Topics - Globemaster Ditching
Southwest of Ireland, March 23, 1951

Last flight of 49244 - Call sign Air Force 5882

Most recent update to this page: February 11, 2022

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On 23 March 1951, a C-124 49-0244 flying from Limestone AFB Loring for a transatlantic flight to Mildenhall Royal Air Force Base, Lakenheath, UK, reported a fire in the cargo crates, signaling Mayday.  They began jettisoning the crates and announced they were ditching. The C-124 ditched southwest of Ireland.

The last radio call from 49244 was to USCGC Casco at station Yankee, and it occurred at approximately 1 p.m. in the early afternoon. Casco weighed anchor, continued radio contact, followed the track of 49244 until the plane ditched and gave it's exact location. Casco was also in contact with the B-50 from Lakenheath and directed the B-50 to the exact point of ditching where Capt Muller and his crew spotted the survivors in life rafts.
The B-50 loitered over the survivors until bingo fuel and had to return to Lakenhealth.
Casco arrived at the ditching site and the men had disappeared.

The aircraft was intact when it touched down on the ocean. All hands exited the aircraft wearing life preservers and climbed into the inflated 5 man life rafts. The rafts were equipped with cold weather gear, food, water, flares, and Gibson Girl hand crank emergency radios. Shortly after the men were in the life rafts, a B-29 pilot out of Ireland spotted the rafts and the flares that the men had ignited. Their location was reported and the pilot left the scene when his fuel was getting low.

No other United States or Allied planes or ships made it to the ditch site for over 19 hours, until Sunday, March 25, 1951. When the ships arrived, all they found were some charred crates and a partially deflated life raft. Only a few small pieces of wreckage were found 450 miles off the west coast of Ireland.  Ships and planes continued searching for the next several days, but not a single body was found. The men of C-124 #49-0244 had disappeared. There is circumstantial evidence that the airmen may have been “snatched” by the Soviet Union for their intelligence value, but their fate remains a mystery. It is a fact that Soviet submarines and surface vessels were active in this area and that the Soviets had no qualms about capturing and holding American servicemen, particularly aviators.

An article in the Lewiston Evening Journal dated March 24, 1951, stated that five ships went to the area where the plane was reported missing.  The five ships were two U.S. transport ships (General Muir and the Golden Eagle), the British submarine Thule, and two international weather ships, Jig and Charlie).  The British steamship Hesione intercepted the following message from a searching B-29 at 1:12 a.m. (GMT):  "Sighted rockets and have seen flares and lights at 50.22 north 22.22 west.  Also believe to have sighted something that seems to be rockets and parachutes with one-man rafts at 50.33 north 20.46 west."

The Korean War Educator is seeking more information about this crash.  Contact: Lynnita Brown, 111 E. Houghton St., Tuscola, IL 61953; phone 217-253-4620.

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  1. Adler, S/Sgt. Glenn E. (509th BWng 830th BSqd)
  2. Adrean, Capt. Phil Bentley (Pilot, 509th BWng 830th BSqd)
  3. Ambrose, Sgt. George W. (509th BWng 4013th ArmElecMaintSqd)
  4. Ambrose, Cpl. Sterling L (509th BWng 715th BSqd
  5. Amsden, S/Sgt. Robert D. (CREW) (Flight Engineer, 509th BWng 2nd StrtgcSpt Sqd)
  6. Armstrong, 2 Lt. Karl R. Jr. (CREW) (Navigator, 509th BWing 2nd StrtgcSptSqd)
  7. Ayers, SSgt. Herbert Spencer
  8. Bell, Maj. Robert Scott (CREW - In command of flight; squadron ops officer who was doing a route check on the pilots, Capt. Collins & 2nd Lt. Mathers) (Pilot, 509th BWing 2nd StrtgcSptSqd)
  9. Bernis, S/Sgt. Barton C. (CREW) (CE, 509th BWing 2nd StrtgcSptSqd)
  10. Berenberg, Pvt. Dwight Alden (Radio Operator, 509th BWing 830th BSqd.)
  11. Bristow, Sgt. Robert Raymond (Radio Operator, 509th BWng 393rd BSqd)
  12. Broussard, Sgt. Joseph D. (CREW) (CE, 509th BWing 2nd StrtgcSptSqd)
  13. Chute, Cpl. Arthur F. (CREW) (FC, 509th BWing 2nd StrtgcSptSqd)
  14. Collins, Capt. Emmett Edward (CREW) (Pilot, 509th BWing 2nd StrtgcSptSqd)
  15. Counsell, Capt. John Edward (Bmbdr, 509th BWng 393rd BSqd)
  16. Crow, Cpl. Jack R. (CREW) (FC, 509th BWing 2nd StrtgcSptSqd)
  17. Cullen, Brig. Gen. Paul Thomas (Commander, SAC 2nd Air Force 7th Air Div.)
  18. Davies, Capt. Francis N. (CREW - squadron navigator who was evaluating 2LT Armstrong) (Navigator, 509th BWng 2nd StrtgcSptSqd)
  19. Dubach, Capt. Mark O. (Navigator, 509th BWng 715th BSqd)
  20. Dudek, Capt. Mieczyslaw Thomas "Mathew" (Bmbdr, 509tyh BWng 393rd BSqd)
  21. Dughman, S/Sgt. Gene D. (509th BWng 393rd BSqd)
  22. Fife, 1LT. Jack Radford (Pilot, 509th BWng 715th BSqd)
  23. Fisher, 2LT William E. Jr. (Navigator, 509th BWng 715th BSqd)
  24. Gray, Col. Kenneth Neil (SAC 2nd Air Force 7th Air Div.) (SAC budget officer)
  25. Green, T/Sgt. Charles Edgar (Flt Eng, 509th BWing 2nd StrtgcSptSqd)
  26. Greene, S/Sgt. Thomas E. (509th BWng 4013th ArmElecMaintSqd)
  27. Hopkins, Lt. Col. James I. (Pilot, SAC 2nd Air Force 7th Air Div.) (chief of SAC's military personnel division)
  28. Jones, S/Sgt Homer Jr. (Radio Operator, 509th BWing 2nd StrtgcSptSqd)
  29. Kampert, Capt. Robert Kenneth (Bmbdr, 509th BWng 393rd BSqd)
  30. Kelly, Capt. Thomas Robert (Bmbdr, 509th BWng 830th BSqd)
  31. Krawiec, Capt. Carl N. (Bmbdr, 509th BWng 715th BSqd)
  32. Lee, 2LT. Max D. (Navigator, 509th BWng 830th BSqd)
  33. Lengua, S/Sgt. Nicolo A. (Radio Operator, 509th BWng 830th BSqd)
  34. Lutjeans, Samuel P. (Bmbdr, 509th BWng 715th BSqd)
  35. Mathers, 2Lt. Howard P. (Pilot, 509th BWing 2nd StrtgcSptSqd)
  36. McGee, Sgt. Ronald D. (Radio Operator, 509th BWng 393rd BSqd)
  37. McKoy, Lt. Col. Edwin A. (Pilot, SAC 2nd Air Force 7th Air Div.) (SAC material directorate)
  38. Meckler, Sgt. Frank A. (FltEng, 509th BWng 830th BSqd)
  39. Peterson, Capt. Walter T. (Pilot, 509th BWng 393rd BSqd)
  40. Porter, Capt. Calvin (Bmbdr, 509th BWng 393rd BSqd)
  41. Rafferty, Lawrence E. (Pilot, 509th BWng 715th BSqd)
  42. Scarbrough, M/Sgt. Everett Doyle (CE, 509th BWing 2nd StrtgcSptSqd)
  43. Stoddard, Maj. Gordon H. (Pilot, SAC 2nd Air Force 7th Air Div.)(assigned to SAC dictorate of plans)
  44. Swisher, Cpl. Clarence G. (509th BWng 393rd BSqd)
  45. Thomas, Cpl. Bobby G. (509th BWng 715th BSqd)
  46. VanGilder, M/Sgt. Taylor Hawkins (509th BWng 509th AvSqd)
  47. Vincent, Capt. Roger S. (Pilot, 509th BWng 830th BSqd) (from Sandwich, IL)
  48. Wagner, Capt. Walter A. Jr. (Pilot, 509th BWng 830th BSqd)
  49. Williamson, M/Sgt. Herbert C. (509th BWng 509th Av Sqd)
  50. Witkowski, Raymond L. (Bmbdr, 509th BWng 715th BSqd)
  51. Zabawa, Capt. Edwin D. (Bmbdr, 509th BWng 830th BSqd)
  52. Zalac, Capt. Frank B. (Pilot, 509th BWng 715th BSqd)
  53. Zweygartt, Capt. John C. (Bmbdr, 509th BWng 830th BSqd)

Last Flight of 49244

[KWE Note: The PDF article listed on the Page Contents is the product of research conducted by Don Wagner, son of Capt. Walter A. Wagner, Jr.]

