Frank Blasi still remembers the last time he saw his brother, Daniel Blasi.
Frank was at a neighbor’s farm in St. Leo, working during the harvest. Daniel had just been drafted into the Korean War and came over to tell his younger brother.
“He cried before he left that day and we all felt he had a feeling he would never come home,” Frank said. “It still bothers me that I saw him crying because I had never seen him cry.”
Growing up on a 160-acre farm in Kingman County, and with 17 brothers and sisters, there was too much to do and little time for tears.
But Daniel’s premonition was right. On Nov. 7, 1952, the 22-year-old died in an Alaskan plane crash aboard a C-119. For years, the family only knew a few details. Mainly, that 19 servicemen, including Daniel, died when the plane collided with the side of Mount Silverthrone around 2:50 a.m.
In August, Frank and Jeanette Blasi found out for sure that is the site of where Daniel died. It took over 15 years of work from their son, Father Leo Blasi, and the help of a total stranger before a piece of evidence was found that was so compelling the U.S. Air Force agreed it was the site of Gamble Chalk 1.
Mr. Terry Mates post about his father that went missing aboard the missing C-119.
My father flew to Korea in a C119. He was flying in a war zone in Korea for 10 months, I believe. He survived the war and came home. A few months later he was flying a C19 in Alaska as a co-pilot (aka Gamble Chalk 1). Long story short they crashed into Mount Silverthrone, peak 5, November 7th, 1952. All 19 veterans were killed. They found wreckage on November 10th, 1952. It was known where the crash was and where the 19 veterans were located. From that point on things really went downhill. The plane eventually slipped down the mountain and today (2019) the debris is some 5 1/2 miles out on a glacier, along with the remains of all 19 killed. In the last 5 years, numerous people have tried to call attention to this, everyone cares but nothing gets done. Two things I want to point out; One of the excuses I have been told is in the 1950’s they did not have the proper helicopters to fly out, but there was studebaker weasel (world war II snowmobile) that could have provided access. Next, the other excuse is that the weather is so bad in Delani National Park, they only have a three-week window per year to go to the crash site. If the weather is so bad there, they should close the park. I do not understand how visitors can go there all summer but the wreckage can only be reached three weeks out of the year. Please understand, I live in Colorado, that is known for mountains and snow. I have been working in the mountains for years, a colorado resident of 40 years. If interested go to Gamble Chalk 1 (https://www.facebook.com/groups/398743990227955/) and you may be interested in Rolling Box Car (https://www.facebook.com/rollingboxcar/), read the mission. I also put a post on US/West Retirees and Wannabees (https://www.facebook.com/groups/255603593469/search/?query=terry%20mates&epa=SEARCH_BOX) . That one will maybe save your life. In closing, if everyone cared like they say they do, how do you leave the remains of 19 veterans in an ice glacier in a national park for all these years.
How a retired geologist discovered a long lost Air Force crash in the Alaska Range
Eldridge Glacier in the Alaska Range, where the debris field from Gamble Chalk 1, a U.S. Air Force C-119 aircraft that crashed into Mt. Silverthrone on Nov. 7,1952, was discovered on Aug. 17, 2016. (Photo by Frances Caulfield)
For more than 60 years, remnants of a wrecked U.S. Air Force plane were lost in the Alaska Range, buried beneath ice and snow on a glacier snaking through a mountainside. And for generations, families had no hope of recovering the bodies of 19 service members killed in the 1952 crash.
The plane — a boxy C-119 aircraft known by its radio call sign, Gamble Chalk 1 — has been found. Retired geologist Michael Rocereta, who spent much of his career searching for, and discovering, oil fields, used his training in glaciology to sleuth out the plane’s movement through the decades as a glacier slowly carried it away from the crash site.
What will happen next is unclear. A helicopter flight to the wreckage is planned for August, to assess whether recovery of human remains is possible. Families of men killed in the flight, like 23-year-old Daniel Blasi of Kansas, hope for closure. “We’re praying that something happens pretty quick,” said Daniel’s nephew, Leo Blasi, of any possible recovery missions.
