Dobbins Remembers a Lost Aircrew

  • Published
  • By Ian Frazier

The 700th Airlift Squadron has a rich history full of great accomplishments and unfortunately tragedies. One such tragedy occurred on 28 July 1968 when a 700th crew was killed when their C-124 Globemaster II (serial number 51-5187) crashed in the jungle near Recife, Brazil. The crew had been called to active duty in January 1968 in response to the Pueblo Crisis when North Korea boarded and captured the U.S. Navy ship USS Pueblo (AGER-2).

The Dobbins based crew was flying routine general cargo from Zandrij Airport near Paramribo, Surinam to Recife, Brazil in support of Military Airlift Command operations in South America.

The mishap report indicated that the crew started their descent to the airport too early based on inaccurate aeronautical charts of the area and flew into the slope of an uncharted 1,890 feet high hill.

On 11 November 1976, the wives, children, parents and friends of the deceased crew as well as a large contingent of Dobbins personnel attended a somber memorial plaque dedication ceremony at Base Operations to honor the crew.

Master Sergeant John May of the Air Force Sergeant’s Association presided over the ceremony. Under the theme of “The Air Force Remembers” the ceremony featured guest speakers Governor of Georgia George Busbee and Retired Brigadier General George H. Wilson, who commanded the 445th Military Airlift Wing when the crash occurred. General Wilson described the crew’s deaths as, “A beacon to all of us who cherish our great country.”


The crew consisted of

Aircraft commander Captain Emory L. Upshaw, Jr, 37 of Atlanta, GA

Pilot Captain Wilbur J. Calmese, Jr. 37, of College Park, GA,

Navigator Captain Albert E. Leifels, Jr., 34 of Morrow, GA

Navigator Captain William E. Hannah, 34, of Tucker, GA

Navigator and flight examiner Lieutenant Colonel John A. Williams, 48, College Park, GA

Flight Engineer Master Sergeant Roy J. Maphis, 47, of Marietta, GA   

Flight Engineer Master Sergeant Donald W. Ahrens, 49 Marietta, GA

Loadmaster Technical Sergeant Wendell E. Fowler, 40, of Marietta, GA

Loadmaster Student Staff Sergeant William S. Stewart 40, of Marietta, GA   

Loadmaster Airman First Class Bobby J. Buchanan, 21, of Lithia Springs, GA