Topics - C-119 Flying Boxcar
Explodes at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina
March 30, 1954

 
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Introduction

When the engine of this C-119 Flying Boxcar began to burn, the pilot attempted to make an emergency landing at a narrow parade field at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina on March 30, 1954.  According to reports, "The huge troop carrier, listing badly from a burning engine, came roaring over the crowded "Smoke Bomb Hill" troop area at 10 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, struck the top of an officer's barracks, and skidded across the parade grounds into the mess hall.  The plane exploded into flames and it was nearly two hours before firemen could bring under control the blaze that swept the building."* 

The plane struck the roof of the bachelor's officers quarters and its tail section was torn loose.  The plane glided part of the way across the 150-yard wide parade field and then skidded about 100 feet into the mess hall.  Seven men were killed and ten others were injured.  If the plane had crashed two hours later, about 200 men would have been eating lunch in the mess hall.

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*[Source: Aiken Standard and Review, South Carolina, 1954-03-31]


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C-119 Crew

Fatalities:

  • Parks, 1Lt. Albert W. (pilot), Channelton, Indiana, 25 years of age - US Air Force, died later in hospital
     
  • Short, Airman 1c Rudolph Valentino, Stewart AFB, Smyrna, Tennessee - US Air Force, passenger, missing after the crash

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Injuries:

  • Angeloff, CWO William, 39 years of age, passenger on the plane, critically injured
     
  • Fitzsimmons, 1Lt. Raymond (co-pilot) - US Air Force
     
  • Salisbury, Pvt. Ralph E., 18 years of age - passenger on the plane, critically injured

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Survivor:

  • Snyder, Airman 1c Eugene R., 23 years of age, (flight engineer) - He was the only crew member to walk away from the plane.  He was from Donelson, Tennessee.

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Ft. Bragg Mess Hall

Fatalities:

  • Dervan, Cpl. Robert, 21 years of age - US Army, attached to 82nd Airborne Division Quartermaster Company
     
  • Greenlee, Cpl. Donald F., 22 years of age - US Army, attached to the Psychological Warfare Center
     
  • Macre, Pvt. 1c James A., 22 years of age - US Army, attached to Psychological Warfare Center
     
  • Marin, Pvt. Albert G. Jr., 20 years of age - US Army, attached to 82nd Airborne Division Quartermaster Company
     
  • Palmer, Cpl. Osman S., 23 years of age - US Army, attached to 82nd Airborne Division Quartermaster Company

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Injuries:

  • Clay, Sgt. Henry C. - US Army, in the mess hall at the time of the accident, critically injured
     
  • Cook, Pfc. William
     
  • Ellison, Pfc. Edward
     
  • Ross, Edward A.
     
  • Shirley, Capt. Charles L. - rushed to the crash scene, was burned about the hands and arms aiding in rescue efforts

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Eyewitness Accounts

Katz, Lt. Col. B.A.

"It appeared unbelievable that anyone could have survived, either in the plane or in the mess hall.  The pilot did a heroic thing trying to avoid hitting a barracks and in attempting to land in the open parade ground, thus saving as many lives as possible."

Snyder, Airman 1C Eugene R.

"The pilot told me to go back and tell the men to get ready to jump.  When I got out of my seat I noticed we were very low.  I asked if we were too low.  About that time something hit.  I looked out the window and saw a telephone pole go by and hit the left wing.  Then I ducked down behind the pilot's seat, put my head down, and rode it out."


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Heroism

  • Blais, Sgt. 1c Ronald V.

    Department of the Army
    General Orders No. 61 - August 18, 1954

    The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 2, 1926, takes pleasure in presenting the Solderi's Medal to Sergeant First Class Ronald V. Blais, United States Army, for heroism at the risk of life not involving conflict with an armed enemy as a member of the 77th Special Forces Group (Airborne), at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on 30 March 1954.  While en route to the First-Sergeant's call, he observed a C-119 aircraft crash into a mess hall building in the area of 77th Special Forces Group (Airborne).  Sergeant Blais immediately ran to the scene of the crash and, with complete disregard for his personal safety, entered the burning wreckage to assist in removing other injured personnel, and to fight the fire until it was under control.  The prompt and courageous action of Sergeant Blais undoubtedly saved the lives of injured personnel and reflects great credit on himself and the military service.
     
