Rule Bomb Caused 34 Plane Deaths Tuesday, Dec 3 2013 

Transcribed from The Milwaukee Sentinel, Milwaukee, WI, July 30, 1960, page 5:

Rule Bomb Caused 34 Plane Deaths

WASHINGTON, July 20 (AP). Final proof that a bomb blasted heavily-insured Julian A. Frank and 33 fellow airline passengers to death was reported Friday by the Civil Aeronautics Board.

But the mystery of the explosion in the sky remained unsolved with nearly a million dollars at stake.

The CAB’s summation of its six-month inquiry into the Jan. 6 crash of a National Airlines plane near Bolivia, N.C., made no attempt to fix responsibility for the explosion.

FBI Silent

Ant the FBI, which has been handed the job of trying to find out who triggered the dynamite bomb that knocked the DC6 airliner from the skies, refused to say how its investigation is going.

Four of the insurance companies with whom Frank took out policies totally $907,500 have contended the 32-year-old New York attorney committed suicide — at the price of 33 other lives. They’ve asked the courts to rule that they don’t have to pay the insurance.

But Frank’s young widow, blond model Janet Wagner Frank, 28, says she’s positive her wealthy husband was either the innocent victim of the explosion or the target of a monstrous mysterious murder plot.

Bomb Near Lawyer

The CAB reports places the bomb explosion in the immediate vicinity of Frank’s seat on the New York-Miami airliner and says he was close to the ripping blast that tore the plane apart.

The lawyer for Frank’s estate, David Marks, said in New York the CAB finding would have no effect on his efforts to collect the insurance for Frank’s widow and two children.

There is a “real possibility” that Frank was murdered, he said.


Bombs Indicated in Two Air Disasters Monday, Dec 2 2013 

Transcribed from The Age, Melbourne, Australia, January 18, 1960, page 4:

Bombs Indicated in Two Air Disasters

NEW YORK, January 17.–F.B.I. agents investigating the New York-Miami airliner crash 11 days ago have reported mysterious circumstances surrounding the Mexican Gulf crash of another airliner operated by the same airline.

In the investigation of the January 6 crash of a National Airlines DC-6B, agents are inquiring into indications that a lawyer, Mr. Julian Frank, might have blown up the plane killing himself and 33 others so his widow could collect nearly 900,000 doll. (about £401,700) in insurance.

The other crash occurred last November 16. All 42 persons aboard a DC-7C died in a crash in the Gulf of Mexico on a flight from Miami to New Orleans.

Very little wreckage and only ten bodies were recovered.

A letter from the F.B.I. disclosed a “theory” yesterday that a long-time criminal listed as killed in the crash may have sent another man to die in his name so that his own wife would collect a large amount of insurance.

The disclosure brought up the possibility that the man, Dr. Robert Spears, a Dallas naturopath, who once allegedly offered to blow up a hospital for 500 doll. (£223) might have sabotaged the plane.


The F.B.I. letter was read at a Civil Aeronautics Board inquiry into the crash in Miami.

It identified Dr. Spears as a man with a criminal record going back to 1917.

The F.B.I. letter quoted the chief investigator, Mr. Julian Blodgett, as advancing the theory that “Dr. Spears might have had someone travel for him to collect a large insurance for the benefit of his young wife.”

In Miami, the F.B.I. refused to comment on the case.

But police have stated that the man Spears may have tricked into boarding the plane in his name could have been William Allen Taylor, missing since the night of the crash.

A salesman, Taylor was known to be an old acquaintance of Dr. Spears.

Nothing in the F.B.I. letter or in the testimony brought out at the Civil Aeronautics Board hearing referred directly to sabotage as the cause of the crash.

A C.A.B. investigator, who asked not to be named, described as “formidable” the amount for which Dr. Spears was insured.

The main wreckage of the DC-7C is under 700 feet of water and experts say it is unlikely the cause of the crash will ever be determined from debris study.

