Military Jet Crashes in 1956 in Minneapolis

Discussion in 'Post-War' started by syscom3, Jun 12, 2006.

  1. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    I found this interesting news story from 1956. The international airport serving the Minneaplis/Saint Paul area has always co hosted a joint Navy/AF reserve base.

    The following link tells the story on June 9 1956, an F89 Scorpion with live ordinance crashed on takeoff slaming into a car and killing two people.

    Amazingly, four days later, an F9F crashed on takeoff and killed a dozen people.

    http://www.startribune.com/blogs/oldnews/?p=29

    Note - click on this weblink to read the blogs of some people who were little kids when it happened and witnessed it.

    Saturday, June 9, 1956: 6 killed as jet hits house
    Monday, October 3rd, 2005
    On Tuesday, June 5, 1956, an Air Force F89 Scorpion fighter jet carrying 104 live rockets crashed into a car on a road adjacent to what is now known as Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. A 38-year-old Minneapolis woman and her 5-year-old daughter were killed. Her husband and son escaped from the car before it burst into flames; their housekeeper was seriously injured. The family had been out for a “pleasure ride” to see the new stadium in Bloomington.

    (note: That was the old "met" stadium where the Vikings and Twins used to play)

    Just four days later, an F9F4 jet crashed into a row of homes north of the airport. At the request of a Yesterday’s News reader who lived close to the crash site, here are excerpts from two A1 stories published in the Minneapolis Star on the day of the accident. For more on the crash, see my colleague **** Parker’s Retro item, published 50 years later.

    Jet Hits House, At Least 6 Dead
    9 Injured;
    5 Other
    Homes Are
    Set Afire

    A navy jet plane crashed into a house and set fire to five others at the north edge of Wold-Chamberlain field at 9:30 a.m. today, killing at least six persons and injuring nine others.

    The plane left a military formation to make an emergency landing and hit the street in front of 5804 and 5808 Forty-Sixth avenue S., near the main gate of the navy base.

    The plane then bounced into the home of Donald and Jane Garles, 5820 Forty-sixth, and shattered with a terrific explosion and flash which scattered the plane and its fuel over the neighborhood.

    Some 20 or more children were at play in that block when the plane crashed. Some of them were littered with debris and flaming fuel.

    Five of them, taken to Veterans hospital, were reported in “very critical” condition with burns. One other child was taken to the same hospital with less severe injuries.

    Two were taken to General hospital and three to the navy infirmary at the airport.

    The pilot of the plane, Major George Armstrong, 33, 5808 Pearson drive, Edina, was killed. The second body identified was that of Debora De Wolfe, 7, 5816 Forty-sixth avenue S.

    The child’s body was found on a couch in her home. Alongside the couch was the landing gear of the plane.

    The other dead were not identified immediately.

    Glen Gould, chief of the veterans administration fire department, said six bodies had been recovered.

    “We made a pretty close check of the burned homes and I don’t believe there are any more,” he said.

    At a press conference at navy headquarters, Col. Frank F. Gill, commanding officer of the naval air station, explained that Armstrong and two other pilots had taken off on a tactical training mission.

    The other two were Maj. O.J. Miller, Isanti, Minn., and Maj. Harold Slay, Somerset, Wis. The three are navy reservists.

    Miller, according to Gill, said Armstrong reported he was having some trouble with the plane and was breaking formation to head back to the airport.

    “He didn’t explain what the trouble was, but he didn’t seem to be alarmed,” Gill said. “Miller followed him toward the airport.

    “Miller said Armstrong appeared to have made the airport and that he, Miller, then turned away from the airport before the crash.” …

    Children Playing When
    Jet Hits ‘Like a Bomb’
    South Minneapolis residents who had been working in their yards, supervising their children at play or going about normal household tasks were shaken at 9:32 a.m. today by an explosion that some described as a “huge bomb blast.”

    It was the crash of a F9F navy jet fighter plane into a row of houses in the 5800 block on Forty-sixth avenue S. Here are the words of some of the first to reach the scene:

    Elmer Gustafson, 5841 Forty-fifth avenue S., was in his back yard when he saw the plane come in low and crash with a “terrific explosion and flash.”

    “There were lots of youngsters playing in yards just before the crash,” he said. “I took my own youngsters a safe distance, then went to the scene of the burning homes. I saw people carrying injured children.

    “It was so confusing, I don’t know whether the children had been in the houses or in the yard. There was a terrible concussion that could have knocked them over.”

    Gustafson said he tried to get into one house, but flames drove him back.

    Frank Trybulec, Villa Park, Ill., and his wife had just arrived to visit the Albin Andersons at 5759 Forty-fourth avenue S.

    “I heard a terrific explosion and I ran to the burning house where the plane had hit,” Trybulec said. They were carrying out children. One child had her clothing burned off.”

    Mrs. Otto Mueller, 5854 Forty-sixth avenue S., who lives at far end of block, spend a frantic minute following the “terrible bang” searching for her children, John, 5½, and Joan , 8, who were playing down the block toward the crash scene.

    The two youngsters came rushing into the hosue. John was scratched by a piece of flying debris, but otherwise unhurt.

    “Don’t come out, Annabelle,” Mrs. Mueller telephoned a friend across town as thousands jammed streets, alleys and lawns within minutes after the disaster.

    “There was a ‘poof’ and then a real smell of smoke and I saw fire in my living and bedroom.”

