Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Empire State Building: A WWII Casualty

In the waning days of World War II, Lieutenant Colonel William F. Smith, an Army Air Force pilot, was flying his B-25 bomber from Bedford, Massachusets to Newark, New Jersey. Smith had just visited his wife in Bedford when he was returning to Newark in the unarmed bomber. Visibility in Manhattan was poor that morning of July 28, 1945, with the fog level around the 80th floor. Flying over Manhattan that morning, Smith found himself dodging the tops of syscrapers when he came up to the Empire State Building at 200 miles an hour---and slammed into it. Tearing an 18x20 foot hole in the 79th floor, the airplane’s gas tanks exploded in flames that scorched those inside the building. Besides the instant deaths of the pilot and his 2-man crew, 11 people at work in their offices were killed and 5 injured. Windows shattered all the way to the ground level, sending a rain of glass and debris to the street. One of the airplane’s prop engines cut an elevator cable and sent the elevator plunging 1000 feet (the operator survived), while the other engine ripped through the building to come out the other side and fall through the roof of an artist’s studio. All in all, a hell of a bout for the Empire State Building, which took the crash in stride.

(For more interesting photos and stories like this, visit Matt Jalbert's "Le Blog Exuberance" -- Click on the link below:)

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