MK 269


Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

I know what you may be thinking.  Just what is that title all about?  It is not the serial number of the C-124 picture here.  It is an address of sorts, but you can’t find it on Google maps or with your GPS system.  It also represents a destination, of sorts, for myself and my family.  It took over 61 years to get this address and on last Monday, March 26th, 2012, my family took possession of this address for the first time.

On Good Friday, March 23rd, 1951, an Air Force C-124 took off from Maine on its way to an airfield in England.  The plane was carrying 53 airmen as passengers and crew.  The passengers were all assigned to the Strategic Air Command and were accompanying Brig. Gen. Paul Cullen to establish a new SAC Air Wing in England.

Somewhere over the Atlantic, the plane reported that a fire had broken out on board and the Mayday signal went out.  Approximately 6oo miles West of Ireland the plane ditched in the ocean and  according to the official accident report, all hands exited the plane safely and made it into the life rafts.  Shortly after the men were in the life rafts, a B-29 pilot out of Ireland spotted the rafts and the flares that the men had ignited.  Their location was reported and the pilot left the scene when his fuel was getting low.  This should have been the beginning of a great rescue story, but no other United States or Allied planes or ships made it to the ditch site for over 19 hours.

When ships accompanying the USS Coral Sea finally made it to the scene some 19-24 hours later,  the life rafts and the men were nowhere to be found. The official accident report that was fully classified for some 50 years, states that there was some debris found in the area, but there was no sign of the crew or the passengers. The search went on for several days and Western Union telegrams were sent to the families of the men on board detailing the extent of the search activities and efforts.  But the searches were unable to turn up any evidence of what happened to the 53 souls on board. The only evidence that the men were there was a valise that was found that had the name of one of the passengers on it.  The valise belonged to my father, Captain Lawrence E. Rafferty, who had also been a veteran B-24 pilot in World War II with 50 bombing missions to his credit.

Over the last 61 plus years, the families of the men aboard searched for answers, but the Air Force kept the report completely classified for half a century.  Parts of it are still classified to this very day.  The family was originally told that the plane had crashed into the sea and no one survived.  Unfortunately, when the report was partially declassified the families were able to learn that the men were safely in rafts and the plane landed in one piece in the sea.  Our family and the surviving family members of the other patriots on board the ill-fated C-124 flight are still searching for answers.  There is now circumstantial evidence that the airmen may have been “snatched” by our Cold War foes in the Soviet Union for their intelligence value, but their fate remains a sad mystery.

The purpose of this story is not to rehash the unanswered questions from the accident, but to highlight the wonderful experience that we had on March 26th, 2012.  As I mentioned above, we took possession of a special address noted in the title.  That address is the location of a memorial stone that now stands on a green hillside in the Arlington National Cemetery.  After finding out that my Father had never received a memorial from the Air Force, I learned from family members of other victims on board the C-124 that he was entitled to an Air Force memorial service with full military honors.  Upon looking into the matter and after contacting a wonderful Mortuary Affairs Specialist at Dover Air Force Base, our memorial was set up and reserved with Arlington National Cemetery.

Last Monday, on a sunny and breezy Washington, DC day, my Father received his honors.  We followed the caisson and the marching band in our procession to the memorial site and witnessed the 21 gun salute.  My Mother who turns 89 next month was able to see Washington, DC for the first time accompanied by 60 members of our family and friends.  My Father’s sister, my Aunt who is 93 also made it to the ceremony and the sight of her and my Mom sitting at the memorial site and receiving the folded flag from members of the Air Force Honor team will forever remain with me.

Although we do not yet have all the answers to our questions, our family’s patriarch is now forever memorialized.  From this day forward, my Dad’s legacy will be forever etched in our hearts and now in stone.  It may have taken us 61 years to get it done, but on Monday, March 26th, 2012; he made his final flight home.  Welcome Home Dad.

(My thanks to Professor Turley for allowing me to include this very personal story.  Writing it was a rewarding experience for me. )


51 thoughts on “MK 269

  1. Welcome home, indeed, Capt. Rafferty. I’m glad your family finally received the closure and your father the recognition due for his service to our country. Again Larry, I’m most sorry that circumstances prevented me from attending the ceremony, but I was honored by the invitation nonetheless.

  2. I am sorry I was not able to be there at the service. Such services are both gut wrenching and satisfying at the same time, providing some closure for the family. May the ball stay centered, the glide slope never waver and there be no turbulence for him and his crew mates as we wish Capt. Rafferty Godspeed on his journey to forever…

    Flowers of the Forest was written by a member of our family five hundred years ago. It is a lament for the ten thousand who fell at the Battle of Flodden Hill in 1513. This ancient lament was piped for my own son when he was interred in the National Cemetery. Now we play it for Captain Rafferty.

