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THE LONGEST FLIGHT HOME
By Steve Scott Sr.
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Steve Scott Sr.
All rights reserved.
PLANE VANISHES INTO THIN AIR—
WHAT HAPPENED? A PRESS RELEASE FROM ANCORAGE, ALASKA November 20, 1952
A faint radio signal was the only tenuous clue today to the fate of 52 men aboard a giant C-124 Globemaster aircraft which vanished, Saturday night, over the Gulf of Alaska. Air force Officials cautioned, however, against any undue optimism, pointing out that the signal was not picked up again, and past experiences in Alaskan air tragedies have shown that mysterious radio transmissions are not uncommon and have proved valueless in searches. Names of the crew, including Marlon l. Scott, Airman 3c, Lebanon, Indiana were released yesterday. The other passengers have not been identified.
Twenty-four search planes are poised here, ready to fan out when weather permits, over the 150 miles to tiny Middleton Island., the four-engine transport's last checkpoint. The weather outlook was poor. The 41 Army and Air force passengers and 11 crewmen yesterday were listed officially as missing in the continuing plague of United States military air disasters throughout the world.
Since November 7, six planes have crashed or disappeared. They carried 162 men, of whom 82 are now confirmed dead, 72 missing and eight survived. Three of the troop carriers were lost in Alaska, two in Korea and one in Montana.
The weak radio signal, which could have come from emergency equipment carried by the Globemaster, was picked up yesterday by the CAA station at Yakataga, on the Alaskan Coastline about 150 miles east of Middleton Island. The S.O.S. was so dim no bearing could be taken, but authorities at Elmendorf Air Base here said the signal on the navigational distress frequency might have been "Gibson Girl" radio transmitters attached to the plane's fuselage.
The United States Air force sent the above press release to my parents as well as the hometown newspaper, The Lebanon Reporter. As fate would have it, I was in Korea at the time. I have since uncovered additional information that is far more inclusive and definitive of what exactly happened.
for example, an Associated Press article from November 1952, described the C-124 Globemaster loss as a "staggering one." But it was not the first nor would it be the last military plane with Alaskan ties to go down that month.
On November 7, a C-119 "flying Boxcar," flying from Elmendorf Air force Base in Anchorage to Big Delta, crashed into Mount Silverthrone (on the east side of Mount McKinley), killing 19 men.
On November 15, another C-119, en route from Elmendorf to Kodiak Naval Air Station, disappeared with 20 men on boar
On Thanksgiving Day, a C-54 Skymaster from Ladd AFB, Fairbanks, carrying servicemen and their families, crashed short of the runway at McChord AFB in South Tacoma, killing 37 of 39 aboard.
Additional transport planes crashed in Korea and one near Billings, Montana. Over a three-week period, nine military planes crashed in the Alaska, Pacific Northwest and Korea Theatres. In the month of November alone, 128 servicemen were lost.
By late December—during a period which covered only six weeks—the number of lives lost in military aviation disasters around the North Pacific Rim had risen to nearly 300.
It is at this juncture that our story really gets bizarre. According to the same AP report a major search effort for Marlon's aircraft ensued. The wreckage, unbelievably, was spotted by the crew of a B-17 bomber on November 25, 1952.
Dr. Terris Moore, President of the University of Alaska, landed his ski-equipped plane at the site of the wreckage on November 28 with lt. Thomas Sullivan of the Tenth Air Rescue Group.
A story in the Anchorage Daily Times on December 1, 1952, reported Moore and Sullivan were able to confirm—through numbers on the tail section—that the wreckage was, indeed, from Marlon's Globemaster C-124. According to the pair of investigators only the plane's tail assembly and flippers were intact.
Moore told the Times "the plane hit the mountainside, exploding and disintegrating upon impact."
Wreckage was scattered over two to three acres while "six to eight feet of snow covered everything."
The investigators indicated they found blood on a piece of blanket at the scene.
