Topics - C-54 Medical Transport Crash
Sea of Japan September 26, 1950

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There were forty-three passengers and eight crew members onboard this Douglas C-54-DC (DC-54) Skymaster medical aircraft (registration number 42-72457) when it crashed in the Korea strait one mile from the end of the runway after taking off from Ashiya Air Base.  The aircraft was assigned to the 6th Troop Carrier Squadron of the 374th Troop Carrier Wing based in Tachikawa Air Base, Japan. Killed were eighteen passengers and five crew members, including one of two females on the flight, Vera M. Brown.

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Most recent update to this page: February 10, 2021

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Crew Members - 8 crew

  • Amerine, 2Lt. F.M. - co-pilot
  • Bonham, 1Lt. Jonita Ruth - flight nurse from Oklahoma.  Recipient of Distinguished Flying Cross.  See Bio section.
  • Brown, Capt. Vera M. - flight nurse from Birmingham, Alabama.  (See Bio section.) Fatality.
  • Hunnewell, SSgt. George - engineer
  • Loggins, Pfc. William C. - medical technician
  • Steele, Sgt. Foster Jr. - medical technician.  Born April 8, 1929, son of Foster M Steele (1887-1968) and Donna M. Buchanan Steele (1889-1971).  His brother was Carl D. Steele (1911-1993).  There is a marker for him in the Craigs Cemetery, Wetzel County, West Virginia.  Fatality.
  • Sowell, F.M. - radio operator
  • Ward, 1Lt. Walter W. - pilot.  Born August 5, 1920, there is a marker for him in the Pawhuska City Cemetery, Pawhuska, Oklahoma.  Fatality.

