Ft. Bragg, NC Transport Crashes Into Hall, Mar 1954


Ft. Bragg, N.C., March 30 (UP) -- A crippled C119 Flying Boxcar, its pilot fighting to make an emergency landing on a narrow parade field, crashed into a mess hall here today, killing seven men and injuring 10 others.
The bodies of five servicemen were recovered. The heroic pilot, 1st Lt. ALBERT W. PARKS of Cannelton, Ind., died later in the hospital. The body of another soldier aboard the plane was still missing in the ruins.
Ten others, including four from the plane, somehow managed to escape with their lives and were rushed to the hospital with injuries.
Officials here said that of the four crew members of the plane, the pilot, was killed, two others were injured and one was missing. Three of the five Army passengers were killed and the other two injured. Of the seven men known to be in the mess hall, two were killed and five were injured. The 10th injured man was a rescue worker sprayed with flame when a gas tank exploded.
Eyewitnesses said the huge troop-carrier, listing badly from a burning engine, came roaring over the crowded "Smoke Bomb Hill" troop area at 10 a.m. (EST), struck the top of an officer's barracks and skidded across the parade grounds into the mess hall.
The plane exploded into flames and it was nearly two hours before firemen could bring under control the blaze that swept the building.
Airman 1C EUGENE R. SNYDER, 23, of Donelson, Tenn., the flight engineer and the only crew member to walk away from the plane, said PARKS gave orders for the men to prepare to jump as the plane lost altitude.
"The pilot told me to go back and tell the men to get ready to jump. When I got out of my seat. I noticed we were very low. I asked if we were too low. About that time something hit. I looked out the window and saw a telephone pole go by and hit the left wing. Then I ducked down behind the pilot's seat, put my head down and just rode it out."
One officer who saw the crash said the pilot was trying to pull back on the controls as the plane roared down on the barracks area.
"He was trying to avoid hitting the barracks and get in at the best angle for a landing on the parade ground," the officer said.
When the plane struck the roof of the bachelor's officers quarters, its tail section was torn loose. The plane glided part of the way across the 150-yard wide parade field and then skidded about 100 feet into the mess hall.
Soldiers rushed into the flaming mess hall moments after the crash and pulled three men from the rear section of the wrecked plane. However, it was nearly two hours before rescue workers could again get to the plane, which was buried under the charred timbers of the mess hall.
Lt. Col. B. A. KATZ, another eyewitness to the crash, said it "appeared unbelievable that anyone could have survived, either in the plane or in the mess hall."
"The pilot did a heroic thing trying to avoid hitting a barracks and in attempting to land in the open parade ground, thus saving as many lives as possible," KATZ said.
One officer said that if the plane had crashed two hours later, about 200 men would have been eating lunch in the mess hall.

Fort Bragg, N.C., March 30 (UP) -- The official list of dead, missing and injured in today's crash of a C119 Flying Boxcar into a mess hall in the "Smoke Bomb Hill" troop area here:
Air Force:
1st Lt. ALBERT W. PARKS, 25, son of Albert W. B. Parks, Rt. 1, Channelton, Ind., pilot.
Cpl. OSMAN S. PALMER, 23, Locke Mills, Me.
Cpl. ROBERT DERVAN, 21, 1014 Whitney Ave., Albany, Ga.
Pvt. ALBERT G. MARIN, JR., 20, Wampole, Mass. -- all attached to the 82nd Airborne Division Quartermaster Co., Ft. Bragg, N.C.
Cpl. DONALD F. GREENLEE, 22, Albion, Pa., attached to the Psychological Warfare Center, Ft. Bragg.
Pvt. 1C JAMES A. MACRE, 22, of Bonnie Doon, N.C., and Creekside, Pa., attached to Psychological Warfare Center, Ft. Bragg.
Airman 1C R. V. SHORT, Stewart AFB, Smyrna, Tenn.
Critically Injured:
Pvt. R. E. SALISBURY, 18, Columbus, O.
Chief Warrant Officer WILLIAM ANGELOFF, 39, both passengers on the plane.
Sgt. HENRY C. CLAY, Cullman, Ala., in the mess hall at the time of the accident.
In less serious condition are:
AFC EUGENE R. SNYDER, of the plane's crew.
Three men who were in the mess hall:
EDWARD A. ROSS, Darlington, S.C.
Pfc. WILLIAM COOK, WHiteburg, Ky.
Capt. CHARLES L. SHIRLEY, who rushed to the crash scene, was burned about the hands and arms aiding in rescue efforts.

