Conway, SC Military Planes In Mid-Air Collision, Dec 1972


Conway -- Thirteen airmen are believed to have been killed in a fiery collision of two military planes that lit up a dark December sky over a remote rural area of Horry County Tuesday night.
It is thought to be the worst military air disaster in South Carolina history.
The two planes, a heavy transport four-engine C130 Hercules from Pope Air Force Base, N. C., and an F102 fighter interceptor from McIntyre AFB near Columbia, apparently collided while on a routine training mission. Air Force officials said the F102 was supposed to intercept the transport and try to shoot it down with hits recorded electronically.
But training somehow became reality and the two planes burst into flames, spewing fiery wreckage down on the small Berea Church community near Bayboro, about 15 miles north of Conway off Hwy. 410.
The heavy transport, carrying 12 men, plummeted into the middle of a farm road, digging out a crater 20 by 50 feet and six to eight feet deep.
The impact and resulting explosion was so great that it blew out the doorknobs and locks in a nearby house and sent bits of flaming metal flying hundreds of yards in all directions. The roof of the house was set on fire.
The jet, carrying a lone pilot, crashed in woods about a mile and a half away. It apparently dropped almost straight down, because few of the surrounding trees were damaged. The cockpit and tail section of the plane landed in a cornfield about two hundred yards away.
Thousands of curiosity seekers flooded into the area following the approximately 7:15 p.m. crash, hampering the efforts of searchers who filtered through the thick pine woods with floodlights. People reported seeing the midair crash as far away as Myrtle Beach and Florence County.
Light rains Tuesday night and heavy rains Wednesday also impeded search operations, but the wreckage of both planes continued to smoulder Wednesday afternoon, sending curls of acrid smoke into wet and unseasonably warm air.
Several witnesses reported seeing parachutes following the crash, but a spokesman for the Disaster Response Force out of Myrtle Beach AFB discounted these sightings shortly after the crash on the grounds that no signals had been picked up from the emergency transmitters contained in the chutes.
JOHNNY CREEL, Horry County Civil Defense Director, said one woman told him she had positively seen five parachutes float into the woods. There were no reports, however, of searchers finding and parachutes.
As of late Wednesday, the Air Force had listed only the pilot of the jet as being officially dead. He was Capt. JAMES C. HAGOOD, JR., 28, of Lexington, an Eastern Air Lines pilot on National Guard duty at the time of the crash.
The 12 men in the C130 transport were officially listed as missing, but Air Force spokesmen said there was little hope anyone survived.
The transport personnel included:
Lt. Col. DONALD E. MARTIN, White Oak, Tex.
Maj. KEITH L. VAN NOTE, Mason City, Iowa.
Capt. JOHN R. COLE, Tulsa, Okla.
Capt. LOUIS R. SERT, St. Louis, Mo.
2nd Lt. DOUGLAS L. THIERER, no home town available.
Tech. Sgt. ROBERT E. DOYLE, South Hill, Va.
Tech. Sgt. CLAUDE ABBOTT, Adel, Ga.
S. Sgt. GILMORE A. MICKLEY, JR., Chambersburg, Pa.
S. Sgt. BILLY M. WARR, SR., Slymar, Calif.
Sgt. GERALD K. FAUST, Oregon, Wis.
The name of the twelfth man was withheld pending notification of next of kin.
It was announced Wednesday afternoon that a special panel of top level military brass would be formed to investigate the cause of the mysterious crash.
Special attention will probably be given to a series of secondary explosions which reportedly took place in the big transport plane after the initial explosion. The plane was supposed to be carrying dummy bombs.
Whatever the cause, the crash will probably go into the books as one of the worst military air disasters in South Carolina.
Capt. BOB GORE, public information officer with Myrtle Beach AFB, said he had "never seen anything this bad." Several other Air Force people also said they couldn't remember a worse air disaster.

Florence Morning News South Carolina 1972-12-07


David, Please contact me.

Please contact me. My brother Doug was on the plane with your father. I live in Carthage, TX. My email is

1972 accident

I am located in Carthage TX. Please contact me at your earliest convenience. I would like to hear or share information about your fathers crash. My brother was on the transport plane. My family visited the crash site in Horry County and heard that you had been there too.

MC-130e 64558 Combat Tallon 1

My father Lt Col Donald Martin was the Pilot. I have information and the crash report.

More - Witness to the aftermath of crash

I was told at the time that the two fighters were practicing interception by going down low at different distances and altitudes from the transport plane. All three aircraft had the new electronic gear aboard and the many technicians on the transport were testing things on their end as practice intercepts were made. The fighters also had special electronic gear aboard and they were suppose to intercept and then break away just prior to reaching the transport. Somehow, for some unknown reason, one of the fighters hit the transport causing the collision and loss of both aircraft. Just how or exactly why or whether it had anything to do with the electronics being tested was not made known to me and probably was not determined by anyone.

Witness to the Aftermath of Crash

I was employed with radio station WJAY in Mullins as a disc jockey and newsman at the time of the crash. I was one of the first to arrive on the scene. I had an early tip because I had a news scanner in my personal car listening to the police dispatcher. It was nighttime as he mentioned on the police radio that he was starting to receive phone reports from citizens who saw a fireball in the sky. I guessed what it was and headed immediately in the direction of the reports. I saw the crashed fighter plane and checked to see if the seat was still in it and if I remember correctly, it was not. This made me believe the pilot may have ejected. At any rate, he was definitely not in the fighter aircraft. It was mostly in one piece and appeared to hit while in a flat spin without crushing much in the crash. It was still smouldering and spewing like phosphorous does or maybe from magnesium components. I did not stay near for fear of any ammunition going off.

