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C-133 Crash at Goose Bay
The Crash of USAF C-133 Cargomaster at Goose Bay
by Chris Charland
Senior Associate Air Force Historian
Royal Canadian Air Force
They say that every person experiences a certain event in their lives whether it be good or bad that leaves an indelible mark on their psyche. Mine came at 16:49 hours on the 7th of November, 1964.
The day had been relatively an uneventful one for myself and fellow Boy Scouts. We were slowly making our back way home to Spruce Park after a day of hiking and survival training north of R.C.A.F. Station Goose Bay, Labrador. It was a calm evening with light snow falling. Our hike homeward bound took us along a path just below Hamilton River Road and north of the fuel tank area where 100,000-gallon overhead tanks were located. There was a van waiting on Hamilton River Road to take us the rest of the way back to our homes in Spruce Park
As I was getting ready to climb inside, I instinctively looked skywards when I heard the sound of an approaching aircraft. I had no idea of the impending doom as I followed the navigation and landing lights down after it had taken off from Runway 09. In a heartbeat, there was a terrific flash of light, the likes of which I had never experienced before or since. The monster fireball lit up the sky from horizon to horizon. The first thing that instantly came to my mind was a nuclear bomb. You have to understand the Cold War mentality at the time. The United States and Russia both had their fingers on the button ready to launch weapons against each other at a moment's notice. Tension between them was akin to a large rubber band being pulled to its maximum length. Any more and it would have snapped.
There was a dull thud of the aircraft impacting followed by a loud
whooshing sound as the fuel ignited. The wreckage came to rest close to one of the 100,000-gallon tanks. We were just about back into Spruce Park when the first of the emergency vehicles passed us. Later at home, the T.V. station located on the American side, known as Goose Air Base, was broadcasting an appeal for all off duty emergency personnel to report to their respective units to assist with the crash. The sky stayed lit up for hours after.
The ill-fated aircraft that crashed was a Douglas C-133A Cargomaster s/n 56-2014 from Military Air Transport Serviceâï¿½ï¿½s 1st Air Transport Squadron, based at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. It arrived at Goose Bay 01:55 hours local time. After a 15-hour crew rest, they proceeded to depart enroute to Thule Air Base, Greenland with a stop enroute at Sondestrom Air Base, also in Greenland. They were loaded with meat and other provisions
The first departure attempt was delayed due to a technical issue. The aircraft sat for a period of time without being de-iced before making a second try. At between 120 and 150 feet, the aircraft's starboard (right) wing suddenly dropped 20 to 30 degrees. The aircraft commander managed to momentarily regain a level attitude. The aircraft then rolled to the left. The port wing dropped even more quickly and was almost vertical. The aircraft commander was unable to do anything. At 16:49 hrs local time, the Cargomaster struck the ground in a left wing down, nose high attitude.
After an intensive investigation, the accident investigation board determined the primary cause was a power stall. The most probable reason was structural icing of the wing and /or vortex generators that had accumulated ice over the 15-hour layover.
The crew of Cargomaster 56-2014 included:
Aircraft Commander - 1st Lieutenant Guy L. Vassalotti
Co-Pilot - Captain Charles L. Jenkins
Flight Examiner Aircraft Commander/Co-Pilot - Major Frank X. Hearty
Navigator - 1st Lieutenant Douglas H. Brookfield
Flight Engineer Technical Sergeant John. A. Kitchens
Flight Engineer; Technical Sergeant Norman H. Baron
Loadmaster Airman 1st Class Shelton Toler
A Child's Christmas Gift
Whenever I think of Christmas, I immediately remember the special people I've met over the years. Sometimes I long for the quiet, more peaceful season when family was the centre of Christmas instead of the hectic rush of today. Going visiting family and friends was always a thrill since I knew that I would be given a drink of Purity Syrup and a slice of fruit cake. Oh, what joy! There was one Christmas in particular that will always remind me of the true meaning of the blessed season. I was ten, my brothers Edward was eight and Brian was six and we were anxiously awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus. We lived in the more run-down section of St. John's and that year was particularly hard for my parents. My father, a house painter by trade, hadn't been able to get much work during that summer and fall, consequently times were tough. My mother got odd jobs babysitting or cleaning people's homes, but that didn't meet our needs. Of course, as children we were ignorant of this fact, as we prepared our Christmas wish list for Santa. We would take out the Eaton's Catalogue and look at the toys hoping to find those special gifts worthy of our Christmas list. Mom would take us downtown to visit the toy departments in the stores like Woolworths, the Arcade and Bowring Bros. when they were opened for the season. Bowring Bros. was different from all of the other stores in many ways. They had a lay-a-way plan for toys and mom would take advantage of this program to put away toys for us for Christmas. She would make a payment each Saturday until the bill was paid off and then she would take her treasures home to await Santa. The program made it easier for people on very limited income to purchase items. I always liked Bowring's toy department the best of all because they had more items of interest to me than the other stores did. As I think back, I remember visiting the stores with mom on Christmas Eve and especially Bowring's toy department to see what they had left for customers to buy. It was amazing that everything would be sold, leaving the empty shelves. It looked and felt very sad to see that the only things left on the shelves were torn boxes or broken toys. On one Saturday, during the pre-Christmas season mom would take my two brothers and me downtown and we would go to the Sweet Shop on Water Street for lunch. What a wonder time we would have. The waitresses were very friendly and would take our orders: - french fries, soft drinks and butterscotch pies. There was a dumb waiter in the wall that the orders would be placed inside and it would go upstairs. Fifteen minutes later the dumb waiter would come down with the food inside - it tasted soooooo good. I have never been able to get butterscotch pie like that in all the years since, it was just perfect and would melt in your mouth. Though money was very scarce, mom and dad always managed to get us two presents each to place underneath our tree along with our stockings. One Christmas in particularly things didn't go as usual. Christmas morning came and we all went downstairs where dad had already lit the coal stove to make sure it was cozy for us when we got up. We went into the little back room where our small Christmas tree stood adorned with colourful homemade ornaments. Underneath the tree were our few presents which were wrapped in red tissue paper and tied with a red twine. Mom and dad stood at the door watching us as we excitedly picked up the parcels. I had my two and Edward had his two, but where were Brian's presents? Weren't there any for him? He searched underneath the tree and stood up without any presents, saying, "No presents for me!" and walked away as if it didn't matter. Mom and dad got down and looked all around but sure enough, there wasn't anything else there. What had happened to the other two presents, where had they gone? Mom searched the house, but they were nowhere to be found. Finally, she realized that she must have forgotten to get something for Brian. What could she do? Before mom and dad could say anything, Edward went over to Brian and said to him, "Brian, you can have one of my presents, I have two," and he gave him the larger of the two packages. "Now we will both have a present," said Edward as he sat down with his gift. When I think of that Christmas and the love shared between my two brothers, it always reminds me that Christmas isn't about receiving, it's about giving.