Minot, ND Air Force Tanker Crashes On Takeoff, Jan 1968

AIR FORCE OPENS PROBE OF FATAL CRASH.

GENERAL, 11 OTHERS KILLED.

Minot, N. D. (AP) -- A two-star general and eight other Air Force officers were among 12 persons killed Wednesday when a huge Air Force tanker plane crashed on takeoff from fog-shrouded Minot Air Force Base. There was one survivor.
An Air Force investigating team sought the cause of the crash.
The seven crewmen and six passengers were from March Air Force Base near Riverside, Calif.
Maj. Gen. CHARLES M. EISENHART, 53, vice commander of the 15th Air Force, died when the plane burst into flames upon impact around 9 a.m. An explosion followed, spewing bodies and parts of the plane more than 1,000 feet in several directions.
The death list also included three colonels, three lieutenant colonels, a major, a captain and three enlisted men.
The survivor was T. Sgt. WILLIAM G. WRIGHT, 34, the plane's steward.
WRIGHT was taken to John Moses Hospital in Minot, 14 miles south of the Strategic Air Command base in northcentral North Dakota. He suffered burns over 70 to 80 per cent of his body and was reported in critical condition.
Air Force officials said WRIGHT would be flown to Ft. Sam Houston, Tex., for treatment at Brooke Army Medical Center.
The tanker, a four-engine jet usually used to refuel other planes in flight, was on a routine staff visit to Minot and was taking off for Glasgow, Mont., Air Force Base. The craft had been outfitted for passenger service and was not carrying extra fuel officials said.
Officials at the base said the plane apparently was airborne just before the crash. The wreckage was about 20 yards to the right of and about three-quarters of the way down the 15,000-foot long runway.
The base information officer said: "To my knowledge there were no eyewitness. Visibility was too low."
A civilian employe at the base, who asked that his name not be used, said, "It was so foggy I couldn't see." He said visibility was not more than 300 feet.
Brig. Gen. EDWARD NICHOLS, SAC inspector-general, arrived at the base Wednesday from Omaha, Neb., to head an investigating team.
The team met for 3 1/2 hours, but NICHOLS did not reveal to newsmen what may have figured into the crash. The probe is expected to take about 10 days.
An official at the Minot base said there was no way to know yet what caused the accident.
Gen. EISENHART, a native of Culberison, Neb., made his home at McCook, Neb. He is survived by his widow, DOROTHY, a son DONALD, 19, and a daughter, MARION 17.
He had been a military pilot for more than 30 years, entering the Army Air Corps in 1937. In World War II, he commanded bomber squadrons operating from the Marianas Islands against Japan. Among his decorations were the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Bronze Star. He had flown more than 8,900 hours, including 156 combat hours.
SAC headquarters at Omaha said the pilot was Lt. Col. JACK A. MERCER, 44, Atwater, Calif.; the copilot, Capt. JAMES A. SULLIVAN, 28, Flushing, N. Y.; the navigator Lt. Col. CLIFFORD V. McCONNICE, 46, Long Beach, Calif.
Other crew members included T. Sgt. CHARLES G. CHAPLIN, 36, Newkirk, Okla., boom operator; Staff Sgt. WILLIAM F. MASON, JR., 32, Kimberly, Idaho, crew chief, and Sgt. THOMAS A. POWERS, 26, Gardner, Mass., assistant crew chief.
Passengers in addition to EISENHART were Col. REX E. ZEPP, 49, Hendrick, Iowa, deputy director of personnel, 15th Air Force; Col. CHARLES S. RATHBUN, 48, Newport, N. Y., deputy director of operations and plans, 15th Air Force; Col. WILLIAM H. DAVIDSON, 50, Whittier, Calif., chief of directorate of supply and services, 15th Air Force; Lt. Col. F. G. MAUCK, 51, Edmonton, Can., and Maj. PAUL E. DAVIS, 37, Yakima, Wash.

Lawton Constitution Oklahoma 1968-01-18

Comments

Sgt. Wright

I was one of the fireman that was the first to arrive at the crash site. Sgt Wright was thrown from the plane and was still alive and talking. He kept saying " theres 12 more of us". He was thinking of his fellow crew members all while he was conscious. I will never forget him.

conversation about my uncle

Hello My name is Allen Eisenhart, I am Charlie's Nephew. I was born just about 9 months after his tragic death. People say I look like him and joke like him. I have some questions for you having known him and worked with him.

Wm. Wright's death and this mission

I see my previous comment is not posted here....even a couple weeks later. I guess no one here is interested in the truth of this whole 'mission'. And by the way, my stepdad, William Wright, was the flight traffic specialist...not a steward. He had a lot of duties not related to food and was only 1 of 1 Flight Traffic Specialists cleared by the FBI. This flight had to have one that was cleared and this should not have been his flight...but the other FTS had a head cold and you weren't allowed to fly with a head cold. So this man died, and no one will even tell the truth of why. It sickens me.

Real mission

This plane was NOT on a routine mission. You don't have that many officers on routine missions. This was a secret mission that was meeting with the north koreans re the Pueblo. I'm sick and tired of hearing people say the pueblo incident was settled with no fatalities. All 13 men on this plane died because of the taking of the Pueblo. Take that Ollie North. No one will admit this, of course, but my dad died in that crash and our family knows where they were really going and what they were going for. Why can't someone come out and admit this??? It has been so many years. These men deserve to be honored for giving their lives for our country.

GENERAL EISENHART

I WAS A MEMBER OF THE SAC ELITE GUARD IN OMAHA. FROM 64/66 AND GREETED GENERAL EISENHART ON A DAILY BASIS. I HAVE AN AUTOGRAPHED PICTURE OF THE GENERAL THAT I WOULDNT TAKE ANYTHING FOR. HE WAS A FINE MAN AND ALWAYS HAD A SMILE ON HIS FACE. MAY HE REST IN PEACE

The only survivor died soon after

T. Sgt. William G. "Bill" Wright later died in hospital from his burns. (per his cousin Walter)