28 July, 2012

28 July 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 513 % Postmaster, N.Y.
28 July, 1945      0920
My dearest sweetheart –

Just think – on this day I’ve been a Captain exactly two and one-half years. Had I been in the right outfit, I’d have been a Major a long time ago. That’s just another one of the “breaks” in the Army, although taking all into consideration, I have no complaints.

Every day now – rumors spring up all around us and I’ve decided, dear, to keep you posted on them from here on. Then – anything that does happen, won’t come as a complete surprise. First of all – and not in the line of a rumor – I’m amazed at the amount of doctors and nurses who are being pulled out of fairly old hospital units – to be shipped home and then to the CBI; and officers with fairly high scores too. It helps accentuate the importance of my staying right here with the 438th as long as possible – although, of course, all points are still being figured as of 12 May. Now the story is that when a Cat. IV outfit is ready to go home – they weed out all officers under 85 points and what happens to them – is right now in the field of conjecture, darling. One thing likely – if the points are low is that they join an outfit in Cat. II, go home for 30 days – and then go to the Pacific; the other possibility is that such an officer would join the Occupation Forces until such time as the point system would be readjusted and then undoubtedly – having had almost enough points before – he’d be among the first to go home.

Well – those are the things being discussed around here these days, dear. In other words – the consensus of opinion in my own battalion is that when they start getting this outfit ready for home, I’d be detached and attached to something else. I’ll hate that, because I’d like nothing better than to sail home with these boys – but transfers and changes are a dime-a-dozen these days and the individual does not count. No matter how you look at it – the important thing is to stay out of an outfit headed for the Pacific – not because of the fear of combat, but because, once there – it’s a heluva long trip and wait – back. And every outfit leaving here now means one more in the Pacific – and that much less need of me.

Enough of that, darling. Let’s see – did I tell you I saw “Without Love” the other night? Seems to me you mentioned seeing it some time ago. It was an easy picture to sit through and I enjoyed it. Of late – with little work to do – we’ve been getting into the habit of playing a little Bridge after lunch and supper and we find it very relaxing. We usually play one or two rubbers at a sitting, but it’s enough to keep you from getting rusty. Right now I’m almost willing to say that about the most important thing I’ve gotten out of the war has been a little knowledge of Bridge. What a laugh! And how I can, I don’t know. But don’t forget, darling, the war did bring you to me – and it was really worth fighting for for that reason. But what comes after the war is what we’re waiting for, and you know, sweetheart, I kind of think we’re going to find that wonderful!

I’ll close now, dear – reminding you yet again that I love you and only you more than anything else in the world. Love to the folks.

All my everlasting love,


about the B-25 and the Empire State Building

This story appeared in The New York Times's web site About.com's 20th Century History.
On the foggy morning of Saturday, 28 July 1945, Lt. Colonel William Smith was piloting a U.S. Army B-25 bomber through New York City. He was on his way to Newark Airport to pick up his commanding officer, but for some reason he showed up over LaGuardia Airport and asked for a weather report. Because of the poor visibility, the LaGuardia tower wanted to him to land, but Smith requested and received permission from the military to continue on to Newark. The last transmission from the LaGuardia tower to the plane was a foreboding warning: "From where I'm sitting, I can't see the top of the Empire State Building."

Avoiding Skyscrapers
Confronted with dense fog, Smith dropped the bomber low to regain visibility, where he found himself in the middle of Manhattan, surrounded by skyscrapers. At first, the bomber was headed directly for the New York Central Building but at the last minute, Smith was able to bank west and miss it. Unfortunately, this put him in line for another skyscraper. Smith managed to miss several skyscrapers until he was headed for the Empire State Building. At the last minute, Smith tried to get the bomber to climb and twist away, but it was too late.

The Crash
At 9:49 a.m., the ten-ton, B-25 bomber smashed into the north side of the Empire State Building. The majority of the plane hit the 79th floor, creating a hole in the building eighteen feet wide and twenty feet high. The plane's high-octane fuel exploded, hurtling flames down the side of the building and inside through hallways and stairwells all the way down to the 75th floor.

[Note: The above and subsequent pictures are in a gallery on the web site of the Las Vegas Sun].
[CLICK to enlarge.]

World War II had caused many to shift to a six-day work week; thus there were many people at work in the Empire State Building that Saturday. The plane crashed into the offices of the War Relief Services of the National Catholic Welfare Conference. Catherine O'Connor described the crash:
The plane exploded within the building. There were five or six seconds - I was tottering on my feet trying to keep my balance - and three-quarters of the office was instantaneously consumed in this sheet of flame. One man was standing inside the flame. I could see him. It was a co-worker, Joe Fountain. His whole body was on fire. I kept calling to him, "Come on, Joe; come on, Joe." He walked out of it.
Joe Fountain died several days later. Eleven of the office workers were burned to death, some still sitting at their desks, others while trying to run from the flames.

One of the engines and part of the landing gear hurtled across the 79th floor, through wall partitions and two fire walls, and out the south wall's windows to fall onto a twelve-story building across 33rd Street. The other engine flew into an elevator shaft and landed on an elevator car. The car began to plummet, slowed somewhat by emergency safety devices. Miraculously, when help arrived at the remains of the elevator car in the basement, the two women inside the car were still alive.
Bomber wheel in elevator shaft
Some debris from the crash fell to the streets below, sending pedestrians scurrying for cover, but most fell onto the buildings setbacks at the fifth floor. Still, a bulk of the wreckage remained stuck in the side of the building. After the flames were extinguished and the remains of the victims removed, the rest of the wreckage was removed through the building.

Wreckage in Building
Debris on 34th Street

The plane crash killed 14 people (11 office workers and the three crewmen) plus injured 26 others. Though the integrity of the Empire State Building was not affected, the cost of the damage done by the crash was $1 million.

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