Last Flight of 49244 (Don Wagner Research) (PDF File)

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In Memoriam

George W. Ambrose

Adler, S/Sgt. Glenn E.

Sergeant Adler was born in 1929, in Aurora, Illinois, a son of John Bernard Adler (1893-1978) and Dorothea Frieda Emilia Luebke Adler (1895-1967).  A graduate of Lincoln Park High School in 1946, he entered the Air Force shortly thereafter.  In 1950 he was a member of the Air Force Good Will Tour in Germany, France, England and other European countries.  His siblings were Carol Jane Adler Long (1922-2018) and brothers Dale O. Adler and John H. "Jack" Adler. 

Adrean, Capt. Phil Bentley

The following bio is from the Findagrave website:

Phil Bentley Adrean was born January 28, 1925 to Phyllis May (nee Andre) and Vernon Lee Adrean in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was one of three siblings having an older brother Vernon and younger brother Jack. Phil's father was employed as a certified public accountant.

Phil was a 1942 graduate of Central High School in Tulsa, and then attended Oklahoma A & M in order to qualify for the Aviation Cadet Program. He enlisted in the Army Air Forces on January 25, 1943 completing flying training in January 1944. He was commissioned a second lieutenant with a pilot rating, ASN: O-704449.

After combat crew training Phil deployed to England. He had been assigned to the 750th Bomb Squadron, 457th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force, operating from RAF Glatton, Army Air Forces Station 130, located about 70 miles north of London. Phil was serving as co-pilot with the 2nd Lt Donald K. Goss crew.

On Friday, August 25, 1944 the 457th Bomb Group target for today was the hydroelectric hydrogen plant at Peenemünde, the German rocket research center located in northern Germany on the Baltic Sea coast. This was Phil's twenty-fifth mission, he and crew were operating B-17G, s/n 42-98018, named 'Lady Katherine', piloted by 2nd Lt Goss. The plane was hit by flak just after dropping bombs on Peenemünde. The flak blew a large hole in the wing and knocked out engine #2. It also appeared that it had done major damage in the bomb bay. The crew had also suffered injuries. The ball turret gunner, Charles Gentile, was bleeding in a dozen places, the radioman's hands were both injured and bleeding, the waist gunner had a broken leg and there were other injuries. Lt Goss made a decision to fly to Sweden so that his crew could get medical help sooner. After a survey of the damage to the plane it was decided that the plane was structurally damaged and would probably break up on landing so a decision was made that all would bail out.

As the plane approached Sweden, Swedish fighter aircraft were sent out from Ljungbyhed airfield in southern Sweden to escort the damaged fortress. Once over land the order to bail out was given. The injured men's hands were placed on their parachute D-ring they were pushed out the door. All nine crew members successfully bailed out and were quickly recovered once on the ground. The crew, except for the ball turret gunner who was taken to the hospital, was together by morning and took the train to Kristianstad where they were officially welcomed to Sweden by the town's Mayor. The Lady Katherine crashed in some woods outside Ljungbyhed and was completely destroyed. The crew was interned in Sweden for the duration of the war in Europe. The other members of Phil's crew during this mission were as follows:

2nd Lt Donald K. Goss (P)- INT/RTD
2nd Lt Gerhardt C Hoelzel (N)- INT/RTD
S/Sgt William H. Sokolowski (RWG- Toggleer)- INT/RTD
S/Sgt Peter G. Stern (ETTG)- INT/RTD
S/Sgt Henry M. Githens, Jr. (Radio)- INT/RTD
S/Sgt Ruben L. Hernandez (LWG)- INT/RTD
Sgt Charles C. Gentile (BTG)- INT/RTD
S/Sgt John A. Roe, Jr. (TG)- INT/RTD

After VE-Day Phil returned to the United States. He was honorably discharged from the Army Air Forces during demobilization. He electing to remain in the active reserve with the 323 Bomb Group at Tinker Army Air Field near Tulsa. Phil enrolled in school at the University of Tulsa, later transferred to the University of Oklahoma at Norman where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business in 1949. After one semester of postgraduate work he re-joined the Air Force.

After entering the Air Force he received training as a B-29/B-50 pilot and was assigned to the 830th Squadron, 509th Bomb Wing, 47th Air Division, 8th Air Force, Strategic Air Command, Walker Air Force Base (AFB), located near Roswell, New Mexico. In late 1950 Brig. General Paul T. Cullen had been recently tasked to develop and expand the 7th Air Division of Strategic Air Command to be based across the United Kingdom. This Deployment started on Wednesday 21 March 1951, utilizing C-124A Globemaster II Serial Number 49-0244 transport commanded by Major Robert Scott Bell of the 2nd Strategic Support Squadron. The plane departed Walker AFB, New Mexico, with almost 50 of the nation's top strategic bombing and nuclear weapons personnel from the 509th Bomb Group onboard. The final destination was to be the RAF base at Lakenheath, England.

The plane first landed at Barksdale AFB, Shreveport, Louisiana where they remained overnight. On Thursday 22 March, General Cullen and his staff joined the other passengers and boarded the aircraft. The Globemaster then departed and following an uneventful eight hour flight, the C-124 landed at Limestone AFB (later Loring AFB) Limestone, Maine. This was the last stop before the long North Atlantic crossing. While the aircraft was being refueled, the pilots and navigators went to base ops where they received an updated weather briefing. They filed the flight plan for the final leg: Limestone direct Gander, (great circle rhumb line) to Mildenhall RAFB, U.K.

The 23 March transatlantic flight progressed without incident with normal check-ins with weather vessels along the route. Then about 800 miles southwest of Ireland, the airplane issued a Mayday call, reporting a fire in the cargo crates. The C-124 ditched reporting a final position of 50°45'0.00"N, 24° 3'0.00"W (600 miles west-southwest of Ireland). The aircraft was intact when it touched down on the ocean. All hands excited the aircraft wearing life preservers and climbed into the inflated 5 man life rafts. The rafts were equipped with cold weather gear, food, water, flares, and Gibson Girl hand crank emergency radios.

The 509th Bomb Group element stationed at RAF Lakenheath, England launched a B-50 Superfortress from its 830th Bomb Squadron, commanded by Captain Harold Muller to search for the survivors. He located the men when they fired several flares. The B-50 was not carrying any rescue equipment that could be dropped to the survivors. Captain Muller radioed back that he had located the men and would remain on station as long as fuel allowed. They continued circling and hoping for rescue aircraft to arrive but to no avail. Reaching critical fuel, Captain Muller was forced to abandon his fellow airmen and return to base.

Incredibly no other aircraft were launched to take station over the survivors until rescue vessels could arrive. Just as incredible it was another "Nineteen" (19) hours the following day before the first surface rescue vessel arrived, which was the US Coast Guard Cutter Casco (WAVP-370). All that was found was a burned briefcase and a partially deflated life raft. Despite the largest air and sea search up to that time, not one body was found. Phil Adrean and the 52 airmen with him had disappeared.

Later it was revealed that Soviet submarines and surface vessels were active in the area. It has been speculated that Adrean and his companions were taken aboard Soviet submarines and brought to the Soviet Union for interrogation. Due to their expertise in nuclear and other defense matters, Cullen and the other men on the airplane would have been an intelligence windfall to the Soviets.

In reality the Soviet connection may be a weak excuse for the poor to nonexistent immediate rescue response to recover survivors. It is more likely Phil and the other 52 survivors were taken by the North Atlantic Ocean after being abandoned for nineteen hours in weather conditions of driving rain and high seas. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 many cold war secrets have been revealed but not one word about this C-124 ditching or Soviet snatching of any of its occupants. The disappearance of Captain Phil Bentley Adrean and other survivors remains a great mystery of the Cold War.

Ambrose, George W.

Sgt. George W. Ambrose, Jr., 21, was the son of George W. And Laura Ambrose, 501 Ninth Avenue, Brunswick, Maryland.  Sergeant Ambrose, better known as "Bunky", was in the Army Air Forces about two years. He was stationed in New Mexico, Texas and Mississippi before being assigned in the C-124 that left Limestone, Maine on Thursday for Mildenhall Air Base, Suffolk, England. He was a member of the 1947 Brunswick High School graduation class.  Cousin to Sterling L. Ambrose.