Aiken Standard And Review South Carolina 1954-03-31


Donald Greenlee

My husband is the brother of Donald Greenlee and we still live in Donald Greenlee's hometown of Albion PA. We would love to connect up with you. roy was 2 1/2 years old and still remembers the police coming to the house that day with the flag and Donald's class ring.

Ft. Braggs

My husband is the brother of Donald Greenlee who was killed in the mess hall. If you compose a picture book or have info we would love to read it. He was 2 1/2 years old and only remembers the police officer coming to the house and telling his parents what happened. His sister and Roy are the only siblings left.
Thank you for doing this.

My thoughts go out to the

My thoughts go out to the families of these men.

My father, Sgt. Harry S. Mott, was serving at Ft. Bragg at that time. He only told me about this event in the past few years. He went into the burning mess hall and pulled out an injured man.

Someone who was also there that day gave my father a handwritten note about what he remembered form that day. I have tried to transcribe it but I can not read the name of the person who wrote it. The best I can come up with is Richard K. James but I don't think this is correct. If anyone has any information on who this may be, please comment. Thank you.

Time At Ft. Bragg/ Eyewitness to Plane Crash

My father Pfc. Stanley P. Thor arrived in Ft. Bragg March 10, 1954. He was with the 301st Signal Co. (Photo). At the time of the crash on March 30, 1954 he was only a short distance away, a half mile, in his barracks. He rushed out to see the explosion along with everyone else.
He writes about the crash in his letters back home and talks about it to this day. Dad is 84 years old now but talks about his experiences in the Army like it happened yesterday. We are all blessed with his sharp memory. Being a part of the photography crew gave him a history of pictures he sent home at that time. I am working on putting them into a time line of his service. He was also told my the MP's that the plane crash was "Top Secret" they should not take personal pictures. But he did manage to take a few from a distance and kept them undeveloped until his unit returned to their post in Fort Monmouth after Exercise Flash Burn.
I wish you well and hope you receive this. I would like to know if you have anything of interest to add to my research of Ft. Bragg. I would like to put together the information I still can while Dad is here to tell other's first hand and preserve the history for generations to come.
Thank you,
Lois Thor Herbst

Fort Bragg Mess Hall destroyed 1954

I was there and ran into the destroyed Mess Hall trying to uncover the soldiers that were inside.

This was before the medics arrived. It was a terrible site. One of my good friends Don Greenlee of PA was working there on KP duty. He didn't survive. We did uncover 2 men before I was ordered out by an Officer. I wanted to stay and help but he said GO !!

He again pointed to me and said GO. I had to obey. So sorry for all of those families who lost their loved ones that terrible day.

I ran back and got my camera and took some pictures, but an officer saw me and took out my film and tossed it away.

I am soon to be 84 years old, have a great family and enjoy each and every day.

Jim Wolf of Oakville WA at that time.

I was in the finance office

I was in the finance office this terrible day. The plane was in trouble and the pilot tried to belly land in the parade field behind us. He flew over our building and we could tell something wasn't right. He tripped the wing and skidded into the field then hitting into the mess hall. I still think on that day, often reflecting on those lost. I knew immediately of the loss of life I would be soon to discover. I had many nightmares over this. I pray for those families and the loss of life, many my age, which was 21 at the time. I am now a young 82 and live outside of Pitt. PA.

Air Disaster on March 30th 1954

I was in a Finance office when this happened, next to the officer's barracks that the plane hit and turned the plane in a different direction. It took one skip on the parade field and right into the mess hall. Myself and others in the finance office were lucky to be alive, because if we were a two story building the plane would have hit us for sure. I pray for those who did not survive this accident. I am now 82 years old and live outside of Pittsburgh, Pa. It was on the news in Pittsburgh at 10;15 AM my mother told me.

My name is Robert Buker, I

My name is Robert Buker, I was in the Finance office when the plane flew over our building and tipped into the telephone pole next door. As I turned my head I witnessed the plane skipped and go into the corner of the mess hall. I had months of repeated nightmares after this happened. How very sad it was to see this happen and not be able to do anything to help. I grieved for these young men and their families to this day.

Fort Brag C-119 Airplance Crash in 1954

My uncle Pvt Ralph Salisbury was one of the critically injured paratroopers that survived the plane crash. Perhaps it was your uncle who saved him, so for that I give you and him my thanks.

C-119 airplane crash at Fort Bragg, NC

My brother, PFC James A. Cafferty, was a Green Beret at Smoke Bomb Hill and scheduled for KP that day in the mess hall. However, he made a jump the previous day, damaging his knee, requiring surgery. When he awoke from the anesthetic he heard many sirens and when told the cause, offered a prayer of thanksgiving. It was said his replacement was found with the plane's main landing gear on top of him. Sometimes. it just isn't your time to go!