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. 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

  2. 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)

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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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