The author's purpose for compiling the data which comprises this book is to honor the 50 officers and airmen who died in the ditching of three Air Force aircraft in the North Atlantic while defending their Country during the Cold War in the 1960s and to the four crew members who survived.
The author also wanted to document the three crashes hoping that the crews will be remembered and for the families of the crew members to have something of historical significance to pass on to future generations in remembrance of their loved ones.
Included in the book is information obtained from the Air Force, from several members of some of the families of the crew members, from several fellow flyers and former commanders who served with and knew many of the flyers, from the personal reporting of the survivors, from the many newspaper articles from that era which reported the disasters, from official records retained by government entities at all levels, as well as photographs and documents from the personal collections of families and friends of the crew members. Several next of kin of the flyers shared their personal heart felt and moving recollections of the flyers, of the anguish they experienced and how the loss of their loved ones changed their lives. Included are an assortment of more than 100 black and white photographs, documents, and illustrations.
The author, now retired from the United States Air Force, also has included his own recollections, observations, and narratives based on his personal experience when he earlier was assigned to the same Air Force organization as a crew member on the same type aircraft, flying similar radar surveillance missions over the North Atlantic from the same Air Force base.
The Lockheed "Super Constellation" had flown radar surveillance missions from Cape Cod Massachusetts at Otis Air Force Base for 10 years, accumulating hundreds of thousands of flying hours without a loss of life, performing early warning radar surveillance missions over the North Atlantic.
The ten-year celebration hardly had ended when on July 11, 1965 one of the Super Constellations, the Air Force model EC-121H radar aircraft, crashed approximately 125 miles from Nantucket Island Massachusetts. Three crew members survived the crash and 16 died. Seven of the crew members' bodies were never recovered.
On November 11, 1966 [Veterans Day] another EC-121H crashed in approximately the same general area as the first one, under unexplained circumstances, with the loss of all 19 crew members. No bodies ever were recovered.
On April 25, 1967 another EC-121H ditched in the North Atlantic at Nantucket Island just after having taken off from Otis Air Force Base. There was one survivor, and 15 crew members were lost. Only two bodies ever were reported by the Air Force as having been recovered. However, death certificates on file at Nantucket Town Hall reflect that eight other members of the crew also were recovered. The files of the Town of Nantucket, the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Statistics, and the Air Force Casualty Branch had no record identifiable with the five remaining members of that crew. One former wife of one of those five said her husband's body was not recovered. Whether the bodies of the other four were recovered remains a question unanswered.
Colonel James P. Lyle, the Commander of the 551st Airborne Early Warning and Control Wing (AEW&C) to which all the aircraft and crew members were assigned, was piloting the plane which crashed at Nantucket. Colonel Lyle had been assigned to take over that command nine months earlier, and it was he who during the memorial service for the victims of the November 11, 1966 crash had presented each of the next of kin with the United States Flag. Now five months later Colonel Lyle had met the same fate.
The Air Force, following time tested procedures, does not release the cause of aircraft crashes, but did furnish a summary indicating that two of the three had caught fire in-flight, and being unable to extinguish the fires, the pilots had ditched the aircraft into the ocean. However, one aircraft with the loss of all its crew went down for unexplained reasons without communications having been received from its crew as it disappeared from radar.
A special subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee was appointed and the press reported their presence at Otis Air Force Base and Nantucket while investigating the three aircraft crashes. Although government records reflect that this two-man subcommittee existed for a period of two months, there has been no record found of their ever having made a report of their investigation to anyone or having documented it in any manner as a matter of record.
The military personnel records of the 50 who died and the four who survived reflect that only three of the four survivors received recognition in the form of a medal. Only three of the 50 who died were awarded medals (posthumously).
Numerous eye witnesses to the crash at Nantucket believed that Colonel Lyle deserved recognition for his bravery in what they believed adverted a major disaster on the Island when he elected not to land his crippled aircraft there but ditch into the ocean. Colonel Lyle was not even considered for an award, medal, or recognition. Neither was his navigator - the only survivor.
