On December 11, 1985, a Douglas DC-8 departed Cairo enroute to Campbell Air Force Base, Kentucky via Germany and Gander, Newfoundland. On board were eight crew and 248 passengers. The 248 passengers were members of the 101st Airborne Division, United States Army, who had been on peace keeping duties in the Sinai Desert.
As the plane departed Gander, it failed to gain altitude and crashed about a half mile beyond the end of the runway. The aircraft was destroyed by the impact and the fuel-fed fire. All 256 occupants on board lost their lives. The crash was the worst air disaster ever in Canada.
This memorial was designed by Lorne Rostotski of St. John's, Newfoundland and sculpted by Stephen Shields of Hopkinsville, Kentucky. It depicts an unarmed soldier standing atop a massive rock holding the hands of two civilian children. The children, a boy and a girl, each hold an olive branch, denoting the peace keeping mission of of the 101st Airborne Division "Screaming Eagles" in the Sinai Peninsula.
The trio, surrounded by trees, hills, and rocks of the crash site looks into the future, beyond Gander Lake and in the direction of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. These surroundings are witness to the moment when many young dreams ended and the hearts and imagination of grateful nations were captured.
FATHER FOR A DAY
MILITARY AIR TRANSPORT SERVICE
Pepperrell Air Force Base
SUBJECT: Fathers for a Day Program
TO: A/2C James B. Davis
Clayton Warren age 16 from Mt. Cashel orphanage will be your child for the day on Saturday, 19 June 1954.
Attached is an agenda for the days events and the facilities that are available to you ... This is your chance to win a life long friend ...
I want to thank you for taking an active part in the "Fathers for a Day Program" ...
I feel certain you will receive a joyous compensation in your heart when this day is over because some boy or girl has been made happier by your kindness.
Floyd J. Zanders
Fathers for a Day Program
(Contributed by James B. Davis)
"My brother and I were in Mount Cashel from '44 to '47 and I shall never forget the airmen at Pepperrell and Mount Cashel.
I remember the Air Force trucking us to the base at Christmas where we would (over) eat and throw up and eat again. I remember the clothes that we got from the base.
I remember one summer I was building something near the swimming pool and the American airmen had been making a football field for us. I was off by myself building a small barn or some such building. A group of airmen were leaving on a stake truck by a gate near the swimming pool. As they were passing by several of the airmen tossed coins to me. That was a big deal to me.
They were always available for us when we were in need". (Doug Ward 11/21/2003)
"I went to Mount Cashel when I was 5 and left when I was 15. Yes, it was quite a story ... Quite a bunch ... I was in Mount Cashel with my brother, Kevin. As you are probably aware, the place has been torn down.
I too admired the Americans for the hospitality shown to us as orphans and their compassion by taking us out and giving us gifts and what not ... They helped us with our sports as well ... and certainly proved themselves to be very good friends of the orphanage." (John W.Sullivan 5/6/05)
(Mount Cashel was a Roman Catholic orphanage for boys located near Fort Pepperrell)
(Contributed by James B. Davis)
Newfoundlander cooks at the 64th Air Division (Defense) mess hall in the White Hills at Pepperrell AFB in 1955
Having been rejected for flying service, the recruiting board of the time suggested I apply myself to the Meteorological Division attached to the Royal Air Force Ferry Command then setting up (at that time) "the largest airport in the world" built by the British and finished in 1938 - talk about foresight!
Anyway I soon found out that while in Nfld. or in Canada (separate entities at the time) we "met types" remained in civvies, while we were required to put on blues if we got transferred to Britain. I don't recall how many times I was measured then found any transfer orders reversed.
At Gander we had the RAFFC (above), the Royal Canadian Air force doing coastal patrols over the thousands of convoys passing Cape Race before crossing the Atlantic or heading to Murmansk in Russia, and the USAF who like the RAF used Gander as the staging post for aircraft being shipped to the ETO. I have seen hundreds-at-a-time B-17's and B-24's lined up on the runway waiting their turn to make that long trip.
The RAF used civvie pilots from all over - including many famous US barnstorming pilots such as Duke Schiller to fly over with no crews but what they could take in essential freight. They departed nightly on the individual captain's decision based on the weather we gave him. The USAF decision to fly was made by a flight commander who made his decision after discussion with the more seasoned pilots (likely his favourites!), and they all took off the same evening - one every two minutes from about 1800 to 2400 hours.
Living on the side of the runway one gets used to the noise! All in all, Ferry Command, and USAF shipped about 14,000 aircraft overseas during the war with very low losses. Meteorology was in its infancy at that time and we and the pilots were learning how unpredictable North Atlantic weather could be.! It's a wonder that so many of the poor buggers made it.
The Meteorology unit was quartered in an Officer's BOQ, so we had individual rooms and ate at the Officers Mess. When I went there originally, all operations types were quartered in one building which housed the mess and reel-at-a-time movies at night. Signals and Met personnel quarters on the second floor, operations (Winco and staff), Signals and Met on third floor, and the tower on top.
My particular function in the office was originally typing up the individual forecast sheets for each 5 degree of latitude crossing "the big ditch" and running sufficient copies on an old gelatin copier for the number of crews we had going that night.
In 1944 the US Army installed a cable across the island linking all US bases - Pepperrell, Argentia, Stephenville and (later by radio-teletype) Goose Bay in Labrador. I was given the task of setting up control and monitoring met-data office at Gander, eventually having 17 young men on my staff. I stayed in the job until 1947 when Gander became a civilian international airport, then went back on an invite to my pre-war employer.
Most of my off-duty hours were spent studying the classics or playing cards (5-cent poker) in the BOQ lounge. A couple of other guys and myself also set up a buckshee wiring system in our BOQ on which we taught ourselves the Morse code. There were over 10,000 men on base and until 1944 no WACS or WAFS to brighten up the atmosphere. A few guys I knew went "stir crazy" and were shipped out to civilization.
This is the first time I have written this history of my war years, and with my age, is probably a good idea!
Gordon Bastow, January 12, 2006
St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
Gordon John Collier Bastow died June 1, 2011 at St. John's NF, CA
Click here to visit the next page
View Second Guestbook Archive (Dates 08/11/04 through 09/13/07)
View First Guestbook Archive (Dates through 06/12/04)
Part of a Web Site Constructed by
Albert J. Wheat
9529 Parker St.
Omaha, NE 68114
Return to Home Page