Ambrose, Cpl. Sterling Lee Owen Jr.

Cpl. Sterling L. Ambrose, 19, was the son of Sterling Lee Owen Sr. (deceased) and Mrs. Rosie Ambrose Weller, of 115 Ninth Avenue, Brunswick, Maryland. Corporal Ambrose had been in the service since his graduation from Brunswick High School in 1948. He was a stepson of William Weller, Brunswick radio shop proprietor.  Cousin to George W. Ambrose.

S/Sgt. Robert Amsden
(Click for large view)

Amsden, S/Sgt. Robert D.

S/Sgt. Robert Amsden, a graduate of Roslyn High School, Long Island, New York, was 21 years old when the Globemaster plane that he was on crash landed far off the coast of Ireland.  The son of Mr. and Mrs. John J. Amsden of Schenevus (originally from East Williston, Long Island), Robert enlisted in the Air Force on March 4, 1947 after graduating from high school.  His father was a retired naval officer.

Armstrong, 2Lt. Karl "Sonny" Raymond Jr.

Lieutenant Armstrong was born October 20, 1928 in Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia.  He was a son of Karl Raymond Armstrong Sr. (1893-1960) and Gretchen M. Armstrong (1901-1970).  He married his childhood sweetheart, Vivian Imogene "Gene" Grantham (Benjamin) (1928-1990). 

According to his niece, Meryl Murphy:

"This entire event just absolutely devastated my family. He attended Texas A & M College, which is now a university. It was all male college then and everyone was in the corps.  He married my daddy's sister after being sweethearts since grade school. They both lived in Cisco, Texas, but were living in New Mexico when this happened.  He was 24 years old.  He was a Second Lieutenant and was a navigator.  Growing up I only heard that his plane blew up over the Irish sea. I never really asked too many questions--it was not a topic to discuss. When I got older and my daddy was dying, I asked him. He said it was the worst time in his life. My grandfather was a judge and he went to every senator in Texas and then to Washington DC to get information.  He has been missed every day."

Ayers, S/Sgt. Herbert Spencer

Herbert Spencer was born February 25, 1929 in Calhoun County, Florida, a son of Jessie McKinley Ayers (1896-1977) and Allie Mae Ayers Ayers (1902-1994).  His siblings were Jessie Mae Ayers Price (1919-2019), Cathy Ayers Smith, James McKinnon "Mack" Ayers, William A. Ayers, Carolyn Ayers Dykes (1926-2015), Carrol Ayers (deceased infant twin of Carolyn), and deceased infant sisters Barbara and Elizabeth Ayers.  There is a memorial stone for Herbert in the Magnolia Baptist Church Cemetery, Blountstown, Florida.

Bell, Maj. Robert Scott

Born on March 8, 1920 in Searcy, Arkansas, he was a son of Louis Thomas Bell (1892-1979) and Clara Pearl Watson Bell (1900-1978).  A World War II veteran, he married Elwanda Beatrice Hoofman (1921-2006) Bell in 1943.  They were parents of a son, Robert Scott Bell Jr. (1946-2019).  Robert's brother was Arthur Watson Bell Sr.  There is a marker for Major Bell in the Oak Grove Cemetery, Searcy, Arkansas. 

Berenberg, Pvt. Dwight Alden

Private Berenberg was born November 24, 1925 in Wichita, Kansas, the son of Emanuel Berenberg (1898-1982) and Myrtle Winifred Smith Berenberg (1901-1940).

Bemis, S/Sgt. Barton C.

Born in 1924, he was a son of Ernest E. Bemis (1891-1953) and Lucy Thurber Bemis (1894-1972).  His siblings were Maynard Nial Bemis (1933-2014), Gordon Bemis, Hugh Bemis, Howard "Chub" Bemis, Charlotte Bemis Lawrence, and Barbara Bemis Goldsmith.  The Bemis family was from Vermont and New Hampshire.

Bristow, Sgt. Robert Raymond

Sergeant Bristow was born August 3, 1926 in Leavenworth, Kansas, a son of Charles Robert Bristow (1887-1952) and Ola Rae Jackson Bristow (1889-1937).  He was a graduate of North Kansas City High School and then joined the Army Air Corps, serving in the South Pacific during World War 11.  His siblings were John, Rosemary, Margaret Bristow Fauer, and Charles Winford Bristow (1918-1942).  His wife was Odel Bristow and his daughter was Mary Kathleen Bristow, age four.

Broussard, Sgt. Joseph D.

Born October 12, 1931, a son of Dewey J. Broussard (1908-1985) and Rose Aimee Broussard (1909-2000) he was from Maurice, Louisiana.  He attended Maurice High School in 1947-48.  There is a memorial marker for him in Saint Alphonsus Cemetery, Maurice, Louisiana.

Chute, Cpl. Arthur F.

Corporal Chute was born in Saco, Maine in 1931, a son of Arthur F. Chute (1903-1965) and Catherine Margie McCarn Chute (1901-1981).  His siblings were Lloyd Francis Chute (1924-1991), Mrs. Josephine Wheeler, and John W. Chute.

Collins, Capt. Emmett Edward

Captain Collins was born on September 13, 1907 in Billings, Montana, a son of George Collins and Bessie Elizabeth Turner Collins Brazier (1880-1968).  His brother was Paul Lee Collins (1912-1977).

Counsell, Capt. John Edward

Captain Counsell was born on March 27, 1919 in Kansas City, Missouri, the son of Dr. Chester Mason Counsell (1883-1967) and Muriel Susan James Counsell (1886-1964).

Crow, Cpl. Jack R.

Corporal Crow was a son of Mr. and Mrs. R.C. Crow of  the Detroit area.  He attended Northwestern High School, but enlisted in the Air Force after his junior year.  He completed his high school degree while in the military.  He completed Air Force school at Walker Air Force Base in Roswell, New Mexico.  He had two siblings.qqqqqqqq

Cullen, Gen. Paul Thomas

Born May 30, 1901 in Peru, Paul Thomas Cullen was an US Air Force General. First commander of the 7th Air Division of Strategic Air Command and deputy commander and chief of staff of the 2nd Air Force. Lost and presumed killed when his C-124A Globemaster II transport ditched and sank during a routine Atlantic flight to the United Kingdom. Cullen and his command staff were picked up at Barksdale Air Force Base by the airplane that had left Walker Air Force Base at Roswell, N.M., with almost 50 of the nation's top strategic bombing and nuclear weapons personnel from the 509th Bomb Group.

Gen. Paul Thomas Cullen
(Click for large view)

On March 23, 1951, about 800 miles southwest of Ireland, the airplane issued a Mayday call, reporting a fire in the cargo crates. The C-124 ditched and all aboard exited safely with life preservers and climbed into life rafts equipped with cold weather gear, food, water, flares, and Gibson Girl hand-cranked emergency radios. A B-29 from England located the survivors, who fired several flares, but was not carrying any rescue equipment. The B-29 radioed the coordinates of the survivors and circled until it was reached critical fuel and was forced to return to base.

When the first rescue craft reached the scene 19 hours later, all that was found was a burned briefcase and a partially deflated life raft. Despite the largest air and sea search up to that time, not one body was found. Cullen and the 53 men with him had disappeared. Later it was revealed that Soviet submarines and surface vessels were active in the area. It has been speculated that Cullen and his companions were taken aboard Soviet submarines and brought to Russia for interrogation.

Due to their expertise in nuclear and other defense matters, Cullen and the other men on the airplane would have been an intelligence windfall to the Soviets. Cullen had been the air service's leading expert on aerial reconnaissance and aerial photography. He also was the head of photography at the Crossroads atom bomb tests in the Pacific in the late 1940s. He also had served as commander of the 2nd Operations Group on two occasions during World War II. An Air Force trophy for excellence in aerial reconnaissance, the Brig. Gen. Paul T. Cullen Award, was named in his honor. (bio by: John Andrew Prime)

General Cullen was married to Reva Joy Hurwitz, a Denver Post military writer.  [KWE Note: Mrs. Cullen was born in 1915 and died in 1989.  A New York Times article in 1946 shows Paul Thomas Cullen was at that time engaged to Edith Virginia Sinnott, daughter of the ex-postmaster of Brooklyn.]