"All aboard met instant death," Moore said.
A 12-person ground party planned a hike up the mountain to recover the remains of the 52 persons on board—from a base camp at the 4,000-foot level to the crash scene at about 8,000 feet. However, weather conditions and inaccessibility due to several "overhanging avalanches" doomed further recovery efforts.
Our Dad was known for his assiduous record-keeping habits, especially when it involved personal achievements of his children. His intent was to save, in scrapbook form for future posterity, photos and clippings from the local newspaper, the Lebanon Reporter. But other important documents were squirreled away as well. This proved fortuitous in the writings of events surrounding Marlon's missing aircraft. My younger brother, Jon, who lives in Lebanon in the family homestead, found several scrapbooks that were in a storage closet. This proved to be a treasure trove of documents from the Air force that chronicled the time the plane went missing and the follow-up letters that sealed the fate of Marlon and the other military personnel.
In addition to that official correspondence, I include the following condolences from a friend n Lebanon:
As previously noted, I was in Korea at the time when many of the events surrounding the plane crash were revealed to my family. In hindsight I find it regrettable that I made no further inquiries into the further details because I had made my own solitary peace with the loss of my brother and moved on. I was under the impression that Mom and Dad, and my siblings had done the same. It was not until six decades later that I found out that was not the case.
While rummaging through one of the scrapbooks, I uncovered additional letters from the Air force to my parents, including the following—approximately one month after the crash—from the McChord Air force Base Commander.
34TH AIR TRANSPORT SQUADRON
1705TH AIR Transport Group
Continental Division, MATS
McChord AfB, Washington
23 December 1952
Mr. & Mrs. lawrence D. Scott
911 West Pearl Street
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Scott:
Although I talked to you over the telephone, I wish, again, to express my deepest sympathy over the recent loss of your son, A/3c Marlon l. Scott. Also I should like to take this opportunity to give you all the information I have relative to the crash and efforts to recover the remains.
The aircraft departed McChord Air force Base on a routine transport mission on the afternoon of 22 November 1952. All communications reports received indicated a normal uneventful flight. They were last heard from over Middleton Island, on course and on time. Middleton Island is a check point located 150 nautical miles southeast of Anchorage. When ground communications stations determined that they were overdue to arrive at Elmendorf, Air Rescue search proceedings were initiated. The wreckage was located on Mount Gannett, which is approximately sixty miles east of Anchorage. A land party proceeded to the scene of the crash in an effort to evacuate the remains.
Due to the extreme hazards encountered by the ground part yin searching the wreckage and heavy snow cover, no bodies have been recovered. The ground party has been returned and the efforts to evacuate the remains have been suspended. Should further efforts be made to recover the remains you will be notified.
Although I do not have the full details on the aircraft accident investigation board, the information I have indicates that the principal factor contributing to the crash was extremely high winds at flight altitude which had not been forecast, with secondary factor of poor radio reception in that area due to the violence of the weather, which also was not foreseen. The winds the night of the crash were reported at flight altitude in that area to be from the south with a velocity of close to 100 miles an hour which was approximately three times what had been forecast.
Again, please accept my sympathy over your loss. Airman Scott was a fine man, and a very valuable addition to this organization. Not only have you lost a son, but the nation has lost a valuable asset through his death.
You will be contacted in the near future concerning the disposition of your son's personal effects.
If I am able to provide you with any assistance, please feel free to contact me at any time.
WILLIAM A. McLAUGHLIN
It must be repeated that I knew nothing of the above information. It was not until later that I also learned my father was extremely upset that Red Cross International had not pressed for my older brother, Dowane Jr., and myself to return from our overseas duty for at least two weeks of bereavement time with our family.
Unknown to both of us, this furlough time was denied. One can only assume this decision was based on the fact that Marlon's status was classified as "missing" at that point in time.
