S/Sgt. Robert D. AMSDEN , USAF, MIA 23 March 1951
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Service: USAF, 509th BWng 2nd StrtgcSptSqd, Flight Engineer
Service #: 12280249
Date of Death: MIA 23 March 1951 aboard C-124 49-0244 enroute to Mildenhall RAFB, U.K.
Hometown: Long Island, New York
Awards: Air Force Longevity Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal,
Air Force Good Conduct
S/Sgt. Robert Amsden, a graduate of Roslyn High School, Long Island, New York, was 21 years old when the Globemaster plane that he was on crash landed far off the coast of Ireland. The son of Mr. and Mrs. John J. Amsden of Schenevus (originally from East Williston, Long Island), Robert enlisted in the Air Force on March 4, 1947 after graduating from high school. His father was a retired naval officer.
On 23 March 1951, a C-124 49-0244 flying from Limestone AFB Loring for a transatlantic flight to Mildenhall Royal Air Force Base, Lakenheath, UK, reported a fire in the cargo crates, signaling Mayday. They began jettisoning the crates and announced they were ditching. The C-124 ditched southwest of Ireland.
The last message received by Shannon Aeradio was a revised Estimated Time of Arrival for the destination, which was passed at 01:06. A rescue operation was started when the crew did not make their next routine position report.
The aircraft was intact when it touched down on the ocean. All hands exited the aircraft wearing life preservers and climbed into the inflated 5 man life rafts. The rafts were equipped with cold weather gear, food, water, flares, and Gibson Girl hand crank emergency radios. 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.
No other United States or Allied planes or ships made it to the ditch site for over 19 hours, until Sunday, March 25, 1951. When the ships arrived, all they found were some charred crates and a partially deflated life raft. Only a few small pieces of wreckage were found 450 miles off the west coast of Ireland. Ships and planes continued searching for the next several days, but not a single body was found. The men of C-124 #49-0244 had disappeared. There is circumstantial evidence that the airmen may have been “snatched” by the Soviet Union for their intelligence value, but their fate remains a mystery. It is a fact that Soviet submarines and surface vessels were active in this area and that the Soviets had no qualms about capturing and holding American servicemen, particularly aviators.
Click here for the USAF Crash Cards and investigation report: