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Archive Report: US Forces
1941 - 1945

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.

We seek additional information and photographs. Please contact us via Helpdesk
USAF
17.12.1960 7501 Support Squadron, USAF Convair C-131D Samaritan 55-0291, Maj. John K. Connery

Operation: Return flight to RAF Northolt, London, England

Date: 17th December 1960 (Saturday)

Unit No: 7501 Support Squadron, 3rd Air Division, USAF

Type: Convair C-131D Samaritan

Serial No: 55-0291

Code: Unknown

Location: Ludwigsvorstadt borough of München, Germany

Base: RAF Northolt near London

Crew:

Pilot: Maj. John King Connery AO-809538 USAF Age 40. Killed

Co Pilot: Capt. Louis Bingley Nelsen 40856A USAF Age 39. Killed

Navigator: Capt. Robert Francis Blaess 43033A USAF Age 36. Killed

Engineer: T/Sgt. Lionel David Long AF16293823 USAF Age 31. Killed

Assistant Flt. Eng: T/Sgt. Jacob Adam Pas AR16316111 USAF Age 29. Killed

Flt. Steward: M/Sgt. John James Bradley AF12014526 USAF Age 41. Killed

Assistant Flt. Steward: T/Sgt. Martha Nell Williams ER35870505 USAF Age 32. Killed

Students:

Douglas Plested Avery. Age 19. Killed

Larry Lee Blake. Age 18. Killed

Heidi Anne Boselli. Age 18. Killed

William Hopkins Bush. Age 17. Killed

John King Connery Jr. Age 18. Killed

Molly Jane Hendrix. Age 18. Killed

Marion G. Irving. Age? Killed

Marjory Ellen Karr. Age 18. Killed

Vicki Anne Mahnke. Age 17. Killed

Frederick William Milburn. Age 19. Killed

Alexander M. Schneider. Age 19. Killed

Jackson Kimball Steffensen. Age 18. Killed

Rita Virginia ‘Ginny’ Wilber. Age 18. Killed

A USAF Military Air Transport Service Convair C-131D Samaritan (#55-0293) in flight (Courtesy of US Defense Imagery)

REASON FOR LOSS:

On the 17th December 1960 Maj. Connery was the pilot of the Convair C-131D Samaritan serial #55-0291 which took off from the München-Riem airport at 14:09 hrs on a flight to RAF Northolt near London.

Maj. Connery was the Navigator aboard B-17G 42-97440 ‘Flak Rat II’ which was lost on the 30th May 1944.

It was reported that aboard were 7 USAF crew and 13 passengers. The passengers were students from the University of Maryland’s Overseas college in München who were dependents of service members and returning to England for Christmas.

Shortly after take off, the aircraft lost power on one its two engines. Unable to maintain altitude and with bad visibility due to fog the aircraft sheared off part of the 318ft (97 m) steeple of St. Paul’s Church in the Ludwigsvorstadt borough of München. At 14:10 hrs the aircraft crashed onto the crowded cars of a passing tram on Martin-Greif-Straße bursting into flames.

The engine failure was determined to have been caused by the fuel tank booster pump being contaminated by water, which froze in the wintery conditions. This blocked the pump inlets and deprived the engine of fuel, causing it to lose power and shut down.

Above the aftermath of the crash of the Convair C-131D Samaritan in the centre of Munich. Firefighters extinguished and searched in the wreckage looking for victims and objects by which to identify them. The accident was a scene of horror with the streetcars completely burned out. (Images: Credit of the Picture-alliance/dpa and BR Bayern 2).

Everyone aboard the aircraft and a reported 32 German citizens on the ground were killed and a further 20 injured. The names of the dead and injured German citizens are unknown.

To compound the horrific tragedy in the deaths of many young people aboard the aircraft and those on the ground going about their lives preparing for the Christmas season, John King Connery Jr. the son of the pilot Maj. Connery was also killed.

