Niles, CA Marine Corps Transport Crash, Feb 1956

Niles Canyon CAL crash 2-17-1956.jpg Niles Canyon CAL crash 2-17-1956 2.jpg




Oakland (AP) -- Seventy servicemen with trucks, jeeps and a bulldozer worked at the grim task today of bringing out the bodies of 38 men who died when a Marine Corps transport plane crashed
yesterday on a fog-shrouded ridge southeast of here.
While the bodies of all aboard were being collected, the El Toro Marine Base public information officer announced that the casualty list first released was wrong -- apparently the passenger manifest from a different plane.
By late morning parents of five listed victims reported that their sons had "traded seats" and were not aboard the ill-fated craft. They had telephoned home after the crash.
Military authorities refused comment on cause of the tragedy but civil aeronautics administration spokesmen indicated the plane was off course and below regulation altitude when it crashed and burned in the fog.
The crash was the second major military air disaster within 24 hours in the San Francisco bay area. Four men died Thursday and four others escaped when an air force B52 jet bomber blew up over nearby Tracy.
The big marine plane was just 21 miles, 9 minutes
from a landing at Alameda naval air station on a flight from El Toro and Camp Pendleton marine bases in Southern California.
The RD5, marine equivalent of the DC4, carried five crewmen. The others, clad in dungares, were being transferred to Treasure Island Navy base for reassignment. One passenger was from El Toro; the others from Camp Pendleton.
The pilot was Maj. ALEXANDER WATSON, 32, of Santa Ana, Calif., a Silver Star winner in the Korean war.
Major WATSON'S last report was at 1:42 p.m., notifying Oakland municipal airport he was starting
an approach toward the nearby naval air station.
The fog and mist was so heavy helicopters failed for hours to find the wreckage 1,300 feet up in the dense brush country 3 1/2 miles from Niles on the eastern side of San Francisco Bay.
The area has claimed 123 lives in three major plane crashes within 4 1/2 years. Besides the 38 killed in this accident, 35 were killed March 20, 1953, in a Trans-Ocean Air Lines DC4 and another 50 died August 25, 1951, in a United Air Lines DC6B.
Rancher Ray Stephens narrowed the hunt for the missing marine plane when he reported hearing a
"terrific crash." Noise from the low flying plane caused him to run outside his house. He said:
"About two seconds after I saw it and thought it was going to hit the hill opposite me I heard a terrific crash."
Rescue parties had slow going over the rain-slick hills and the brush was so thick that no place could be found to land helicopters.
The six men from El Toro were identified quickly but the 12th Naval District predicted that identifying the others would take some time.
They had their service records with them.
The passengers were part of a 173-man group being sent to Treasure Island. The others arrived safely.
In another air accident yesterday at Owensboro, Ky., the worst injury was a broken rib when an Eastern air lines plane missed a runway, sheared off a wing and somersaulted onto its back with 20 passengers and 3 crewmen.
The Air Force jet explosion Thursday took the life of Col. PATRIC FLEMING, a Navy hero during World War II. Eleven years ago he shot down five Japanese planes one day and four the next.

Oakland (AP) -- The marine corps has identified these men who were killed yesterday when a military transport crashed 21 miles southeast of Oakland.
The first six identified were all from El Toro marine base near Santa Ana. They were:
Maj. ALEXANDER WATSON, 32, the pilot, a Korean war silver star medal winner whose widow, Elizabeth, lives at Santa Ana.
First Lt. THOMAS E. STRAUGHAN, 25, copilot, whose widow, Sharon, lives at Santa Ana.
M/Sgt. DONALD J. DOWD, 32, whose widow, Esther, and three children live at Costa Mesa.
S/Sgt. CARROLL M. YOUNG, 25, whose widow, Kathryn, and daughter live at Santa Ana.
S/Sgt. HARRY E. KNIGHT, 28, whose widow, Margo, and three children live at Santa Ana.
S/Sgt. DONALD J. FRASER, 22, son of Mr. and Mrs. Henry J. Fraser, San Francisco.
Sergeant FRASER was a passenger. The other five from El Toro were crew members.

San Diego (AP) -- Mrs. Nellie J. Metz said today that her son, Pvt. CHARLES L. BRANSON, listed as among the 38 dead in the crash of a marine plane near Oakland yesterday, wasn't aboard the ship.
Mrs. Metz told reporters that her son telephoned her at 6:45 p.m. yesterday, five hours after the crash, to assure her that he wasn't a passenger on one of the other planes in the movement of marines northward from Camp Pendleton.
But his name was on the ill-fated planes' manifest list, as released from Camp Pendleton today.
Mrs. Metz said she also received a telegram from the department of defense, notifying her that her boy was dead.
Later, the parents of three other marines announced that they, too, were safe.
They were Pvt. JAMES N. BROTZ, Pvt. RONALD DEGENHART, and Cpl. JEROME MESSNER, all of Sheboygan, Wis.
Their parents said the three telephoned their homes last night, saying they had traded seats and were not aboard the crashed plane.
The word from Sheboygan was followed by the news from the parents of Pvt. HAZEN H. DUGHMAN of Yankton, S.D., that he was safe, although his name, too, appeared on the list of the dead. They said the young marine telephoned
them last night that a last minute switch had placed him on another plane.

