Clearspring man piloted plane that crashed in 1951

By Richard T. Carrara

It took me 10 years to research and write the incredible story you’re about to read. What possessed me?

It began in March 2010. I had written an article for the Canton Citizen in Massachusetts about my brother, Ernie, who was killed when his C-119 military plane went down near Tachikawa, Japan, on Sept. 27, 1951.

My article described the grief my parents and siblings experienced during the time Ernie was returned home and the subsequent memorial services. The playing of “Taps” and the firing of weapons by the honor guard were devastating.

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While writing the article, I began to think about the other men on that plane and the fact that their families had no doubt grieved, as well. They, too, were no doubt shattered by the events that evening in Japan so long ago.

At that time, I happened to be reading a book about a glider pilot, Flight Officer Charles E. Skidmore Jr., who served in World War II. The book was written by his son as a tribute to his father’s bravery and devotion to duty. The overleaf mentioned the Skidmore family had been transferred to an air base in Tachikawa and lived there from May 1958 to June 1962. I wrote to the author and asked what he knew about plane crashes that had occurred near Tachikawa.

Eventually, a friend of his sent me a document describing the crash of a C-46 aircraft. At first, I was disappointed since I was focused on learning about the C-119 accident. But my disappointment quickly turned into astonishment. The C-46 crashed on the same day, only 10 minutes before the C-119 went down. I had to know more. I decided to get a copy of the declassified report of the C-46 crash.

I already had the government’s declassified report on the crash of the C-119 that carried my brother to his death. That report contained testimony from a board of inquiry on what happened that night. The report listed the names of all of the crew members who had died, but it also contained the name of one passenger, First Lt. Eugene Hartley Class.

Who was he? Where was he from? Why was he on that plane? He became, for me, the mystery passenger.

All that I learned about both accidents, along with the background of the men on the two planes — where they were from and the families they left behind — became “We Remember and Honor the 19 Men That Time Forgot.”

The story

At 9:35 p.m. Sept. 27, 1951, a U.S. Air Force C-46 flying at 3,000 feet and carrying 14 men slammed into Mount Tanzawa in Odawara, Japan.

The pilot, Capt. John Brown of Napa, California, was attempting to land the plane at Tachikawa Air Base, approximately 25 miles west of Tokyo. At normal speeds, the C-46 would have been about 12 minutes from touching down.

The flight was returning from Korea after delivering a Jeep to a Catholic missionary priest named Father James Pardy, whose parish was located in a mountainous area of Korea. The humanitarian mission was led by Father Capt. William E. Maher of Brooklyn, New York, and five other military men, all members of the Holy Name Society.

The plane was 900 feet below the mountaintop when it crashed. All 14 men in the C-46 were killed instantly.

According to the now-declassified government report, the pilot saw the mountain at the last minute and attempted unsuccessfully to climb above. The plane hit the mountain at a significant 50-degree upward angle, traveling at 150 mph.

Incredibly and mysteriously, at 9:45 p.m., 10 minutes after the C-46 crash, another plane went down close by in the same mountain range. A C-119, piloted by First Lt. Lynuel Bevers of Clearspring, Indiana — and carrying my brother, Sgt. Ernest “Ernie” Carrara of Canton, Massachusetts — hit the same mountain, killing all five men aboard.

The plane was reported to be at 3,000 feet when it hit. An after-the-crash report determined the flight controls and trim surfaces were in a landing configuration, indicating the pilot was attempting a straight-in approach to Tachikawa Air Base.

The C-46 was found 300 feet to the west of the C-119 and 504 feet ahead of it.

Eyewitnesses on the ground stated the C-119 was on fire and took a right-hand turn, presumably to avoid the mountain terrain directly in front of it. It was unclear if the plane caught fire before or after it started the right-hand turn. The plane was 150 feet below the mountain top, and while taking the right-hand turn, the left wing hit a treetop and the plane broke in half, crashing to the ground in two pieces.

The nose of the plane had turned into the mountain, resulting in the destruction of the nose and cabin area.

Investigators determined the fire suppression system had not worked. A study launched to determine the reason for the crash recommended that going forward, all planes must check fire suppression systems before takeoff and that all military personnel must wear dog tags. Landing approaches to Tachikawa also were changed.

A subsequent examination into the C-46 crash blamed both planes’ accidents on a radio homing device called “the Atsugi homer.” Investigations and testimony determined the Atsugi homer seemed to place the planes over the mountain rather than over the valley below. Pilots had complained about this homing beacon in the past and even stated they heard music coming from it.

The Atsugi homer was taken out of service, and pilots no longer used this device as their primary direction finder for the Tachikawa landing threshold.

Curiously, two men on the C-119 flight were thrown clear of the plane as it broke in half. One was my brother, Ernie. The other was First Lt. Eugene Hartley Class of Portland, Maine, a decorated jet fighter pilot, having received the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal. He was hitching a ride to Tokyo on the C-119 to attend a religious conference. He had completed 34 combat missions.

When Ernie’s body came home March 23, 1952, the military escort asked if I wanted to view the body. I refused, thinking “How can I view a body that was in a plane crash?” It turned out that while many of Ernie’s major bones were broken, the only evidence of a visible injury was a gash on the side of his head. I finally learned this after gaining access to the accident reports under the Freedom of Information Act.

Class was a local legend in Portland. A former Marine, a fighter pilot and a high school baseball star who had tried out for the New York Yankees, he had a 3-month-old daughter he never got to meet.

There was a coincidental connection between Bevers, the C-119’s pilot, and Class, who was a passenger hitching a ride on the plane to Tokyo.

They had never met before this flight and may have only exchanged greetings as they boarded the plane. Bevers and his wife, Imogene, had a daughter named Lynette, who was 15 months old at the time of his death. Class and his wife, Meralyn Trefethen, had a daughter also named Lynette, who was 3 months old when Class was killed.

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First Lt. Lynuel Bevers of Clearspring was born Dec. 7, 1921, in Kurtz to Lloyd and Viola Maynard Beavers. He was a graduate of Clearspring High School and attended Canterbury College of Danville before enlisting in the Air Force prior to Pearl Harbor.

Bevers was married to Imogene Smith in 1949, and they had one daughter named Lynette. Lynette was 15 months old at the time of his death.

In addition to his parents and his widow, Bevers was survived by a daughter from a previous marriage, Amber Jo, and two brothers, Thomas Bevers of Clearspring and Sgt. Jack Bevers, who was serving in Japan at the time of the crash. He also was survived by a sister, Mrs. Wayne Hanson of Clearspring.

Col. William P. Hippler presented the Air Medal to Bevers’ wife and parents on Sept. 16, 1952. The citation reads: “First Lieutenant Bevers distinguished himself by acting as pilot of an unarmed transport delivering urgently need military supplies into the battle area of Korea.”

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Find this story and bios on the 19 men involved in the plane crashes in 1951 in Japan online at


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