The victims are remembered on a commemorative plaque installed at the crash site.

Translation:

IN MEMORY OF
THE 52 VICTIMS OF
THE AIRPLANE ACCIDENT
OF DECEMBER 17, 1960

Courtesy of Mattes, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Burial Details:

Crew

Above Grave Marker for Maj. Connery (Courtesy of JimL - FindAGrave)

Maj. John King Connery. Air Medal (3 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Repatriated on the 13th January 1961 and interred at the Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, Section 48, Grave 2125 in a joint grave with his son John K. Connery Jr. Born on the 30th November 1920 in Illinois. Husband of Mildred Irene (née Hooton) Connery of Coolidge, Sagenaw, Michigan, USA.

Maj. Louis Bingley Nelsen Sr. Repatriated on the 5th January 1961 and interred at the Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, Section 30, Grave 354. Born on the 3rd September 1921 in Virginia. Husband to Marguarite Tunstall (née Chaulklin) Nelsen of Warren, of Wake, Virginia, USA.

Sadly his wife Marguarite died of alcohol poisoning just over a year later on the 11th May 1962.

Capt. Robert Francis Blaess. Repatriated and interred on the 29th December 1960 at the Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, Section 30, Grave 123 RH. Born on the14th November 1924 at Ann Arbor, Michigan. Husband to Shirley Jean (née Staebler) Blaess of Willis, Michigan, USA.

T/Sgt. Lionel David Long. Repatriated and interred on the 3rd January 1961 at the Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, Section 12, Grave 4667. Born on the 19th January 1929 in McCracken County, Kentucky. Husband to Mary Sue (née Owens) Long of Tuscany, East Detroit, Michigan, USA.

T/Sgt. Jacob Adam Pas. Repatriated and interred at the South Park Cemetery, Section 30, Roswell, New Mexico. Born on the 4th January 1931 in Chicago, Illinois. Husband to Mary (née Hubbard) Pas of Roswell, New Mexico, USA.

Above Grave Marker for M/Sgt. Bradley (Courtesy of JimL - FindAGrave)

M/Sgt. John James Bradley. Repatriated and interred on the 3rd January 1961 at the Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, Section 28, Grave 2390. Born on the 20th November 1919 in New York City, New York. Husband to Barbara A. Bradley of Springfield, Virginia, USA.

T/Sgt. Martha Nell Williams. Repatriated and interred at the Sunset Hill Cemetery, Valdosta, Georgia. Born on the 19h February 1928. Daughter to Archie Cone and Nettie Moore (née Williams) McCallum of Valdosta, Georgia, USA.

Students:

Above Grave Marker for Douglas Plested Avery (Courtesy of Juhl - FindAGrave)

Douglas Plested Avery. Cremated at the Frankfurt City crematorium and his ashes repatriated for interment on the 9th February 1961, at the San Francisco National Cemetery, Presidio, East Section, Grave 1343A. Born on the 16th June 1941 in Pensacola, Florida. Son of a Capt. Howard M. Avery O-76159, USN and Frances (née Cannon) Avery. His father was assigned to the Navy HQ in London, England.

Larry Lee Blake. Repatriated on the 10th January 1961 and interred at the Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, Section 38, Grave 5037. Born on the 21st March 1942 at Kenton, Ohio. Son of Capt. Ernest L. Blake AO-1859055 and Fern Evelyn (née Amsler) Blake. His father was assigned to USAF Air Station, Denham, Uxbridge, England.

Above Grave Marker for Heidi Anne Boselli (Courtesy of Juhl - FindAGrave)

Heidi Anne Boselli. Repatriated on the 30th December 1960 and interred at the Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, Section 38, Grave 5268. Born on the 20th January 1942 in Santa Monica, Los Angeles. Daughter of Lt Col. Theodore John Boselli 6653A USAF and Helen Norinne (née Harvey) Boselli. Her father was assigned to HQ 7th Air Division, RAF High Wycombe, England.