But National Airlines executives in Miami say they now “lean strongly” toward the theory that a bomb caused the crash.–A.A.P.

Theory Holds Disaster Accident, Not Bombing Sunday, Dec 1 2013 

Transcribed from the Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, January 21, 1960, page 34:

Theory Holds Disaster Accident, Not Bombing

By Jerry Bennett
Newspaper Enterprise Assn. Writer

WASHINGTON — There is mounting evidence that the crash of a National Airlines plane on January 6 was not caused by a bomb.

This turn in the disaster investigation stems from a review of evidence undisclosed until now.

The new theory, if proven, would absolve alleged bomber Julian Frank of responsibility for the crash which took his life and that of 33 others aboard the Miami-bound plane.

This theory holds that escaping air in the pressurized cabin blew the New York lawyer through either a broken window or a hole in the plane’s side. Thus, Frank’s body landed on a North Carolina beach before inrushing air or other mechanical damage tore the plane apart 20 miles away.

Here is the support for this theory, based on evidence found by investigators:

  1. A hole was found in a piece of the plane’s fuselage that landed near Frank’s body. The metal was from the rest room area. The hole was not caused by an explosion, but it was big enough to release enough pressure to blast out the entire rest room wall and kill anyone nearby.
  2. Also found near Frank’s body were fragments from the plane’s windows. This would indicate that one or more of the windows was blown out at about the same time. Frank being inside the rest room or sitting beside a window when the damage occurred would account for his body being so far from the others.
  3. If there had been a bomb, powder or chemical burns would have been found either on Frank’s body or parts of the wreckage. None has been found.
  4. The outward burst of an explosion inside a flight cabin would bend metal fragments torn from the fuselage. This didn’t happen in the Jan. 6 disaster.
  5. Much has been said about a blue cloth bag with a missing bottom found near Franks’ body. It has been alleged that Frank hid the bomb inside it. The trouble with this theory is that a bomb powerful enough to damage a plane would have done more to a bag than just blow out its bottom.
  6. Frank didn’t have a blue bag. His was gray.
  7. The fact that both Frank’s legs were missing from his body has been presented as evidence that he exploded a bomb. But experts say that the impact a body makes when striking the ground from a high altitude is strong enough to tear away limbs. Other bodies were found with severed arms and legs.

In either event, the theory holds[sic] been used to boost the bomb theory is that bits of metal imbedded in Frank’s body did not come from the doomed plane. This announcement was made before the fragments had been fully analyzed. Results of the lab tests have not yet been disclosed.

Additional evidence includes the findings of life jackets on some of the passengers and an inflated life raft. Also, it is known that one of the engines was on fire. Whether it burned before or after the plane fell apart is not known.

Based on this new evidence, here is one expert’s theory of what might have caused the crash:

The plane was flying over the ocean near the Carolina coast when the engine caught fire. Passengers began strapping on their life jackets.

Frank is known to have been desperately afraid of flying. Upon seeing the engine in flames, he might have panicked and broken a window. Or a piece of metal from the burning engine could have broken a window or struck the fuselage, weakening it to the extent that a blowout occurred.

In either event, the theory holds that the pilot turned abruptly inland and began his descent. Either air rushing into the plane or other material damage could have made the plane disintegrate.

Whether this theory becomes fact hinges upon final reassembly and study of the wreckage, underway at Wilmington, N.C.

34 Lose Lives in Airliner Crash Saturday, Nov 30 2013 

Transcribed from the Reading Eagle, Reading, PA, January 6, 1960, pages 1,39:

34 Lose Lives in Airliner Crash

New York-to-Miami Plane Demolished in North Carolina


Craft was Carrying 29 Vacationists, Crew of 5


Bolivia, N.C., Jan. 6 (AP) — A National Airlines night coach flying non-stop from New York to Miami crashed with 34 persons aboard before dawn today in swampy woodlands near here.