PFC Daniel Blasi died in the Gamble Chalk 1 airplane crash of 1952. (Photo courtesy Blasi family)
Already the Blasi family has visited the site, along with National Park Service officials who confirmed the location of the plane by retrieving a piece of debris imprinted with the Gamble Chalk 1 serial number.
If it wasn’t for years of volunteer effort and a lucky break, the discovery might have never happened.
‘How could I miss it?’
Gamble Chalk 1 was the first of three U.S. Air Force planes to crash in Alaska in as many weeks in November 1952. The second, Warm Wind 3, is still lost in the Cook Inlet area. The third, a Globemaster, was found on Colony Glacier in 2012. Military officials have been recovering human remains and debris since, sending recovered service members home with full military honors.
Retired geologist and geophysicist Michael Rocereta at Birchwood Airport on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017. (Bill Roth / ADN)
Debris from Gamble Chalk 1, a U.S. Air Force C-119 aircraft that crashed into Mount Silverthrone on Nov. 7, 1952. Photographed Aug. 17, 2016. (Photo by Frances Caulfield)
Colony Glacier, AK – Operation Colony Glacier is underway, an annual mission conducted with joint forces to find and remove remnants and debris from a military plane crash 66 years ago. The plane and its occupants were thought to have vanished until 2012, when pieces were spotted from the window of a National Guard aircraft.
The air is crisp and the ride is shaky, but the determination on Captain Victoria Martinez’s face, is unwavering.
Captain Martinez is the first woman to be level 2 mountaineer certified – a challenge she took all to help reunite families with their loved ones lost over 60 years ago.
Now, she spends her June crawling on hands and knees, finding remnants of a C-124 that crashed into Mount Gannet in 1952.
The 1952 Mount Gannett C-124 crash was an accident in which a United States Air Force Douglas C-124 Globemaster II military transport aircraft crashed into Mount Gannett in the Chugach Mountains, Alaska, on November 22, 1952. All of the 52 people on board were killed.
The C-124 departed McChord Air Base in Washington state en route to Elmendorf Air Force Base near Anchorage, Alaska, with a crew of 11 and 41 Army and Air Force passengers. The flight was recorded as passing Middleton Island in the Gulf of Alaska. Around 4pm, a distress call was received by the pilot of a Northwest Orient Airlines passenger aircraft. The reception was very poor, but the Northwest captain made out the sentence: “As long as we have to land, we might as well land here.”Weather near Elmendorf at the time was very bad with heavy clouds. The C-124 was flying without visual references, using just altitude, a radio beacon and a stopwatch. There was no further communication from the C-124 and it failed to arrive at Elmendorf as scheduled.
The severe weather continued for three days, so searching was only able to begin on November 25. Thirty-two military aircraft searched the surrounding mountains and four Coast Guard vessels searched Prince William Sound. The wreckage of the plane was found on November 28, 1952, on the south side of Mount Gannett by Terris Moore from the Fairbanks Civil Air Patrol and Lieutenant Thomas Sullivan from the 10th Air Rescue Squadron. The pair spotted the tail section of the C-124 sticking out of the snow at about 8,100 feet close to the summit of Mount Gannett. Sullivan and Moore recorded the location as being on the Surprise Glacier, which flows south and empties into Harriman Fjord. However, the 2012 rediscovery of the remains of the aircraft at the foot of Colony Glacier, where it enters Lake George, suggests that the actual crash location was a little further north on the Mount Gannett ice field, sufficient for the debris to be carried 12 miles (19 km) down the north-flowing Colony Glacier over the subsequent 60 years.
Moore, who was a mountaineer and pilot as well as president of the University of Alaska, told journalists the C-124 “obviously was flying at full speed” and appeared to have slid down the cliffs of Mount Gannett and exploded. Wreckage was spread across several acres of the glacier. Moore surmised that the pilot had narrowly missed other Chugach Range peaks during his approach. “From this I conclude he was on instrument, flying blind, and probably crashed without any warning whatsoever to him directly into the southerly face of Mt. Gannett.”
