Connect with us

Living

The heroes of Flying Tiger Line Flight 739

Published

on

flying-tiger-flight-1

Six decades after their loved ones vanished into thin air, relatives of the victims of Flying Tiger Line Flight 739 — 93 soldiers aboard a secret-mission flight chartered by the US Army in the buildup to the Vietnam War — want answers.

They gathered together Saturday for a ceremony in Columbia Falls, Maine, organized by the non-profit Wreaths Across America at a memorial to honor the fallen.  

“The memorial ceremony offers some closure,” Marie Mull, 82, told The Post of her brother, Sgt. Clarence Ganance of Rensselaer, NY. “We’ve always wondered what happened . . . probably always will.”

Nobody knows exactly what happened on the morning of March 16, 1962, because no bodies nor debris — not even a single piece — have ever been recovered.

All that’s transparent about the mission is that the servicemen — along with three members of the Armed Forces of Vietnam and 11 crew members — were transported on Flying Tiger Line’s Flight 739, chartered from Travis Air Force Base in Northern California to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. After refueling, the plane embarked on what was to be a 2,600-mile journey to its final destination in Saigon, South Vietnam. It was piloted by Capt. Gregory Thomas, a World War II veteran from New Jersey with nearly 20,000 flying hours under his belt.

Flying Tiger Line (similar to Don’s plane).
Flying Tiger Line (similar to Don’s plane).
Flying Tiger

Based on the observations of civilians on a nearby tanker, the plane was between Guam and the Philippines when there was a flash and a vapor trail, indicating a midair explosion.

The ensuing eight-day search and rescue operation across 200,000 square miles was the largest to ever take place in The Pacific.

Adding to the mystery: The same day that Flight 739 disappeared, another chartered Flying Tiger Line flight, carrying military cargo but no passengers, left Travis AFB and crashed in a fireball short of a runway on the Aleuthian Islands in Alaska. The incident left the pilot dead and injured six crew who are not known to have spoken publicly about the incident.

Some sources claim the elite team of Rangers aboard Flight 793, mostly communications specialists, had been hand-picked by President John F. Kennedy as part of a covert operation involving the CIA. It has since emerged that in early 1962 — three years before American ground troops “officially” entered the Vietnam conflict — the US had advisors training indigenous tribes in Laos and Cambodia. As the agency was trying to determine if America should join the ongoing war in Southeast Asia, the situation was politically sensitive.

Among the men who disappeared on Flight 739 were Albert F. Wil­liams (left) and Clarence Ganance.
Among the men who disappeared on Flight 739 were Albert F. Wil­liams (left) and Clarence Ganance.

But family members have never received real answers other than the Army saying the soldiers were “lost at sea.”

Donna Ellis, now 64, remembers military officials arriving at her family’s door to deliver the news that her father, Staff Sgt. Melvin Lewis Hatt, had likely perished.

“I heard what was said and thought, ‘That’s my Daddy!’ recalled Ellis, who was five at the time. Not long after, she and her younger sister were adopted by an aunt and uncle when their widowed mother suffered a catastrophic nervous breakdown. “Ever since that day, I’ve wanted to know what happened,” said Ellis, who lives in Haslett, Michigan.

Similarly, Maria McCawley often wonders about her father, Sgt. First Class Albert F Williams Jr., who was 32 when his plane crashed.

“We asked ourselves whether it was sabotage or the flight was hijacked and the men were taken as prisoners of war,” said McCawley, 59, of Branson, Missouri.

Others believe it was “black ops” — ordered by the CIA, but not officially sanctioned by the military. A number of the men had told their families it was unlikely they would make it out alive, so they knew it was going to be a dangerous deployment.

“It was secret and unauthorized,” said 77-year-old Mississippi resident Dianna Crumpler, whose 23-year-old brother, James H Taylor, Specialist, First Class, failed to come home.

Theories about the men’s disappearance range from mechanical failure and sabotage (the plane was left unattended during its 90-minute stop in Guam) to being shot down by a surface-to-air missile. It has even been proposed that the soldiers were kidnapped en masse or started new lives elsewhere after completing their mission in the Vietnamese jungle.

The men lost on the flight were honored Saturday at a Maine memorial.
The men lost on the flight were honored Saturday at a Maine memorial.
Rogier van Bakel/Eager Eye Photography

Repeat demands from legislators, including Maine Senator Susan Collins, led to Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests and the release of heavily redacted military documents — but that has only caused dissatisfaction among bereaved family members frustrated by the absence of clarity.

“It’s called the runaround,” concluded Crumpler. “Nobody [in the political system] has an answer so they just keep sending us elsewhere.”