“There will not be any survivors,” said Deputy Sheriff H. G. Ratcliff.

Seventeen bodies had been recovered late this morning.

Reporters on the scene said the big plane appeared to have exploded in the air and debris and bodies were scattered over an area of 20 acres.

Substitute Flight

The four-engined ship, making one of two substitute flights carrying vacation-bound passengers originally booked on a cancelled jet flight, struck earth 2 1/2 miles southwest of Bolivia, a hamlet 25 miles southwest of Wilmington.

The other substitute plane, an Electra turbo-prop plane, reached Miami safely with 76 passengers and crew members.

The plane that crashed carried 29 passengers and a crew of five.

Its passengers included retired Navy Vice Adm. Edward Orrick McDonnell, who held a Congressional Medal of Honor and numerous other decorations for World War II service. He commanded an aircraft carrier in the Pacific.

Most of the passengers were easterners, bound for vacations at Florida’s sunny resorts.

Rainy Weather

The plane had been flying through rainy weather.

The watch on the wrist of a crew member found in the cockpit was stopped at 2:45 a.m., indicating that the crash occurred some 14 minutes after the pilot reported in by radio. He indicated no trouble at that time.

The possibility that passengers were aware of the trouble before the crash was seen in the fact that a number of the victims were clad in Mae West life preservers. The life preservers on some had been inflated.

A piece of the wing and most of the ripped fuselage fell in a field, while the cockpit struck in woods 50 yards away.

The plane crashed on the small farm of Richard Randolph. His wife, Letzie, was awakened by the noise and she awakened her husband.

“We heard an engine going chug-a-chug,” he said, “like it was cutting in and out. Then it sounded like tin doors and windows ripping off. Then there was a big boom like dynamite.”

Randolph arose and looked out the window. He could see nothing but a small flame which soon went out. He returned to bed.

Early this morning, their small son, McArthur, went to the field to see what happened and found the plane. The Negro farmer drove to Bolivia, the nearest phone, and an operator connected him with the New Hanover Airport at Wilmington. He then waited in Bolivia until highway patrolmen arrived about 7:30 a.m. and guided them to the scene.

Emergency and rescue vehicles rushed to the scene. A light rain fell as rescuers searched for bodies.

A number of bodies lay among scattered luggage and pieces of the ship.

Lester L. Edwards, a forest ranger, said it appeared to him that the plane might have exploded in flight. This opinion was shared also by Doyle Howard, a reporter on the scene from the Wilmington News.

The FBI sent its special disaster squad to the scene. This was requested by Charles Sharp, National’s vice president. The squad of three fingerprint experts has identified more than 80 per cent of the victims of airliner crashes it has investigated.

The plane was manned by a veteran crew. Capt. Dale Southard, 46, the pilot, flew bombers for a ferry service during World War II. He was born in Nebo, Mo. R. L. Hentzel, 32, co-pilot, came with NAL in 1954 after five years in the Air Force. He was a Cleveland, Ohio, native. R. R. Halleckson, 35, flight engineer, joined the company in May 1953. During World War II he served on B29 bombers. He was born in St. Paul, Minn.

A NAL plane, less than two months ago, crashed into the Gulf of MExico, killing 42 persons aboard. It was on a flight from Miami to New Orleans. Most of the bodies and wreckage remains unrecovered.

34 Dead in U.S. Plane Crash Friday, Nov 29 2013 

Transcribed from The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, January 7, 1960, page 1:

34 Dead in U.S. Plane Crash

NEW YORK, Jan. 6 (A.A.P.). — A four-engined National Airlines DC6B on a flight from New York to Miami crashed about 25 miles south-west of Wilmington, North Carolina, early today.

The plane carried 29 passengers and a crew of five and it is thought all were killed.

The pilot had given no indication of any trouble.

So far only seven bodies have been found.

First inspection of the wreckage suggested that the plane had exploded in the air.

