On January 7, 1953 men were lined up by last name, waiting for a flight to various facilities across the country from which they would eventually reach their scattered homes. The young men with last names starting with H, J, or K were eager to get on the plane for the flight designated 1-6-6A at Boeing Field in Seattle. They were to fly to Fort Jackson, South Carolina to receive their discharge papers.
The pilot of the chartered Curtiss C-46F was 28-year-old Captain Lawrence Crawford. He had worked for Associated Air Transport for a couple of years and had nearly 5,000 hours in the air. Co Pilot Maxwell Perkins, 32, had flown about 3,500 hours, many of them in C-46s.
Dorthy Davis, 21, had zero hours in the air. She was the newly hired stewardess looking forward to her first flight.
PFC Ernest Kinsey, of Madison, Florida, was in line to board the plane. They counted off 37 passengers, stopping right before Kinsey. He’d have to take another flight. That plane would land in Salt Lake City for an oil line repair. It was there that he and his fellow soldiers learned that flight 1-6-6A was missing. When asked by a newspaper reporter how he felt, he said, “Just Lucky, I guess.”
The C-46F Commando was schedule to refuel in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The weather for the nighttime flight didn’t seem threatening, though the pilots were warned of the possibility of ice. Some three hours after taking off in Seattle, the pilots checked in at 13,000 feet over Malad City, Idaho at 3:58 am. They were scheduled to report in again at 4:45 over Rock Springs. That call never came.
A few minutes after the check-in at Malad, the plane crashed into the side of a mountain at an altitude of 8,545 about 8 miles from Fish Haven, near Bear Lake. We don’t know what went wrong. The engines were both in good shape and the deicing mechanisms were working. The FAA report would ultimately list the “inadvertent descent into an area of turbulence and icing” as the cause of the crash.
What we do know is that there were no survivors. It would be June before a recovery team could reach the crash site and retrieve the bodies.
This sad end to 37 men coming home from war with soaring hearts, and their three crewmembers, is commemorated at the crash site with a brass plaque listing all their names.