn.
STEVE R. BROWN, mother Mrs. Mamie F. Brown, Greenwood, S.C.
LUIS A. GOMEZ, parents Mr. and Mrs. Lorenzo G. Gomez, El Paso, Tex.
WILLIAM P. DUNCAN, JR., father William P. Duncan, Sr., 8974 Oak Rd., Salinas, Calif.
ALBERT TAYLOR, mother Mrs. Claretha Lee, Chicago.
LEO R. BURNETT, parents Mr. and Mrs. Leo Burnett, Seaport, Texas.
PRESLEY J. TESSON, wife Mrs. P. I. Tesson, Abbeville, La.
FERNANDO PADILLA, son of Mr. and Mrs. Gregoria Padilla, Brownsville, Tex.
SAMUEL R. MANNING, son of Mr. and Mrs. James S. Manning, Georgetown, Tex.
JOHN P. ODOMS, son of Mrs. Ruby Odoms, San Marcus, Tex.
KENNETH J. BROWN, son of Mr. and Mrs. William W. Brown, Lynchburg, Va.
JOHN H. BENOIT, son of Mr. and Mrs. Joel J. Benoit, Lunenburg, Vt. Died in Hospital.
EUGENE M. STEGMILLER, son of Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas Stegmiller, Tokeland, Wash.
CANDIDO RIVERA-GONZALEZ, son of Mr. and Mrs. Gerado Rivera, Utuado, Puerto Rico.
JOSE VAZQUEZ-DIAZ, son of Mr and Mrs. Carmelo Vasquez-Crus, San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico.
VENDELIN I. MACKOVICH, son of Mr. and Mrs. Vendelin Mackovich, Malaki, Czechoslovakia.
JUAN D. VALENCIA, son of Mrs. Maria Valencia, Guadalupe, Ariz.
JAMES D. EDWARDS, son of Mr. and Mrs. Hershel W. Edwards, Pencil Bluff, Ark.
TIM E. TOLISON, son of Mrs. Laura Lee Baesman, Santa Ana, Calif.
MICHAEL J. BILGEN, son of Mr. Lawrence Bilgen, Los Angeles, Calif.
DENNIS C. WISSELL, son of Mr. and Mrs. William J. Wissell, Ventura, Calif.
BARRY C. GOINES, son of Granville C. Goines, Martinez, Calif.
JOSE R. GUAJARDO, son of Mrs. Romana Guarjardo-Arispe, Goshen, Calif.
AUGUSTIN LEANOS, son of Mrs. Daria U. Leanos, Pueblo, Colo.
PRESTON C. BRIMM, son of Mr. and Mrs. Preston R. Brimm, Sterling, Colo.
STANLEY J. NASUTA, JR., wife Gladys Nasuta, Jr., East Hartford, Conn.
GARY NODDEN, son of Audrey J. Nodden, East Hartford, Conn.
NORMAN J. MUSKATELLO, son of Mr. and Mrs. John Muskatello, Portland, Conn.
ROBERT E. COMMUNE, son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Commune, Ansonia, Conn.
RICHARD M. LARA, son of Mr. and Mrs. Manual Lara, Chicago.
EDWIN C. TURNER, son of Mrs. Annie Turner, Chicago.
RENE E. HAWKINS, son of Mr. and Mrs. Tompey L. Hawkins, Indianapolis.
DONALD L. MITCHELL, son of Mrs. Letha H. Mitchell, Salem, Ind.
WILLIAM R. BART, son of Mr. and Mrs. Willilam W. Bart, Riverside, N.J.
LUCAS E. GALLEGOS, wife Mrs. Lucille Gallegos, Don Diego Estanola, N.M.
VICTOR L. SANTANA, brother of Mrs. Margaret Gumes, Elmhurst, N.Y.
STEVE D. O'HANLON, son of Mr. and Mrs. Raymond O'Hanlon, Sea Cliff, N.Y.
WILLIAM T. KENNELLY, son of Mr. and Mrs. William P. Kennelly, Elmont, N.Y.
MITCHELL S. LINDENBERG, son of Harry Lindenberg, Jamaica, N.Y.
LEMUEL WILLS, son of Mrs. Dorothy Wills, New York, N.Y.
RICHARD A. SCHMIDT, son of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Schmidt, Farmingdale, N.Y.
HOWARD BRIGGS, son of Mrs. Bernice Briggs, Tulsa, Okla.
RICHARD J. SPEARS, grandmother Mrs. Jo Ann McQueen, Spavinaw, Okla.
WILLIAM F. DOLECKI, JR., son of Mr. and Mrs. William F. Dolecki, Sr., Youngston, Ohio.
DAVID VAUGHN, son of Mr. Kenyon Vaughn, Sr., Cleveland, Ohio.
WAYNE F. BELTS, son of Mr. and Mrs. Leon Belts, Philadelphia, Pa.
PAUL M. GRALLA, son of Mr. and Mrs. Peter T. Gralla, Dubois, Pa.
WILLIAM F. WRIGHT, son of Mr. and Mrs. William N. Wright, Filbert, S.C.
BARRY W. HOLT, son of Mrs. Elizabeth P. Holt, Memphis, Tenn.