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Passengers - 43 passengers

  1. Besancon, Pvt. Charles W. - Born November 18, 1930, Charles is buried in Pine Hill Cemetery, Westfield, Massachusetts.  His next of kin was Mrs. Geraldine H. Besancon of Chester, Massachusetts. - Fatality
  2. Brown, Pvt. Richard L.
  3. Caffey, Cpl. William E. - b. September 28, 1914. Home state, his next of kin was Mr. C.H. Caffey of Groves, Texas.  He is buried in Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.  8th Air Force Motor Vehicle Squadron.  Fatality.
  4. Cavallo, Sgt. Louis W. - Born April 5, 1923, Louis is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery, Caledonia, Wisconsin. - Fatality
  5. Chambliss, Pvt. Fred G. - Born January 17, 1914, he is buried in Woodland Cemetery, Xenia, Ohio. - Fatality
  6. Corley, MSgt. Wilson T. - Born October 17, 1916, he is buried in Rock Springs Cemetery, Nacogdoches, Texas. - Fatality
  7. Curatolo, Pvt. Carmelo J.
  8. Edmonson, Cpl. Charlie W.
  9. Gillick, Pvt. Edward F.
  10. Granteed, Pfc. Joseph D.
  11. Hagan, Cpl. Kenneth A.
  12. Harrell, Sgt. Robert L.
  13. Hottinger, Pvt. William H. - Born March 2, 1927, he was from Hillsboro, Ohio.  His next of kin was Mrs. Eula B. Hottinger, Mount Orab, Ohio.  William is buried in Golden Gate National Cemetery. - Fatality
  14. Johnson, Pvt. Horace Wilson Jr. - Born November 12, 1930, he is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Quitman, Georgia.  His next of kin was Mrs. Horace W. Johnson of Quitman. - Fatality
  15. Johnson, Cpl. Philip F.
  16. Johnston, Pfc. Percy E.
  17. Jung, Pfc. Bruce R. - Born November 22, 1929, he is buried in Valhalla Cemetery, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Funeral services for Pfc. Jung were held out of Trinity Presbyterian Church, with members of the Joseph Schlitz American Legion Post performing military rites.  Bruce was the son of Emil J. (1905-1966) and Pricilia Jung, Des Moines, Iowa, formerly of Milwaukee, and the brother of sisters Patricia and Suzanne of Des Moines. - Fatality
  18. Lambert, Pfc. Ronald John - Born December 02, 1925, he is buried in McDonogh Cemetery, Gretna, Louisiana.  His next of kin was Mrs. Virginia V. Lambert of Algiers, Louisiana. - Fatality
  19. Lewis, SSgt. William J.
  20. Limmer, Cpl. Alvin
  21. Listner, Cpl. Oliver Leo - Born June 22, 1930, Listner was a survivor of this crash.  He died April 19, 1992 and is buried in Ft. Snelling National Cemetery, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
  22. McKelvey, Pfc. Melvin L. Born March 14, 1931, he is buried in Memory Lawn Cemetery, Phoenix, Arizona.  His next of kin was Mrs. Bessie B. McKelvey of Phoenix. - Fatality
  23. McLeroy, Cpl. Aces R.
  24. Mellet (Mellit?), Pvt. Robert L. - This Air Force private suffered a major injury in the crash.
  25. Meyers, Pvt. Lamont L.
  26. Moravetz, Sgt. John J.
  27. Morgan, Cpl. John Frederick Jr. - Born March 31, 1931, he enlisted in the military in Tampa, Florida. - Fatality
  28. Ross, Pfc. David E.
  29. Sanders, Pvt. Joseph H. - born 1921.  Member of the 6131 Air Force Air Police Squad, he was from Stilwell, Oklahoma. Fatality.
  30. Santilliam, Sgt. Miguel V.
  31. Selby, Cpl. Richard Nealon "Dick" - born September 28, 1928, son of Joseph Carroll Selby (1895-1956) and Mary Josephine Ritenour Selby (1903-1984) of Smitland, Maryland.  He was a member of 8th Supply Squadron, 8th Fighter Bomber Group.  His siblings were: Joseph Carroll Selby (1926-1994), Francis Stanislaus Selby (1927-1998), Leonard Patrick Selby (1929-2011), Norman Stuart Selby (1930-1996) and Frederick Lee Selby (1933-1936).  Fatality.
  32. Smeltzer, SSgt. Lawrence W.
  33. Smith, Pfc. A.L.
  34. Stark, Cpl. William C.
  35. Vilandre, Cpl. Robert D. -Born May 6, 1930, Corporal Vilandre's next of kin was Amy Vilandre of Crary, North Dakota.  He was a member of the 8th Air Police Squadron at the time of the crash.  He is buried in Crary Cemetery, Crary.  Fatality.
  36. Ward, Lt. Walter W.  - Born August 5, 1920, he was from Ardmore, Oklahoma.  There is a marker for him in Pawhuska City Cemetery, Pawhuska, Oklahoma.  Fatality.
  37. Watts, Sgt. L. G. - born January 25, 1928.  Fatality.
  38. White, Cpl. Eddie G.
  39. Whitmore, Pfc. Benjamin Garland - Born January 10, 1915, he is buried in Butterwood Cemetery, Darvills, Virginia. - Fatality
  40. Wilson, Cpl. George K.
  41. Wimbish, Pvt. John Leonard - Born December 3, 1928, son of George Edmond Wimbish (1895-1980) and Mary Alice Kapp Wimbish (1898-1939) of Alamance County, North Carolina, John Wimbish entered the Air Force in January 1947 for a three-year term and served 18 months of that time in the Philippine Islands.  He returned home in January 1950 and reenlisted.  He was sent to California for a short time, and was then assigned to duty in Japan.  He was among the first American soldiers to arrive in Korea after the war broke out in June, and was serving with an air police squadron at the time of the plane crash.

    His siblings were Seaman 2C Clarence Chamberlain Wimbish (1927-1945), killed in action aboard the USS Drexler DD441 in World War II), Ted Wimbish, James Wimbish, Barny Wimbish, Roger Gene Wimbish (1949-1968), Romie Edmond Wimbish (1917-1995), and Kathleen Wimbish Howell.  He was also survived by half-sisters Virginia Wimbish and Vickie Wimbish, and half-brothers G.E. Wimbish, Jr., Glen Wimbish, Donald Wimbish, and Roger Wimbish. Fatality.

    Pvt. John Wimbish MIA Article
    (Click picture for a larger view)

    Pvt. John Wimbish Obituary
    (Click picture to see the whole obituary)
  42. Wood, Pfc. Alfred W. - born June 23, 1931.  Fatality. Alfred is buried in Philadelphia National Cemetery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  43. Zaiz, Cpl. Richard A. - Survivor.  [See News Clippings section of this page (The McKendree Review) for Corporal Zaiz's memories of his first airplane ride.]

