Not Many People Know A Bomber Once Crashed Into Empire State Building


In our living memory, the Twin Tower terror attacks on September 11, 2001 stick out as one of the most shocking tragedies which shook the U.S.

But we tend to forget that it wasn’t the first time one of America’s most iconic landmarks was struck.

Just over 70 years ago, a B-25 Mitchell Bomber that was on a routine personnel transport mission never made it to its intended destination, as it collided with the Empire State Building.

On 28th July, 1945 a plane flying to Newark Airport from Bedford Army Air Field requested for clearance to land. Pilot William Franklin Jr. was told there was zero visibility, but despite the warning he carried on anyway.

That’s when things took a turn for the worse. He soon became disorientated because of dense fog and instead of taking a left at the Chrysler building, he took a right.

British Pathé/YouTube

At around 9.40am his aircraft struck the north side of Empire State Building between the 78th and 80th floor. It left a huge hole in the landmark – one of the engines went through the side and flew until the next block, before dropping 900ft and igniting.

The other engine went down an elevator shaft, with the resulting fire raging for 40 minutes before it was brought under control.

British Pathé/YouTube

14 people lost their lives that day. As well as bomber Smith, Staff Sergeant Christopher Domitrovich, Albert Perna, a Navy aviation machinist’s fellow who was hitching a ride and a total of 11 others in the building were killed.

The pilot was found two days later at the bottom of the building, via an elevator shaft. However, there was a remarkable escape for an elevator operator named Betty Lou Oliver.

Joe Richman

She was injured by the collision, but when the rescue team tried to transport her using the elevator, they didn’t realise it was unstable. The cables broke and Betty was plunged 75 stories down.

Betty miraculously survived the fall and she was put in the Guinness World Records for the highest survived elevator fall.

British Pathé/YouTube

Despite this tragic loss of life the building was open the following Monday on several floors, and a missing stone now acts as a memento where the aircraft made impact with the building.