Neither the government nor military has taken an official stance on the mission or what might have happened to the flight. A report by the Civil Aeronautic Board released after the crash merely stated that “the board is unable to determine the probable cause.”

The only known person alive today with possible insight into the mission is a veteran who was bumped from the doomed flight a few minutes before take-off. US Air Force Airman Anthony L. Wahl, now 83, of Shell Rock, Iowa, declined to be interviewed by The Post. But, in a narrative published on the Wreaths Across America website, he described being “excited and apprehensive” as he waited in line at Travis to enter the “sleek and shining Constellation.”

Then aged 19, he was ordered to travel instead on a Philippines-bound Boeing 707 to assist a military wife with three children.

“I have always believed that God intervened that day and saved me from death,” he wrote. “I also have the question: ‘Why me?’ There is the haunting question of who took my place?”

Sgt Clarence Ganance, 35, who enlisted in the U.S Army at the age of 17, told family his reward for joining the mission was set to be a slightly earlier retirement from the military.

flying-tiger-flight-6

At the age of 36, Staff Sgt Melvin Lewis Hatt, 36, was one of the more senior members of the elite squad who perished on the 1962 mission.

flying-tiger-flight-11

Sgt John C. Wendell, 33, was a hands-on dad who taught his elder daughter, Monica, how to ride a bike. “He held the back of the seat and promised he’d tell me when he let go,” she recalls. “He kept his word.”

flying-tiger-flight-7

Specialist James Henry Taylor, 23, was deployed shortly before the birth of his second daughter, Jamie Ann. Tragically, the infant died from brain damage after living for just five days. Her epileptic mother, Deanna, then 23, suffered seizures triggered by the shock of her husband’s disappearance.

flying-tiger-flight-15

Specialist Donald A. Sargent, 19, aka “Ducky” due to his web feet, was one of the younger casualties. His distraught mother, Ethel, clung on to his status as MIA, despite him being presumed dead, convinced until her own passing that her son would eventually come home.

flying-tiger-flight-13

Sgt Albert F Williams Jnr, 32, was known for his good looks and quick sense of humor. Growing up without her father, his younger daughter, Maria McCawley, and her two older siblings would wave at passing aircraft to thank him for his service, calling out: “Hi Daddy!”

Up Next

yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7

It is my belief general manager Chris Drury and the…

Meanwhile the relatives of Specialist Donald A. Sargent in Portland, Maine, say the 19-year-old Army man’s behavior before the flight was odd. Jennifer Kirk recalled how her mother, Sargent’s sister told it: “She was the last member of the family to see Donald alive and he kept bounding up asking for ‘one more hug,’” said Kirk. “It was almost as if he knew he was never coming back.”

Her stricken grandmother, Ethel Sargent, was convinced he’d return one day.  She refused to allow anyone to touch her son’s trunk, dispatched after his disappearance.

“My dad opened it four years ago on the fifty-fifth anniversary of the incident and found Donald’s full uniform and a 1950s tuxedo inside,” said Kirk. “They were in mint condition.”

The uniform was donated to the Wreaths Across America museum near Acadia National Park, where the new memorial stands in a clearing amid a balsam fir forest owned by the organization’s founder, Merrill Worcester.

During the Sat., May 15, ceremony, the names of the service members and crew before more than 200 relatives and friends. Some also hung special dog tags printed with their loved ones’ names on the pine trees nearby.

“These dog tags chink together in the breeze, making a beautiful sound which reminds us of the lives lost,” Sean Sullivan, of Wreaths Across America, told The Post, explaining that tens of thousands of dog tags adorn the branches in memory of other deceased veterans.

Crumpler is one of the campaigners who want the victims’ names engraved on the wall of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Washington D.C.

Right now, she said, “It’s as if James and the other men never existed.”

The appeals have so far been thwarted by the Department of Defense which claims those aboard Flight 739 were not participating in an “official” combat mission.

She, along with the other grieving families, believes the unveiling of the Maine memorial is a step in the right direction.

“The Rangers’ creed says ‘Leave no comrade behind,’ but these men were left behind,” pointed out Monica Young, whose father, John C Wendell, Sergeant First Class, disappeared the day before her 15th birthday. “Thanks to this [Saturday’s] remembrance, they’ve no longer been left behind.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Living

Can someone have a word with my co-worker about her plunging necklines?

Published

on

By

Can someone have a word with my co-worker about her plunging necklines?

My co-worker has a Jayne Mansfield figure and continually wears plunging necklines, resulting in stares from staff. Can human resources legally advise her to dress more appropriately?

