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Thirteen Airmen Remembered 48 Years After Fatal Training Collision

  • Published
  • By Jim Bove

Thirteen victims of a 1972 military aircraft collision were honored during a ceremony in Horry County, South Carolina Dec. 5, 2020.

U.S. Air Force Col. Joseph Vanoni, commander, 43rd Air Mobility Operations Group, Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina, served as the keynote speaker, honoring 12 U.S. Air Force victims assigned to Pope Air Force Base and one South Carolina Air National Guard victim assigned to McEntire Air National Guard Base. The collision occurred during a special operations training mission during the Vietnam War.

“While I don’t exactly know what transpired in those last moments on that fateful night, what I can say is we tragically lost 13 great Airmen, from 11 states, which represented the very best of America,” Vanoni said. “These men were serving their nation, defending our principles, and training for what was likely a deployment to, and in some cases another deployment to, Vietnam.”

The Horry County Council, along with the Horry County Historic Preservation Commission, hosted the ceremony held at Berea Baptist Church in Aynor, South Carolina. It concluded with the unveiling of a memorial headstone and a historical roadside marker near the crash site, which occurred Dec. 5, 1972.

Councilman Al Allen, Hon. Thomas Keegan and three eyewitnesses of the crash shared their thoughts and memories with those in attendance, which included family members of several victims. The collision went mostly unnoticed during a time period long before social media and the internet, but the victims will now be honored in perpetuity for their service.

“Regardless why this recognition hasn’t happened sooner, I am so very grateful that we are here today, exactly 48 years later, to honor these great American Airman so that anyone who happens upon and reads this placard will learn what happened here and will know of these great Airmen’s service and sacrifice,” Vanoni shared.

For the full video of the ceremony, visit:



U.S. Air Force

Lt. Col. Donald E. Martin of Texas
Maj. Keith L. Van Note of Iowa
Capt. Douglas S. Peterson of Illinois
Capt. John R. Cole of Oklahoma
Capt. Louis R. Sert of Missouri
Capt. Marshall K. Dickerson of Illinois
2nd Lt. Douglas L. Thierer of Illinois
M-Sgt. Billy M. Warr Sr., of California
M-Sgt. Gilmore A Mickley Jr. of Pennsylvania
T-Sgt. Claude L. Abbott of Georgia
T-Sgt. Robert E Doyle of Virginia
A1C Gerald K. Faust of Wisconsin

S.C. Air National Guard

Capt. Thomas C. Haygood Jr. of South Carolina