HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Wednesday’s B-17 crash at Bradley International Airport brought back memories of another B-17 that went down at Mount Tom in Holyoke, killing 25 returning servicemen and women returning from WWII service.
Subsequently, a monument to the victim was erected at Mount Tom 50 years after the crash. It bears the names of each victim.
Retired regional Red Cross Executive Director Rick Lee is a member of the Mount Tom B-17 memorial committee, which maintains the tradition of the annual pilgrimage to where the B-17 went down some 73-years-ago.
Lee told 22News he sees strong emotional parallels with this week’s B-17 crash.
“The pain from the families is still huge,” he described. “Today, although suffering shifts from being very painfully acute to being one of bittersweet commemoration.”
Lee added, “Another similar course for the crash yesterday. We found from the work that we did reaching out to find the families 50 years later, was the pain was just as acute when I spoke with some of them on the phone 50 years afterward, some broke down and began crying.”
Holyoke’s Veteran Services Director Jesus Pereira chairs the mount Tom B-17 Memorial committee. Pereira told 22News it’s more important than ever to continue to honor those who died in the Mount Tom Crash.
“It’s sort of the passing of the torch to the next generation of veterans and individuals here from Holyoke,” said Pereira.
Loved ones gather at the Mount Tom Memorial monument each year on a Saturday in early July. It was on July 9, 1946, when the B-17 bound for Westover Air Reserve Base crashed into Mount Tom. Preparations have started for the upcoming B-17 Memorial gathering at the Mount Tom Monument in 2020. The committee has not yet set the date for the annual gathering at the plane crash site.
Crews that first came to the site of the crash said that the flames were so intense that they had to stand 100 feet away before they could do anything. Residents in the city of Holyoke said that they could see the explosion as far away as High Street.
The wreckage was strewn across the mountaintop, some of which is displayed here today, but amidst that wreckage came some hope.