Milton, FL Cargo Plane Crash, July 1953



By Travis Walsh
A grim, shocked atmosphere prevailed at the Naval Air Station this morning as word got around about the death of 41 NROTC midshipmen and crew members in the crash of a Marine R4Q cargo plane near Pensacola.
The plane, carrying 40 midshipmen and 6 crew members, left NAS on schedule at 6:15 p.m. yesterday headed for Norfolk via Pensacola. It was one of 20 planes used to airlift 800 middies to Norfolk and an equal number from Norfolk to NAS yesterday and today.
The midshipmen victims had just completed a three-week familiarization course in naval aviation at NAS, Cabaniss Field and NAAS Kingsville.
Word of the crash, which occurred shortly after takeoff from a refueling stop at Whiting Field, was not long reaching Navy officials here. Some of the top officials of the Naval Air Advanced Training Command, which handled the airlift, were up all night.
Made Friends Here.
Although the midshipmen were not at NAS long, they apparently made many friends in Corpus Christi. The Caller-Times received several calls this morning from anxious persons wanting to know the names of the victims.
Plane crashes are always grim events, but the one last night was felt more deeply than most. The victims were not experienced military men, but young college students, many of them in their teens.
Many of them had never been up in an airplane before coming here. Most of them responded quickly to their introduction to aviation and expressed interest in entering flight training after graduation from college.
This is what officials of the naval air training program had hoped for, because in the near future the Navy will have to depend on the NROTC program for a good many of its flight students.

Milton, Fla. July 18 (AP) -- A Marine cargo plane carried 41 young Naval Midshipmen and crewmen to fiery death when it crashed on a farm and burst into flames after taking off from Whiting Field last midnight.
Charred bodies of the victims were recovered by Navy teams which worked at the grim task throughout the night.
Five other occupants of the 2-engine plane were rushed to Pensacola Naval Air Station hospital, where two were reported in critical condition and three in serious condition.
The plane, transformed into a massive "ball of flames" after plunging into a clump of trees a mile north of the runway, smashed three parked automobiles and plowed into a barn on the farm of RAY ALLEN.
Bodies Scattered.
HAROLD STOKES, city editor of the Pensacola News-Journal, said that when he arrived on the scene shortly after the crash he found "scrambled, scorched bodies scattered all over."
Six survivors were picked up by Navy rescue teams, but one of the men died in the Whiting Field hospital about four hours later without regaining consciousness.
The plane was part of a flight of 5 transports which had made a refueling stop at Whiting. They were ferrying NROTC men from Corpus Christi, Texas to Norfolk, Va., for another phase of their 6-week summer training program.
The Navy at Norfolk said two of the survivors were Marine Corps members of the plane's six-man crew, Capt. C. E. McGRATH and Cpl. J. P. TUTTLE. The Navy also said other planes of the type that crashed were being grounded temporarily and other type planes were taking over the airlift.
One plane already had taken off for Norfolk after being refuled. The second had cleared the runway and was gaining altitude when it ran into some unexplained difficulty and plunged to the ground.
Ball Of Flame.
ALEX ALLEN, 15, dashed out of his farm home when he saw "a ball of flame about 150 yards long."
"Then the barn caught on fire and a boy came walking up to me, his clothes were burning all over and he asked me to pull off his shoes and clothes," he said.
"A neighbor and I put a blanket over the boy and carried him to the side of the house. I got some lard and rubbed it all over him. Then another man came up, with his clothes afire."
There were 40 Naval ROTC men and six Marine crewmen aboard the R4Q Fairchild Packet plane -- Marine version of the C119 Flying Boxcar -- which is regularly attached to the 2nd Marine Air Wing based at Cherry Point, N. C.
All the ROTC men were college students, in their sophomore and junior years and from many states.
As part of their reserve work they are required to take six weeks summer training at naval installations in Corpus Christi and Norfolk.
Altogether, 1,600 ROTC men are taking part in this summer's program, half of them at Corpus Christi and half at Norfolk.
At the end of three weeks, the 800 at Norfolk and 800 at Corpus Christi swap bases for the final three weeks.
The group which had stopped at Whiting was half of the 800 being flown to Norfolk.
Rear Adm. J. P. WHITNEY, chief of Naval Air Basic Training, appointed a special board to investigate the crash.