San Mateo Times California 1956-02-18



The last of 40 victims of Friday's shattering Marine
air transport crash in the hills above Niles has been removed.
Two investigations are underway by the Marine corps, one to determine why the plane crashed just off Palomares canyon, and the other into release of the wrong list passengers.
The mistake occurred Friday when the passengers
lists of two Marine air transports were switched. As a result, the corps notified horrified next of kin of the death of relatives not actually killed.
The mistake was found Saturday and frantic servicemen on the other transport swamped phones at their Treasure Island base to try to convince parents they were alive.
A Hayward mother, Mrs. Philip Stewart, 224 Berry avenue, was spared the shock of other misinformed parents. Her son, Pvt. LESTER BARTHOLOW, JR., had arrived home and was asleep when the official telegram came.
The correction of passenger lists raised the toll of dead to 40. Rescue teams had originally expected to find only 38 victims.
The list of Marine passengers aboard the ill-fated craft was released from Camp Pendelton in Southern California, the six listed earlier were correct.
Sgt. JIMMIE O. HENNINGER, Corpus Christi, Tex.
Pvt. WILLIAM W. HENSON, Omaha, Neb.
Pvt. SALVADOR R. HERNANDEZ, Oelwein, Iowa.
Pfc. JAMES R. HILL, Amarillo, Tex.
Cpl. FRED F. HOLCOMBE, Sun Valley, Calif.
Pvt. LARRY HORTON, Des Moines, Iowa.
Pfc. CHARLES L. HOWARD, Corvallis, Ore.
Pvt. JOHN R. HOXSEY, San Clemente, Calif.
Cpl. GEORGE A. HOWARD, Washington, D.C.
Pvt. BENNIE R. JESTIS, Bonham, Tex.
Pvt. DAVID R. KENDRICK, Portland, Ore.
Pvt. ROBERT D. LaDUKE, Everett, Wash.
Pvt. MICHAEL D. LEEDOM, Seattle, Wash.
Pfc. DONALD F. LOVELADY, Forest City, Mo.
Cpl. MARVIN LOWE, Liggett, Ky.
Pvt. JUAN MAGANA, Silao, Mex.
Cpl. HERBERT F. MAMARIL, Island of Maui, Hawaii.
Pvt. JOHN D. MARION, Norton, Va.
Pvt. TERRY G. MAXWELL, Mason City, Iowa.
Pvt. WILLIAM J. McKENDRY, Denver, Colo.
Cpl. GEORGE W. McREYNOLDS, Springfield, Mo.
Sgt. WALTER D. MEAUX, Oceanside, Calif.
Pvt. DAVID LEE MOODY, Wichita, Kan.
Pvt. WILLIAM T. MOORE, Woodside, N.Y.
Pvt. JAMES L. MULHOLLAND, North Clinton, Iowa.
Pfc. FRANK W. MULLIGAN, Daly City, Calif.
Sgt. JAMES M. MURRAY, Amesbury, Mass.
Pvt. ROBERT E. MYERS, Springfield, Ill.
Pfc. DONALD R. MYRICK, Star City, Ark.
Pvt. WILLIAM R. NEELY, Oklahoma City, Okla.
Pvt. RODNEY J. NELSON, Davenport, Iowa.
Pvt. GLENN I. NEWTON, Beaver Creek, Ore.
Pvt. JAMES E. NORRIS, Howell, Mich.
Pvt. ROBERT L. OFFENBURGER, Oelwein, Iowa.

Daily Review Hayward California 1956-02-20


Picture of Plaque

Hi Jayson,
My name is Al Mamaril, Jr. the nephew of Herbert Mamaril who died in the plane crash. My father, Albert Mamaril, Sr. is the younger brother of Herbert; both joined the U.S. Marines at the same time. My father was fortunate to serve 20 years in the military before retiring. I was recently told by another uncle that Herbert was on his way to Hawaii to see me after my birth on January 19, 1956. I would be honored to have pictures of the plaque with all the names taken at the crash site. I will gladly pay for any cost. I'll provide more information, if and when you respond to this email. Thank you! Al Mamaril

Robert Offenburger & Salvadore Hernandez, Oelwein, Iowa

I graduated from high school with Bob and Sal (Oelwein Sacred Heart, Class of '55). We were good friends. Sal taught me my first Spanish. I have their graduation pictures, and the Oelwein Daily Register article about their deaths. I was a mass server at their funeral.

Brian, My grandfather died in


My grandfather died in this crash. I would love to get some information from you.

I am going up to the crash

I am going up to the crash site on Feb 17th 2016 to leave a plaque with all the crash victims names. Contact me if you like pictures.


Niles crash February 1956 - daughter of Marine

"S/Sgt. CARROLL M. YOUNG, 25, whose widow, Kathryn, and daughter live at Santa Ana", was my father. I was almost 4 years old and had a new little sister that was 4 months old. She was not listed here, since she was so young and they didn't know about her.

I would love to hear from someone else who lost a loved one. My deepest desire would be someone who actually knew my father.

Brian, My grandfather died


My grandfather died in this crash. I would love to get some information from you.

Marvin Lowe

Please contact me, I am Marvin's sister.

Marvin Lowe

My name is Howard Lowe JR. I am the brother of Marvin Lowe. I was born in Lenarue, KY. I am now 75 years old and I must her Uncle. Would love to hear from you. My phone number is 212 217-9968 and I now live in New York City. Please call if you read this. Thank you

Howard Lowe Jr.

1956 Marine Corp air crash

Recently saw your 2012 post about this air crash. My uncle, Pvt. Robert E. Myers was also killed in the crash. I have all his personal effects from the crash site as well as newspaper articles and photos from 1956. Let me know if you still have any interest in this matter.

My father, Marvin Lowe

My father, Marvin Lowe, son of Howard Lowe, leggitt Kentucky was killed in that cargo flight, Niles, Ca., canyon, feb. 1956. I was born 3/1/1954 in Unalaska Alaska, can anyone give me any info. Joyce Marie