Military Wiki
1950 Douglas C-54D-1-DC disappearance
42-72469, four years before it disappeared
Incident summary
Date 26 January 1950
Summary Disappearance
Site Yukon, Canada; in vicinity of Snag
Passengers 36
Crew 8
Fatalities 44
Survivors 0
Aircraft type Douglas C-54 Skymaster
Operator United States Air Force
Registration 42-72469
Flight origin Elmendorf Air Force Base (EDF) (EDF/PAED), Anchorage, Alaska, USA
Destination Great Falls Air Force Base (GFA) (GFA/KGFA), Montana, USA

On 26 January 1950, the Douglas C-54 Skymaster serial number 42-72469 disappeared en route from Alaska to Montana, with 44 people aboard.[1][2] The aircraft made its last radio contact two hours into its eight-hour flight; despite one of the largest rescue efforts carried out by the US military, no trace of the aircraft has ever been found.[2] It is considered one of the largest groups of American military personnel to ever go missing.[3]


The aircraft was part of the Second Strategic Support Squadron, Strategic Air Command. out of Biggs AFB, Texas. In addition to its eight-man crew, it was carrying 36 passengers, including two civilians: a woman and her infant son.[4] The aircraft had made an initial attempt to depart, but was delayed several hours after reporting trouble with one of its four engines.[5] The aircraft was flying from Anchorage, Alaska to Great Falls, Montana; two hours after its eventual departure it reported it was on-course and had just passed over Snag, Yukon - but there were no further messages.


An hour after it failed to show up in Montana, "Operation Mike", named for aircraft commander First Lt. Kyle L. McMichael,[3] was launched, a search and rescue program combining as many as 85 American and Canadian planes, in addition to 7,000 personnel, searching 350,000 square miles of the Pacific Northwest.[4] The search was aided by the fact soldiers and equipment had already been ferried north for the upcoming Exercise Sweetbriar, a joint Canada-US war games scenario.[6] However continuance of the operation also confounded searchers, giving many false positive reports of smoke signals, garbled communications and sightings of "survivors".

On January 30, a C-47 from the 57th Fighter Wing that had been participating in the search, stalled and crashed in the McClintoc mountains; its crew members were injured, but there were no fatalities. Its pilot walked 13 km to the Alaska Highway and flagged down a truck to call in support for his 5-8 crewmates.[3][5][7] Later, (February 7 or February 16) a Royal Canadian Air Force C-47, KJ-936, crashed near Snag. Again, its four crew members sustained only light injuries.[8] Later its wreckage would be temporarily mistaken for the missing C-54.[9]

The operation was indefinitely suspended on February 14, as the search planes were needed to investigate the crash of a B-36 that had been carrying, and had dropped its Fat Man type nuclear weapon, though the core of the weapon was lead in this case.[4]


On February 20, the search was officially cancelled and notifications were sent to next of kin informing them that the passengers were presumed dead.[10]

Incidentally, there were two contemporary reports of unidentified flying objects by officers stationed at Elmendorf AFB, the first a week before the disappearance, and the second two days after the disappearance. On April 19, Sgt. William Y. Harrell reported from the control tower that he had seen two UFOs hovering over a hangar emitting a green light, a report backed by other soldiers at the base. On January 28, Lt. Col. Lester F. Mathison reported seeing three orange cigar-shaped UFOs flying in tandem above the base. Both cases were investigated by the Alaskan Air Command, who ruled only that the objects were neither weather phenomena nor recognized aircraft.[11] The latter incident has also been catalogued as happening on January 26, within hours of the C-54's last transmission.[12]

In 2012, the descendants of the missing servicemen started a petition to the Federal government, through the We the People petition system, seeking to resurrect the search for their families' remains.[13]

See also

  • List of aerial disappearances


External links

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