John writes: "I was a member of Classic field party of 542nd Engineer Platoon from June 1958 through May 1960, part of 329th Engineer Detachment stationed at Wheelus Air Base, Libya.
I was there when most of Classic were lost in a plane crash over the Mediterranean New Year's weekend 1959-60. I was one of 3 that didn't take the flight but (instead) took a truck and equipment to Bengazi.
Compared to Cloudy party, these people lived in the lap of luxury with a refrigerator, 'recreation hall', cook, mechanic and medic.
JAMES KIRSCHENMAN March 1960 - April 1961
L-R Don Fletcher and Roger Theis running second level line in Libya.
They did however spend time spike camped on triangulation stations, going up the tower each night, showing maybe 5 lights and trying to turn those 16 sets, sometimes in fairly windy conditions. On one occasion several towers blew down. O party members got upset when the first question from Battalion was "were any instruments damaged"? The answer was no since as observers climbed the towers they found winds too high to observe. O parties learned long ago to never tie tents to the towers but to stay 103 feet away, minimum.
Story by Jim Kirschener
At Classic was John Arias. Juan/John was a Captain in the
Mexican army. His Father was a general and Super of the Mexican
Military Academe. Juan was a highly intelligent guy, and a very good
friend. I was with Salvermoser and Ruthchide in the astro party at
For some reason I do not understand, a Classic transit party was trying to pickup a picture point just off a line they were running
(why not include the pp in the line?) The angle was so small that
every one who tried broke the set--could not get the 16 required.
Finally John tried and succeeded, much to the chagrin of the others.
He told me he turned one set and wrote the other 15.
That mine field went from Gulf of Serte deep into Libya. designed to force Brits South. You could look out there and see stuff, binoculars case maybe, but to go there was stupid. The trac that ran by Classic was named something like Thi Eberly ? or something like that . Natives we met on it would move aside just far enough for the truck to slip by. We got $25 a month for hazards duty, mine clearing. Teller mines were found in the center of that track. Our clearing method was to lay C4 .
On January 4, 1960 Don Fletcher and nine others disappeared when a 329th Engineer U-1A Otter aircraft #55-2974 flying from Wheelus AFB Tripoli to Bengazi encountered a storm and crashed in the Mediterranean Sea, Gulf of Sirte. The crew of 1 with 9 passengers were assumed killed and the aircraft never found. The pilot and nine field survey crew members were:
On January 4, 1960 Don Fletcher and nine others disappeared when a 329th Engineer U-1A Otter aircraft #55-2974 flying from Wheelus AFB Tripoli to Bengazi encountered a storm and crashed in the Mediterranean Sea, Gulf of Sirte. The crew of 1 with 9 passengers were assumed killed and the aircraft never found.
The pilot and nine field survey crew members were:
1LT Walter Jefferson Jr. [Pilot]
2LT Graydon W. Goss
PFC Albert L. Callais
SP5 Donald R. Fletcher
SP4 Henry A. Harvey
SP4 George W. Hightower
PFC Stephen T. Novak
SP4 William C. Riley
SFC Kenneth E. Spaulding
PFC Henry J. Weyer Jr. CLICK HERE to jump to 'U1-A 'Otter' accident'
SP5 DONALD R. FLETCHER 1958 - 1960
Roger ran topographical 2nd level line from Tunis to Egypt with the 542nd survey team "Classic" Field Party.
SP5 ROGER THIES 1958 - 1959
CLASSIC FIELD PARTY
JOHN LOWELL HAYES June 1958 - 1960
Classic was a 1st order triangulation and transit party. Sgt Carl Hardin was NCOIC when I visited there to see a medic, with Ken Burris, Jennings, Arias, and Walter Hahn there at that time as well. This camp was interesting in that it was next door to a huge mine field where there were small piles of cordite lying around. The road was also mined, so staying in the wheel tracks was highly advisable. On one occasion a truck pulling a water trawler pull off the road and was blown apart by a mine.