A reporter said the largest part of the plane he saw was a wing and half of the fuselage “all ripped to pieces.”

The crash was the second in less than two months for National Airlines. Forty-two persons died when a National flight from Miami to New Orleans went down in the Gulf of Mexico on November 16.

Cruel Twist of Fate Deals Death to 34 Thursday, Nov 28 2013 

Transcribed from The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, WA, January 7, 1960, page 16:

Cruel Twist of Fate Deals Death to 34

NEW YORK, Jan. 6. (AP) — Sheer chance, a grim twist to the wheel of fate, put 34 persons aboard a National Airlines night coach that crashed today in North Carolina.

The 29 passengers on the ill-fated New York to Miami flight originally were booked on a Boeing 707 flight from Idlewild. But the jet liner was taken out of service at the last minute because of a broken windshield.

Seventy-six of the passengers, on a first-come-first-serve basis, were transferred to an Electra turboprop plane which flew them safely to Miami.

Bound for Vacations

The ill-starred 29 were put aboard the DC-6B four-engine propeller plane that crashed. Most of them were from the east, bound for Florida for vacation, fun or on business. Many were heads of families, and nearly a score of children were orphaned in the crash.

Among those killed was retired navy Vice Adm. Edward C. McDonnell, 68. He won the medal of honor — the nation’s highest military decoration — for heroism at Vera Cruz in 1914. He was a flier in World War I and commanded escort aircraft carriers in the Pacific in World War II. After retiring in 1946, McDonnell became a partner in the Wall Street investment banking firm of Hornblower & Weeks.

The plane apparently disintegrated in rain and darkness near Bolivia, N. C., and showered wreckage and bodies over a 20-acre area.

Searchers found 32 bodies, but no survivors, before darkness and foul weather halted the search tonight.

There was no ready explanation for the cause of the accident, the first fatal air liner crash of the new year. A National Airlines spokesman said there was no indication of foul play.

Find Metal

At Kure beach, 25 miles east, two housewives found a chunk of metal, about the size of a coffee table, which an air lines spokesman said was “very definitely part of the aluminum skin of an airplane, presumably this one.”

John L. Morris, a National Airlines vice president, visited the crash scene. Later he said in a statement:

“The plane apparently disintegrated in the air from an unknown cause. The plane was in good order and was in the hands of a veteran crew. There was nothing from the pilot prior to the crash that would indicate malfunction.”

FBI Probes Theory That Bomb Brought Air Crash Wednesday, Nov 27 2013 

Transcribed from The Times-News, Hendersonville, NC, January 15, 1960, pages 1,4:

FBI Probes Theory That Bomb Brought Air Crash

Aim Suspicion At Insured Passenger

By Ronald H. Nessen

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15. (UPI) — Government agents conducted a mammoth investigation today to determine whether a bomb caused last week’s National Airliner crash which killed all 34 persons aboard.

Part of the inquiry centered on a passenger who was covered by about a million dollars worth of recently-acquired insurance.

FBI and Civil Aeronautics Board investigators were trying to discover whether a man-made explosion blew the New York-to-Miami flight from the sky near Bolivia, N.C., Jan. 6.

WILMINGTON, Jan. 15. (UPI) — A federal agent investigating the crash of a National Airlines plane reported today that two men went through the wreckage looking for personal effects of Julian Frank.

NEW YORK, Jan. 15 — (UPI) — Julian Andrew Frank, suspected of killing himself and 33 other airliner passengers with a suicide bomb, was under investigation for a series of alleged swindles which may total over a million dollars, it was revealed here today.

It was reported today that:

St. Louis and Kansas City, Mo., attorneys had complained to the New York district attorney against Frank last month in an alleged charity fund drive swindle.

The FBI is investigating complaints that a “phantom” firm set up by Frank had collected large fees for mortgage dealings and then failed to complete transactions.

