Fifty years ago, on June 25, 1965, at 0135, an Air Force C-135A Stratolifter took off in fog and light drizzle from Marine Corps Air Station El Toro (in what in now Irvine’s Great Park) and headed for Okinawa. Aboard were 12 U.S. Air Force crew members and 72 U.S. Marines on their way to join the fight in Vietnam.
At 0146, about 4 miles from the control tower, the jet disappeared from radar.
For reasons still unknown, the plane did not (or could not) make a planned left turn and instead flew directly into Loma Ridge. The plane was destroyed on impact, killing all 84 people on board.
It was the worst air disaster in California history.
At the time of the crash, a Marine officer said if the plane lacked power and went into its bank “it might have wiped out a part of [the City of] Orange.” He speculated that the pilot might have acted to avert an even worse disaster by keeping the plane on a straight course.
This Saturday, June 27, 2015, in MCAS El Toro’s historic Hanger 244 in the Great Park, there will be a Dedication Ceremony of a Memorial Kiosk designed by local Eagle Scout Jordan Fourcher honoring the United States Airmen and Marines who perished in the Loma Ridge crash.
Map showing location of where U.S. Air Force C-135 aircraft crashed after leaving El Toro Marine Corps Air Station killing all 84 on board. This graphic was published in the June 26, 1965 Los Angeles Times.
The Memorial Dedication Ceremony will take place from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
There will be a Missing Man formation flyover with WWII aircraft.
Relatives of the men who lost their lives in the crash and many veterans who served with them will be in attendance.
You can find a map and directions here.
Please dress business casual. The U.S. Marine Corps and Boy Scout Honor and Color Guard will be in Full Dress Uniforms.
Pictures and memories of the 84 Airmen and Marines who perished can be found at the 1965 El Toro Marine Crash Memorial Page.
This is another opportunity to learn more about Irvine’s proud military heritage and why the former MCAS El Toro continues to hold such tremendous significance for area veterans.
As the daughter of a combat veteran and as an Irvine resident, I believe that a portion of the Great Park in Irvine, once the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, is the perfect location for a Veterans Cemetery and Memorial and a fitting commemoration of Irvine’s proud military heritage. I strongly support the veterans who are now insisting that the Irvine City Council keep its promise.
The men who perished were:
United States Air Force Flight Crew:
Pilot: Capt. William F. Cordell, Jr., 27, GA
Copilot: First Lt. John A Zietke, Jr., 27, MI
Copilot: First Lt. Gary M. Rigsbee, 23, CA
Navigator: Capt. Jacques G. Senecal, 32, CA
Navigator: First Lt. Robert H. K. Shannon, 29
Flight Engineer: S/Sgt James E. Burns, 29, IL
Load Master: S/Sgt Bobby L. Calhoun, 28
Flight Engineer: M/Sgt William H. Meredith, 34, KY
Flight Engineer: T/Sgt Marlin W. Tatom, 41, MI
Load Master: Airman 3/C Elwood C. Van Nole, Jr., 19
Flight Traffic Specialist: Airman 1/C Charles A. Reives, 23
Cadet Gary L. Zimmerman, 20, class of 1967, Air Force Academy
United States Marine Corps:
PFC Dwight L. Aldridge, 18, AR
PFC Russell J. Babcock, JR., 19, Tomkins Cove, NY
PFC Roger J. Beiter, 18, W. Seneca, N. Y.
Lance Cpl William B. Breen, 20, Bellefonte, Penn.
Cpl James Harold Brock, 25, Birmingham, Ohio.
Cpl Emerson K. Brown, 24, Kent, Wash.
Lance Cpl Jimmie E. Brown, 24.
Lance Cpl John G. Brusso, Jr., 22, Ontario, N. Y.
Cpl George C. Burrow, 20, Norman, Ark.
Cpl Tucker Ross Burt, 24, Mt. Vernon, Ohio.
Cpl Phillip V. Caraccio, 24
Cpl Paul T. Chapin, 21, Coronado, Calif.
Cpl George E. College, 21, Davisburg, Mich.
Cpl Donald A. Davidson, 19, MI
Lance Cpl Douglas D. Everett, 19, Allentown, Pa.
PFC Rosco Ford, 24, Miami, Fla.
Capt Victor M. Girodengo, 28, San Diego, Calif.
Cpl Thomas Barton Gladstone, 25, Largo, Fla.
PFC Dickie L. Glover, 32, Muskegon, Mich.
PFC Gerald Griffith, 18, Jackson, Miss.
PFC Henry D Grimm, 18
Lance Cpl Howard D. Hall, 18, Winfield, Kan.
Lance Cpl Gail K. Haning, 23, Albany, Ohio.
Cpl Charles Harmon, 21, Estill, S. C.
Lance Cpl Robert E. Harvey, 18, Upland, Calif.
PFC Harry R. Hawk, 20, Oberlin, Penn.
PFC Gerald G. Hawkins, 18, Mableton, Ga.
PFC Kenneth J Haywood, 21
Lance Cpl Danny E. Holder, 18, Nashville, Tenn.
Lance Cpl Joseph M Kelly, 18
PFC James T. Kitchens, 19, Madleton, Ga.
Cpl William R. Kittel, 28, Suisun City, Calif.
Sgt James E. Lee, 28, Compton, Calif.
Sgt Richard W Leeman, 19
Lance Cpl Robert C Lisicki, 23
Cpl Michael J. Mando, JR., 22, Tayler, Pa.
Lance Cpl Brian Elvin Martin, 20, Minersville, Pa.
Cpl James V. Matruski, 23, Johnson City, N. Y.
Cpl Henry B McKine, 18, CA
PFC James D Meade, 21
PFC Joseph D Mogelinski, 18, Greenfield, Mass.
Capt Edward M. Morehead, 27, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Sgt James C. Moultrie, 18, Moza City, Okinawa.
Cpl Anthony E. Nelson, 22, Wilmington, Calif.
PFC Franklin Newman, 20, Loomis, N. J.
Cpl Rich G. Pacheco, 20, Portland, Ore.
Lance Cpl Enrique Danny Padilla, 20, Santa Rosa, N. M.
Cpl Michael A. Palmieri, 28, Elmira, N. Y.
Lance Cpl Alfred Eugene Peterson, 20, Littleton Commons, Mass.
Cpl Edward P. Ray, 23,
PFC Robert J. Rhodes, 19, Patterson, N. J.
PFC Ronald Richard Richert, 18, Pontiac, Mich.
Cpl Lawrence O. Rohde, 22, Las Vegas, NV
PFC Gerald W. Ross, 19
Pvt. Robert S. Shedis, 22, Calumet Park, Ill.
PFC Joseph B. Sheppard, 18, Philadelphia, Pa.
Sgt Jackson Sinyard, Jr., 33
Sgt Gerald Skidmore, 18, Cincinnati, Ohio.
PFC Arthur Slaughter, 23, Pittsburgh, Pa.
PFC Quinton Smith, 22
Cpl Theodore Eugene Stark, 24, Louisville, KY
Lance Cpl Charles L. Stevens, 18, Cambridge, Ohio.
Lance Cpl Jimmie I. Swink, 26
Lance Cpl James C. Tischer, 20, Hannibal, Mo.
Cpl Timothy M. Treweek, 24, Los Angeles
PFC Lawrence R. Vanness, 19, Rochester, N. Y.
Cpl Elwood C Vannote, 19
Cpl Harrison Wallace, 25, Clemens, Ala.
Cpl David E. Walsh, 18
PFC Ralph E White, 23, IN
Cpl James R. Wilson, 24, IN
Sgt William J Wilson, 29, MO