Photos © Art Christensen
I am Art Christensen, currently living near Somerset, WI. I served at the 719th AC&W Sqdn, Sparrevohn (Alaska) from late December 1956 to December, 1957.
I remember that at Sparrevohn AB, there was a crashed C-119 on one side of the runway and another plane and another model on the other side, each about half way down. This was the situation when we arrived here.
Here is how I remember it.
Several of us Radar personnel were flown from Elmendorf AFB to the 719th AC&W Squadron /Sparrevohn in late December 1956 for our one-year tours. We were supposed to go right to Hilltop, but the switchback road was snowed shut and it took several days to clear it. Sparrevohn gets between 3 and 4 hours of daylight that time of the year, and just after sunup a day or two later a C-47 came in with supplies. The crew and base personnel unloaded the plane and the crew hung around to visit and grab lunch. A little before sundown (around 1 PM) a few base personnel rotating out were loaded in the back and they poured on the coal and disappeared down the runway into the haze. About an hour later, one of the GI passengers who were on the plane to rotate out came staggering in to lower camp. They had ploughed Ĺ to 1 mile through the trees at the end of the runway. None of the passengers were seriously injured, but the pilot and co-pilot were banged up pretty good. It was a week before the weather cleared enough to get them out.
Meanwhile we stranded Hilltoppers were assigned as two man crews to guard the plane 24 hours a day with unloaded carbines. This only lasted a few days; apparently until they decided no one was likely to trek through 100 miles of wilderness to scavenge it.
More on this further down this page.
Sparrevohn, 719th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron, fall, 1957.
Click on the photo for a larger image.
Sparrevohn Hilltop, from across the runway and lower camp in early 1957.
The runway is just on the other side of the ridge of snow on the left of the picture, and goes up to the right side of the picture.
The lower camp is just above the runway. I believe the building a little further up housed the Base generators and other mechanical items. A heavy electrical cable ran up the left side of the hill to supply power to Hilltop. We had a standby generator on Hilltop also.
The switchback road hardly shows on this snow-covered picture, but is faintly visible crossing left to right. The tram towers on the ridge donít show up either at this distance. The C-47 which crashed on takeoff about New Years 1957 lies off the end of the runway to the left. The distance from the black radome on the hill to the bottom of this picture is probably about 2 miles, maybe 3.
Douglas C-47 -circa January 2, 1957-, crashed on takeoff from Sparrevohn AB.
Note from the Webmaster-
I am unable to place this serial...
Colin wrote on the Air Britain Information Exchange (AB-IX) forum:
Wreck from rear left.It was snowing that fateful day. The story that went around the base is that someone suggested clearing the snow from the wings, but the pilot felt the vibration and wind from the engines would shake it off when they hit the throttles...
The temperature must have been around freezing, and the damp snow stuck. The C-47 was able to lift off the surface but could not climb.
It must have ridden a ground-cushion of air pressure between the wings and ground, until it hit the trees. The fuselage was broken into three or four parts. The tail section had broken loose, just ahead of the toilet and ended up against a tree.
Art Christensen, in radar maintenance room - 1957
Gene Sanders was also at Sparrevohn and his memories are shared HERE...
|I was stationed at Sparrevohn between 1968 and 1969.
I ran the recreation for the guys stationed there. That was the winter we had one straight month with a chill factor of around 175 deg below zero. The wind never got under 100 miles per hour...
My first three months they rerouted me to the Generals Fish Camp down on the Alaskan chain.
They did away with the switch back road to top camp and we went around and up the side of the mountain. During the summer there was one road up and the same road down and during the winter we packed enough snow to make two lanes in places to pass on the mountain.
One of the guys that ran the mail room also ran the small BX that we had on the station.
I was on the fire department also and one day we had a plane on the line taking off. We could see the plane and top camp could talk to them. I glanced up the pass and caught a glimpse of a plane coming in on landing!
So I had to tell the top camp to tell the one on take off to go as fast as he could and climb as fast as he could to miss the one coming in and to tell the one landing to go as slow as he could and as low as he could. They did miss each other!