Atlantic Ocean – March 23, 1951

Atlantic Ocean -March 23, 1951

     In the early morning hours of March 22, 1951, a U.S. Air Force C-124 transport (49-0244) left Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana bound for Loring Air Force Base in Limestone, Maine.  The aircraft arrived safely at 12:30 p.m. the same day.  After refueling, the plane left for Mildenhall, Royal Air Force Base in England. 

     At 1:00 a.m. on March 23, the pilot reported a fire on board in the cargo area, and ditched the plane in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 800 miles off the southwest coast of Ireland.  The aircraft landed intact, and all 52 servicemen aboard managed to get out safely wearing life jackets.  The men were able to climb into life rafts equipped with survival provisions and emergency radios.

     A U.S. Air Force B-29 was sent from England to search for survivors and found the men alive floating in the life rafts.  The aircraft circled the area waiting for other rescue craft,  but was forced to leave due to being low on fuel before any additional help arrived.  Apparently no other aircraft had been sent to relieve the B-29.

     It was hours later before the first ship arrived in the area on March 25th, but the only thing found were some charred crates and a partially deflated life raft.  All 52 men had simply vanished and were never seen again.  Speculation as to their fate focused on the Soviets.  At the time, the United States and the Soviet Union were immersed in what was called “The Cold War” , a nuclear game of cat-and-mouse with each side vying for superiority.  It was noted that many of the men aboard were involved with the U.S. nuclear weapons program, which would indicate they may have possessed valuable intelligence information.    

     A massive air-and-sea search was conducted over the next several days, but nothing more was found.  As stated, the men were wearing life jackets, but no bodies were ever recovered.

     Those aboard the C-124 aircraft were: (In alphabetical order.)

     SSG Glenn E. Adler

     Capt. Phillip B. Adrean

     Sgt. George W. Ambrose

     Cpl. Sterling L. Ambrose

     SSG Robert D. Amsden

     2Lt. Karl R. Armstrong Jr.

     Major Robert Bell

     S/Sgt. Bartin C. Bemis

     Pvt. Dwight A. Berenberg

     Sgt. Robert R. Bristow

     Sgt. Joseph D. Broussard

     Cpl. Arthur F. Chute

     Capt. Emmette E. Collins

     Capt. John E. Counsell

     Cpl. Jack R. Crow

     Brig. Gen. Paul T. Cullen

     Capt. Francis N. Davis

     Capt. Mark O. Dubach

     Capt. Dudek Miezslaw

     S/Sgt. Gene D. Dughman

     1Lt. Jack R. Fife

     2Lt. William E. Fisher Jr.

     Col. Kenneth N. Gray

     T/Sgt. Charles E. Green

     S/Sgt. Thomas E. Green

     Lt. Col. James I. Hopkins

     S/Sgt. Homer Jones Jr.

     Capt. Robert F. Kampert

     Capt. Thomas R. Kelly

     Capt. Carl N. Krawiec

     2Lt. Max D. Lee

     S/Sgt. Nicolo A. Lengua

     Samuel P. Lutjeans

     2lt. Howard P. Mathers

     Sgt. Ronald D. McGee

     Lt. Col. Edwin A. McKoy

     Sgt. Frank A. Meckler

     Capt. Walter T. Paterson

     Capt. Calvin Porter

     Lawrence E. Rafferty (rank unknown.)

     M/Sgt. Everett D. Scarbrough

     Major Gordon H. Stoddard

     Cpl. Clarence G. Swisher

     Cpl. Bobby G. Thomas

     M/Sgt. Taylor H. Vangilder 

     Capt. Roger S. Vincent 

     Capt. Walter A. Wagner Jr.

     M/Sgt. H. C. Williamson

     Raymond L. Witkowski (rank unknown.)

     Capt. Edwon D. Zabawa 

     Capt. Frank B. Zalac

     Capt. John C. Zweygarti


     Article by Don Wagner, “Last Flight Of The Missing Airmen, March 1951”, Walker Aviation Museum, Roswell, New Mexico  (Don is the son of Captain Walter A. Wagner Jr.)

     Air Force Times, “Plane’s 1951 Disappearance Still A Mystery”, by John Andrew Prime











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