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  • Bonham, Jonita Ruth - Flight nurse.  Lieutenant Bonham was the recipient of a Distinguished Flying Cross in the Korean War.  See her bio on Women in Korea on the KWE.|
  • Brown, Vera M. - Flight nurse.  Captain Brown, a World War II nurse from Birmingham, Alabama, was assigned to the 801st Medical Air Evacuation Squadron and was on this air evacuation flight.  According to the Office of the Air Force Surgeon General in Washington, D.C., Captain Brown received the Distinguished Flying Cross posthumously.  It should be noted that in an official preliminary accident report transmission from Far East Air Forces headquarters, Vera Brown (Service Number 763137) was listed as flight nurse "Victor" Brown.

    Vera Maude Brown was a native of Wedowee, Randolph County, Alabama, and a graduate of Randolph County High School.  She was 29 years old at the time of her death.  She was the daughter of Mrs. Winston H. (Arizona M.) Boone of Birmingham, and the sister of Mrs. Virginia Covington.  She graduated from the Carraway Methodist Hospital's School of Nursing and joined the Army Nurse Corps thereafter.  In 1945 she graduated from the AAF School of Aviation Medicine at Randolph Field, Texas, and had a tour of duty in a general hospital in Japan.  She is buried in Forest Hill Cemetery, Alabama.  In addition to her mother and sister, she was survived by a niece and nephew.  In her honor, in May of 1951 the Future Nurses Club of Phillips High School. Birmingham, Alabama, became the Vera M. Brown Chapter, Future Nurses of America.

    For further information about Vera Brown, see "Women in Korea" in the Topics of the Korean War Educator.

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News Clippings

The McKendree Review, September 23, 1958, page 2

"My First Airplane Ride" by Richard A. Zaiz, Sr.

At four o'clock on September 26, 1950, I climbed aboard a C-54 Air force cargo plane along with 51 other GIs.  I buckled my helmet under my chin, made sure my field pack was on good, picked up a mae-west life jacket, put it on, and sat down, my carbine between my legs.  I looked around me at all the other passengers.  They seemed calm.  I was scared.  Never having been up in a plane before, this was something of a thrill to me.

The crew chief of the plane explained how to use the mae-west in case of emergency, which, he said, "You don't have to worry about."  Then the co-pilot told everyone to fasten his safety belt, but failed to explain how it could be adjusted to fit around us,  I laid mine on my lap, covering it with my hands as I heard someone say, "This plane is named after my state, the Hoosier state."

At this point I heard the four big motors roar and felt the brakes give; the plane started rolling down the taxi-ramp toward the runway.  I put my feet up in the baggage in front of me and tried to go to sleep, thinking I wouldn't be scared then.  As I sat there with my eyes half closed, I could see the runway lights out of the window across from me.  The plane stopped for a second or two and then forged down the runway.  I fell asleep.

The next thing I knew, I was out of the plane flying end over end in the air, getting hit with everything but the wings of the plane.  I thought at first that I was dreaming, but then I hit the cold waters of the Sea of Japan.

I heard nothing for what seemed to me an eternity, then one by one I heard shouts for help.  The whole black night was filled with "help, help, help", and the shouts turned to mad cries, and I could hear "help" -- and the next time "hel" - but this time the word was unfinished.

I hung to the barracks bags and boxes, inflating my mae-west.  I heard, "Someone, please help me."  I swam around and found him as he was going under.  I grabbed hold of what I thought to be a parachute, but found out later that it was a mattress and held on.  Holding the head of the other airman above the water, I worked my way around the mattress until I was on the other side, still holding on to this lad.

I felt something hit my leg, and then the boy I was holding up said, "I have something through my side."  I reached under the water until I could feel it.  It was a piece of the plane.  I turned on the small flashlight on my mae-west in order that anyone else nearby could see us.

All at once I heard voices.  I tried to swim toward them and I was in luck.  About nine men were on a life raft.  I grabbed and hung on.  We floated around until daylight.  Still there were frequent calls for help, and we heard them fade away as if someone were blowing through a straw in a glass of water.

As the sky brightened with the early morning sun we could see the bloody faces of each other.  One man on the raft was dead.  Another had his scalp cut half off.  Then out of what seemed like nowhere came a Japanese fishing boat which picked us up and took us to land.  From here we went to the Air Base hospital for treatment--23 in all out of 51 persons.  This ended my first airplane ride.

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