After hearing testimony from the CAB’s safety director, Chairman A. S. Mike Monroney (D-Okla) of the Senate aviation subcommittee said Thursday “every bit of evidence so far” indicated a bomb exploded in the plane’s washroom. Monroney said “it seems clear” to him that a bomb caused the crash.

CAB Safety Director Oscar Bakke told the subcommittee that a preliminary investigation brought out some “unusual circumstances” which caused the agency to look into the possibility of an explosion. He said he was not prepared to state that a bomb caused the crash.

Bakke said the CAB inquiry centered on heavily-insured Julian Andrew Frank, 32, a Westport, Conn., lawyer who boarded the plane with a 20-pound blue cloth flight bag. Frank’s body was found some 18 to 21 miles from the scene of the main wreckage. The flight bag was nearby, its bottom torn out.

Bakke said Frank’s body was more severely mutilated than those of other passengers and was impregnated with small bits of steel, wire, wood and paint. He said both legs were blown off.

An official said government investigators were seeking every scrap of evidence concerning the DC-6B plane, the passengers and their luggage. He said the agents would try to reconstruct the plane from the wreckage.

The official said investigators would explore thoroughly the background of each passenger and would question relatives and neighbors.

Bakke said Frank took out accident or life insurance policies from April to December totaling about $889,000 plus two policies totaling 125,000 just before boarding the plane. All were made out to his wife, Janet, a former fashion model.

Alaskan Airline Crash Kills Five; 24 Injured Tuesday, Nov 26 2013 

Transcribed from the St. Petersburg Times, St. Petersburg, FL, December 1, 1947, page 1:

Alaskan Airline Crash Kills Five; 24 Injured

Plane Bursts into Flames at Seattle

SEATTLE — (AP) — Two of 28 passengers and crew members burned to death yesterday afternoon when an Alaska Airlines DC-4 crashed and burst into flames at the edge of the Seattle-Tacoma municipal airport. Two others were unaccounted for, 24 hospitalized with injuries and a woman is believed to have been crushed to death in a car which the transport struck as it careened across a highway.

Fifteen of the survivors were rushed by ambulance to the New Renton hospital midway between the airport and Seattle. Their names and the extent of their injuries has not been determined.

Nine, including the pilot, Capt. James E. Farris, Seattle, and co-pilot, Leslie Howe, Anchorage, Alaska, were brought to the Kings County hospital here.

The bodies of a woman and infant, the only child among the passengers making the flight from Anchorage to Seattle, were pulled out of the smoldering wreckage by rescue crews.

Whether the two still missing escaped from the flaming craft after it crashed at 2:25 p.m. (PST) or were trapped in the fire-filled fuselage has not been determined.

Nearly four hours after the crash, fire fighters had not been able to make a thorough examination of the wreckage. Flames fed by gasoline from wing tanks sprang up intermittently, impeding the search.

One of the survivors, Mrs. Pearl Howe, told reporters that the big four-engined airliner made a routine landing but sped off the end of the southeast runway onto the intersection of the Des Moines, Wash., highway 158th Street.

“The plane wasn’t hurt much but it caught fire,” she said. “It didn’t tip. My husband, with another fellow, kicked the main door open. It opened all at once and several lost their balance. My husband was pushed right into the flames.

“Then the plane filled with smoke. The others kept jumping head first out the escape window. I gathered my fur coat over my head and jumped. I slid down the wing shielding my face. I had to roll through the fire to get clear. I just kept rolling through the wet grass till the flames went out.”

Witnesses said the transport crunched into the automobile as it plunged down a steep bank onto the highway intersection, came to a grinding halt in brush at the side of the road and burst into flames.

A man, who has not been located, was seen escaping from the car before it was struck by the plane and welded by the intense heat into a single mass of twisted metal. Rescue crews said the cremated body of a woman is believed to be in the car’s tangled wreckage.

First at the scene were Mr. and Mrs. M. L. Travis, who live nearby.

