Remembering the B-17 crash on Mount Tom 75 years on

HOLYOKE — On a dark, wet night on July 9, 1946, about two dozen servicemen aboard a B-17 “Flying Fortress” were returning residence from war. They experienced served in World War II and ended up flying toward Westover Subject from Greenland with their closing guidance to “Report for Separation.”

The war was over and they were being heading again to their households — a journey they hardly ever finished. The B-17, carrying 25 servicemen, crashed into Mount Tom in the late hours of the night. The adult men died upon impact on the aspect of the mountain, practically 300 ft underneath the summit.

The aircraft carried 15 Coastline Guardsmen, 4 U.S. Army Air Corps servicemen, an American Red Cross official, and a U.S. Public Well being Corps medical professional. The adult males, ranging in age from 18 to 43, arrived from a dozen states throughout the state, from Massachusetts and New Jersey to Arizona and Oregon.

Seventy-five yrs later on, family members associates of the deceased, community users, current and former servicemen will make the trek up the mountain to take a look at the web-site of the crash, exactly where a marble memorial bears every of the names of the gentlemen who shed their life on that tragic night.

A memorial ceremony scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 10 will also be attended by the Westover C.A.P. Color Guard, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, state Sen. John Velis, point out Rep. Patricia Duffy, acting Holyoke Mayor Terry Murphy, and users of the Mt. Tom Memorial Committee, the group liable for developing the memorial.

Al Stettner, nephew of Alfred Heat, who was a radioman in the U.S. Coastline Guard aboard the plane, will be the learn of ceremonies at the celebration.

The Mt. Tom Memorial Committee commenced its annual ceremonial custom 25 several years ago when members of the area group felt a proper memorial for the servicemen was missing. Since the initial ceremony, held in 1996, hundreds of individuals have arrive to the site of the crash to mourn the loss of all the servicemen, to grieve for their families, and to honor these adult males who experienced devoted themselves to serving their nation.

This calendar year, for the to start with time, the daughter of one of those servicemen will check out the memorial. Helen Swahn, of Erie, Pennsylvania, is the daughter of Ernest Gillis, who was a radioman for the U.S. Coast Guard. He was 26 at the time of the crash. Her mother was continue to pregnant when Gillis died in the crash, and coincidently, Swahn was born on her father’s birthday.

“It was lots of yrs ahead of my mother even advised us about the crash,” Swahn stated. “And then we just transpired to read a letter about the Mount Tom ceremony.”

She will be joined at the ceremony by her brother Ralph, named right after his father’s middle title, and her son, daughter, and granddaughter, who will be laying a rose on the memorial.

“Later on, we uncovered out extra just after she passed,” Swahn mentioned. She uncovered letters from her father, “Ernie,” she referred to as him, and she and her brother found out a vinyl record produced by her father when he was abroad.

“You could make these small information and deliver them home to cherished kinds,” Swahn stated. “He talked to her and sang her a music. I heard his voice, and it was a peculiar emotion. He was just like a tale, and then now all of a sudden he was a real person conversing to my mom, so it was just variety of an eerie experience.”

It is really hard to know what to count on, Swahn stated, of the ceremony. Swahn and her partner visited Mount Tom one yr with the intention of browsing the memorial but ended up deterred when they discovered out they required to hike in get to reach the internet site.

One of the first members of the Mt. Tom Memorial Committee, Rick Lee, mentioned that the memorial was set up 25 decades ago for the reason that members of the neighborhood felt there should be an formal monument at the internet site of the crash. One particular human being in distinct, Norman Cote of Holyoke, took up the task as a personal result in and got other community customers included, including Northampton Veteran’s Agent Bob Cahillane of Northampton, who serves as the committee’s chairman.

Up till the committee made the monument, only a modest rock cairn with a transient description of the party enclosed in a sandwich bag served as a memento of the tragic function. The memorial is built from Indian Marble, the exact stone used for the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.

It is significant for youthful generations to be conscious of this memorial and its record, Lee claimed.

“It usually means the memory of the adult males are carried ahead into the long term,” he stated.

Transportation from the Mount Tom entry road to the monument will be readily available. A tent with seating, drinking water and convenience amenities will also be accessible for those who show up at.

Also, a development of F-15C aircraft from the 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Air Countrywide Guard Foundation will conduct a flyover of the Mount Tom B-17 Memorial, at close to 10:20 a.m. all through the remembrance ceremony, in accordance to Lee.

Luis Fieldman can be attained at [email protected]