The Army at Ft. Sill, Okla., identified the 17 survivors of the crash:
RONALD V. GUGLIUZZA, 20, son of Mr. and Mrs. John P. Gugliuzza, Buffalo, N.Y.; critical.
CHARLES HINEBAUGH, 17, son of Mrs. Joan Reitz Thomas, Nashville, Tenn.; no condition report, Ardmore Memorial Hospital.
DANIEL E. McNUTT, 19, son of Mr. and Mrs. Paul V. McNutt, San Diego, Calif.; no condition, Ardmore Memorial Hospital.
TERRY W. MAYERS, 19, son of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Mayers, Star City, Ark.; good, Seventh Day Adventist Hospital, Ardmore.
FRED VASQUEZ, 19, son of Mr. and Mrs. Atilano Vasquez, Route 3, Box 334d, Kettmann St., San Jose, Calif.; serious, Seventh Day Adventist Hospital, Ardmore.
JAMES J. GORMAN, son of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick James Gorman, Bellerose, N.Y.; good, Seventh Day Adventist Hospital, Ardmore.
NICHOLAS V. LEONE, JR., 22, son of Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas Leone, Toms River, N.J.; critical, Tinker Air Force Base Hospital, Oklahoma City.
EVERETTE HILTS, 20, husband of Mrs. Maud Ella Hilts, Alexandria, La.; critical, Ardmore Memorial.
DAVID THOMAS, 19, brother of Rebecca Duncan, Montgomery, Ala.; critical, Tinker.
JOSEPH H. DEENEY, 20, son of Mr. and Mrs. John T. Deeney, Lindenwold, N.J.; critical, Tinker.
TEDDY J. EDWARDS, 19, son of Mr. and Mrs. Guy W. Edwards, Gillette, Wyo.; critical, Tinker.
ROSILAO TOGIBAS, 22, husband of Angelita Togibas, San Marcos, Tex.; critical, Tinker.
ROBERT A. DWYER, 23, son of Mr. and Mrs. William F. Dwyer, Glen Cove, N.Y., critical, Tinker.
RALPH D. JOHNSON, 19, critical, Tinker.
PETER SCARAMUZZO, 20, son of Mr. and Mrs. Angelo Scaramuzzo, Oyster Bay, N.Y.; critical, Tinker.
DENNIS H. HEINS, son of Frederick L. Heins, Riverside, Calif.; no condition, Osteopathic Hospital, Ardmore.

Oakland Tribune California 1966--04-24


My uncle/godfather was one of

My uncle/godfather was one of the survivors. Peter Scaramuzzo.
God Bless all who perished and all who survived.

I missed the plane as I was sick in ny

I was 19 stationed at ft bliss texas than was to go to fort ord but got sick in ny and did not make it with those guys, and stayed behind for the next incoming training group. I new a lot of those guys, as I trained with them at ft bliss.

Lucky to be here, now at 70 years old.

