The 1947 Cargo Plane Crash in Memphis



Dec. 11, 1947, newspaper
  • Dec. 11, 1947, newspaper coverage
On December 11, 1947, a U.S. Army C-47 cargo plane crashed while approaching the Memphis Municipal Airport. Everyone aboard was killed. Quite frankly, I never knew much about this accident, which took place south of the airport, near the Mississippi state line, and have never seen any photos of it. But I recently managed to turn up a newspaper article from the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Journal-Gazette that tells about the event. (You'll that the newspaper reported two different fatal airplane crashes that day. Not a good week for flying.)

Here's the story:

20 Die in Crackup of Big Army C-47 Near Memphis
MEMPHIS, Tenn. Dec. 11 (UP) — A C-47 transport plane carrying 20 Army officers and men dived to earth as it came in for a landing at the Memphis airport tonight and exploded with a flash that turned night into day. All aboard were killed instantly.

Captain Charles Carmichael, public relations officer for the 468th Air Base unit here, announced that all 20 bodies had been accounted for. The plane was en route here from Biggs Field, El Paso, Tex., on a training flight. Its home base was Aberdeen, Md.

The bodies and fragments of bodies were taken to the veterans hospital here. Several of the victims were decapitated and arms and legs were found amid the ribboned wreckage.

On Training Test
The two-engined transport, the Army's version of the DC-3 commercial air liner, crashed without premonition of trouble. It was learned, however, that the flight was an instrument training test and the pilot may have been coming in blind although visibility was good for 500 feet.

The plane crashed, exploded, and burned in a fiery shower of sparks in an open field three miles short of the airport at a spot near the Mississippi state line. Tilgham Taylor, a county penal camp guard, had just come home from work around 6 p.m. when he saw the blinding flash. He ran a mile through the woods and tried to put out the fire enveloping the broken bodies.

Officers of Rank Aboard
Biggs Field operations officers reported from El Paso that 20 men were aboard but declined to identify the personnel until their families had been notified.

Carmichael said, however, that a major's insignia and a captain's hat were found in the wreckage, indicating officers of that rank were aboard.

Carmichael said the pilot had not reported any trouble as he received clearance to come in for a landing. There was an overcast of 1,800 feet and the night was slightly hazy, but conditions were not adverse enough to warrant an instrument flight unless the crew was testing it.


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