Germans, Americans honor U.S. military plane crash victims, strengthen friendships

EDELWEILER, Germany – U.S. Air Force Col. Mark Wells reads names of service members killed during a mid-air collision of two C-119 Flying Boxcar transport aircraft in 1955 while Army Chap. (Col.) James Hoke, Air Force Lt. Col. Brian Bohannon and others look on, Aug. 11, 2006. (Department of Defense photo by Air Force Maj. Pamela A.Q. Cook)

EDELWEILER, Germany - Nearly 100 German and American citizens gathered here Aug. 11, 2006, to remember and honor 66 American Airmen and Soldiers who died here 51 years ago in a mid-air collision between two C-119 Flying Boxcar transport aircraft. The planes, from the Air Force's 10th Troop Carrier Squadron, collided shortly after takeoff from Stuttgart Army Air Field in Echterdingen.

The two aircraft were part of a nine-ship formation on a training mission airlifting troops and equipment in a joint exercise with the Army's 499th Engineering Battalion. According to records, 44 individuals were on the aircraft that crashed into what was a cornfield in August 1955. The second aircraft crashed nearby in a dense area of the Black Forest with 22 aboard. There were no survivors.

A handful of older Edelweiler villagers remember the accident, according to Prelate Eberhard Mühlbacher, who helped organize this year's ceremony. He added that the owner of the land on the edge of the forest planted an oak tree in 1993 at the site where one of the aircraft came down. More recently, other villagers began an initiative to place a stone marker at the exact spot where the aircraft hit the ground. The marker was placed last year, on the 50th anniversary of the crash.

"When the dead are lost from out of our memory and knowledge, it feels like a second death," deputy county leader Klaus-Ulrich Roeber said through a translator. "Because of this, I value the activities of the people here today because it keeps the memory alive.

"Reflecting on this accident helps me understand the meaning of living in freedom and in a democracy, as I have been able to do through my childhood to my adult life," Roeber continued. "I owe this to the American people, and I thank you for that."

Several village leaders and representatives from the U.S. military spoke to the standing-room only crowd gathered inside a local church hall before the ceremony continued at the site of the crash. Most of the speakers recognized the individuals who worked through the years to remember the fallen American service members and to create a lasting tribute to them.

"I know that [the families of] these young men who died would be very, very grateful to know that this community is honoring those young Soldiers and Airmen who died and never got to experience the joy of growing old and seeing their grandchildren, who died never knowing that there could be such a place of peace," Army Chap. (Col.) James Hoke said. "We honor them today, and you honor them by what you're doing,"

The attendees were not deterred by the light rain as the ceremony continued at the site of the crash. Members of the Stuttgart and Ramstein Air Base communities read the names of the individuals lost in the crash, and Stuttgart-area Girl Scouts placed a wreath beside the memorial to honor the service members. Representatives from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Boy Scouts of America were also in attendance.

"It's a very good chance to come together to see American friends and German friends, because in death all people are the same," Pastor Oliver Velm said. "We live in the landscape, in a small city, and this is a very good sign for the people here. The older people remember the catastrophe, and it's good for the younger Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and Americans to remember together. The good point is the word ‘together.'"

That sentiment was echoed by the Americans who traveled to Edelweiler to be part of the remembrance.

"This is especially important because of all of the people who have died recently. It gives you something to think about," Linda Bruckart said as the ceremony ended. "I didn't know how profoundly it would hit me. I'm glad a lot of folks came out today."

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Comments: 10

by Steve Wilke on January 12, 2012 :

My Uncle Joseph Schulte age 24 was serving in the US Army at the time and was killed in this plane crash. Uncle Joe was from a farm family of 10 sisters and brothers from Albers, IL. Thank you for honoring and remembering him and his fallen soldiers who served with him.

by Doug Skipper on February 13, 2012 :

My brother Lonnie Skipper was serving in the US Army at the time and had only a few months before he was due to come home. He was killed in the plane crash. Lonnie was from Marion, SC. and left a wife and a 2 years old son to grow up without knowing his father. I thank you for honoring and remembering Lonnie and the soldiers who served with him. Is if possible to get a list of the names of all of the soldeiers to gave their life for their country that day?

by wanda gregg on August 13, 2012 :

John Henry Dunaway from Greenwood,Fla., was also killed in the crash. His casket was sent home escorted by 2 soldiers who presented his dog tags & guarded the casket until it was lowered in the ground. The grandparents were not allowed to open it. Everyone who lost family that day they have always remained important to my family and to the town where they lost their lives. Thank you

by Dennis Rickhoff on September 14, 2012 :

I remeber that day very well as Joe's Brother was working in a farm field near us. He told us of the terrible event. We were friends of Joe.

by Guy Rannow on February 19, 2013 :

My stepfather, Richard Rannow died in the crash. We lived in Germany for two weeks prior to the crash. This made my mother awidow with 5 sons. The oldest 15, the youngest 6 months

by tony santos on June 1, 2013 :

I was at the scene of this accident. I clearly recall the incident. I was with the 84th Air Rescue Sq. stationed at Rhein Main at the time. I was a member of a helicopter crew with Captain Sayers when we were advised of the incident. We immediately went to the scene. As we landed, Capt Sayers told me to see if I could lend a hand. I went to the scene; there was a Catholic Priest giving last rites; nothing I could do but give the Chaplin my bag of blankets. I crawled back into our Helicopter and told Capt Sayers there was not much we could do. We then left the area.

by Gudrun Kaper on July 29, 2013 :

As I have been there every year since 2006, I am thankful for all who remember, and for Prelate Eberhard Muehlbacher whose attention in spring 2006 got us started.

by jimmie g pelham on November 2, 2013 :

would like to hear from anyone that was their my husband was their. he was in the army 499 com. bate div. here is my email floralamom@yahoo.com thank you Frankie pelham

by Jamea P,. Feeley on November 24, 2013 :

I was stationed at Panzerkaserne Boblingen with Hq.39th Signal Bn.(Spt) and was returning form the Motor Pool when the roar of the leading three C119s passed overhead. They were very low and in very close formation. Everyones eyes were glued to the sight of all nine craft passing overhead. It was only when we returned to our barracks that we received the sad news over AFN Stuttgart that two of the C119s had crashed. There was a moment of silence in our room as many said a prayer. May all 66 who died that day rest in peace. They did there part in the winning of the Cold War. May God Bless them all.

by Joss Cochran on December 29, 2013 :

My family and I would like to attend this ceremony or visit the accident site. My father's uncle died in this accident and we have wanted to make it over for quite some time. Does anyone know of where I can find additional information on the ceremony - does it happen every year? Any personal information/experience would be helpful. Please e-mail me, Jcochran1124@yahoo.com. Thank you!

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