Army plane crashes near city; 25 killed

April 18, 2014

Shown above is the Dakota Ridge Memorial in Sweetwater, built by Richard Gesin. Names of those who died in the crash are engraved into the memorial.

April 20, 2014 marks the 69th anniversary of the U.S.A.A.F. C-47 plane crash south of Sweetwater, Texas. The following is an article published by The Nolan County News on Thursday, April 28, 1945.

Death at dawn Friday morning of 25 Army Air Force officers and enlisted men from the Midland Army Air Field in the crash and burning of an Army transport in a pasture on the Bob Withers farm, 3 miles south of Sweetwater, brought the war still nearer home to the residents of this area.
In the worst aircraft tragedy ever to occur in this particular area of the state, 11 officers and 14 enlisted men died in the charred wreckage of the big twin-motored transport. Still more tragic was the fact that at least eight of the officers were men who had returned to the states after months of combat against the enemy and had come through unscathed.
What caused the tragedy may never be known. Indications are that none of the 25 men aboard had a chance to use their parachutes. Some of the chutes were found partly opened, but it was indicated they might have burst open in the impact.
"It was believed that one of the men took his pet dog aboard ship when the plane departed from the Midland Field at 06:05 a.m. Friday. A Sweetwater youth, who visited the scene of the accident Sunday, found a remnant of a dog's collar."
Two Sweetwater taxi drivers Bob Cooper and C.L. Rogers, of Harp's Yellow Cabs returning to the downtown office after taking two loads of workmen to U.S. Gypsum company plant about 6:30 Friday morning, said they saw the plane on fire in the air.
"They said it must have traveled a mile in the air after they saw it before it went down in a spiraling, flaming dive. A number of other Sweetwaterites saw the plane and their stories were similar. They agree that there was a terrific flash as the plane probably hit the earth and then a bright glow for many minutes."
The taxi drivers reported the incident to Mrs. H.M. Taylor, telephone operator and dispatcher for Harp's, and she notified military officials at Avenger Field. Col. John Eaton and Capt. Edwin Schumacher left immediately for the scene. Military men said all of the men were instantly killed.
Parts of the plane were scattered over a wide area. One wing tip was several hundred yards west of the main wreckage, the other was about a 100 yards north. One battered and twisted propeller was about 75 yards north of the spot where the plane crashed. There was little left of the aircraft.
The aircraft crashed in mesquite growth about 300 to 400 yards south of Bob Withers home and a little more than a half mile east of Highway 70. Great holes were knocked in the earth and vegetation for yards around were burned to a crisp.

Information obtained from the County-City Library in Sweetwater. This story was rewritten by Bryan Owens on April 14, 2014 from a copy of the story on micro-film.

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