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.



ElToro. 707 crash cleanup

I worked at H&MS 15 Avionics shop (by the back gate .that morning we were picked up an flown by heli to th crash site. I remember it all.
I even remember what we had for lunch, which were poached egg sandwich . If you are still kicking, send me an email. I am now flying out of John Wayne (SNA).
Think about that day often. What. A shame !!!!


Maj. Claus Sondermann Sub . USAF Cap

Air crash at El Torl air base on June 25, 1965

My name is Harriet Rohde Fuller, Thank you for the article, I had no idea until today that an article exixted. As I read the names, I found that my husband Cpl. Lawrence O. Rohde DOB: 01/04/42, was not on this list. He was 22 years old at the time, I was 21 and our daughter was 16 months old. It was a very difficult to grasp what happened or how such a thing could happen to all those precious, young men and the devistation to all the families. The most difficult thing for me was the processing that the bodies were not intact and the waiting time it took for their identification. It has been 48 years and still seems unreal. Please if you could, add his name to the list of those who lost their life that day. I thank you very much. Cpl. Lawrence O. Rohde, son of Burd Rohde of Las Vegas, Nevada, husband of Harriet Rohde.

my best friends uncle was on

my best friends uncle was on that plane and ive heard his family describe the incident a few times and reading this article brings a lot of light onto it. I am sharing it with the family in hopes it will answer any questions they have of that fateful day in june..... I was told they were orig sched. to take off the day before but they had mechanical problems and it was delayed. wether that played a part in the crash will never be known. RIP to all those aboard that flight that never made iit home

my uncle was on this plane,

my uncle was on this plane, his name was Tucker Ross Burt, and i was 5 years old when he died, he got leave before he was sent over there, and i WILL never forget how handsome he looked coming up our front porch steps in his full marine dress blues to visit my mom..... I thank you for what youy did, our family had to wait almost two weeks for confirmation of his death, ( at least we where told at that time, he was on the back of the plane and that had flipped over the top of the mountain, and where the last bodies to be recovered.).. he re upped, even knowing where he was going, I guess I admire thst, he sure didn't know how the Vietnam conflict would turn out and he was 22 years old when he died, he is not recognized as a viet nam vet by the way. Because he died on take off, from the USA, instead of dying on landing in Viet nam, which would have made him a viet nam vet, but what the hell, none of the matters, he died that day, which never should have happened, but, happened it did, most of his family is gone now, and yet.... there is still a year old niece who remembers, who never forgets, and still takes flowers to the cemetary................

Jet Crash off Laguna

I was sixteen and south about a half mile and watched that plane in horror. I remember seeing photos and an article in our hometown paper The Daily Report published in Ontario. Hope that helps you a bit. I don't remember the date.
Have you found any other info?

June 1965 Jet crash in Eltoro California

Hi, My name is Debra Kitchens Tilley. My brother James T. Kitchens , aka "Jimmy" was also on that flight. I was 8 years old at the that time. I remember Jimmy being in full uniform and he looked at me and asked me ... what are you grinning at? He was only 19 years of age. I remember him being so nice looking in his uniform. Jimmy's had many friends. One I remember ... was Jerry Hawkins. My mother, Tillie Kitchens spoke of Jerry often. Jerry Hawkins also was on that flight. I often wonder who all knew my brother and remembered him. If anyone does remember Jimmy and has anything to share with me--please do so. I also have met Steve Beduna and he talked with my mother in reference to the crash. I often wonder what ever happened to Steve. He wanted to share what he knew about this crash. I think that he was very troubled about this crash. He knew that he was supposed to also be on that flight. I am the youngest of 10 children and in November 2012 we just lost our mother (Tillie Kitchens) at the age of 96. Jimmy was the 4th born and he died at a early age of 19. My mother is in heaven being reunited with all our loved ones now. I pray that all has lost a loved one will be blessed and have a ease of pain in their hearts. God Bless, Debra Kitchens Tilley.

F-4 crash off Laguna Beach


My name is Ryan Gilmore and I'm a aviation historian. I have been researching a F-4 that crashed in July of 1967 I think this must be the same accident you witnessed.

I would love to know more about your experience. I could also give you some info on the incident.

Hope to hear from, Ryan

Robert Lisicki

There are a group of old friends from Groveton High School that would like to know where Mr. Lisicki's family members are located. We have visited Bob's gravesite at Arlington Cemetery several times and would be honored to send our respects to you!

Bob and I were good friends

Bob and I were good friends growing up. Went to Groveton and played football and double dated in his moms red Ford. Miss him dearly.

Jackson Sinyard jr

Does anyone know or remember Sargent Jackson Sinyard jr? He died on this plane crash in 1965. He is my husbands father. My husband was 2 years old when he died.