Based on all the documented eye witness reports, the author asked the Town Selectmen at Nantucket Island to consider taking some belated action to honor Colonel Lyle. On April 22, 1998, three days short of the 31st anniversary of the crash, the Town Selectmen formally recognized Colonel Lyle in taking evasive action to avoid harming the citizens of Nantucket.
Tenacious undertakings by the author to get the United States Government and the Air Force to give belated and deserved recognition to the flyers were both frustrating and unsuccessful.
The EC-121H aircraft were phased out, the 551st Wing was deactivated on December 31, 1969, and Otis Air Force Base was renamed Otis Air National Guard Base. Today at that base Otis Memorial Park is dedicated to the 50 members of the three crews of the three aircraft who lost their lives.
Today, with the exception of the remaining immediate family members of the flyers and some of the friends of the flyers, few remember these tragic events ever happened at all.
About the Author
Born December 15, 1936. Member of the USAF from 13 December 1954 - 1 July 1975 [Retired grade - Senior Master Sergeant]
After completion of Basic Training at Lackland AFB, Texas, was classified as a Airborne Radio Operator. Completed the Airborne Radio Operator Course at Keesler AFB, Mississippi, in August 1955 and was assigned to the 961st Airborne Early Warning and Control Squadron, 551st Airborne Early Warning and Control Wing, 8th Air Division (ADC) at Otis AFB, Massachusetts. Was assigned as a member of a flight crew on RC-121 (Super Connie) which was an airborne radar platform (similar to the present day AWACS).
Completed the Airborne Electronics Countermeasures Course at Keesler AFB, Mississippi, in May 1956, and performed those dual duties (Airborne Radio Operator/Electronic Countermeasures Operator) with the 961st AEW&C Squadron until November 1959.
In November 1959 was assigned to the 7405th Support Group, Headquarters United States Air Force Europe (USAFE), Wiesbaden AB, Germany, as an Airborne Radio Operator.
In April 1961 was assigned to the 7260th Support Group, United States Air Force Europe (USAFE), at Wiesbaden AB, Germany. This unit was the "sister" unit of the unit at Andrews AFB, Maryland, which had the mission of transporting VIPs' throughout the world. While serving as a Airborne Radio Operator on those missions visiting 23 foreign countries flew several missions into Moscow transporting VIP to or from that location and flying missions to support the US Embassy located there.
Accumulated 2877 flying hours in 14 various type aircraft.
Served one year as a Buyer in the Base Procurement office after returning to Otis AFB, Massachusetts, from Germany.
Was assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, OSI District 1, at Detachment 107 at Otis AFB, Massachusetts, in January 1964, and completed the Special Investigators Course (Class 64-B in May 1964. Completed the Procurement Investigators Course in December 1967.
A1C A. J. NORTHRUP [19 YEARS OLD] IN 1956 AT OTIS AIR FORCE BASE
Assigned to OSI District 50, Detachment 5002, Tan Son Nhut AB, Saigon, Vietnam from February 1968 until March 1969. Assigned to OSI District 1, Detachment 102 at Hanscom Field, Bedford, Massachusetts, from April 1969 until June 1973. Assigned to OSI District 1, Detachment 109, Griffiss AFB, New York, from June 1, 1973 until retiring in July 1975.
|Publisher:||Northru, A. J.|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)|
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have incorporated the book, FIFTY FALLEN STARS, in its entirety [448 pages] in its origial format on CD-ROM. The book may be viewed using Adobe Acrobat Reader [a free download from the Adobe web site] and also is included on the CD-ROM. Audio files of several Air Force songs, military marches, tributes, and sounds have been added at the approprite places in the book on CD-ROM to highlight the particular activity that occurred. Also included in a separate file on the CD-ROM are more than 100 photographs and illustrations in .JPG format- which were used in the book that now can be printed for your own collection. Numerous active HYPERTEXT links have been created to the various web sites relating directly to the Air Force units which were involved. Also, there are several active e-mail links to two of the survivors, to several members of the families of the fallen flyers and to their former military co-workers and friends who flew the same radar patrol mission on which the 50 lost their lives. One may navigate through the book using the bookmarks set to the table of contents and to listing of photographs and illustrations, or by clicking on the thumb nail images.