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c/n 304

58-1693
images - see below
Photos: Unknown photographer.

c/n 304

58-1693

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• 58-1693 United States Army. Delivered 10-Dec-1958. Designated U-1A with serial 58-1693.

Initially delivered to Sharpe Army Depot, Stockton, CA

Date unknown. 17th Aviation Company, Fort Ord, CA.

Accident: Grizzly Peak Orinda, CA. 30-Sep-1960. Full narrative below.

Destroyed

Otter 304 was delivered to the United States Army on 10th December 1958 with serial 58-1693 (tail number 81693). It was assigned to the 17th Aviation Company, Fort Ord, California. It was delivered from Downsview to the Sharpe Army Depot, Stockton, California before continuing on to Fort Ord and entering service with the 17th Aviation Company.

On Friday 30th September 1960, the Otter was flying from Fort Ord to Crissy AAF., San Francisco.

On board were Major General Carl F. Fritzsche, the Commanding Officer of Fort Ord, his deputy Brigadier General Thomas Hayes, an aide, the two pilots and a crew chief. The two generals had official business at Sixth Army Headquarters at the Presidio of San Francisco, after which they were to attend the Army-California football game the next day.

At 15.20hrs the Otter was flying over the town of Orinda, some eight miles from Oakland, apparently lost in the heavy fog which blanketed the region. It struck a water tank on 1,300 foot high Grizzly Peak in the hills overlooking Orinda Valley, then slammed  into a field belonging to the East Bay Municipal Utilities District, where it exploded before skidding up a slope. The resulting fire burned  twenty acres of grassy field on the edge of an exclusive residential district of ranch-type homes, before it was brought under control by firemen. Sadly, all on board perished in the crash and the Otter was completely destroyed.

Interestingly, the cockpit door, which survived the impact, bore a major general's two stars, and the aircraft was described in newspaper reports of the accident as a “plush version of the Otter”, indicating that this U-1A was in use as a VIP transport. The Army Airfield at Fort Ord was subsequently named Fritzsche AAF., in the General's honour.

Full history up to 2005 courtesy of Karl E Hayes © from DHC-3 Otter - A History (CD-ROM 2005)

This expanded account was sent to us by Matt Biloff.

Hitting Water at One Thousand Feet…

Near Orinda, California

September 30, 1960

Star-Studded Career...

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, and educated at West Point, Major General Carl F. Fritzsche was intelligence officer for the 12th Army group in Europe in 1945 and later assistant Chief of Staff of Intelligence in the same unit.

During the Korean War, he was assistant commander of the 25th Infantry Division in Korea. In October of 1955, General Fritzsche made national news when he issued a order to discourage the men in his command from using Army jeeps "to transport indigenous female personnel for recreational purposes."

After serving as Chief of Staff for the 5th Army in Chicago, he took command of Fort Ord near Monterrey, California, in 1958. By 1960, his decorations included the Legion of Merit with oak leaf clusters, the Bronze Star and the French Legion of Honor, and he, among with his wife, were scheduled to report to Europe in November of 1960 so he could take command the northern area of the U.S. Army in Germany with its headquarters in Frankfurt.

During the last week of September of 1960, General Fritzsche, 57, planned to drive to Berkeley for the football game - but decided by Friday morning to fly - as he also had to visit the Sixth Army headquarters at the Presidio of San Francisco to participate in a briefing scheduled for Sunday for then-Assistant Army Secretary Courtney Johnson.

But he also had the additional duty of attending the Army-California football game in the Berkeley's Memorial Stadium on that following Saturday morning.

Entourage in Tow...

Along with General Fritzsche for the flight was his deputy commander, Brigadier General Thomas H. Hayes, 49, a native of Minnesota and a 1934 graduate of West Point, commanded an infantry regiment in World War II in Europe and was attached to the headquarters of the Far East Command in Japan during the Korean War, during which time he received the Silver Star, Bronze Star with two oak leaf clusters, the Purple Heart and the French Croix de Guerre. General Hayes also had business at the Presidio, and was due to meet and escort a group of prominent civilians to a joint civilian orientation conference at Fort Benning, Georiga.

Also with General Hayes was his aide, 1st Lt. Robert L. Fisher, 27, of Savannah, Georiga.

Piloting the de Havilland U-1A “Otter”, serial number 58-1693 and assigned to the Army's 17th Aviation Company, was Chief Warrant Officer Robert K. Brown, 38. With him was his co-pilot, Chief Warrant Officer Kenneth R. Kiester, 38, of Hemingford, Nebraska, and the plane's crew chief, Specialist Fifth Class Donald E. Peterman, 25, of North Hollywood.

Cumulo-Granite...

At 3:20 in the afternoon, the Otter was flying near the town of Orinda, some eight miles from Oakland, apparently lost in the heavy fog which covered the Bay Area that day, as it was bound for the Presidio's Crissy Field landing strip.

Flying low over the hills, the plane clipped a water tank of the East Bay Municipal Utility District atop a 1,300 foot peak, skidded 100 feet on the hillside and burst into flames at the top of Alta Vista Road, just off El Toyonal Road.

It missed by only 200 yards the home of John Barren on Los Narrabos Road. Mrs. Barren was feeding her two children, Caroline, two years old, and John Patrick, eight months old, when "I heard a roar, it sounded directly over the house."

"I heard a choke—like an engine dying. Then came the sound of a crash. I looked out but couldn't see anything at first because of the fog. Then I began to see blue-orange flames as if the plane had struck the high tension lines coming down the hill.”

A nearby neighbor phoned the Orinda Fire Department, the first unit to arrive at the crash under direction of Fire Chief Alan Winsor, whose men extinguished a stubborn brush fire, which destroyed about 20 acres, that started from the crashed plane.

A bit of the wing tip of the plane was embedded in the top of the five million gallon water tank which acts as a storage lank for the Dos Osos reservoir, and the cockpit door, which bore a major general's two stars, survived the impact. Other than that, the VIP transport was demolished, and all aboard were killed.

The Army sent an investigating team to the site to determine the cause of the accident, and a team from Letterman General Hospilal in the Presidio removed the bodies for burial.

Afterwards...

General Fritzsche was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Section 2, Site 3444 L H. Lieutenant Fisher was also buried there, in Section 48, Site 1815. Chief Warrant Officer Kiester was buried at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Section L,  Site 908. Specialist Peterson was buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery in Section X, Site 3937.

Brigadier General Charles S. Dorsa, commanding general of Combat Development Experiment Center at Fort Ord, took command of Fort Ord's 30,000 men.

In the early 1960s, when a larger Army airfield was constructed adjacent to Fort Ord, it was named in memory of Major General Carl F. Fritzsche.  After Fort Ord was closed in 1991, the air field became Marina Municipal Airport (OAR), and opened to general aviation traffic.

In October of 2004, the first new housing area completed by Monterey Bay Military housing was opened in the community of Seaside near Monterrey. It was named “Hayes Park, in honor of the fallen General.