1950 Douglas C-54D disappearance

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1950 Douglas C-54D-1-DC disappearance
Squadron Activity Report, Maxwell Airforce Base, March 1946.jpg
42-72469, four years before it disappeared
Incident
Date 26 January 1950
Summary Disappearance
Site Yukon, Canada; in vicinity of Snag
Aircraft
Aircraft type Douglas C-54 Skymaster
Operator United States Air Force
Registration 42-72469
Flight origin Elmendorf Air Force Base (EDF) (EDF/PAED), Anchorage, Alaska, USA
Destination Great Falls Air Force Base (GFA) (GFA/KGFA), Montana, USA
Passengers 36
Crew 8
Fatalities 44
Survivors 0

On 26 January 1950, the Douglas C-54 Skymaster serial number 42-72469 disappeared en route from Alaska to Montana, with 44 people aboard.[1][2] The aircraft made its last radio contact two hours into its eight-hour flight. Despite one of the largest rescue efforts carried out by the US military, no trace of the aircraft has ever been found.[2] It is considered one of the largest groups of American military personnel to ever go missing.[3]

Flight[edit]

The aircraft was part of the First Strategic Support Squadron, Strategic Air Command. out of Biggs AFB, Texas. In addition to its eight-man crew, it was carrying 36 passengers, including two civilians: a woman and her infant son.[4] An earlier attempt to depart had been made, but due to trouble with one of its four engines, it was delayed several hours.[5] The flight was from Anchorage, Alaska to Great Falls, Montana; two hours after its eventual departure it reported it was on-course and had just passed over Snag, Yukon – but there were no further messages.

Search[edit]

A map of the North Sea
Elmendorf Air Force Base
Elmendorf Air Force Base
Great Falls Air Force Base
Great Falls Air Force Base
Snag, Yukon
Snag, Yukon
Location map

An hour after it failed to arrive in Montana, "Operation Mike", named for aircraft commander First Lt. Kyle L. McMichael,[3] was launched, a search and rescue program combining as many as 85 American and Canadian planes, in addition to 7,000 personnel, searching 350,000 square miles of the Pacific Northwest.[4] The search was aided by the fact soldiers and equipment had already been ferried north for the upcoming Exercise Sweetbriar, a joint Canada-US war games scenario.[6] Continuance of the operation confounded searchers, giving many false positive reports of smoke signals, garbled communications and sightings of "survivors".[citation needed]

On 30 January, a C-47, Air Force serial number 45-1015 from the 57th Fighter Wing, that had been participating in the search, stalled and crashed in the McClintoc mountains near Whitehorse. Its crew members were injured, but there were no fatalities. The pilot walked 13 km to the Alaska Highway and flagged down a truck to call in support for his 5–8 crewmates.[3][5][7]

On 2 February it was reported that two planes and two radio stations in the Yukon area had heard unintelligible radio signals but attempts to "fix" the position were fruitless. Likewise, an isolated settler had reported seeing a large plane over his cabin at Beaver Lake in interior of British Columbia located 500 miles south of the Yukon boundary-250 miles north of Vancouver and 200 miles west of the Alaska Highway air route.[8]

On 7 February, a C-47D, 45-1037, from Eielson Air Force Base employed on the search by the 5010th Wing, crashed on a mountain slope south of Aisihik Lake. There were ten crew on board, but there were no fatalities.[9] On 16 February, a Royal Canadian Air Force C-47, KJ-936, crashed near Snag. Again, its four crew members sustained only light injuries.[10] Later its wreckage would be temporarily mistaken for the missing C-54.[11]

The operation was indefinitely suspended on 14 February, as the search planes were needed to investigate the crash of a B-36 that had been carrying, and had dropped, a Fat Man type nuclear weapon, though the core of the weapon in this case was lead.[4]

Aftermath[edit]

On 20 February, the search was officially cancelled and notifications were sent to next of kin informing them that the passengers were presumed dead.[12]

In 2012, the descendants of the missing servicemen started a petition to the Federal government, through the We the People petition system, seeking to resurrect the search for their families' remains.[13]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ranter, Harro; Lujan, Fabian I. (2008). "Douglas C-54D-1-DC 42-72469 Snag, YT". Retrieved 2011-06-19.
  2. ^ a b Kennebec, Matt (2010). "Douglas DC-4 C-54D". Retrieved 2011-06-19.
  3. ^ a b c "USAF #2469". Check-six.com. Retrieved 2017-06-20.
  4. ^ a b c "What happened to C-54 Skymaster 42-72469?". Ruudleeuw.com. Retrieved 2017-06-20.
  5. ^ a b Chase, Sean (February 4, 2010). "Operation Mike: The disappearance of a Skymaster over the Yukon". The Daily Observer.
  6. ^ "Exercise Sweetbriar: The Empire Club Addresses". Speeches.empireclub.org. 1950-03-30. Retrieved 2017-06-20.
  7. ^ A search for answers | The Troy Messenger
  8. ^ "Weather blights big air search". Wilmington Morning Star. February 2, 1950.
  9. ^ USAF Accident Report 50-02-07-005
  10. ^ RCAF Investigation No.2618
  11. ^ "Abandoned Plane Wrecks of the North". Ruudleeuw.com. Retrieved 2017-06-20.
  12. ^ "Dagle, Donald W., 1928–1950". Ns2.iagenweb.org. Archived from the original on 2014-07-14. Retrieved 2017-06-20.
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-06-19. Retrieved 2012-05-23.

External links[edit]