Davies, Capt. Francis N. "Frank"

Capt Francis M. "Frank" Davies
(Click picture for a larger view)

Captain Davies was born December 07, 1918.  Captain Davies' widow was Virginia "Ginnie" Arnold Davies, daughter of Dr. Clifford H. Arnold, who was the brother of General "Hap" Arnold.  She never remarried, and lived in the same house in Tucson from about 1958. She was born on September 01, 1913 and was a reservation agent with American Airlines when she married Frank Davies in 1948.  After she lost Frank, her father also died. He was in the Army Medical Corp in World War I and World War II. Hap Arnold attended Francis and Virginia's wedding, in El Paso, Texas. According to the wedding newspaper announcement, Captain  Davies flew in the Caribbean and South America during World War II. Ginnie Davies died August 02, 2014 in Tucson.

Dubach, Capt. Mark Otto

Captain Dubach was born August 08, 1916 in Kansas City, Missouri, a son of Otto Frederick Dubach (1875-1960) and Ana King Dubach (1876-1975).  He was married to Betty Lee Good in 1948.  Betty later married John J. Foster and they were parents of two children.  Betty Foster was born in 1920 and died in 2019.  Mark's siblings were Merrill King Dubach Sr. (1903-1980), Kenneth Myers Dubach (1904-1990) and Frank Everett Dubach (1910-1994).

Dudek, Capt. Miezyslaw Thomas "Mathew"

Captain Dudek was born July 18, 19in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, son of Andrew Dudek (1884-1974) and Frances Dudek (1893-1962).  From West Allis, Minnesota, he was a chain belt inspector before being recalled to the service in March 1951.  He originally enlisted in the Army Air Corps on November 30, 1942 in San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center, Texas.  He had a wife Mabel and two children.

Dughman, S/Sgt. Gene Dale

Sergeant Dughman was born June 13, 1926 in Seneca, Nebraska, a son of Rolland Glen Dughman (1892-1952) and Chloe Beatrice Evans Dughman (1906-1951).  He was married to Helen Marie McCarthy (9/23/1926-10/23/2014).  Helen later married James Oscar Carey.  She lived in Omaha, Nebraska.  Gene's sibling was John Whitesul Dughman (1930-2002).

Fife, 1Lt. Jack Radford

Lieutenant Fife was born October 14, 1919, Houston Heights, Harris County, Texas, a son of James Emmett Fife Sr. (1878-1929) and Anna Mae Boyd Fife.  His siblings were James Emmett Fife Jr. and an infant sister (1917-1917).

Fisher, 2Lt. William Edward Jr.

Born August 27, 1922 in Oklahoma, he was the son of William Edward Fisher (1889-1965) and Elizabeth Florence Dean Fisher (1895-1976) of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  His siblings were Elizabeth Dean (Bettie) Fisher and Ruth E. Fisher.  There is a memorial marker for him in Rose Hill Burial Park, Oklahoma City.

Gray, Col. Kenneth Neil

Born June 5, 1909 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, he was a son of Conard Neil Gray (1873-1942) and Mabel Helen R. Taylor Gray (1876-1928).  He married Franc Angela Fischer Gray (1909-1988) in 1939.  His brother was Edward Taylor Gray (1906-1908).  He was a SAC budget officer from Minnesota.  There is a marker in his memory at Fort Snelling National Cemetery, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Green, T/Sgt. Charles Edgar

Sergeant Green was born November 27, 1921 in Haworth, Oklahoma, a son of Vance Joseph Green Sr. (1891-1985) and Luaddie Robinson Green (1897-1959).  His siblings were Vance Joseph Green Jr. (1914-1934), Melba Louise Green (1919-1936), Charles Edgar Green, Earl Eugene Green, and James Harold Green.

Greene, S/Sgt. Thomas Eli Sr.

Sergeant Greene was born May 06, 1915, son of Christopher Wilson Greene (1882-1952( and Connie Thompson Greene (1892-1928).  He was married to Ethel Mae Eubanks on January 29, 1939.  Their son was Don Thomas Greene (1939-1973).  He was also married to Hazel E. MacDonald Greene.  They had sons Thomas Eli Greene Jr. (1942-2015) and Winston Ray Greene (1941-1942).

Hopkins, Ltc. James I. "Hop" Jr.

James I. Hopkins was a native of Palestine, Texas. He attended Texas A&M college for three years before enlisting in the Air Corps Aviation Cadet Program at Randolph Field in San Antonio, Texas. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on February 7, 1941. He married Catherine Crittenden shortly thereafter. They had two children, Jim (1941--) and Patricia (1945-2017). After the war began, he deployed to North Africa with the Desert Air Force, a component of the Ninth Air Force in support of General Bernard L. Montgomery’s Eighth Army. He flew 43 combat missions and was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross. After his return to the US he became an instructor pilot and then was assigned as Operations Officer to the 393rd Bomb Squadron commanded by LTC Tom Classen. The 393rd was then chosen to be the strike force of the newly created 509th Composite Bomb Group in Wendover, Utah, commanded by Colonel Paul Tibbets with Classen as his deputy, and (now) Major Hopkins continuing as Operations Officer. After intense training the 509th deployed to Tinian North Field, Mariana Islands where he flew the photographic plane on the Nagasaki mission. He was promoted to LTC a few weeks later. After the war, the 509th was relocated to Walker Air Force Base, Roswell, New Mexico. LTC Hopkins remained with the 509th and played a key role in Operation Crossroads which saw the third atomic bomb dropped. He was subsequently selected to attend the Air War College and after graduation joined the Headquarters of the Strategic Air Command in Omaha, Nebraska where he was serving at the time of his last flight on the C-124 Globemaster that ditched on March 23, 1951 in the North Atlantic.

(Thanks to Scott Muselin for the details of LTC Hopkins’s military assignments.)

Kampert, Capt. Robert Kenneth

Captain Kampert was a World War II veteran who was recalled to service in March 1951.  Born March 28, 1916 in Barrington, Illinois, a son of Herbert Lampbert Kampert (1886-1947) and Frieda Wanda Berg Kampert (1891-1984), he was the co-owner of the Nu-Block Company cement firm in Barrington, IL.  He married Lorraine Minnie Maicke Kampert (1918-2000) in 1942, and they were parents of four small children.  His siblings were Roger Henry Kampert (1910-1970), and (the KWE believes) Herbert, Chester, Keith, Mrs. Raymond (Betty M.) Schmidt (1923-2007), Mrs. Ralph (Joan) Raessner, Mrs. Frank (Pat) Trestick, and Mrs. Richard (Kay) Blizzard.

Kelly, Capt. Thomas Robert

Captain Kelly was born November 11, 1918 in Springfield, Illinois, a son of Thomas Edward Kelly (1887-1945) and Mary McCutcheon Kelly (1889-1980).  Mary later married Leo Shea.  Captain Kelly flew 72 missions as a bombardier during World War II.  He was recalled to service in March 1951.  His wife was Mildred and he had two sons, Kenneth, age 5 months, and Greg, age 4 years.  Thomas' siblings included 1Lt. John Edward Kelly, who was killed in action April 29, 1945 in Mamming, Germany while serving as a platoon leader in the 124th Armored Engineer Battalion, 13th Armored Division.  He also had a sister, Mary K. Kelly and brother George B. Kelly.

Lutjeans, Samuel Pearson

Samuel Lutjeans was born June 18, 1919 in Michigan, a son of Alfred George Lutjeans (1882-1930) and Rose Buberle Lutjeans (1890-1958).  He was a graduate of Lakeview High School.  During World War II he was shot down in a bombing mission and was held as a prisoner of war in Germany for one year.  He married Geniveve E. Greenberg (1922-2011).  He was recalled to service in March 1951.  Besides his wife, he was survived by a daughter Nanette, age 3.  Among his siblings were Theodore R. Lutjeans (1923-1947), Alfred G. Lutjeans (1925-2002), Marianne Olivia Lutjeans Dytkowski, and Joan Lutjeans Karger (1924-1973).

Mathers, 2Lt. Howard Poehler

Lieutenant Mathers was born October 23, 1922 in Casper, Wyoming, a son of Andrew "Andy" Leon Mathers (1880-1947) and Marvel Augusta Poehler Mathers (1895-1938).  His siblings were Roberta Ann Mathers and Glenn T. Mathers.

McKoy, Ltc. Edwin Anderson II

Lieutenant McKoy was born January 13, 1913 in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Edwin Anderson McKoy Sr. (1874-1930) and Catherine Malcomson Gadsden McKoy (1889-1971).  His sister was Mrs. Charles Paul (Margaret McKoy) MacDonald Sr.  There is a marker in Edwin's honor in the Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California.

