New York City, NY B-25 Hits Empire State Building, July 1945



New York, July 28 -- (UP) -- A B-25 bomber crashed and exploded against the north side of the Empire state building at about the 79th floor during a fog today and enveloped the upper part of the world's tallest building in flames.
An hour later the upper part of the building, housing many business offices, still was isolated and afire, and glass and debris were raining into the street below.
A disaster of major proportions was feared. Two elevators were reported to have crashed from the 80th floor to the ground. Many persons in the street were cut by flying glass. The extent of casualties in the upper part of the building could not be determined.
The pilot, lost in a low hanging fog, had attempted to land at LaGuardia Field on Long Island. Failing, he apparently started for Newark field and crossing Manhattan struck the world's tallest building.
Flames leaped from the big building as the plane exploded and debris showered on the street.
Races Through Six Stories.
Fire raced through six stories of the building from the 80th to 86th floors. When the flaming plane fell to the roof of the Waldorf building on 33rd street, next to the Empire State, that structure caught fire.
Glass littered the streets. Firemen and ambulance attendants rushed along sidewalks strewn with debris. Most of the city's available fire fighting apparatus was at the scene.
Army Lt. AUBREY B. CONDIT, a pilot, was on the 55th floor of the building when the crash came. He said the plane that struck the tower was a B-25 Billy Mitchell bomber, which carries a crew of three.
All Aid Called.
Thousands of workers and residents in the midtown area rushed to windows of surrounding buildings to watch the spectacular fire and the scurry of hundreds of firemen and white-coated ambulance physicians in the street.
The crash came like a peal of thunder, and many of those who heard it dismissed it as such. The morning had been heavy with humidity and the skies were overcast.
Falls To Ground.
When a mass of flames spewed out from the tower, observers first believed lightning had struck the building. Then reports flashed from the stricken skyscraper that a Mitchell bomber had rammed the north side of the tower, exploded, and bounced off in flames to the roof of the old Walforf building on 33rd street adjacent to the Empire State.
At 10:30 the tower was still blazing, and firemen found a large tire from the plane on the Waldorf building roof.
WILLIAM YATES, elevator operator in the building, said he saw the plane blown back from the tower after it crashed. YATES, was returning to the building from a barber shop, he said.
YATES reported that glass was still raining into the streets half an hour after the explosion, and said he saw several persons cut. At 10:30 there were no available reports of specific casualties.
Later reports said three, instead of two elevators, crashed. Bystanders saw three mangled bodies taken from the wreckage of two elevators. The other was empty. A piece of the airplane motor was found inside it.
Six Bodies Trapped.
At 10:50 a.m. Fire Commissioner PATRICK J. WALSH said five or six bodies were known to be trapped on the 78th and 79th floors.
The plane struck the office of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, which is in charge of Monsignor O'BOYLE. He said 20 persons were at work in the office and that four were dead.
The main foyer on the 34th street (uptown) side of the building was converted into an emergency station and was crowded with internes.
Buffalo Reporter Dies.
One of the first dead to be identified was PAUL DEERING, 40, a reporter for the Buffalo Courier-Express. DEERING'S body was recovered from a window ledge on the 72nd floor, and police believed he died trying to escape from an upper floor.
Roofs of several nearby buildings were set afire by the spray of blazing gasoline from the plane.
Reports from La Guardia field said the B-25 that crashed into the Empire State was over New York on a flight from Bedford, Mass.
Headed For Newark.
Airport reports said the pilot of the plane radioed the control tower at La Guardia, asking information of weather conditions at Newark, N. J. airport where the pilot presumably intended to land.
The pilot was flying by contact with the ground rather than by instrument, although visibility over Manhattan was only about 500 feet.
Hospitals Sent Aid.
Bellevue hospital sent 60 doctors, 80 nurses and all portable equipment it could possibly spare to the building.
Police and fire lines were formed several blocks from the building, and pedestrians elbowed and shoved on the edges, trying to force their way closer to the scene.
An enormous throng rushed to the scene and all available fire fighting apparatus in the city was called out in four-fire alarms.
Fog, at times closing in to 500 feet of the ground, blotted out the view of fire from the street at times.
Despite the furor, the lower floors of the building were not evacuated and heads could be seen protruding from windows up to the 20th floor.
NANETTE MORRISON, a typist for CARL BYOIR Associates, said the plane was so close to her window on the 38th floor that she could see two members of its crew.
"I almost waved to them," MISS MORRISON said. "Then I realized they were in trouble. The pilot was obviously trying to climb, but the plane didn't go up except slowly, so slowly it almost drove you mad, watching his completely futile efforts."
"It couldn't have been a minute later than I saw it hit the Empire State buildnig, and I thought of all the army fliers I know. An I wondered, I heard the terrific explosion and saw from my window a flamming arrow shoot through the plane and then eat up four stories of the building, starting at about the 80th floor."
Fire Commissioner PATRICK J. WALSH said at 11:15 a.m. that eight persons were known to be dead in the Empire State building disaster, and he added: "I don't know how many more we will find."
ELLEN LOWE, Floral Park, N. Y., who works for the Catholic Welfare Council, said:
"Hell on Earth"
"It was hell on earth. I was typing. Suddenly there was a blast and our whole office burst into flames. This was followed by thick, acrid smoke. We ran to the windows and hung out to get some air. As we did that, we saw smoke pouring out of the 78th floor. We prayed that the wind would ivert the smoke and it did. Occasionally, but once in a while great blasts of it would come up to our floor."
Few Pedestrians.
A policeman on 33rd St. said he doubted if anyone had been hurt in the shower of glass and bricks that fell from the tower. The policeman said it was a bad weather Saturday morning and there were few pedestrians.
A girl elevator operator was blown out of her elevator on the 75th floor and taken to the office of the Air Cargo Transport corporation, for treatment. The skin was literally peeled from her face.
Mayor F. H. LaGUARDIA appeared on the 79th floor where the plane struck.
"It was just an oven," the mayor said, describing the flaming area.
The mayor said the bodies of the plane crew may have been destroyed, mangled or thrown from the building by the tremendous force of the crash.
DR. JACK LORE, St. Vincent's hospital, first physician to reach the burning floor, said he traveled by elevator to the 70th floor and walked up to the 78th, 79th and 80th floors.
A reporter who walked 10 flights from the 69th floor to the 79th floor said the floors were strewn with plaster. About 20 feet from the window where the plane struck the 78th floor lay the B-25's engine and one half a propellor.
Fragments of fuselage were mixed with mortar and bricks littering the floors. The other half of a propellor was embedded in a wall.
Other walls were smoke-blackened, as was the side of the building where the plane crashed.
Office windows were shattered 10 floors above and 10 floors below the 78th story. From the 75th floor up, stairways were a tangled mass of firehose. A constant parade of firemen, police, priests, doctors and nurses moved up and down the stairs.

The Fatalaties Aboard the B-25 "Old John Feather Merchant"
Fatalaties in the Building (Office of the Catholic War Relief Services)

Dunkirk Evening Observer New York 1945-07-28