    Mrs. Doris Kieffer, 30, sat in Veterans’ administration hospital after treatment for cuts and described the impact of the jet plane crash that wiped out six houses today.

    “I had just gone into the bathroom to comb my hair,” she said.

    “It is on the west side of the house and the plane hit on the east side.

    “I heard the plane and you know jets whistle. But this time it was just a poof and I realized the smell of smoke.

    “I saw fire in the living room and bedroom and there is a hall separating it from the bathroom. I started down the hall and realized I couldn’t make it.’

    “I shut the door of the bathroom and broke the bathroom window to get out.

    “I saw my two little girls – Jennie, 2½, and Cassie, 5. I got Jennie.

    “My husband was painting the back fence and he picked up Cassie.

    “We ran across the alley to my neighbor because I knew she was a nurse.

    “I said, ‘help me, please.’

    “Then I saw an ambulance and we took them to it. They were crying. I don’t remember much after that.”

    Mrs. Kieffer had stitches taken in her right forearm and first aid for other less serious cuts and bruises on her legs.

    The Kieffers moved into their homes four years ago. She said they had never worried about aircraft activity. “It is just one of those things you never think happens,” she said.

    “After all, the landing strip is over the hill and not really by us.

    “You don’t worry to the point where you ever think that it would hit you.”

    The attached photo does have a copywrite with the Mpls Star and Tribune.
    Caption is "Before the 1960s, numbers and arrows were sometimes added to photos to help explain what happened. Here’s the original caption from this Minneapolis Star photo: Jet plane struck the ground (1), bounced and struck again (2), then crashed into house (3). "
     

    Attached Files:

  2. jajksaus

    jajksaus New Member

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    Were those pilots USMC reservists? Navy pilots would have had ranks such as ENS, LTJG, LT, LCDR, CDR or CAPT.
     
  3. gmlofdahl

    gmlofdahl New Member

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    Jajksaus-
    Good catch--yes, they were Marine pilots.
    Per www.joebaugher.com/navy_fighters/f9_7.html:
    "Throughout the early 1950s, Panthers served extensively with active and reserve units of both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets. They provided the mainstay of the Navy's jet-powered carrier-based air-to-ground capability. The Panthers were phased out of active service with the Navy in 1956, but they remained with training units until 1958. The last Marine Panther units were the two reserve squadrons VMF-213 and VMF-234, which were based at Minneapolis. These Panthers were retired in 1958."

    I grew up on the west side of the Minneapolis airport. If you're in Minneapolis, you can identify the site of the crash on the west side of 46th Street between the 62 Crosstown on the north and Military Highway on the south. The homes destroyed in the crash were all rebuilt as duplexes, so they stand out from the other single-family homes in that small section of houses.

    GMLofdahl
     
  4. gmlofdahl

    gmlofdahl New Member

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    My mistake--should have read "46th Avenue," not "46th Street."
    GMLofdahl
     
  5. f9fpantherfan

    f9fpantherfan New Member

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    1956 was the most horrific in regard to military air crashes in Minnesota. I wrote a book about them, and all other military air crashes in Minnesota from 1940 to 1960. I still gather information. I am looking for more information as to why the June 9, 1956, crash occurred in Minneapolis. I have just heard that there are video histories on VMF-213 and VMF-234. If anyone could lend information on where to locate them I would appreciate it deeply.
     
  6. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    Very cool, and welcome aboard!
     
  7. mrcub96

    mrcub96 New Member

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    Thank you for posting info about the incident. You can definitely see the resulting change from the satellite photo on Google maps--although note that you need to search for 46th Avenue--not 46th Street.
     
  8. darrellgwatkins

    darrellgwatkins New Member

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    I was one of the 20 kids mentioned in the article. I was walking south in the alley behind the Kieffer house when it hit. I was headed for a tent built out of blankets hanging on the Kieffer close line where thier daughters were playing. I didn't make it that far before it hit. The blankets were soaked with fuel and thier dads hands were badly burned as he tried to get them out. They died later. The back yards were instantly filled with fire from the fuel sprayed through the air as the plane cart wheeled into the houses. If I remember correctly the plane hooked a power line (after loosing power) causing it to nose in and cart wheel. Quite a few of my young friends were killed with several of them laying in the hospital suffering from burns before dieing. The newspaper article must have been written before they all died as I think the numbers are wrong.
    At that time we periodicaly had air raid drills at school and lived with the fear of Russia bombing us, at least thats what us third graders thought, so when the air was suddenly on fire, my first thought was that Russia had bombed us.
     
  9. Greg Boeser

    Greg Boeser Member

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    The house I live now was hit by debris from a F9F that collided with another and crashed on Memorial Day, 1957. There is a large gouge in the living room floor said to have been caused by the 20mm cannon that was thrown through the front door. I have neighbors who attest to this. The guy who lives behind me is in his eighties now, but was a young husband and father when the sky started falling. He said he didn't know which way to run.
    upload_2016-10-19_19-16-55.png
    That's my house on the left. The other house was totally gutted and torn down. Two other houses were damaged by fire, and several people injured. The only fatality was the pilot of this plane, Cmdr. NEWELL OLSON, 38.
    Read the whole story here:
    Minneapolis, MN Navy Planes Collide, May 1957 | GenDisasters ... Genealogy in Tragedy, Disasters, Fires, Floods

    Maybe some day I will go down to the Fire Dept archives and get the local papers' stories.
     
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