Peterson, Walter

See News Articles section below.

Porter, Calvin

Calvin Porter
(Click for large view)

Phillip Porter's website is dedicated to his father, Capt. Calvin Porter, one of the missing passengers from this Globemaster crash landing, and the other passengers and crew members.  The site included accident reports, newspaper articles, and documents about this Globemaster.

Missing C-124 Globemaster

Rafferty, Capt. Lawrence E.

Born June 13, 1921 in Highland Park, IL., Captain Rafferty was captain of a bombing crew in Europe during World War II.  He served with the 759th Bomb Squadron during that war. From Great Lakes, Illinois, he was recalled to service in March 1951.  He had a wife Frances and four children between the ages of two and five at the time the Globemaster crew and passengers disappeared.

Captain Rafferty had completed 50 missions in three months in World War II starting on D-Day and received a medal of bravery for one of those missions. His wife Frances was coloring Easter eggs on Good Friday with her four children when servicemen came to her home to deliver the telegram that her husband’s plane has disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean. Captain Rafferty was only 29 and a passenger on a plane going to the British Isles.

Wife = Thecla Frances Fortman Rafferty. Children = Sandra L., Minna Elizabeth, Stephen, Linda M., and Lawrence Rafferty.  Parents = Alexander Andrew & Minna Johanna Elizabeth Christine Gensch Rafferty.


10 March 1951 Walker AFB New Mexico, Area 51, SAC - Capt Lawrence Rafferty, Pilot, is reactivated during the Korean War as General Curtis LeMay expands Strategic Air Command capabilities. Larry is assigned to the 715th Weapons Squadron, Medium, of the 509th Bomb Wing. Larry was going to be checked out in the B-50D Medium Bomber, capable of carrying nuclear weapons. This Bomb Wing delivered "Fat Man", the 1st nuclear weapon against Japan. The 509th was the core of SAC. Capt. Rafferty, who is currently non-qualified, will be upgraded to Pilot current, after training missions at Lakenheath & Mildenhall RAFB. His orders have been cut and direct that, he will be unaccompanied. (Upon completion of training his pregnant wife Frannie and children may come later.)


26 March 2012, 3:15PM Arlington National Cemetery Washington D.C. Capt. Lawrence E. Raferty is memorialized in a service attended by his widow, Francis Fortman Rafferty, his children, grandchildren, two Fortman families, his sister, Rosemary Rafferty Beckman, age 93 and four Rafferty nieces and nephews. May he Rest in Peace wherever this Warrior lies.

26 Mar 2012 Grave-Side..... Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, DC. 3:15 PM Monday, the Funeral Cortage, with its Military Casson, carrying the flag draped coffin in memory of Capt. Larry Rafferty and pulled by 4 Air Force horses winds its way through the tombstone surrounded pathways of Arlington. A Color Guard leads the way with an Air Force Band following in front of the Casson. A crowd of some 63 people follow the coffin to a hillside grave site. There is Larry's tombstone. Two Chaplains read the service in front of widow Frannie Fortman Rafferty. From the crest of the hill three volleys of gunfire ring out in salute to Larry. The crowd is mournful in the breezy afternoon sun. The flag presentation is finished and the AF Colonel Chaplain presents the flag to Frannie. "On behalf of the President and people of the United States, please accept our deepest sorrow at your loss and let me present you ............"

Scarbrough, Everett Doyle

Master Sergeant Scarbrough was born October 19, 1924 in Ardmore, Oklahoma, a son of John Wesley Scarbrough (Indian Territory Oklahoma 1899-1991) and Jessie Beulah Johnson Scarbrough (Chickasaw National 1898-1988).  He married Martha Belle Beaty (1913-1987) on March 3, 1951, twenty days before he and the other passengers/crew of the Globemaster disappeared.  Martha later married Marshall B. Wise, but they divorced in 1984.  Martha died November 26, 1987.  Everett's siblings were Benjamin "Paul" Scarbrough (1933-2021) and Wesley Alden "Pete" Scarbrough (died 2021).

VanGilder, Taylor Hawkins

Sergeant VanGilder was born June 03, 1923 in Greene County, Arkansas, a son of Simeon C. VanGilder (1900-1967) and Arla Ann (Arlie) Wright VanGilder (1902-1986).  Taylor enlisted in the military on October 24, 1945 at Drew Field, Tampa, Florida.  He married Thelma Simpson (later Mrs. Johnnie J. Busher) in 1943.  His siblings were Stanley Woodrow VanGilder (1919-2008) and Deborah Gail VanGilder Segas (1963-1989). 

Vincent, Roger S.

Born December 16, 1913 in Sandwich, Illinois, Roger was a son of Charles Vincent (1865-1952) and Elizabeth A. Howard Vincent (1867-1946).  His wife was Betty Vincent and his little daughter was Linda Vincent.  His siblings were Florence Edna Vincent Stahlberg (1888-1989), Kitte M. Vincent Walters (1894-1977) and Clair Lyle Vincent (1901-1902).  There is a marker for him in Arlington National Cemetery.

See also News Articles section below.

Wagner, Walter A. Jr.

Walter A. Wagner, Jr.
(Click for large view)

Walter Wagner was a pilot with the 509th Bomb Wing, 830th Bomb Squadron.  The following biography was submitted to the KWE on September 15, 2013, by Captain Wagner's son, Don.  His son told us:

 "I am Don Wagner, the son of Capt. Walter A. Wagner, Jr. I am a retired naval aviator with 30 years of service and survivor of two plane crashes. Point of information: My brothers and I first gained access to the Accident Investigation file in the mid nineties thru numerous FOIA requests. Prior to this initial and partial release, the Accident Investigation file was Top Secret. The complete and unfettered/undoctored file is still Top Secret. Much of the information and facts contained in my Dad's bio concerning the ditching is thanks to Capt Muller and other members of the 830th Bomb Squadron."

Bio - Walter A. Wagner, Jr. Captain (Major) USAF

Walter A. Wagner Jr. was born to Walter Wagner Sr. and Nora Wagner on 6 February 1917, in the small town of Delta, Colorado. He was the second of four children and the first grandson of the notorious outlaw Butch Cassidy. He grew up on horseback in the high country of Colorado's Grand Mesa, where his father was a forest ranger. Walt Jr. graduated with honors from Grand Mesa High School and again with honors from UCLA, majoring in mathematics and physics.

With war raging in Europe and the Pacific, he joined the Army Air Corps in 1941 and entered flight school. After earning his wings on 27 Jun 1941, 2nd Lieutenant Wagner was assigned to the 75th Bombardment Squadron, 42nd Bombardment Group, Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho. In January 1942 he was transferred to the 73rd Bombardment Squadron, 42nd Composite Group, Aleutians, Territory of Alaska. In February 1942, Lieutenant Wagner was assigned to fly one of the 17 new Martin B-26 Marauders.

On 3 and 4 June 1942, the Japanese Carrier Assault Task Force launched attacks on Dutch Harbor. Lieutenant Wagner and the airmen of the 73rd joined the foray and flew their first combat missions. Although none of the carriers were damaged, two Japanese dive bombers, 3 Zeros, and 2 Nakajima E8N2s were shot down. From June 1942 through April 1943 the Marauders flew almost daily missions against the Japanese invasion forces. In October 1942, Lieutenant Wagner was in the five plane flight that attacked two Japanese destroyers, sinking the Oboro Maru and severely crippling the Hatsuharu Maru while losing one Marauder and its crew.

In April 1943 the Marauders were withdrawn from the Aleutian campaign and reassigned to other air groups and squadrons. With ten months of demanding aerial combat flying, Captain Wagner was assigned advanced instructor duties and shuttled from base to base, qualifying in new type bombers, conducting the final phase of training and preparing bomber crews for the greatest challenge of their lives: aviate, navigate, communicate, engage the enemy, and survive. He performed these arduous duties at the following Army airfields: Lakeland, Ft. Worth, Barksdale, Kearns, Davis Monthan, Pueblo, and Peterson. While at Pueblo AAF, his wife Geraldine gave birth to their first son, Orren.

In addition to his duties training bomber crews, Captain Wagner was also a member of the select crew which flew General Hap Arnold across the Atlantic and into the Allies' areas of operation in Europe.