  3. What a wonderful experience. Thank you for allowing us to share it with you and your family. The next time I am in D C I will make a special effort to visit your father’s memorial and offer a prayer of gratitude for his service and his sacrifice.

  4. rafflaw,

    I’m glad the sun shone done on the day of your father’s memorial service. And I’m glad your mother and aunt were alive to attend it. I’m sure it was a bittersweet time for you and your family. I’m happy you were able to share your father’s story with us.

  5. What a lovely tribute to your father, rafflaw. I hope the cherry blossoms were in full bloom.

    While I can’t presume to know what your father would think or feel, I would imagine that no father — or mother — could be prouder.

  6. A great tribute! Sorry to hear of a man in the prime of his life meeting such an untimely fate.

    I think, however, there is lots more hard evidence than circumstantial that cold war adversaries had nothing to do with this tragic incident by the simple fact that none of the post-cold war archives or KGB survivors/defectors ever documented such a fantastic theory.

  7. I’m glad your family has been able to bring your father home in spirit and get some measure of closure. Such and incredible mystery, I hope one day it can be solved.

  8. Wonderful recounting of a dignified and touching day. Suzanne and I were very grateful to be included. Best to all,


  9. Good for you and your family that you received belated recognition for your father from the Air Force mortuary at Dover. You should feel fortunate, indeed. Many American families of deceased servicemen have had appalling experiences with the same facility and its “waste management” subcontractor. Leaving our “cold war” adversaries out of the picture for lack of any evidence of wrongdoing on their part, I would say that the U.S. Air Force at Dover has more than enough egg all over its own bureaucratic face to last a lifetime:

    Again, what good luck you had attaining some overdue satisfaction for your father. May more families of deceased veterans receive the same.

  10. What a wonderful family story, raf. I know how much your mother and aunt appreciated it. My mother and aunts except for one are deceased but I remember how much they loved family events. You gave everyone a wonderful memorable gift and a place to visit.

  11. 1. The Air Force, some think, has a terrible rep. for “classifying” embarrassing incidents, and a 19hr gap in the rescue op.s certainly sounds embarrassing to us.

    2. Was there someone responsible for the rescue-gap who was too big a name to have “embarrassed”?

    3. For some reason there was a big article about Gen. Cullen, about a year ago, see

    Lots of VERY interesting info in this article: the entire complement were considered “nuclear” specialists; flight originated at Walters AFB, ROSWELL NM (we about choked at that one); there was a mystery civilian who got on the plane somewhere and off in Maine (the last stop on land before the over-water leg of the flight).

  12. chimene,
    The article was based upon information that another family member of one of the victims had uncovered. The mystery civilian does not seem to be an issue anymore.

  13. iskraagent,
    There is more evidence that I did not put in the article and it is for another time. It is more likely than not that they were snatched as two russian subs were in the vicinity.

  14. Rafflaw – Couldn’t find the site on the ANC website. If the spirit of your dad gets antsy, he can stroll on down to Sec. 64 Site 5837… Ask for my dad, Lester Wall.

    Thanks for your dad’s service!

  15. junctionshamus,
    I don’t know why it sn’t on the website. The only thought is that I USA memorial site and not a grave site. Thank you and thanks for your Dad’s service.
    Thanks talkindog! It was an emotional time for all of us. Even after so many years.

  16. Larry,

    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful tribute to you and your family. I am pleased that there is some comfort and a conclusion…..

    Has the DID/DOW answered any questions as to why it was classified and is still being kept classified?

    Again, thanks for sharing a beautiful ending by a very proud son…..

    I remain,


  17. Sorry to reply as late as I did, yard work….birthday party (5) five year old…..dinner….and shopping…… It is truly wonderful….about your dad….

  18. Russell?


    Well then. A little less anonymous than usual. And here I thought “The Killing” or “Game of Thrones” was going to have my biggest surprise of the evening.

  19. Thank you for sharing this wonderful part of your life with us. I am so glad that you were able to bring him home, to rest where he belongs.

  20. Larry,
    Reading your Father’s story again moved me. It is finally a fitting tribute to a man of proven substance and courage. Fifty missions is in itself a testament to those qualities. It leaves me sadly pondering the effect his mysterious loss had upon you, your Mom and the rest of your family. While this brings some long due closure, the unneeded secrecy for all these years is disgraceful treatment of brave servicemen.