In the following months, the news was even less encouraging regarding the recovery of Marlon's remains. A final letter—approximately 11 months after the crash—ended all hope,
27 OCT 1953
Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence D. Scott
911 West Pearl Street
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Scott:
It is with deep regret that I find it necessary to inform you of the final conclusion made in the case of your son, the late Airman Third Class Marlon l. Scott. I feel that you will want a resume of our findings.
The accident which claimed your son's life occurred in exceedingly rugged terrain and at a high altitude on Mr. Gannet, Alaska. It has been our duty to determine whether or not his remains could be recovered for return and burial in this country. A complete investigation to that end was directed.
Every effort, using the most modern equipment and specially trained personnel, has been made during the various seasons of the year to recover the remains. We have now receive a detailed report, which has left the Air force but one alternative—to determine that his remains are non-recoverable. Officers of the Alaskan Air Command have reviewed all the facts in the case in arriving at this decision; we, in turn, after the most careful deliberation, have confirmed the findings. In view of our inability to recover your son's remains, in spite of thorough and prolonged recovery efforts, I feel that an injustice would be done to you were I to delay reporting of these findings.
The investigation revealed that the site of the accident is in an area of perpetual snow and ice on a very steep mountain-side. The packed snow and ice shifts and moves; avalanches and slides are frequent. Attached for your information is an aerial photograph of the site of the crash. Any attempt to recover the remains would be extremely hazardous and would almost surely result in further loss of life. Experienced mountain climbers and National Park Rangers have been consulted and confirm this point. Therefore, it is concluded that his remains, as well as the remains of all personnel on the aircraft, are non-recoverable.
To write a letter such as this is one of my most difficult duties, since I know the comfort you would derive were there to be a grave at which you might pay homage. I can say only that I hope you may find lasting consolation in the knowledge that your son served his country well, and that before death, his life had been keeping with the highest ideals of the Armed forces and the nation we serve.
Within a short time, a Personal Affairs Officer from an Air force installation will communicate with you and, if you so desire, will arrange for a memorial service for your loved one.
Chief, General Supply & Services
Office, Deputy Chief of Staff,
It was surely a sad and disheartening time for my parents and family members, as the finality of the event was brought to a painful close. In addition to the letters from the Air force, I include a letter to Mom and Dad from one of their friends, expressing her sorrow and lamenting the loss of their son, the first of their twelve siblings to succumb.
And there the crash story—at least what was believed to have happened—ends ... until sixty years into the future.
Dec. 4, 1952
Dear Mrs. Scott,
You have been on my mind ever since that "Air Plane Crash," we feel so sorry for you. I know what you are going thru for we lost a boy (Joe) four years ago. He was drowned in Oslo ford, Norway, while in service and he was only 21. You and I both had large families, and I think most of them went thru High School to-gether. Marlon and Nora Kay graduated to-gether. She liked him so well, said he was always a gentleman. My heart aches for you. I only wish I could do some thing for you. Let's hope he is better off, and in God's care, for He is good and merciful, and surely will take care of our little boys.
Your friend, Mrs. Joseph Pearl
Indianapolis, Indiana June 2012
It's a lovely June morning. There is something downright mystical about early mornings in the summertime in Indiana, especially May through August when magic is in the air. It is a time when light, gentle breezes awaken the leaves on the cottonwood trees and murmur through the deep ravine just off my backyard patio. It is at this time, if one listens very closely, one hears the familiar birds awaken to greet the dawn with their calls to their mates: the chickadees, warblers, bright red cardinals, and bluejays.
It has become a habit of mine to enjoy these mornings—when it isn't raining—to stagger out of bed, microwave a cup of green tea with Ginseng and, with breathtaking dexterity, juggle my tea, reading glasses and a book as I retire to the outdoor patio and clamber aboard my favorite bright red chaise lounge. It has proved to be a great time and place to think of everything—and nothing—at the same time.