Following the end of World War II, Captain Wagner received orders to McChord Field, Washington, and remained there until May 1946, when he was transferred to Howard Field, U.S. Canal Zone. The 6th Air Force assigned Captain Wagner to the 6th Fighter Wing's Emergency Rescue Unit at Howard Field.  His aircraft was the Boeing TB17H. His first flight was an areas of operation familiarization hop: Howard to Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the Windward Islands, Trinidad and return leg to Howard. In October, Captain Wagner became a plank member of and instructor at the newly established 1st Rescue Squadron. He continued flying the modified B17s and on 13 March 1947, he was assigned duties to fly and deliver two B17s to Barksdale Field, Louisiana, then proceed to Norton Field, California and ferry two OA-10s (PBY Catalinas) back to Howard Field. He flew search, rescue, recovery, and escort missions all over Central America, South America, the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and as far away as Florida and the Bahamas. The 6th Air Force ensured there were no U.S. Military flights over water without an escort by or near proximity stationing of 1st Rescue Squadron aircraft.

At the end of May 1949, Captain Wagner, his wife Geraldine, and their two sons, Orren and Donald, departed the Canal Zone for the United States mainland. Walter was issued orders to Mather Air Force Base, California to attend the Advanced Officer School, required for promotion to Major. Upon successful completion of AOS he received orders to report to the 509th Bomb Wing, AFSAC, Walker Air Force Base, New Mexico.

On 8 March 1950, Captain Wagner joined the 509th "Atomic Bombers" and was assigned to the 830th Bomb Squadron to fly the B-29D/50 Silverplate Superfortress. Gerry was busy setting up their newly-purchased house at 1617 West Alameda Street in Roswell, while the two lads, Orren and Don explored the neighborhoods with their spaniels, Queenie and Blackie.

On 25 June 1950, the Russian trained, equipped, and supplied Communist North Korean military launched a massive assault across the 38th Parallel in Korea and swept south, virtually unopposed, trapping what was left of the South Korean Army and the handful of American "advisors" in a small enclave around Pusan.

In July and August 1950, Captain Wagner accompanied hand-picked bomber crews of the 830th and 393rd to MacDill Air Force Base, Florida for Combat Crew Standardization Training. Returning to home plate at Walker, Captain Wagner and the crews resumed their flying of the Silverplate Superfortresses with renewed intensity. They knew that the Strategic Air Command was literally America's and Western Europe's only line of defense against Stalin's Russian hordes. The 509th stood up forward detachments of B-50s, aircrews, and support personnel in RAFBs Mildenhall and Lakenheath, England. The aircrews were on a 90-day rotation cycle, with a week to ten days overlap for handoff of missions, aircraft, and areas of operation orientation flights. The 2nd Strategic Support Squadron flew their C-124 Globemasters from Walker AFB to England delivering parts, supplies, replacement personnel, and rotating aircrews.

In March 1951, Captain Wagner's file was sent to the Majors Promotion Board. That same month he received orders for a ninety-day rotation with the 509th Forward in England. On the 21st of March he boarded C-124 #9244 and departed Walker with the other replacement crews bound for RAFB Mildenhall, England. They picked up Brigadier General Cullen and his staff of the newly-activated 7th Air Division (headquarters were to be established at South Rueslip, London, England). The flight was uneventful until 0110 Zulu, the 23rd of March, when three explosions rocked the cabin section and set off fires under the cargo crates. Fighting the fires proved hopeless and the Globemaster was forced to ditch. They were in radio contact with the British weather ship Explorer, which fixed the exact ditching point and relayed through high frequency radio to RAFB Shannon, Ireland and on to RAFB Mildenhall, England. Two Soviet guard ships, Orel and Kurshun, their topsides festooned with antennas, were shadowing the Explorer.

A single B-50 immediately launched out of England. Captain Wagner's best friend from the 830th, Capt. Harry H. Muller, was the flight commander. Captain Muller and crew flew into the black of night over the cloud-covered North Atlantic. The British weather ship Explorer provided radar vector positioning to the Superfortress and guided them to the ditching point. Muller's crew spotted the men, who were in life rafts, firing flares. The Superfortress began a low, slow, fuel-conserving orbit over the men. Their array of landing lights and spot lights illuminated the area. Thanks to the hand-cranked emergency Gibson Girls radios, the men and the Superfortress were in constant contact. All hands had survived the ditching and were awaiting rescue. The B-50 relayed through the Explorer via high frequency radio that they had located the men. No other aircraft came to relieve the B-50. The weather ship Explorer, although its crew was highly trained in locating and rescuing downed aircrews, did not leave its position. When the Superfortress reached critical fuel, Captain Muller had to make the gut-wrenching decision to abandon the men and return to base.

Two days later, when the "official" search began, the men had disappeared. The only remnants were a partially deflated life raft and Capt. Lawrence Rafferty's pilot valise.  An eyewitness account from this time revealed around fifty U.S. airmen and a general officer's staff brought to a Soviet gulag facility outside of Moscow.

Captain Wagner was selected for promotion to Major while listed as Missing In Action. The Air Force refused to honor the promotion. He left behind a wife, Geraldine, and three sons, Orren, Don and Roy. He was also one of the very few aviators in the Air Force that held the ratings for pilot, navigator, and bombardier. His ratings included the B-17, B-18, B-24, B-25, B-26, B-29D, B-50, and OA10 (PBY Catalina).


[KWE Note: For an in-depth story about Captain Wagner, see 101 News (, "Memorial Day: Mystery Over the Atlantic Ocean", authored by Daniel Clifton and published May 26, 2019.]

Witkowski, Raymond Louis

Captain Witkowski was born on August 28, 1915 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and was a former Milwaukee County, Wisconsin medical examiner's assistant.   The son of Anna M. Placzek of Milwaukee, he enlisted in the Air Corps on March 2, 1942.  There is a marker for him in Arlington Park Cemetery, Greenfield, Wisconsin.

Zabawa, Capt. Edwin D.

Captain Zabawa was 31 years of age and from Franklin Park, IL.  He was a graduate of Leyden Township High School and was a bombardier with the 8th Air Force during World War II.  He was recalled to service in March 1951.  He had a wife Sheila, age 27, and daughters Sharon, age 5, and Pamela, age 3.

Zalac, Capt. Frank B.

Age 29, Captain Zalac of Elwood, Illinois, served in World War II from 1942 to 1946 and served in the Pacific.  He was recalled to service in March 1951.  He was born May 23, 1922 in Pennsylvania.  He had a wife Isabella, age 28, and an 8-month old son Matthew.  Isabella Antoinette "Anna" Vuletick Zalac was born in 1924 and died in 2017.

Zweygartt, John Candee

A 1949 graduate of the School of Business Administration, University of Connecticut, John Zweygartt was from Hartford, Connecticut.  Born August 15, 1923, he was the husband of Frances Zweygartt, the son of Henry Jacob Zweygarrt (1885-1940) and Lucy A. Locke Zweygartt (1887-1961), and the grandson of Mrs. R.D. Locke.  He had a small son when the plane he was on went missing.  His siblings were Robert Locke Zweygarrt (1917-1999), Henry Jacob Zweygartt Jr. (1914-1915), Mary C. Zweygarrt Flagler (1918-1983), and Mrs. Loring Griggs.


"Capt John C. Zweygatt, 27, who was aboard an Air Force transport lost off the coast of Ireland, March 23, has been listed officially dead, according to an Air Force notification received Monday by his mother at 109 Grennan Rd, West Hartford. The Air Force made the finding after what it calls the largest air and sea searches for one plane. Fifty planes and five ships criss-crossed the North Atlantic area in which the Globemaster disappeared in the fog on Good Friday. Charred debris found in the water was later identified as belonging to the plane.  Captain Zwegartt's wife, Frances, and their 2-year old son are making their home with his mother.  He was graduated from Hartford Public High School in 1941 and joined the Army when he was 17. He served as a flyer in the Pacific in World War II.
Captain Zweygartt was employed by the Hartford Insurance Company. He had been transferred to Chicago by the company and was recalled to active duty drom from an Air Force Reserve Unit there. He had been on active duty for two weeks when his plane was reported lost. A memorial service will be held at a later date at Trinity Church, Mrs. Zweygartt said, on Monday night."

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News Articles

Air Force Times, 2011

Little remains today to mark the life of Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Thomas Cullen. A quiet park on the East Reservation of Barksdale Air Force Base bears his name, and for about 40 years the 2nd Air Force of Strategic Air Command awarded a trophy in his name, but that ended in 1992 when SAC closed its shop. The official biographies page on the Air Force website does not list his name or share his life story.