Moore reported finding blood on a blanket and noted the “sickly-sweet smell of death” at the site. It seemed clear that there were no survivors. Sullivan noted that recovery of remains would be very difficult as the glacier was already covered by fresh snow eight feet deep. Near the remains of the aircraft, drifted snow was piled up to hundreds of feet. Apparently, the crash had also triggered avalanches that had further buried the remains. Because of the difficult conditions, the recovery effort was terminated after a week and the victims’ families were told they would have no remains to bury. The debris was then covered by snow and ice, and was lost for the next 60 years.
At the time, this was only the second fatal accident for the C-124, and was by far the worst. However, the following year saw even more deadly crashes at Moses Lake, Washington, and Tachikawa, Japan, Overall, this was the fourth-worst accident involving a Douglas C-124.
Military IDs remains of 17 service members killed in 1952 plane crash near Colony Glacier
Recent news that the remains of some of the service members who perished in a 1952 military plane crash in Southcentral Alaska had been identified brought closure to some family members of the deceased, while others struggled with the bittersweet realization that their lost family members would not yet be brought home.
Brian Gorman, whose uncle Col. Eugene Smith was among the 17 service members identified Wednesday, said his family is excited to bring closure to the old story about “Uncle Gene.”
“We’re bringing him home,” Gorman said from Delaware on Wednesday.
His uncle died in the crash on Nov. 22, 1952, when a C-124 Globemaster — a massive cargo and crew transport plane — en route to Elmendorf Air Force Base from Washington state crashed into Mount Gannett above Colony Glacier during bad weather.
All 52 people aboard perished in the crash. The wreckage was discovered six days later, on Nov. 28, 1952, but was eventually lost in the grumbling movement of the Colony Glacier, about 50 miles east of Anchorage.
Tonja Anderson’s grandfather, Isaac Anderson, was also killed in the crash. Her grandfather’s remains were not among those identified on Wednesday.
She said from Florida that the news was “bittersweet” and “overwhelming.”
Anderson has worked tirelessly to bring families of the crash together and is the administrator of a Facebook page dedicated to families of those who died in the crash. Since the plane was discovered in 2012, she has continued to push JPAC to search for the missing service members on the glacier.
This summer, Anderson will be attending the funeral services of several of the families with whom she has built relationships over the past few years.
“I will continue to reach out … and push the government to go back and still go searching,” she said.
Fifty-Two US Troops Who Crashed On This Glacier 60 Years Ago Have Finally Been Found
Thanksgiving was just five days away on November 22, 1952 when a huge Air Force plane nicknamed “Old Shaky” went down East of Anchorage, AK killing all 52 servicemembers on board.
The U.S. was in the thick of the Korean War at the time and the plane was filled with troops from the Air Force, Army, the Navy, and Marines — all of whom were likely eager to enjoy the holiday with family and friends.
As they flew above the Chugach Mountains, only minutes away from landing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, the massive C-124 Globemaster suffered a malfunction and began losing altitude.
The reason even this is known, explains Casey Grove and Mike Dunham at Stars & Stripes, is because a nearby Northwest pilot deciphered a scratchy radio signal over his headset that said, “As long as we have to land, we might as well land here.”
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — Donald Jurewicz, Joint Task Force-Alaska deputy director for operations, explains details of the C-124 crash site to Tonja Anderson during her visit here Sept. 28, 2012. Anderson was in Alaska to learn about the 1952 crash that claimed the life of her grandfather and 51 other passengers. The aircraft wreckage was recently discovered on Colony Glacier, 14 miles south of the original crash site on Mt. Gannett. During her visit, Anderson was able to view items recovered from the site. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Mikal Canfield)
Almost 50 years after her husband’s death in a military transport plane crash in the mountains of Alaska, Dorothy Anderson was finally ready to accept his flag.
The C-124 Globemaster disappeared under an avalanche of rock and snow after flying into a mountain during a winter storm on Nov. 22, 1952. During the numb months that followed, Anderson never gave up hope that her 22-year-old husband survived the accident — even though there was no tangible evidence otherwise. None of the bodies of the 52 service members on board were recovered.