    I feel privileged that you were kind enough to invite me to share in this momentous event for the Rafferty family and sad that I missed it. Thank you for sharing this on the blog and praise to the efforts of the entire family in persisting all these years to uncover the truth about a man and men, who had earned the right to better treatment from their country. A momentous injustice has been partially uncovered and redressed.

  21. Mike,
    Thanks for your kind words. It was comforting for me and for my family to have his memorial marker put in place and for his ultimate sacrifice to be noted with the military honors. I was blown away by the care shown by all of the members of the honor guard, including the Chaplain who was wonderfully caring to myself and more importantly to my Mom. Now we get back to the job of uncovering the rest of what we do not know. But you are right. A weight has been lifted and it feels good.

  22. rafflaw

    Thank you for sharing you very personal story. I am glad your family has some degree of closure and especially that your mother and Aunt are still here to feel that and to take part in the ceremony at Arlington.

  23. rcampbel, et al. Thank you for the kind words. It was especially gratifying that my Mother and my Aunt Rosie were able to attend. I only wish that Rosie’s sister, my Aunt Catherine, who is 96 years old, was well enough to join us.

  24. Your Dad made us all proud!! You also have made us proud in your pursuit of the truth. I hope someday we will know the rest of the story..but for now,
    we were honored to be there with you and other family members. Mom was so glad she was able to be there & sorry Aunt Catherine couldn’t be..It has left me with a wonderful memory that I will cherish forever. Love, Margie

  25. raff, I thought about you all day that day. I still have mixed feelings. I really wanted to be there, but don’t think I could handle it right now. Feelings are still too raw and close to the surface on many levels.

    I want to share with you a photo I took. This is the “front office” of the B-24 bomber owned by the Commemorative Air Force. Your dad would have been a co-pilot for a while, then after a time, promoted to the left seat as pilot in command. I love the Liberator. It could fly higher and faster than the more popular B-17, and carry a heavier bomb load.

  26. Wonderful to read this story about the Uncle Larry I never had the pleasure to meet. I am Joe & Elenor Raffertys daughter. What a beautiful event this must of been. I am so sorry I did not have the good fortune to attend.
    Thank you so much for writing this blog and telling the true story of Uncle Larry. Hopefully we can keep in touch and I will learn any future news. I also have the newspaper article of Uncle Larrys plane crash. My parents had is saved with the family archive photos. I will find it this week and scan. please emaill me your contact info. Sincerely, Mary Rafferty

  27. I am extremely proud & elated that I was a participant of those who were able to attend your fathers (my uncle) services and to represent my father. It was the most beautiful service I have ever witnessed. I know your father was looking down from above with pride & love of his family. The memories of the memorial will be with me forever. Thank you for sharing this information and I hope it was some kind of closure for the family.

    With love & pride, Kathleen Rafferty (Harry’s daughter)

  28. I just read your blog sent by my brother, Barry Peterson, and I sat here tears rolling down my cheeks as I read the entire tribute. Our fathers were TRUE HEROES and they finally received the recognition that they long deserved after 61 years.

    Thank your for your story AND God bless you and God Bless our Fathers and those other men that lost their lives that day and God bless ALL our Servicemen that defend the United States of America!!

    Marilyn Crafton…….daughter of Walter Thomas Peterson

  29. Rafflaw, I just noticed, and I have no idea why, that the wikipedia contains no information at all on 49-0244, even here on this page Douglas_C-124_Globemaster_II#Accidents_and_incidents. Perhaps you may wish to add to this section or better, create a page dedicated to that airplane, her final flight and her crew.

    I am glad to know your father was memorialized at Arlington and that your family have achieved some closure with it.

  30. My name is Linda Vincent and my father, Capt. Roger S. Vincent, was on the C-124 Globemaster as was his friend Walter Peterson. Walt’s son Barry sent the blog to me. I was touched beyond words by Larry Rafferty’s report of the service at Arlington. I just wish I could have arranged such a service for my dad before my mom passed away. I am grateful to Larry for sharing the experience and to all who responded with such kindness and compassion for our loss. Thank you.

  31. Larry, just read the blog info. My sister Julie told me about the planned ceremony. I was unable to attend, but reading this blog and all the responses was very touching. I just wish I could have been there to share this with the family. I was at Arlington Cemetery last year. It was a moving experience even if you didn’t know anyone buried there. Now if I go again, it will be even more inspiring. Thanks for all you investigating. I am sure your Mom was overwhelmed with sadness and pride. I wish my Mom could have lived to be here too. Hope to see you at the next Rafferty picnic.
    Your cousin from California, Jane Hedrich Roschmann

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