I interviewed a man who lived very close to where the transport plane cratered in the dirt road and he was very upset. He told me he had heard a loud report, and jumped up and ran outside to see what it was. He looked around and then up and saw a fireball which seemed to be directly over his home. He told me he then ran back inside the house, gathered up his family members, and ran back outside. he looked up again and determined it would land directly on their heads or their home so he took his family in hand and ran one direction down the dirt road for a minute or two and stopped to look up again. At this time, he determined that he must have run the wrong direction because the fireball was getting bigger and seemed to be aimed directly at them even more so. He then changed direction and took his family running back the way they came. He said he must have run another two minutes or so before the wreckage struck the road behind him just beyond his house. He was so afraid of the ball of fire falling he did not notice any smaller fighter debris that might have been visible. The transport plane had created a very large crater near the middle of the dirt road. A very large crater. Immediately after I recorded this interview with him, I asked him to go with me inside another home where they had agreed for me to use their telephone. I called ABC news which was the station affiliate I think, or at least whatever network we had at the time, and they told me they had Vietnam correspondents on the mainline downloading their reports to the network and could not record another live interview or even put me on live with them. This disgusted me to know end since I had what had to be a national news story exclusive. I used it in our local newscasts but did not attempt to contact any other news company.

Someone else living in the area told me they saw a man with a burning parachute land on top of a house, catching the roof on fire. I was never able to get any other confirmation to this claim or ascertain which house it might have been.

The final interesting note was that hours later the Air Force finally showed up and by then lots of news people were there. They conned everyone into sitting on a bus to await statements. Just a sneaky way to try and control the press. I knew more than they did and left them sitting and went back to the radio station, recorded my report and interview and went home for a couple hours sleep.

Mid-Air Collision Military Aircraft near Conway S.C. 1972

I was serving as a Blackbird mechanic at Pope that night, waiting for the C-130 to come back to its parking spot. My job was to help park it, chock it, install power, refuel, inspect, and perform maintenance. Our birds were top-secret, and were affiliated with the CIA. They flew night time missions,and had their reasons. The bird and men were late, and we mechanics were worried. No one notified us, and we decided to turn on the am radio. "A C-130 Hercules is believed to have crashed in a mid-air collision with an F-102 near Columbia S.C. All on board both planes are believed to have perished." I never saw any part of that bird, or any of the great guys that flew it again. I was also a volunteer in the Honor Guard at the time, and served the memorial service where we had to carry a distraught brother out after he attempted to kill the Colonel. He said it was the colonel's fault his brother died due to night flying. That was always when the black and green birds flew. We were told later that it was a search and destroy mission whereby the C-130 evaded the F-102 in a mock shoot-down. Apparently, they evaded too well, and it is believed the F-102 flew right into the C-130. Getting myself to fully grasp all this took me about a year as there were no bodies, parts of planes, or nothing to see...Poof ! I will always remember their great smiles, and sense of humor. God Rest Their Souls... Sgt. Marlin Hauer

Assigned 318th

I remember the crash well, it was my first assignment as a brand new airman out of tech school, I was a prop mechanic on those black birds, I do remember sgt Faust the loadmaster, since I talked to him a few times on the airplane, and Capt Dickerson, since he was one of the security officers working on my clearance, I guess it all scared me alittle, and that's why I have never forgotten it. it was a small unit so we all were pretty close, I just didn't know everyone yet since I was so new to the squadron. I doubt my information helps you any, but it will always be in my memory, sorry for your loss.

Cindy Msgt USAF Retired

1972 Air disastor South Carolina

Hello I am a 70 year old retired Air Force Master Sgt and I was stationed at Shaw AFB at that time. I really cant add much to what you probably already know but I remember the saddness we all felt and I remember seeing those falling lights in the evening sky wondering what it was. I was driving in that general direction that evening. What I can recall is the plane that collided with the 130 was an F102 Delta Dart from the Air National Guard base nearby. I had heard there were no survivors and with that I will close with my deepest condolences for your loss. Best Regards Gus

We have been searching for

We have been searching for more information ourselves. My brother, Douglas Thierer, was also killed on that cargo plane in Dec. 1972. My brother and 2 sisters set out in June 2014 to visit the crash site and talk to eyewitnesses. We heard their memories of that night and the days that followed. They even showed us a broken propellor and some coins they found after the crash. We also searched all area newspapers to copy any articles related to the incident. Feel free to contact us or visit the facebook page above. We titled it Team Doug 2014. We will continue to add info as we compile it.

We found this was Special Ops. training which was very advanced and top secret at the time. That's why the families were given so little information. These Air Force men were an advanced team.

We're so sorry for your loss. Our brother, Doug, has been sorely missed all these years. He was a wonderful brother and role model to us. He was only 23 years old at the time and had a wife and young son.

Kathy Fischer
1854 State Route 117
Benson, IL 61516

Conway, SC 1972 Plane crash

Hi Carol,
My brother, Doug Thierer, was one of the C130 Air Force pilots killed in that plane crash. Our family is always interested in hearing eyewitness accounts of that crash. Any information you could share with us would be greatly appreciated. My brother was 23 years old with a wife and young son.
Kathy Fischer