Offering Aviation History & Adventure First-Hand!



Derailing a 'Skytrain'...

Near Oakland, California

February 13th, 1945

The Needs of a Nation...

In 1935, 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 and range.

When the 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.

But in 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.


On 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.

Shortly 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 Enigma...

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.

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