Pensacola, Fla., July 18 (AP) -- The Navy today released the names of five survivors and 41 killed in the crash of a Marine cargo plane near Milton, Fla., last midnight.
The survivors:
THOMAS F. MAGGARD, Naval ROTC, critical, son of Mrs. Frank Maggard, Kansas City, Mo., student at University of Utah.
DALE E. SCOTT, NROTC, serious, son of Col. C. D. Scott, East Lansing, Mich., student at University of Oklahoma.
JAY B. WEIDLER, JR., NROTC, student, serious, son of Jay B. Weidler, Philadelphia, Pa., student at Rice Institute.
Cpl. J. P. TUTTLE, USMC, serious, son of Jerome W. Tuttle, Chaumont, N. Y., crew member.
Capt. C. E. GRAFF, USMC, pilot, critical, Morehead City, N. C.
The dead crew members:
Capt. G. L. YODER, co-pilot, husband of Martha L. Yoder, Havelock, N. C.
T-Sgt. J. L. FARLEY, husband of Shirley J. Farley, Fort Macon Village, N. C.
M-Sgt. D. L. SABEL, husband of Anita Sabel, 535-B Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, N. C.
Sgt. N. S. LYONS, husband of Shirley M. Lyons, Kokomo, Ind.
The dead passengers, all NROTC students:
ELDRED D. BATES, son of Mrs. Augusta B. Meyer, Norman, Okla., University of Oklahoma.
EDMOND E. FAHRENKAMP, son of E. E. Fahrenkamp, Fort Worth, University of Oklahoma.
CHARLES S. HEDDLESON, son of W. F. Heddleson, Oklahoma City, student at University of Oklahoma.
JOHN P. HUGHES, son of W. T. Hughes, Oklahoma City, student at University of Oklahoma.
JAMES J. KINGEN, son of John H. Kingen, Tarrytown, N. Y., student at University of Oklahoma.
ROY V. LULOW, JR., son of R. V. Lulow, Tulsa, Okla., student at University of Oklahoma.
EILLY E. MILLS, son of Mrs. Everett Mills, Wayne, Okla., student at University of Oklahoma.
JAMES L. MUNKRES, son of Ray Munkres, Enid, Okla., student at University of Oklahoma.
TED G. PHILLIPS, son of Harold Phillips, Oklahoma City, student at University of Oklahoma.
GEORGE H. PRENTISS son of Mrs. Martha K. Prentiss, Muskogee, Okla., student at University of Oklahoma.
JAMES P. RAIBOURN, son of Claude Raibourn, Sarasota, Fla., student at University of Oklahoma.
ROBERT E. RHYNE, son of Mrs. M. F. Rhyne, Fort Smith, Ark., student at University of Oklahoma.
ROBERT E. RICHARDSON, son of H. E. Richardson, Brookhaven, Miss., student at University of Oklahoma.
JOHN S. RUSHING, son of Mrs. Mabel E. Rushing, Chandler, Okla., student at University of Oklahoma.
RICHARD W. SCHLEIFF, son of Mrs. W. T. Schleiff, Fort Smith, Ark., student at University of Oklahoma.
GEORGE F. SCHWAEBE, son of George E. Schwaebe, St. Louis, Mo., student at University of Missouri.
DAVID R. SMITH, son of Kathleen Phillips, Blanchard, Okla., student at University of Oklahoma.
GORDON H. SMITH, son of Hedley F. Smith, Tulsa, Okla., student at University of Oklahoma.
LEE W. SMITH, son of Laurence M. Smith, Oklahoma City, student at University of Oklahoma.
LLOYD M. SMITH, son of M. F. Smith, Oklahoma City, student at University of Oklahoma.
JAMES C. STAFFORD, JR., son of D. C. Stafford, Oklahoma City, student at University of Oklahoma.
KENNETH R. STARR, son of Eldridge R. Starr, Hobart, Okla., student at University of Oklahoma.
DARREL E. STRICKLIN, son of O. M. Stricklin, Norman, Okla., student at University of Oklahoma.
JERALD R. RUSSELL, son of J. A. Russell, Orland, Calif., student at Oregon State College.
DENNIS M. SHEETS, son of Mrs. Orville V. Sheets, Portland, Oregon, student at University of Oregon.
ELWOOD A. TRACY, son of Mrs. C. H. Tracy, Klamath Falls, Oregon, student at Oregon State College.
BOWDEN W. WILSON, JR., son of Bowden W. Wilson, Sr., San Antonio, student at Rice Institute.
WILLIAM E. WOHN, son of Francis J. Wohn, Houston, student at Rice Institute.
ALLEN L. WRIGHT, son of Allen P. Wright, Sweetwater, Tenn., student at Georgia Tech.
WILLIAM R. BILES, son of Mrs. W. R. Biles, Springfield, Mo., student at University of Missouri.
ROBERT K. M. DICKSON, son of Robert Charles Dickson, El Paso, student at Rice Institute.
EDWARD L. BAILEY, JR., son of Maggie J. Nicol, Webster, Texas, student at Rice Institute.
FRANK M. CALDWELL, son of Lawrence C. Caldwell, Richmond, Virginia, student at Rice Institute.
EDWARD R. CLAYTON, son of Arthur E. Clayton, Park Ridge, Ill., student at Rice Institute.
GEORGE W. COYLE, JR., son of George W. Coyle, Maplewood, La., student at Rice Institute.
RAYMOND A. DANIEL, son of Mrs. Amy L. Daniel, Houston, student at Rice Institute.
WALLIS C. ELSTON, son of Herbert Elston, Houston, student at Rice Institute.

