Ft. Campbell, KY Soldiers Killed In Truck Crash, Jun 1957
14 SOLDIERS CRUSHED TO DEATH.
9 SURVIVE CRASH OF BIG TRUCK.
PARATROOPERS PINNED UNDER WRECKAGE AS FT. CAMPBELL TRUCK GOES OFF BRIDGE INTO RAVINE.
Ft. Campbell, Ky. (AP) - A canvas-covered Army truck careened off a bridge Thursday and landed upside down in a rocky creek bed, killing 14 paratroopers and injuring nine others.
Many of the injured lay trapped among the dead until a helicopter lifted the rear of the flattened truck.
The soldiers of the new 101st "Pentomic" Airborne Division were returning to barracks after four days of field training in a remote area of this vast base line.
The 2 1/2-ton truck suddenly weaved across a gravel road, sliced off 15 to 20 feet of steel bridge rail in failing to make a curve and smashed into the shallow creek 20 feet below.
Several soldiers struggled free, tried unsuccessfully to free their buddies, and then propped the heads of the trapped men above water. One survivor clambered up the bank to summon aid.
Two helicopters were used to evacuate the victims to the base hospital. Authorities said all the survivors are expected to live.
A board of inquiry began an investigation of the accident, the worst in the history of this 100,000 acre military reservation. It occurred on the Tennessee section of the sprawling post.
Army authorities declined to speculate as to the cause, pending an official report.
Truck Was Speeding.
Several survivors estimated the truck was traveling 40 to 45 m.p.h. The Ft. Campbell speed limit on gravel roads is 25 miles an hour.
The victims were members of the 327th Airborne Infantry, of the famed "Screaming Eagle" airborne division of World War II whose commander said "nuts" to a German demand for their surrender while besieged at Bastogne.
"At first, I thought it was a pretty good scare - nothing serious," said Pvt. Ronald J. Curtis, 21, Kalamazoo, Mich., one of the survivors.
"Then there was a falling sensation, then a thud - not a crash."
"There was a feeling of falling and a pressure of bodies against us. Everyone was being tossed around. There was no panic, no screaming, no yelling."
Curtis said he saw an opening and crawled out, along with two or three others. While the others tried to aid their trapped companions, Curtis scrambled back to the road and flagged a passing jeep.
Lineman Calls For Help.
A quarter of a mile away, he spotted a telephone repairman on a pole and got him to summon help.
The helicopters were dispatched to the scene, about 10 miles southeast of post headquarters
as ambulances began the trip over unpaved roads.
A sling from one copter was attached to the left rear of the truck, which then was raised to permit removal of the injured and dead. The casualties were pulled from the 18-inch-deep Piney Fork Creek by members of the 326th Engineer Battalion who were working nearby.
An Army spokesman said the truck was driven by Specialist 3.C. ERNEST J. McNEILL, 28, Lumberton, N.C., who was killed along with the other occupant of the cab.
Mt. Vernon Register-News Illinois 1957-06-14