Derailing a 'Skytrain'...
Near Oakland, California
February 13th, 1945
Needs of a Nation...
the Douglas Aircraft Company developed the DC-3, an upgrade to one of the
company prior designs, the DC-2. The fixed-wing, propeller-driven aircraft would
revolutionize air transport in the 1930s and 1940s, thanks to its greater speed
storm clouds of World War II darken the world, the U.S. military contracted
Douglas to build nearly 10,000 DC-3s, some of which when bound for service with
other nation's militaries, such as the United Kingdom, Australia, and France.
August of 1944, a batch of over 150 DC-3s, originally ordered by the U.S. Army
Air Forces for high-altitude flights over the "Hump" in the China-Burma-India
theater of operations, were transferred to the U.S. Navy. These Long Beach-built
DC-3s were re-designated as R4Ds, and were powered by two 1,200 horsepower Pratt
& Whitney R-1830-90C engines with two-stage, two-speed superchargers. One of
these R5Ds was Naval Aeronautics Bureau number 50765.
the morning of February 13th,
1945, R5D #50765, assign to Air Transport Squadron 3 (ATS-3), took off from the
Naval Air Station at Oakland at 6:52, bound for New York. On board were 21
passengers, and a flight crew by three.
According to newspaper accounts of the
time, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Baldrick of Alameda
said they heard the plane flying very low over their house. The motors
apparently went dead and later they heard a heavy, rumbling noise.
after takeoff, at 7:05 in the morning, the right wing struck to water as the
plane made a wide turn. The plane dived into the water about three-quarters of a
mile off Chestnut street in Alameda, and broke up when it hit the water. The
crash boats responding to the crash were only able to find the tail and part of
one wing, as most of the plane buried itself deep in the mud.
Searching for Victims...
The first body found was that of a
sailor who had 40-day leave papers in his pocket. After five hours of searching,
only four bodies had been recovered. Two more were recovered by sunset.
By the end of the following day, the
12th Naval District reported the recovery of eight more bodies, bringing the
total to 14 found. The bodies found by crash
boats and salvage crews were those of eight navy enlisted men and four officers
besides the two army men.
A Puzzle, Wrapped in an
Mystery when an Army
crash boat recovered the body of an unidentified sailor who, according to the
Navy, was not one of the crew or the passengers since his body had apparently
been in the water nearly 30 days.