El Toro Marine Air Station, CA Air Disaster Kills 84, June 1965




Marines Believed Bound for Viet Nam.

El Toro Marine Air Station, Calif. (UPI) -- A mililtary jet transport, unaccountably failing to make a scheduled left turn, plunged into a fog-shrouded mountain and exploded after takeoff early Friday, killing all 84 men aboard -- including 72 Marines believed bound for Viet Nam.
There were no survivors in one of the worst military air disasters in peacetime history. It also was California's worst air disaster.
The C135 air transport, military conuterpart of the commercial Boeing 707 jetliner, smashed into a mountain 4 1/2 miles directly north of the end of the runway from which it took off moments before.
Turn Scheduled.
But Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) inspector ELMER PARKS said the flight plan called for the Air Force jet to have made a left turn two miles after liftoff.
In aq news conference late Friday, PARKS would not disclose whether the tape recording of the final conversation between tower and pilot indicated why the airman did not make the specified turn.
The pilot, Capt. WILLIAM F. CORDELL, JR., was a veteran of 3,000 hours flying time.
PARKS also declined comment on whether any sabotage was suspected. He said an investigation would be completed within 10 days.
"There was no indication the pilot didn't know the flight pattern," PARKS said.
Below Normal Altitude.
Under normal conditions the aircraft would have been at an altitude of 4,000-4,500 feet about 4 1/2 miles from takeoff.
A Marine officer, declining to be identified, said if the plane "lacked power, and went into its bank it might have wiped out a part of Orange," a suburban community near El Toro. He speculated the pilot might have tried to avoid such a disaster by keeping the plane on a straight course.
Orange County Coroner DR. RAYMOND BRANDT said all 84 bodies have been recovered. Ten had been positively identified by late afternoon.
The powerful jet "completely broke up: when it hit the mountain at the 1,500-foot level, about 75 feet below the summit.
The largest single piece of wreckage was the flattened out cockpit area, about 10 feet in diameter. The pilot's body lay inside.
Loma Peak Turned Into Nightmare.
El Toro Marine Base -- The sun heated fog clung to the human and airplane debris littering the mountain top.
Boots, some of them with feet, were scattered about.
Papers, technical manuals, some with singed edges, personal letters, cards, and official envelopes containing travel orders lay in disorder in the mesquite that covered the top of Loma Peak except where it had been burned by the explosion of 8,000 gallons of plane fuel.
Scattered pieces of uniforms tallied with the report that 72 of the 84 victims were U. S. Marines en route to Okinawa, staging point for South Viet Nam. The other 12 were the Air Force plane crew.
The first man at the scene, Sgt. BILL HASTINGS of the Marine Air Rescue Squadron from El Toro, said his first reaction was to radio for salvage crews to clean up the wreckage.
"I just felt that no one could have survived this one ... it was just that bad ... When I walked up from where the chopper landed me, and into that scene I felt as though someone had kicked me in the stomach ..."
Shortly before noon Gen. HOWELL M. ESTES, commanding general of the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) at Scott Field, Ill., arrived by jet. When he stepped from the T-39 sabreliner, he was wiping his tear-stained eyes. He looked hard hit.
"Those guys were the greatest," he said, "I'm just sick." He was visibly shaken when he returned from the crash scene.
In the bustling flight operations office at the Marine air field at El Toro, a girl, obviously not more than 20, appeared distraught.
A sergeant was talking to her. She looked down most of the time, but glanced up to say, "But they haven't notified me ....."
The sergeant looked away.
She asked, "What should I do?" She appeared ready to faint.
The sergeant called another Marine, "Get the chaplain."
The girl stared dazedly at the sergeant, "I love him and now, I know he's ... d .... gone. What'll I do? ... Yes, I know he was on the plane because he left late last night, and he was in the Third Marine Division ..."
The sergeant took her into the secluded recess of the weather station. As she went with him she nervously twisted the new rings on the third finger of her left hand.



