Hawks Mountain, VT – June 14, 1947

Hawks Mountain, Vermont – June 14, 1947

In the Town of Perkinsville, Vermont

    

B-29 Super Fortress U.S. Air Force Photo

B-29 Super Fortress
U.S. Air Force Photo

      Shortly after midnight on June 14, 1947, a U.S. Air Force B-29A bomber, (44-62228), crashed into the southeast side of Hawks Mountain and exploded.  All twelve men aboard were killed, and to this day the incident remains the worst aviation accident to ever occur in Vermont.  

     The flight had originated the previous morning when the plane took off from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, for a navigational training mission to the east coast.  The plane was scheduled to land at Andrews Field (Later known as Andrews Air Force Base) in Washington, D.C., but due to bad weather was diverted to Pittsburg Airport where it arrived at 3:07 p.m.  After refueling, the aircraft proceeded towards Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, Massachusetts, where it was to remain overnight before flying back to Arizona the following day.  However, the weather grew worse, and with poor visibility and darkness falling the crew became lost, ending up over Vermont instead of Massachusetts.   

    Just before midnight the B-29’s radio operator tried making contact with Boston, but was unsuccessful.  The transmissions were picked up by Corporal Wendell J. Adams monitoring the radio at Grenier Field in Manchester, who contacted the aircraft to ask if he could be of assistance, to which he was told that he could not.  

     Not long afterwards citizens of Perkinsville reported hearing the B-29 circle low over the town just before the engines abruptly stopped and a huge fireball erupted on Hawks Mountain.  The time was set at 12:14 a.m.

     One witness to the crash was Mrs. Neil Pike, the town telephone operator, who immediately notified authorities of the crash.  “I saw a big glow like a bonfire,” she told reporters, “The whole sky was lighted up.”

     The B-29 was part of the 64th Bomb Squadron assigned to the 43rd Bomb Group. 

      The dead were identified as:

     (Pilot) 1st Lt. Robert G. Fessler

     (Co-pilot) 2nd Lt. Wilfred E. Gassett

     (Observer) 2nd Lt. Ceasare P. Fontana

     (Crew Chief) Master Sgt. D. D. Jack

     T/Sgt. Paul H. Fetterhoff

     T/Sgt. Clayton K. Knight

     Staff Sgt. Oliver W. Hartwell

     Staff Sgt. Sylvester S. Machalac

     Staff Sgt. John J. O’Toole, age 23.

     Cpl. Harry C. Humphrey

     Cpl. Robert Clark

     Pfc. Robert M. Stewart

     Lieutenants Fessler, Gassett, and Fintana, as well as sergeants Fetterhoff and Macalac, are all buried together at Long Island National Cemetery in East Farmingdale, New York, plot number M-25563. (See www.findagrave.com  memorial # 59350421)

     Staff Sergeant John O’Toole is also buried in the same cemetery, but not with the others. (see www.findagrave.com  memorial  #2777950)

     According to Corporal Harry C. Humphrey’s tombstone, he was born June 11, 1930, which means he had just celebrated his 17th birthday at the time of his death.  He’s buried in Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  (See www.findagrave.com memorial # 83945570) 

     Pfc. Robert M. Stewart is buried in Mt. Olive Cemetery in Connellsville, Penn. (See www.findagrave.com  memorial #86342395)

     Sources:

     New York Times, “”12 Killed As Army B-29 Hits Vermont Mountain In Storm”, June 16, 1947

     Lowell Sun, “Plane Only 12 Feet From Clearing Peak”, June 16, 1947

     The Hawks Mountain B-29 Crash/Vermont’s Worst Aviation Disaster, By Tom Hildreth, 1997

     www.findagrave.com

 

 

      

Return to Top ▲Return to Top ▲