  • Estes, Cpl. Robert A.

    Department of the Army
    General Orders No. 61 - August 18, 1954

    The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 2, 1926, takes pleasure in presenting the Soldier's Medal to Corporal Robert A. Estes, United States Army, for heroism at the risk of life not involving conflict with an armed enemy as a member of Headquarters, 724th Special Forces Group, Airborne, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on 30 March 1954. A C-119 aircraft crashed into a mess hall in the area of 77th Special Forces Group, Airborne, trapping the plane crew and mess personnel in the wreckage. Corporal Estes, who was working in an area nearby, heard the crash and immediately ran to the scene of the accident. With complete disregard for his personal safety, Corporal Estes entered the burning aircraft and rescued the injured pilot. Again, with no thought of his personal safety, he reentered the wreckage and assisted in the rescue of the copilot. Hearing a scream from the left side of the aircraft, Corporal Estes immediately crawled under the wreckage in an attempt to rescue the injured person: however he was driven back by the intense smoke and flames. Corporal Estes then manned a fire hose, and again entered the aircraft in an effort to prevent the flames from reaching the fuel tank which contained approximately one thousand gallons of gasoline. The heroism displayed by Corporal Estes in the face of grave danger reflects great credit on himself and the military service.
     

  • Maggio, SFC Alan B.

    Department of the Army
    General Orders No. 72 - September 30, 1954

    The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 2, 1926, takes pleasure in presenting the Soldier's Medal to Sergeant First Class Alan B. Maggio (ASN: RA-12262338), United States Army, for heroism at the risk of life not involving conflict with an armed enemy as a member of the 77th Special Forces Group (Airborne), at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on 30 March 1954. While in his unit supply room, he heard a loud crash. Running out he observed that a C-119 aircraft had crashed into a mess hall building in the area. Realizing the possibilities of an explosion, he first tried to warn personnel away from the area. With complete disregard for his personal safety, he then ran into the flaming wreckage to assist in the rescue of injured personnel. He remained until all personnel had been removed and the fire was completely under control. Sergeant First Class Maggio's prompt and courageous action was instrumental in saving lives of injured personnel and reflects great credit on himself and the military service.

 


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Biographies of Those Who Died

Dervan, Cpl. Robert

Born January 26, 1933 in Macon, Georgia, he was the son of Albert Russell Dervan.  He is buried in Riverside Cemetery, Albany, Georgia.

Greenlee, Cpl. Donald F.

Born December 02, 1931, Corporal Greenlee was from Albion, Pennsylvania.  He is buried in Spring Cemetery, Springboro, Pennsylvania.

Macre, Pvt. 1c James A.

Private Macre was from Bonnie Doon, North Carolina and Creekside, Pennsylvania.

Marin, Pvt. Albert G. Jr.

Private Marin was from Wampole, Massachusetts.

Palmer, Cpl. Osman S.

Corporal Palmer was from Locke Mills, Maine.  His wife was Vivian A. Chayer Palmer.  They were parents of children Herman E. Palmer (1939-2015), Francis Palmer, Elizabeth Palmer Bailey, Rose Palmer Batchelder, and Eunice Palmer Hathaway.  Their three daughters are now deceased.

Parks, 1Lt. Albert William -

Born February 28, 1929, Lieutenant Parks was the son of Albert B. Parks (1905-1995) and Pauline Cox Parks (1908-1998).  He was the brother of Jean Parks Carr and Jewell Parks Young.  Albert is buried in New Cliff Cemetery, Cannelton, Indiana.

Short, Airman 1c Rudolph Valentino

Born August 18, 1930, Airman Short enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on June 14, 1952.  He is buried in Hampton and Back Cemetery, Letcher, Kentucky.

 
 
 
 

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