A senior general officer at 2nd Air Force headquarters at Barksdale Air Force Base, he boarded a C-124 transport, tail number 49-0244, the afternoon of March 22, 1951, along with a handful of his senior staff officers. After a refueling stop in Maine, the transport that left Walker Air Force Base at Roswell, N.M., with 48 top pilots, bombardiers and weapons technicians from the service’s nuclear 509th Bomb Group, flew east toward the British Isles.

The airplane never arrived. It disappeared into the Atlantic gales, and into the annals of mystery, on March 23, 1951, Good Friday.

Just under 60 of the nation’s top nuclear military personnel had vanished, while the Cold War was starting and this nation was in combat in Korea.

“I think they [Cullen and his companions] would have been a very lucrative target” of the Russians, said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Peyton Cole, a former 2nd Bomb Wing commander whose late father, also an Air Force general, shut down Walker Air Force Base in the 1960s.

His opinion is shared by former 2nd Bomb Wing historian Shawn Bohannon, now an archivist at LSU Shreveport. “It would have been a coup if they [the Soviets] had got their hands on that bunch of guys,” Bohannon said. “No doubt about it.”

Cullen had command experience in World War II, but a broken back and prolonged recovery shifted him into a field in which he excelled: photo-reconnaissance. He became the service’s leading expert, handling photography at the top-secret Crossroads atom bomb tests in the late 1940s. He adapted the first jet airplanes for spy photography over North Korea and Russia, where he had been assigned briefly during World War II.

At the time of his death, he was a past commander and current vice commander of 2nd Air Force, and his mission to England was to form the Strategic Air Command’s 7th Air Division, which would be the speartip of any U.S. strategic actions in Europe.  That was the assignment Cullen was headed to when he and the hand-picked men with him disappeared.

Early March 23, about 800 miles southwest of Ireland, the C-124 issued a Mayday call, reporting a fire in the cargo hold.

According to the Walker Air Force Base Museum website, “the aircraft was intact when it touched down on the ocean. All hands exited the aircraft wearing life preservers and climbed into the inflated 5 man life rafts. The rafts were equipped with cold weather gear, food, water, flares and Gibson Girl hand-crank(ed) emergency radios.”

According to contemporary reports, a B-29 from England saw several flares fired and life rafts. But the B-29 was not carrying any rescue equipment. It radioed the coordinates of the survivors and circled until it reached critical low fuel and was forced to return to base.

As soon as daylight and weather conditions permitted, rescue ships, eventually including dozens of airplanes, weather ships, a British submarine and several Navy warships, including the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea, scoured thousands of square miles of ocean in what has been called the greatest sea-search in history, to no avail.

“Ships and planes continued searching for the next several days but not a single body was found,” the page says. “The men of C-124 No. 49-0244 had quite simply disappeared. ... It is a fact that Soviet submarines and surface vessels were active in this area and that the Soviets had no qualms about capturing and holding American servicemen, particularly aviators. We do not know what fate befell these men.”

Freedom of Information Act requests were sent to the State Department, CIA, FBI and other agencies, all of whom directed queries to the Air Force. The Air Force provided a 140-page accident report that can be summarized in one sentence: The C-124 ditched in one piece, but nothing, including human remains, was found aside, from some charred plywood and a single briefcase.

Cullen and his wife, Edith Virginia Sinnott Cullen, had no children. Attempts to locate any of Cullen’s family were unsuccessful.

Retired naval aviator Don Wagner, who was 3 years old when his father, decorated World War II pilot Capt. Walter Wagner, disappeared with Cullen on that flight, believes the men were taken to Russia on one or more submarines to have their brains picked. Thanks to service in Russia during World War II, Cullen would have been known and valued to Soviet intelligence.

Wagner thinks that after failing to find the missing men, and lacking any good explanation of what happened to them, the military “covered it up. I was looking up the history of each of the airmen who were aboard the flight. Most have been deleted or hidden or are non-existent.”

The accident report notes that the Office of Special Investigations looked into reports of sabotage but found no evidence, something Wagner finds hard to believe. “There was one civilian that boarded the plane, [and] was on the flight either through Barksdale or [Maine] then got off,” he said. He thinks that civilian, who knew when to get off the airplane, is the key to the mystery.

That U.S. military personnel were captured by Eastern bloc nations during the Cold War is a fact, noted in the web pages of the Defense Prisoner of War and Missing Personnel Office, which notes “the numerous accounts of Americans sighted in the Stalin-era Gulag prison camp system and the Soviet correctional labor colony system for political prisoners that succeeded the Gulag.”

Though the loss of Cullen and the other men is hardly remembered by the Air Force today, it was shattering at the time. “I remember the incident vividly and the last time I saw my father and his buddies,” Wagner said. “This accident devastated the Walker Air Force Base community and had a horrible impact on SAC and the U.S. Air Force. ... I still remember the huge commemorative services held at Walker for the missing officers and crewmen.”

Ralph Ambrose lost a brother, George Ambrose, and a cousin, Sterling Ambrose. All were from Brunswick, Md. “I was 15 at the time it happened,” Ralph Ambrose said. The military “sent us a few telegrams saying they were searching, that they found just a couple of pieces [of debris],” but were not told the investigation determined the airplane likely belly-landed intact, since cargo that would have survived and floated, like empty B-29 fuel tanks and spare aircraft tires, were never recovered. “We didn’t hear any of that,” he said.

Cole said he remains “astounded the slowness of the [search] response. Today that just wouldn’t happen. It’s astounding to me [rescuers] waited two days while they knew these men were in the water. They should have launched another airplane to relieve the first B-29. They should have ‘held hands’ with those guys until surface craft arrived.”

Bohannon wonders if the Soviets could have snatched the men from under the eyes of a searching armada. “All the [Soviets] had were modified German Type IX U-boats at that time. I don’t know.” Cole also has doubts. “If you are going to capture 53 souls, that’s pretty difficult to hide,” he said.

But these were U.S. military personnel left behind on a field of battle of the Cold War, and whose families deserve answers to this day. “A tremendous question begs to be answered,” Cole said. “What happened to these men?”

Paintings in Brunswick City Hall honor Ambrose cousins

Originally published March 24, 2010 - By Patti S. Borda, News-Post Staff
Photo by Skip Lawrence

Artist Buck Musser on Tuesday donated two paintings of Brunswick-area veterans to Brunswick City Hall. Mayor Carroll A. Jones, left, holds the painting of Sterling Ambrose, whose nickname was Junior. Musser holds the painting of George W. Ambrose. The cousins went missing in action on March 23, 1951.

Two cousins lost at sea in 1951 have at last come home to Brunswick. Paintings of Air Force Sgt. George W. Ambrose Jr. and Pvt. Sterling L. Ambrose Jr. will hang in City Hall to honor their memory. Artist and veteran Buck Musser made the paintings as part of his ongoing mission to recognize local service members who have given their lives.

Mayor Carroll Jones accepted the gifts from Musser on Tuesday at Brunswick City Hall. Copies of the paintings will also hang at the Brunswick Veterans of Foreign Wars hall, Musser said. He donated those and copies to surviving family.

Ralph Ambrose, George Ambrose's brother and only surviving family member, attended the donation ceremony. Tuesday marked the 49th anniversary of the plane crash that took the lives of his brother and cousin. Ralph was 15 at the time. "We started getting telegrams" after the crash, he said, but no official word came until a week or so later when an official military car brought news. Ralph Ambrose said he and his father had seen "the brown car running around town" in search of his family's house and his cousin's. "We knew what it was." Ralph Ambrose and his wife, Lorraine, live not far from the Ninth Avenue home where he and his brother lived.

Jones said the city takes pride in honoring service members: A veterans memorial on A Street and an annual parade are testament. The paintings will be one more tribute. "They'll be in the public area of City Hall," Jones said.

A report from the Battle Monuments Commission states that the crash involving the Ambrose cousins occurred March 23, 1951, between Gander, Newfoundland, and England. A transport aircraft assigned to the 4013th Arms Electrical Maintenance Squadron, 509th Bomber Wing was headed from Newfoundland to Mildenhall Air Base, England. The plane "disappeared about 600 miles from Ireland," killing 53, including Brig. Gen. Paul Cullen, according to the report.

The cousins had joined the service at the same time, Lorraine Ambrose said. At the time of the crash, George Ambrose was 21, and Sterling Ambrose was 19. "They went in together, went down together," she said. "Now they're home."  "I just wanted to keep them alive," Musser said. "They've come home on the day they died."