A Survivor

I was one of the 15 survivors. My name is last on the list. Nine months after the crash, I was medically retired. The burn scars, headaches, and a broken foot remind me every day.


I was delivering news papers, when a bad feeling came ove me,I was 13, when I got home,my mom says cousin Bobby got killed in a plane crash. Now all these years latter I learn what happened. Thanks

1966 Crash Memories

April 1966, This is a date that haunted me since 1966. It will probably remain with me for the rest of my life. Ya' see I trained with the fellas that rode in this aircraft.Most all of us were scheduled to go to Fort Benning for jump school. Many of us had taken the tests that would allow us to go into Special Forces (Airborne) training after completing jump training. When the orders came down to leave, another fella I remember as Frank and my name were not on the orders for Ft. Benning. The two of us went over to the SF recruiter who had tested us to see if we could get special orders cut so we could go with our buddies. He told us no, that we would have to go on the next levy. Frank and I were very disappointed. The day came for the deployment to Benning. Buses arrived at the company headquarters, we said our goodbyes and off they went to the Monteray Airport. Frank and I were very despondent not going with our friends. We were all built up to go and then had to stay behind.
The barracks was empty. All the mattress were rolled at the foot of the bunks. All except Frank's and mine.
The next morning we went up to the company headquarters office to have some coffee and see how things were going. We weren't on a training schedule so all we had to do was wait until we deployed to Benning.
When we walked into the office things were very solemn. We saw newspapers spread around on tables. It showed wreckage of an aircraft. The photo's looked very bad. That's when they broke the news to us of the crash. Needles to say Frank and I just looked at each other... we were speechless. I'll never forget the feeling I had.
The CO told me to phone home , that my mother had called to check on my status. I had written home saying I was headed to jump school, but didn't let them know my orders didn't come down. Needless to say they were quite concerned.
Frank and I waited another week, then were put on a bus with the next group and driven to San Francisco. We flew non-drop to Atlanta, Georgia, then put on buses and driven to Ft. Benning. We completed our jump training, then were sent to Fort Bragg to the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center. I did finish my SF training and served as a demolition engineer on an "A" Team.
I'll never forget that April of 1966.

PVT. Frank S. Oropeza

My neighborhood friend Frank S. Oropeza was one of the soldiers killed in this crash. His name is misspelled. I too was in the military at that time and was asked by the family to be a pall bearer at Frank's funeral in San Francisco. Another soldier killed was Tom Ward who went to high school with Frank. Sad day. Thank you for this memorial site.

U.S. Army plane crash on April 22, 1966 name is Susie and my mom's older brother Jose Rene Guajardo was on that plane and unfortunately he was one of the ones who passed my mom has told me that his body was never given to my Grandma Ramona... well they said it was never found so she buried an empty casket... I was wondering ... I'm sure your dad doesn't like to talk about it but... wanted to ask if he knew my uncle and if so if he could share anything how he was, how he looked like anything about my uncle would be awesome to know ..... thank you for your time God Bless

My uncle Albert Taylor died

My uncle Albert Taylor died in that crash. Even though I never got a chance to meet him, I'm sure he was a good man. My mother talks about him but glad to find the article. #RIP*ALBERTTAYLOR

Gene Autry Crash,1966

I supervised one team of military ambulances that recovered the survivors of this crash in 1966. We picked up seventeen young army servicemen (only survivors of 98 passengers) most who were severely injured and burned, provided medical aid, and transported them to LAFB (burn center) via TAFB. We had to go to several homes to collect the survivors During the several hours on the road back to TAFB, we had to constantly test (hematocrits) and force funds into the injured. All survivors were delivered alive to the hospital, I believed some may have died later. I never served in the war zone, and this was the only medal that had any significance to me. The air crash was the third worse in the history of the US Army...81 lost their lives that day in Gene Autry, Oklahoma.

NOT his wife...

My friend was Anthony Pica's TRUE wife and she had 2 boys and lived in NY. The woman, of whom you speak, was Anthony's mistress...NOT his wife!!!