The Corpus Christi Times Texas 1953-07-18


Error in listing of Dennis M. Sheets college affilation

I knew Dennis Sheets for some 9 years prior to the crash. I was also in the NROTC airlift from Corpus Christi TX to Little Creek VA. I'm quite sure Dennis was a student at Oregon State College. On a previous summer training cruise Dennis introduced me Elwood A Tracy. Dennis was voted "Most Talented" in our Senior Class at U.S. Grant H.S. in Portland OR and was fondly remembered at the 50th Renunion.

Crash 7/17/1953

Bill was my brother, I was 12 years old when he died. I missed him a lot but my mother cried her self to sleep for years after the crash. Fortunately she had a beautiful baby girl a couple of years later that took her mind off the tragedy. Baby was named Martha and is a wonderful sister.

I was one of the midshipmen

I was one of the midshipmen going from east to Norfolk that night, apparently on a preceding aircraft. We were informed of the accident soon after we arrived, but there was no advice to call anyone about it. I had heard that in prior years all hands were shipped across country by train, and the Navy was pleased to end the chance for all those 19 year-olds to get bored and drunk.
I never heard what was done in subsequent years.

Milton crash, 1953

My brother, James Kingen, was on this plane. His death devastated my family and I , as a young child at the time, knew little about the incident. I have searched for information ever since. Does anyone remember Jimmy?
U. of Oklahoma has a memorial about the tragedy and President Boren was very kind and helpful in providing me details of the university's recognition of the event.

Roy Lulow

I just responded to a query about Roy Lulow, who was in the crash. It turned out to be the daughter of Roy's College girlfriend.

Interesting how things turn out.

I just came across this

I just came across this article as the news of the helicopter crash today made me think about the crash that I've only heard a few stories about. Enjoyed reading your comments, thanks for sharing.

R4Q crash at Whiting

I was a student pilot at Whiting when this crash occurred. I was standing in front of the O Club on my way back to quarters and observed the crash off the end of the runway. I drove over there and helped some other responders pull bodies from the plane. Almost all night we stacked bodies by some nearby trees. The stench of burning flesh and aviation gasoline has been in my memory every since causing periodic bad dreams of the crash and severe anxiety. I finished my training and become a Naval Aviator but the memory of this crash rules my life several days of each month. Brad Corregan, Captain USMCR (ret).

Roy Lulow

Roy was my roommate in Lambda Chi Alpha. He was in EE and dated an EE student who was from Sao Palo (American citizen though) Mary Nell Applegate.

reply to brother of Darrell Stricklin

The plane your brother and my cousin Billy Mills went down in was of terrible design. If either of the 2 engines had trouble on takeoff it was almost guaranteed to crash.

You must remember aircraft back then were much better than what Wilbur Wright flew in but far far worse than planes made now.

It hurts me to remember my cousin's dying. I can't begin to imagine the hurt you have over your brother's death.

Go well fellow. Remember your brother always, and remember the best of him. He and the others lost were the creme de la creme of our young men back then.

NROTC crash 1953 Florida

My cousin Billy Mills was one of the OU midshipmen killed in '53. He was Bill to all us relatives. The first Mills to ever go to college and still the first Mills to ever recieve a full scholarship anywhere. Come to think of it, he was the only Mills athlete ever. Wayne High School valdictorian, captain of the basketball team, voted best this, best know the kind...winner written all over him.

Wayne was, and still is, a small town in Oklahoma and very little happened there back in the 40s and 50s. Bill's getting that special scholarship made everyone really proud. Finally one of ours was going big time.

He didn't make big time though. Not in the sense of what we find so important

But he sure made the really important big time while he was here....... and remains strong big time among the dwindling number that knew him. His parents are gone ....his mother passed away 2 months ago. Well into her nineties... Funny you know, she was born on the 4th of July and maybe that's why she had one hell of an All American son.

Those other boys selected by the Navy at OU and the ones from other schools must have been big time too. They are as surely missed as we still miss Bill.