Friday, March 23, 1951 No Trace Of Craft Found In Atlantic
Searchers From Three Nations Join Hunt, Brig. Gen. Cullen Is Believed Passenger

"A giant U.S. Air Force transport plane with 53 persons aboard vanished in fog and rain over the Atlantic Ocean today while en route from the United States to England. One of the passengers was believed to be a brigadier general.

Search and rescue planes from three nations scoured the wind-tossed seas in a thus far fruitless search for some trace of wreckage, survivors or life rafts. Officials at Shannon airport in Ireland said the big plane, a C-124, which is known as the Globemaster radioed at 1 a.m. that it had 52 persons aboard including a VIP (very important person) with the rank of brigadier general . At the time of the report that plane crew gave their position as 800 miles southwest of Ireland.

The plane, of a type used to ferry personnel and supplies across the ocean, was en route to Mildenhall Air Base, Suffolk from the base at Limestone, Maine. At Limestone, the base public information officer confirmed that 53 persons were aboard. British, Irish and U.S. Planes were engaged in the search for the Globemaster, which normally would carry life rafts.

The Royal Air Force control station directing the search operations said the plane carried a Brigadier General Cullens. This report aroused belief that he was Brig. Gen. Paul T. Cullen, deputy commander at Barksdale Field, near Shreveport, Louisiana, who left there Wednesday for a European destination.

The U.S. Third Air Division, headquarters here and the Royal Air Force said they had no information about the number of persons aboard. The British Press association did not announce the source of its information on the number.

Air Force headquarters here and in Washington also would not confirm that General Cullen was on board. American and British search and rescue planes, some carrying lifeboats, combed the area where the plane was last reported, but saw no signs of the missing Globemaster even after it was presumed to have exhausted its gas supply.

That type of plane normally carries its own life rafts, equipped with ample food, water and clothing to enable its passengers to survive for sometime. The search planes reported low ceilings and bad weather in the area.

The missing plane took off from an intermediate stop at Gander, Newfoundland, at 4:20 p.m. (11:20a.m. EST) yesterday and was due at Mildenhall at 5:20p.m. (12:20 a.m.) Today. The first alert was sent out at 3:49a.m. (10:49p.m. EST Thursday) after the craft failed to give further position reports. No information was received from any of the weather ships along the route which the huge craft was supposed to follow.

The C-124, larger, more modern version of the C-74 troop and cargo plane, is capable of transporting more than 200 troops with full field equipment. When fully loaded it can fly about 2,000 miles without refueling."


Roger Vincent
Walter Peterson

"The community was shocked Friday when it became known that Captains Roger Vincent and Walter Peterson were aboard the ill fated plane, the Globemaster, which was reported missing on a flight from Limestone, ME, Air Base to the United States Air Force Base at Mildenhall, England. 53 were aboard the plane.

Captains Peterson and Vincent, both veterans of World War II, had been recalled to active duty on March 10 when they reported at O'Hare field near Chicago for their orders. They were among the 1500 reserves of the 441st Troop Carrier Wing at O'Hare Field to be called. The 441st was activated in June 1949 and the pilots trained on week ends at the field in C-46 transport planes.

The two pilots were assigned to the Strategic Air Command. They were assigned to the air base at Roswell, NM, and given a week for travel time. On Monday they were given orders for overseas duty and on Tuesday evening, Captain Vincent called his wife here to tell her he was going overseas. Captain Peterson's family had gone to his wife's parents home in Amarillo, TX, when it was learned that he would go overseas.

Friday afternoon Mrs. Vincent received official word from the government that her husband was aboard the Globemaster and that she would be informed of further developments. On Sunday she received another telegram stating that the search for the missing plane was being continued. Mrs. Peterson received similar messages in Texas and called her husband's relatives here to tell them the tragic news.

Both pilots had outstanding records in World War II and received the Distinguished flying Cross in recognition. Captain Peterson flew his first thirty missions in the European Theater of operations in a few months and then returned to the States. Later he was sent to the Pacific theater of operations.

Captain Vincent flew 1000 hours over the Hump in the China-Burma-India theater of operations. On returning to Sandwich he established the Sandwich airport and taught many of the people in this area to fly a plane. About two years ago, he became co-owner of the Sandwich Motor Co.

Captain Vincent's wife is the former Bette Scott. They have one daughter, Linda Lea, three years old. His father, Dr. C. S. Vincent, is now in California and one of his sisters, Mrs. Carl Walters, resides here.

Captain Peterson farmed for a year on his return from service and then started to work for the Otto Machine Co. He has two sons, Garry, who is remaining here with the Wm. Walker family until school is out, and Barry, 4, and a little daughter, Marilyn, 2, who are with their mother in Texas. Captain Peterson, a son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Albert Peterson, has a brother, Jerome, and three sisters, Mrs. Alvin Miller, Mrs. August Otto, and Mrs. Randall Miller, living in this community, and a sister, Mrs. T. W. Wigton in Aurora.

The giant Globemaster, a C-124 transport, disappeared in fog and rain at 7 p.m. Thursday. It was last heard from in a routine radio report of its position 800 miles southwest of the Irish coast.

The entire community is anxiously awaiting further word concerning these fine young men."


Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri

A Splendid Ceremony: Team Whiteman honors original Striker at Arlington
by Tech. Sgt. Heather Salazar, 509th Bomb Wing / Published October 18, 2021

Seventy years after the disappearance of a C-124 Globlemaster II over the Atlantic Ocean, members of the 509th Bomb Wing honored, U.S. Lt. Col. James I. Hopkins, during a memorial ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

On March 21, 1951, a C-124 Globemaster II commanded by Major Robert J. Bell, 2nd Strategic Support Squadron, departed Walker Air Force Base, New Mexico. Loaded with aircrews and equipment of the 509th Bomber Group, their final destination was RAF Lakenheath, England.

The aircraft never made it to England, and the 53 passengers on board were never seen again.

The 509th BW, opened the memorial ceremony with a flyover by a T-38 Talon, from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.

“It was an honor to be a part of the memorial service for Lt. Col. Hopkins,” said Col. Keith Butler, 509th Operations Group commander. “As our Airman’s Creed states, ‘I am faithful to a proud heritage,’ being a part of Whiteman Air Force Base is no different. We often say we stand on the shoulders of the great men and women who have paved the way for us. Without the contributions of Lt. Col. Hopkins, we would not be who we are, America’s premier bomb wing capable of executing our mission anytime, anywhere.”

Hopkins was a Maj. at the time of the atomic missions. During which he piloted the Big Stink, a B-29 Superfortress, the aircraft assigned to photograph the atomic bomb mission against Nagasaki.

Following World War II, Hopkins stayed with the 509th BG at Walker AFB. Which is where some of his family’s favorite memories stemmed from.

“While we were stationed [there] after the war, my father deployed to England for three months,” said James K. Hopkins, Lt. Col. Hopkins’ son. “When he returned, my mother, sister and I went to greet him at the base. When dad landed his plane, the bomb bay doors opened and out dropped a brand new English bicycle. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t allowed, but I loved it anyway.”

Hopkins was later promoted to Chief of Personnel for U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. Eventually, ending up temporarily assigned to the SAC staff at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana.

It was during this assignment that Hopkins boarded a plane that would become part of the largest air and sea search up to that time.

After picking up members of the 509th Bomber Group at Walker AFB, the C-124 stopped at Barksdale AFB and picked up Cullen and his staff, including Hopkins.

According to the Bureau of Aircraft Accident Archives, approximately 800 miles southwest of Ireland the C-124 gave out a Mayday call, reporting a fire in the cargo crates. The 509th BG element stationed in England launched a B-29 to search for survivors. While the survivors were reportedly located, the B-29 was unequipped to aid in the rescue. By the time the first rescue craft reached the area 19 hours later, no one could be found.

A headstone was placed for Hopkins in his hometown of Palestine, Texas, in 1951. Last year, Hopkins started the 18-month process to have his father honored at Arlington.

“A few years ago I learned about the mystery surrounding the C-124 crash that claimed my father and 52 other men,” said Hopkins. “He is now the fifth person from the crash to have a headstone at Arlington. Having my father honored at Arlington means that he won’t be forgotten.”

On Sept. 30, four members assigned to the 509th BW had the honor to witness the ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, recognizing Hopkins sacrifice and commemorating his contributions to the 509th BW.

“It was a splendid ceremony, my family and I really appreciated all of the effort that everyone put into it. My father loved flying, serving his country, and he had loved being in the 509th Bomber Group,” said Hopkins. “The 509th Bomb Wing’s participation cements my connection with the past and I am grateful my father’s story is being told.”



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