JAC NCO's Restore Memorial to 1976 C-141 Crash; Honor Fallen Airmen

  • Published
  • By Peter G. Park, Jr. Commander's Action Group
  • JIOCEUR Analytic Center
28 August 1976 was a bad day for the U.S. Air Force Military Airlift Command. Two accidents in one day: a C-141 Starlifter stalled and crashed after an aborted landing at Sondestrom AB, Greenland, killing 23 of the 27 crew and passengers; that same day an additional McGuire-based C-141 broke up in a severe thunderstorm while on descent into Mildenhall AB, UK, killing 18 passengers and crew. The New York Times reported: "Air Force investigating teams flew to Greenland and England yesterday to look into the separate crashes of two C-141 jet transports in which a total of 39 people, most of them American military men and some of them reservists, were killed. "

In time, a simple memorial with a bronze plaque inscribed with the names of the 18 airmen who perished in the English crash was erected. Next to the memorial an American Flag flies. By November 2011, 35 years after the accident, the memorial at the end of a grassy lane near Thorney Hill, England was partially overgrown, the flag was in tatters, and the pole rusted. Learning of the state of the site, JAC Master Sergeant Charles W. Hajny knew that the memory of these airmen deserved better.

MSgt. Hajny led a team of JAC service members including Navy Petty Officers Third Class Robert Duffany, and Brittany Manriquez, Army Specialist Kenneth Loadholt, and Air Force Staff Sergeants. Jonathan Hollis, and Helmuth Rodriguez. The team cleaned up the site, and repainted the flag pole. A new flag means that again the Stars and Stripes flies proudly in memory of these fallen airmen.

According to MSgt Hajny, plans are underway for a rededication of the memorial next year on the anniversary of the crash. Mr. Derek Stebbing who is an Honorary Squadron Commander at RAF Alconbury and a Fenland District and Whittlesey Town Councillor supports the effort.