They said dazed and injured passengers were groping their way out of the burning plane and the cries of others still inside could be heard.

Farris, who suffered a broken arm, internal injuries and severe burns, was doubled up with pain and fell on his face three times in crossing the highway, the Travises said.

Farris cried: “Don’t help me. Help the others.”

Officer Finds Body of Friend Aboard Plane Monday, Nov 25 2013 

Transcribed from the Ellensburg Daily Record, Ellensburg, WA, December 1, 1947, page 4:

Officer Finds Body of Friend Aboard Plane

SEATTLE, Dec. 1–(AP)– Sheriff’s Capt. Adam Lyskoski, one of the first officers to reach the scene of yesterday’s tragic crash of an Alaska Airlines plane, told grimly today of removing the body of a woman from the plane.

“I recognized her. I have been a friend of her husband for many years and a guest at their home many times.

“She was Mrs. Virginia Stitsworth, wife of Detective Robert Stitsworth of the Tacoma police department.

“Bob and his 15-year-old daughter came up. They had been waiting at the airport to welcome her. I said: ‘I’m sorry Bob, but that is her.’ He looked under the blanket. It was his wife. The little girl began to cry.”

Stitsworth himself told how he and the girl, Marilyn Harden, 15, his wife’s daughter by a prior marriage, had made many fruitless trips to the airport during the last five days in anticipation of his wife’s return from a two months professional engagement in Anchorage. She was widely known throughout the Northwest as a singer under her professional name of Virginia Grafton.

“I knew my wife was aboard,” Stitsworth said. “She’d written me a week ago Thursday: ‘I’ll get out of here just as fast as they can get a load of passengers.’

“The plane landed, then went off the edge of the field, and a column of smoke went up. Marilyn and I drove to the place. ‘Ski’ (Lyskoski) had just taken my wife’s body out of the plane. I looked at her hand extending out from under the blanket. On it was the engagement ring I gave her, and another ring she always wore. Marilyn cried.”

Plane Survivors Agreed on Luck Monday, Nov 25 2013 

Transcribed from the Ellensburg Daily Record, Ellensburg, WA, December 1, 1947, page 4:

Plane Survivors Agreed on Luck

Passengers Had To Dash Through Flames To Escape

SEATTLE, Dec. 1–(AP)– Although all were burned in varying degrees, those survivors able to recount the experiences of yesterday’s crash of an Alaska Airlines transport agreed today that each was lucky to be alive.

Said Mrs. Selma Olson, 51, Olympia, who suffered burned legs and facial burns:

“We had to dash right through the flames to get away from the plane. I don’t know how we made it.”

Mrs. Olson, who had been working in Anchorage, was on her way “outside” to meet the body of her son, Frederick C. Olson, a tank trooper killed in Germany March 25, 1945, whose remains are being returned from overseas to Springfield, Mo. Her husband, Cris Olson of Olympia, a truck driver for the Civil Aeronautics Authority at Anchorage, was to follow by another plane Saturday night.

“It was foggy, and we were trying to land,” she continued. “There was some talk of our trying to fly on to Portland. The passengers were calm. Then the pilot landed us at Bow Lake airport.

“We were all so happy when we hit the runway. We said: ‘Boy, we made it!’ Then we saw the end of the runway coming at us. The next thing we knew, the plane was on fire.

“There were no flames inside the plane, at first. The men in the back broke the door open. I jumped out right into the flames, and ran through them. I sprained my ankle, besides getting burned. But I guess I’m lucky to be alive.”

Walter Koch, 34, of Snohomish, burned on the hand and face, recalled that the stewardess tried to open the door of the plane after the crash.

“The door was sprung shut. Some of the men passengers broke it open,” Koch said. “The ground outside was afire (from gasoline leaking out of the broken left wing tanks.) We dove through it in getting out. A man was lying under the horizontal stabilizer. They dragged him over to the pavement, and later on I saw his hand moving, so he wasn’t dead.”

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