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SP4 William C. Riley


On January 4, 1960 a 329th Engineer U-1A Otter aircraft #55-2974 flying in a flight of three from Wheelus AFB in Tripoli enroute to Bengazi crashed in the Mediterranean Sea, Gulf of Sirte, during a storm. 

The crew of 1 with 9 passengers were killed and the aircraft never found. The pilot and passengers (all members of field survey crews) were: 

1st Lt. Walter Jefferson, Jr.,  pilot of the aircraft,  Tulsa, Okla;  
2d Lt. Graydon W. Goss,  Franklinville, N.Y.; 
Pfc Albert L. Callais, Plaquemine, La.:  
Sp5 Donnald R. Fletcher, Salinas, Calif.;  
Sp4 Henry Harvey, Bradenton, Fla.;  
Sp4 George W. Hightower, Waskum, Tex.; 
Pfc Stephen T. Novak, Massena, NY;  
Sp4 William C. Riley, North Adams, Mass;  
Sfc Kenneth E. Spaulding, The Bronx;, NY 
Pfc Henry J. Weyer, Jr., Chicago., Ill.

These articles are from the "Tripoli Trotter" newspaper:

​ Jim Kirshenman writes:
On 4th January at 1440 hours, the 58th ARS received a call from Army Operations that a US Army U-1A Otter with one pilot and nine passengers was overdue at its destination, Bengazi, Libya. The aircraft, assigned to the 329th Engineer detachment, had departed Wheelus with en route stops at Mizurata and Marble Arch and was last seen over the water heading towards Bengazi. At 1502 the first of two SA-16 Albatross and two SC-54 Skymaster's (one of which was 50637) from the 58th ARS, were airborne to begin a route search for the U-1A. The first day of the search proved fruitless, as the rough seas, rainstorms and darkness hampered the search effort.

On 5th January, the two SA-16s and three SC-54s of the 58th ARS were joined by two RAF Shackletons, one C-47 and four Army aircraft to begin search at first light. An intensive search was made of the water area between Marble Arch and Bengazi. The results of the second day of the search were again fruitless.

On 6th January the two SA-16s and three SC-54s from the 58th were joined in the search by twenty-two aircraft, including four SA-16s, two Shackletons, five C-47s, two B-57s, one L-23A and one L-19. These aircraft conducted an intensive search of an area twenty five miles off the coast to seventy miles inland, with Army helicopters and light aircraft patrolling the coastline at an altitude of fifty feet. At 1656 hours some debris was spotted on the coast and positive recognition of some locally manufactured parts as those installed on the missing aircraft. The mission was suspended 8th January at 2030 hours in view of the negative possibility of survival in the water under the existing conditions for more than twenty four hours. The U-1A Otter carried no water survival gear other than the flotation seat cushions.

This incident is also referred to in the history of the Royal Air Force's 38 Squadron, then based at RAF Luqa in Malta, flying the Avro Shackleton Mark II. Four sorties were flown on 5th and 6th January 1960 to search for the missing Otter, involving a total of sixty hours flying. The four Shackletons involved were WL744, WL758, WL759 and WL786. These missions took off at 0500 hours and did not return to base until 2000 hours, a 15 hour airborne time. Mention is also made of this accident in the "Lady Be Good" exhibit in the USAF Museum in Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, Ohio.  On 4th April 1943 B-24 bombers of the 376th Bomb Group took off from a base in Libya for a bombing raid against enemy facilities in Naples, Italy. All the bombers returned, except one which was named the "Lady Be Good". Almost sixteen years later, on 9th November 1958, the wreck of the B-24 was spotted in the Libyan desert and a ground party reached the site in March 1959. It appeared that the bomber had become lost returning from its mission, and as the fuel supply became depleted the nine crew bailed out, but had perished in the desert attempting to walk to civilization. Parts of the B-24 had been installed on other aircraft, but it brought them nothing but bad luck. As the museum exhibit says: "A seat armrest from the Lady Be Good was installed on a US Army Otter which crashed in the Gulf of Sirte with ten men aboard. No trace was ever found of any of them. One of the few pieces washed ashore was the armrest".

Tony John writes:
 I was on the ill fated 76115 flight! The first plane took off. We were on the runway for an additional 15/20 minutes, not able to figure out why we were not departing, when the door to the plane was opened from the outside, and an announcement was made that I was to grab my gear and get off the plane. I had to drive a truck to Benghazi. A day or two later, I came on to the Gulf of Sirte and seeing some of our unit's vehicles, I stopped and asked one of our guys " What's going on", he replied, "Didn't you hear , 115 crashed into the sea". His words did not sink in immediately, but soon after, I remember that I became quite unsettled with the news. I was asked if I was OK to continue my trip to Benghazi alone. I assured the officer that I was fine and continued on with my trip. Believe me, I did a lot of soul searching for the remainder of the time I spent on the road, and for a long time after.

SP4 George W. Hightower

2LT Graydon W. Goss   

(Photo as of yet unavailable)

(Photo as of yet unavailable)

Tony John with U1-A Otter 76115

SP4 Henry A. Harvey

SFC Kenneth E. Spaulding

SP5 Donald R. Fletcher

Giffen A. Marr, who was flying with the 572nd Engineer Platoon at the time, adds some further details:

"We deployed from Wheelus to Berka II and assisted the USAF in the search. The following morning, the 5th, I was assigned to fly a Beaver to do a low-level search of the coast line between Berka II and Marble Arch. On the 6th I was assigned an H-23 helicopter and joined Lt.Tom Gochnaur at a search camp close to Marsha Brega, which is about half way between Berka II and Marble Arch. As I was arriving there, Tom called me on the radio to join him on the beach. I landed and we looked at some honeycomb aluminum. One piece was part of a USAF tow target; another was part of the cabin floor from the Otter. We were getting ready to depart to the search camp and use the HF radio to report our finding, when Tom called me over to his H-23. Lying on the sand, next to the skid, was the armrest from the Lady Be Good. Our maintenance officer had been to the Lady Be Good and had removed one of the armrests from the aircraft seat, to use as model to add armrests to the Otters. Most of our flights were five to six hours and it would be a lot less fatiguing if there were armrests for the flights. He built enough armrests along with the one from the Lady Be Good to fit all of the aircraft. Do you believe in fate, or possibly a jinx?"

It appears that 76115 was lost when it flew through the squall line far out to sea, and broke up in turbulence.

No trace was ever found of the aircraft apart from the few scraps of wreckage washed ashore, nor of the ten souls on board. At the time of its loss, Otter 76115 had flown 832 hours in Army service.

(Photo as of yet unavailable)

1LT Walter Jefferson Jr. 

PFC Stephen T. Novak


Albert entered the army in Jan/Feb 1958 and did basic training at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. He was then sent to Fort Belvoir, Virginia, for training. After a holiday at home that  Christmas and New Year he went to Charleston, SC in January 1959. From Charleston he flew overseas with a layover, I believe in Lisbon, Portugal (my memory is a bit fuzzy on the exact place) where he saw a bullfight before heading on to Wheelus Airforce Base in Tripoli, Libya. He was due to return to the states in March 1960.
Information provided by Albert's sister Donna.


Tony John sent in this picture of Albert       Callais taken at Wheelus AFB, Libya

PFC Albert L. Callais

PFC Henry J. Weyer Jr.

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JANUARY 4, 1960