William Hopkins Bush. Cremated at the Frankfurt City crematorium. His ashes were shipped to his father. The final disposition of the ashes are unknown. Born on the 3rd January 1943 in Lansing, Michigan. Son of Maj. Charles T. and Betty Jane (née Hopkins) Bush living in North Park, Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, England.

Above Grave Marker for John King Connery Jr. (Courtesy of Jiml - FindAGrave)

John King Connery Jr. Repatriated on the 13th January 1961 and interred at the Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, Section 48, Grave 2125 in an adjacent grave to his father Maj. Connery. Born on the 1st November 1942. Son of Maj. John King and Mildred Irene (née Hooton) Connery of Coolidge, Sagenaw, Michigan, USA.

Above Grave marker for Molly Jane Hendrix (Courtesy of ESR - FindAGrave)

Molly Jane Hendrix. Cremated at Frankfurt City crematorium, repatriated and interred on the 17th July 1961 at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, Texas in Section P-I, Grave 279. Born on the 7th August 1942 in Midland, Texas. Daughter of Col. William Murray ‘Billy’ Hendrix 3707A, USAF and Rosemary (née Chandler) Hendrix. Her father was assigned to the USAF/RAF exchange program stationed in London, England.

Marion G. Irving. No further information has been found other than newspaper reports that lists her name as being aboard the aircraft.

Above Grave marker for Marjory Ellen Karr (Courtesy of TheOldChief - FindAGrave)

Marjory Ellen Karr. Repatriated and interred at the Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens Cemetery, Oklahoma. Born on the 9th October 1942 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Daughter of Maj. William Karr and Beulah Mae (née Mullins) Karr. Her father was assigned to HQ 81st Tactical Fighter Wing at RAF Bentwaters, England.

Above Grave Marker for Vicki Anne Mahnke (Courtesy of Sandra A - FindAGrave)

Vicki Anne Mahnke. Repatriated and interred on the 30th December 1960 at the Fort Snelling National Cemetery Section H, Grave 3893 in Minnesota. Born on the 23rd September 1942 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Daughter of Maj. William Edwin Mahnke AO-2095033 USAF and Viola A. (née Weill) Mahnke. Her father was with the 3919th Operations Sqn, RAF Fairford, England.

Frederick William Milburn. Cremated at the Frankfurt City crematorium on the 6th January 1961. His ashes were delivered to the Westfriedhof in München on the 19th January 1961 for final commitment in the Urnenhall T, Niche 135. Born on the 23rd March 1941 in Los Angeles, California. Son of Sam D. and Barbara (née Mayer) Milburn. His father was an auditor with the USAF at RAF Mildenhall, England.

Alexander M. Schneider. Buried in the Waldfriedhof cemetery, München on the 23rd December 1960 in Grave 189, 8W. Born on the 22nd August 1941 in Manhattan, New York City, New City. Son of Mr & Mrs Alexander S. Schneider, American civilians living in Cambridge, England.

Jackson Kimball Steffensen. Repatriated and interred at the Evergreen Memorial Park and Mausoleum in Riverdale, California. Born on the 20th December 1942 in Riverside, California. Son of Lt Col. Jack Adolphe and Laura Louise (née Kimball) Steffensen. His mother predeceased him in September 1952. His father was the director of information for HQ 7th Air Division at RAF High Wycombe, England.

Rita Virginia ‘Ginny’ Wilber. Repatriated and interred at the Willacoochee City Cemetery, Georgia. Born on the 20th June 1942 in Miami Beach, Florida. Daughter of Mr. Fabian John and Evelyn Inez (née Edmondson) Wilber. Her father was assigned to the 3920th Combat Support Group at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, England.

Researched by Ralph Snape for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew, passengers and those that perished and were injured on the ground.

Other sources listed below:

RS 09.11.2022 - Initial upload

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Acknowledgments: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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