The answer is generally yes. HR can legally have a conversation with an employee about their manner of dress, provided someone isn’t being singled out because of gender, race or religious observance. However, one needs to tread very carefully because unless there is a specific dress code, this conversation is fraught with negative outcomes. Since this is an observation of a coworker and you aren’t this person’s boss, do you really want to engage in this matter or refer it to HR? Do you have the kind of relationship where you can speak to them privately about how their manner of dress is impacting other colleagues? You’d better be damn close colleagues in order to have that conversation, though, otherwise, this is best left to the boss and HR.

I work on a contract basis and there are times when I’m working overtime, but the company will not approve my time sheet past 40 hours. My agency said I should put in for the OT, but I don’t want to rock the boat. Is this legal? Full disclosure: The department I work in is HR so it would be ironic if they are bending the rules.

Well, the fact that you work in the HR department gives me some confidence that they are following the rules, although it’s not like HR hasn’t failed to protect employee rights now and then. A person’s eligibility for OT depends on the work they are doing, whether they are paid a flat fee, or if they are OT eligible, meaning the company approves the extra hours before they are worked. If you are eligible then by law they have to pay you for those hours. You can and should ask for clarification of your situation. If you are eligible and they won’t authorize the extra pay then you shouldn’t work the extra hours. Keep a detailed log of your hours and who was aware that you worked them. If this is a temporary job, you can also consider raising the issue at the end of the assignment. If they don’t comply with back pay, you will have the facts and law on your side.

Gregory Giangrande has over 25 years of experience as a chief human resources executive and is dedicated to helping New Yorkers get back to work. E-mail your questions to [email protected] Follow Greg on Twitter: @greggiangrande and at GoToGreg.com

Continue Reading

Living

Woolly mammoth tusk found during roadwork in Oregon

Published

on

By

Woolly mammoth tusk found during roadwork in Oregon

It was a mammoth discovery!

Crews rerouting a gas line in the city of Corvallis, Ore., uncovered the 12,000-year-old tusk of a woolly mammoth beneath the roadway.

“Whenever doing this type of work, our crews are very careful to keep any eye out for any type of materials they may find while working that could be fragile or historic,” a spokeswoman for NW Natural, the gas company doing the work, told the Corvallis Gazette-Times. “As is our protocol, we stopped work immediately.”

The excavation work was being done for the city government, part of a project on water lines and storm drains in the area. The company contacted Corvallis officials, who brought in Oregon State University’s Loren Davis, an anthropology professor who researches archaeological sites from western North America that date from the Pleistocene era, more than 12,000 years ago.

Davis said that the mammoth, which co-existed with early humans, probably was buried in the great Missoula floods of the Pleistocene era. The tusk is about 6 feet below ground level, and extends into the construction trench wall, meaning more of the animal’s body might be hidden underground.

The exact reason it ended up there is “a bit of a mystery,” Davis said. “The world was changing structure to a post-glacial one. People also were present. There might have been environmental factors as well as hunting pressure. It could be lots of things.”

Early humans not only hunted mammoths for food, but used their bones and tusks to make tools, dwellings and art.

Continue Reading

Living

McDonald’s worker rage-quits with sign at drive-thru

Published

on

By

McDonald's worker rage-quits with sign at drive-thru

McDonald’s may want to reconsider its “I’m lovin’ it” slogan.

A Louisville, Kentucky, employee apparently despised working at the fast-food chain so much that they hung up a sign on the drive-thru speaker that read: “We are closed because I am quitting and I hate this job.”

After Twitter user Great Ape Dad snapped and posted a picture of the straight-to-the-point sign on Monday morning, it quickly went viral. He later elaborated that the sign supposedly was put up by a night shift manager who had “suddenly quit” the previous night.

Great Ape Dad told Today that he was on his way to pick up the new BTS meal for his wife when he saw the note. “I took a picture, uploaded it to Twitter, not thinking much of anything about it,” he said. “And much to my surprise, it’s had quite a success.” Apparently, none of the employees had seen the sign until he pointed it out.

“I used to work in the service industry myself,” he said. “I think that people are just frustrated, especially the working-class people who are there in the front line … things that are in a boiling point where I can definitely see where someone on a Saturday night that doesn’t want to be working the drive-thru — wants to just call it quits.”

This isn’t an isolated incident. Minimum wage workers have been rage-quitting their low-level jobs in mass quantities as businesses begin to open up again in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Combined with a need for new hires and a push for working wages, companies have begun to take action. 

McDonald’s reported in May that it plans to raise employee wages by 10% in the next few months. Based on location, all entry-level employees can look forward to making anywhere $11 to $17 per hour, and all shift managers will make $15 to $20 an hour.
According to a National Federation of Independent Business survey, 40% of small businesses have job openings that have yet to be filled, while a poll found that 39% of workers would consider quitting if they weren’t offered more flexibility about continuing to work remotely.

Continue Reading

Trending