On this particular morning, I listen intently as a nearby male cardinal whistles brightly for its mate, who doubtlessly had flown a great distance down the corridor of the ravine. I hear no distant reply. Apparently, neither did the cardinal. Neglected by no return of his amorous song, he drops into a disappointed silence, only to be rejuvenated shortly by an answering female call.
Now, a chipmunk emerges from my wife's flower bed and flashes across the patio—in defiance of my nearby presence—and disappears into a clump of green ivy near the foundation of my house. Uaagh!
I have been trying to poison, trap or shoot these pesky beast since Spring with no luck. Finally, seeking the ultimate doomsday weapon for their demise, I had purchased a Red Ryder B-B gun. It is now payback time. But to date, and after expending two packets of B-B shot, I have not come close to dispatching one chipmunk. They have proved too fast and agile for my diminished reactions. More Uaagh!!!
My mind entertains more serious, rapid firestorms of conscious thoughts, then drifts into deep reverie ...
I feel joyous and exuberant as my mind catapults across another age of time and space, to other years and other adventures swept out of the past and into the light of the now ...
My life now belongs only to the present, as that of the aging sycamore trees off to my right, down in the deep ravine. I wonder if they know they will soon lose there brown bark and turn bleached white for the fall and Winter.
Other thoughts come faster ...
At this advanced stage in my life, never have I felt so fat with time, or the need to be propelled by it—so free of the need to be moving fast. After all, wasn't it that old curmudgeon of a poet, Robert frost, who wrote, "Everybody should be free to go very slow ... What you want, what you're hanging around in the world waiting for, is for something to occur to you."
Excerpted from THE LONGEST FLIGHT HOME by Steve Scott Sr.. Copyright © 2013 Steve Scott Sr.. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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Table of Contents
Plane Vanishes Into Thin Air—.................... 1
The Awakening.................... 11
North To The Alaskan Wilderness.................... 47
Epilogue I.................... 57
Epilogue II.................... 61
About The Author.................... 69
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book is a classic example of what is wrong with the self-publishing industry. The book is fraught with errors in syntax, spelling, typography, and most importantly factual errors. To begin with, the airplane struck Mt. Gannett in Alaska on Novebmer 22, 1952, not November 20th as the book states right from the outset. The overview clearly states that the book recounts the "miraculous recovery of a missing favorite son." To this point, not a single family has been notified that any of the remains recovered so far belong to a specific individual. As part of the investigation, families were notified that the wreckage was located in June 2012, that human remains were associated with the wreckage, and that obtaining DNA reference samples from the families of the missing passengers and crew would facilite in identifying those remains. Nothing has been released to any of the families that their missing family member has been recovered. Because of the nature of the crash, and the fact that the wreckage has been transported by a glacier to a location approximately 13 miles "downstream" from where the crash occurred, the recovery process is likely to take years before it is complete. As far as the typos and other errors, if an author is going to use acronyms simply because the miltary uses acronyms, make sure that you are using the correct ones. The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command goes by the acronym "JPAC." It is pronounced "Jay-Pac." The book uses it as "JAPAC" as well as "JPAC." There are more examples of this throughout the book. I purchased the book with the expectation of learning more about the crash of the C-124 Globemaster. In the end, I learned very little about the crash nor about the subsequent discovery of the remains sixty-years later and the efforts of the US Air Force and Army (including the National Guard) in recovering the remains of the passengers and crew of the flight. I did learn a bit about the background of the author and his brother however. The book needs to be expanded considerably to include information about the recovery efforts, not simply a teaser insinuating that the remains of the 52 men aboard the flight have been recovered because they have not. And more importantly, it needs a very serious proof reading by an experienced editor to catch all of the mistakes in both content consistency as well as the typos. In the end, I am glad that I only invested the $3.99 for the Nook version of the book, especially after seeing that, although touted as being 84 pages in length, it is only 71 pages long, hardly worth paying $11.99 for a hard copy. In fact, if I knew how bad it was, I would not have spent the $3.99 for the electronic version of it.