Thursday, January 15, 2015

Update to "Emotions"

Lockheed T-33 Public Domain Photo
After yesterday's post, I was determined to discover some more details on the T-33 crash I witnessed as a young boy. I mean after all, we have the Internet, everything is on the Internet! Right?


I searched a number of sources for T-33 crashes in the early to mid-1960s before I stumbled upon this link. Contained therein was another part of the story I had set out to discover. Here's a synopsis of what I found there.

Major William C. Smith, USAF
West Point Class of '49

William Cremin Smith, son of Bernard J. and Elenore Cremin Smith, was born in Chicago, IL. on the 16th of August, 1926.

After graduating from high school in 1944 he joined the Navy and served in the Navy until gaining an appointment to West Point in 1945.

Upon graduation from West Point in 1949, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force.

He was assigned to flight training at Bainbridge AFB in Bainbridge, GA, and later Vance AFB in Enid, OK, where he received his wings.

He had a master's degree in electrical engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology.

While assigned to USAF Systems Command at Hanscom Field in Bedford MA., he and his wife lived in Lexington, MA.

On 19 August 1964, he and another West Point graduate were flying over Vermont when their Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star crashed outside of Springfield. Both pilots were killed.

Major Smith's twisted wedding ring was recovered from the crash site and returned to his wife; his West Point ring was never recovered.

Major Smith was buried at Arlington National Cemetery after a full military funeral on 27 Aug 1964. On the same day, relatives and friends attended a memorial mass at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Oak Park. (Source)

I shall have to stop by the Major's final resting place the next time I go to Arlington, to pay my respects.

I was eleven years old when this crash occurred. It was summer, just like I remembered.

I tried the National Transportation and Safety Board's website, but they have no data (that I could find) for 1964. I'm sure there is a dusty archive somewhere in DC which has that report, but it hasn't been computerized yet. Who knows if it ever will be?

There were a couple of other aircraft "incident" databases online, but again, information before the computer age really began is either sketchy or non-existent.

So the search will continue.

Who was the other West Point graduate onboard that day? It seems odd that the West Point website didn't give that man's name.

 Was Major Smith in the front seat or the back on that fateful day?

At least now I know the name of one of those brave men.

And it haunts me, is Major Smith's class ring still up there on Cherry Hill, buried somewhere in the underbrush after 50 years? I would hope so and pray that none of the town ghouls found it.

I will keep looking until I know as much of the "rest of the story" as it's possible to learn.

Fifty years later, I remember you, Major William C. Smith. I shall not soon forget you.

Rest in peace, Sir.


  1. No one is ever truly forgotten as long as at least one other remembers.
    Thank you for remembering.

  2. Interesting, and I think there is more to the story.

    1. I'm still digging, as time permits.

      Reading the story at the West Point link, there were a few anomalies. For one, to my knowledge there is no "Mt. Ararat" anywhere near Springfield, VT. Odd that.

  3. Doesn't boggle the mind how old memories can dredge up such emotions and stir a quest for more information?

    1. My mind is fairly easily boggled but yeah, I get your drift. Things I have wondered about for years can now (sometimes) be researched in an afternoon.

  4. I'm with the Rev. It seems like a small thing, but it's a big thing. Thanks for remembering Major Smith.

    Can't help but wonder if his path would have led to Southeast Asia in the nearer term, perhaps in a Thud.

    1. Well, it's certainly a big thing to me, that's for sure.

      The Major was 38 when he died, probably too old to fly Thuds "Up North" but you never know. I think I know who the other crewman was, based on a tip from a reader. That will be in Friday's post. Didn't want to mention him in a comment. A little thing but, well, you know what I mean.

    2. Ah, something to look forward to!

      In 1966 Jack Broughton was 41, Robin Olds 44. According to "F-105 Thunderchief Units of the Vietnam War" the average age of Thud drivers in 1966 was 38. The Air Force knew the value of old dudes back then!

    3. Man, I thought those guys were younger. Honestly, that's pretty old for a fighter pilot. But as Buck liked to say, "I had no ideer!"

  5. Thanks for remembering Major Smith and his fellow crewman. I just did a four hour walk through the onlines to follow the loss of the USS Saginaw on Kure Atoll a long time ago. I received an invite today to an upcoming event here with a retired NASA astronaut. He flew some of the last 2 STS missions in 2008 and 2009. This of course brought up the Challenger and the Columbia. The NASA site has a full directory of each STS mission and a record of every launch, mission duration and landing. Sadly, the number of landings didn't quite equal the number of launches. I like the internet. It means that nobody ever gets truly forgotten. Somebody will recall the incidents from long long ago and write them down and they will, one day, find their way onto the internet as someone laboriously transcribes Palmer script of old letters and posts them somewhere on the tubes.

    Have you considered the local paper which is usually well kept in the dusty files of the local libraries near to the crash site? I don't know what its name is or who published it but some library somewhere subscribed to it and somebody went around every library in the land sometime in the late 1960s and convinced all those worthy librarians that they needed to scan all their moldering old papers onto microfilm. Here in MetroParkCentralis we have lots of libraries who did that thing with the local 'beacon, express, etc' newspapers. Google also has this feature where you can google search old newspapers (not just the big ones, many many more) but then you have to pay something like $10 to get them to give you the article in question. I'll give you a pointer in the morning since it is too late to go up to the 3rd floor and risk disturbing any sleeping creatures that may hang about this place.

    Speaking as a little boy, I would be as drawn to the site of a plane crash as a moth is to flame. Nobody ever gave us what we wanted for Christmas so, no metal detector. Still, any ring that was there so long ago would have found the light of day unless it melted to nothing at all.

    1. I do have a couple of feelers out and have found some more information.

      I like the work you do with those Civil War letters Cap'n. It not only preserves the history of the time but helps us to remember that real people make history.


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