For decades, the plane and the men it carried seemed all but forgotten by everyone except by those whose lives, like Airman Basic Isaac Anderson’s widow, had been irrevocably changed by the tragedy in the midst of the Korean War.
When Dorothy Anderson’s grown granddaughter asked in late 1999 if she might try to obtain her grandfather’s ceremonial burial flag, the aging widow, who never remarried, said yes.
Tonja Anderson-Dell had grown up hearing only fragments of her grandfather’s story. For years, her grandmother had shut down when Tonja asked about him. Tonja’s own father, Isaac Jr., was just 1½ years old when he lost his airman dad.
Finally having her grandmother’s blessing, Tonja wasted no time in her quest to obtain the flag — and as much information as she could about the crash that claimed the grandfather she never met.
She couldn’t have imagined that the ill-fated Globemaster would show itself in a shifting Alaska glacier in 2012, a dozen years after she set out on her search — or that she would form links with some of the families of the 17 whose remains finally made it home in June.
Isaac Anderson, a native of Tampa, Florida, joined the Air Force at the outset of the Korean War as a way to support his family. He was a senior vehicle operator assigned to the 625th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, when he came home on leave in October 1952.
Found: Bodies of 17 military members lost in 1952 crash
The bodies of 17 service members lost in a plane crash in Alaska more than 60 years ago have been recovered and identified, the Defense Department announced.
Fifty-two people — all members of the military — were on board the Douglas C-124 Globemaster when it crashed while flying from McChord Air Force Base in Washington to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska on Nov. 22, 1952, the department said in a statement.
At least two of them had Southern California ties, the Los Angeles Times reported in the days after the crash. Both were dentists: Air Force Col. Noel E. Hoblit, 45, whose parents lived in Pasadena, and Army Lt. Col. Lawrence S. Singleton, “about 49,” of North Hollywood. Hoblit was the officer in charge of all dental work in the Air Force’s Alaskan Command, The Times said.
Because of weather, recovery efforts could not start immediately after the crash, and search parties couldn’t find any of the victims in late November and early December of that year, the Defense Department said.
The crash site was finally spotted in June 2012 by an Alaska National Guard helicopter crew doing a training mission over the Colony Glacier, and the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and Joint Task Force team started a recovery operation, the Defense Department said.
The Globemaster plane “literally just flew into the side of the mountain,” Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson historian Douglas Beckstead said in 2012. “It looks as though there was an avalanche of both snow and rock that came down and buried the debris.”
“It’s taken 60 years for the wreckage and portions of the plane to actually come out of the glacier underneath all that ice and snow,” Gregory Berg, a forensic anthropologist for the military, said in 2012. “It’s starting to erode out now.” Berg emphasized that what with DNA analysis, dental comparisons and skeletal analysis, the identification process could take years.
Airman who died in 1952 Alaska crash brought home for burial
A day would rarely go by when 90-year-old Michael Smith wouldn’t ask his Internet savvy young relatives about the big brother he idolized all his life.
They would dutifully print out any Google Alert that included the word “Globemaster” and “Alaska” or any other clue about what had become of Col. Gene Smith and 51 fellow servicemen killed in the Nov. 22, 1952, U.S. Air Force C-124 Globemaster crash into Mount Gannett. But answers – and Gene Smith’s return to Wilmington, Del., for Friday’s funeral at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church — came too late for Michael Smith, who died two years before it was learned that his brother’s remains were recovered.
“It hurts,” Jim Coen, Michael Smith’s nephew, said. “He loved his big brother; admired him his whole life.”
Gene Smith and the others were lost when the plane, likely travelling at full speed in a snowstorm, slammed into the 10,000-foot mountain and fell in pieces into the Colony Glacier, about 50 miles east of Anchorage.
Gene was 39, unmarried and a military lifer. His move up the ranks was a source of pride for his Irish-immigrant family. They were told he was flying from McChord Air Force Base in Washington state to Elmendorf Air Force Base, where he was in line to be named base commander.