June 25

The guy that showed up at the funeral home where my brother was buried out of was a guy by the name of Steve Beduna. He was an odd little guy who claimed to have been pulled off the plane because of a family emergency and by the time he made it back to the flight line he actually watched the plane taxi away. His car was filled to the gills with newspaper articles from all over the world regarding the crash including a Russian newspaper that mocked the US for killing their own men. He would talk to us and then all of a sudden just break out into tears for about 30 seconds and then get control and stop. He had a lesion of some kind on his lip that he claimed was a cancerous tumor. He claimed to have been to Boeing and the the Pentagon to inquire about this crash and finally got someone at Boeing to explain that the c-135s were notorious for stress cracks in the tail section of the plane. According to him, this was confirmed at the Pentagon also. His explanation of what happened that night was that during takeoff the tail section of the plane had a major malfunction that caused hydraulics to the rear flaps and rudder inoperable thereby making it impossible to climb or steer the aircraft.

I have a copy of the military crash report and they claim the aircraft was too heavy due to the fact that de-mineralized water was not available for the engines and regular water had to be used and the plane did not have enough power for climbing with this additional weight. I have been told however, that D-Water is used in turbo-props and that was it not necessary for jet engines which the c-135 had.

I will be bringing this information with me to the memorial on June 25th 2015 in Irvine. I don't know if you are planning on attending but if so, please look me up. I'll be the big guy with the grey hair... lotta help that is right?

Sincerely Butch Babcock


Jim, I look forward to meeting you and shaking your hand and probably giving you a big hug for the work you did that day. My brother PFC Russell Babcock was on that plane and I can't even imagine the overwhelming sites you must have endured. I, my wife and my sister will be making the trip and we hope to see you during that time.

Sincerely Butch


My Uncle, Timothy Treweek, was on the plane that took so many brave men. It still pains my family to talk about it. I've heard of a memorial this year & I'm wondering if anyone knows about it. I want to get my mother & aunt to the services. Thanks!!!!

Survivor of el toro air disaster in June of 1965

My father was the pilot of the plane the crashed just after take off from El Toro Marine base on June 25th, 1965. I find it hard to believe that anyone was able to survive the crash seeing as how there was hardly anything left of the plane, but would be grateful for any information you may have learned regarding the man you met that claimed to be a survivor.
Sincere thanks,
Bill Cordell

El Toro Crash/Death of All

My twin brother was on this flight. And for many years I have wondered why these 84 young men who died in the service of our country have never memorialized. As I look through the newspaper clippings all information from Washington regarding the crash was very limiting in specific crash information. I want to know the real deal as to what happened. And why the US government has never remembered them.

A quick note. The only

A quick note. The only antenna in the tail of a C135 is for HF radio. That is used only basically when too far away for UHF or VHF radio. The crew would have been using VHF at takeoff.

Memorial and Hike


My father was Cpl Paul T Chapin. I would to get more information in regards to the memorial and hike next year.

Bill Chapin

F4 crash off Laguna Beach

the date of the F4 crash off Laguna was July 6 1967
Crew- Capt. Lance Leib and Lt. Timothy Miner
aircraft- Buno 142301 - F4B
I live in Costa Mesa and became interested in this crash and have done quite a bit of research on it. I currently have a Foia request in with Dept. of Navy. I should have the crash report/ Foia docs by December 2014. Feel free to contact me if you would like further information.

My dad was suppose to be on this plane

My dad, John Watson, always told my brothers and I that we would not be if he had been on this flight and that god must have had other plans for him. According to my dad he was not allowed to board the flight because of either an eye problem or his overseas shots were not up to date. I can't remember exactly why but I think these were the reasons.

1965 el toro cradh

I know where you are coming from I was there
as well. I was just thinking today that it is going on
50 year and when looking on the internet I came
across your posting.
I am now 71 and in 1965 was attached to ATAU MCAS which
was next to the hospital across from the old white
barracks. I was a insturment and nav. flight inst. on KC130F tankers.
I was also in the 6x6's bring bodies and plane parts
down. Still good friends of mine Curt Marcum
Wayne Wynkoop and Milt Smith were also there.
Regards Joe Anderson