On December 12, 1985 a chartered airliner stopped at Gander, Newfoundland to
When the aircraft attempted to take off, it encountered
difficulties, crashing into the forest at the end of the runway, exploding
on impact, and killing all on board. The snowy crash site cut a long swath
of burned and broken trees and debris, with bodies, equipment and personal
The flight carried 8 aircrew and 248 U.S. Army soldiers, members of the
elite 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) from Ft. Campbell, Kentucky.
They were all returning home after a six month deployment in the Sinai. The
families of these soldiers awaited their homecoming, and a number of them
had gathered at the Brigade gymnasium at Ft. Campbell to prepare for the
Word of the tragedy reached the 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Headquarters at
Fort Campbell shortly after the crash occurred.
During the next frantic
hours, confirmation of the flight manifest began and families were notified
to assemble at the Brigade gymnasium for an announcement.
In the meantime, initial body recovery operations began at Gander, involving
Together they gridded and searched the site, collecting bodies, equipment
and possessions. The victims and their effects were initially placed in an
airport hanger at Gander to await transport to Dover Air Force Base. Over
the course of the next two months, Dover became the site of an extensive
The Army dead included one-third of the battalion deployed as a peace-
keeping task force representing U.S. Armed Forces in the Sinai.
Approximately one-third of these soldiers were married and maintained their
homes at Ft. Campbell, a tightly-knit military community straddling the
border between Kentucky and Tennessee.
The crash shattered the community
and deprived thirty-six children of their fathers.
It was the deadliest
single-incident tragedy in peace or war for the 101st Airborne Division.
The crash was also the worst aviation disaster to occur on Canadian soil,
and America's most devastating military air catastrophe.
The bereaved community extended far beyond the borders of Ft. Campbell.
This extensive community included families of the dead, survivors in
affected military units, Gander crash site workers, Dover Air Force Base
mortuary personnel, and a multitude of service providers, both professional
and volunteer, who came in contact with the dead and the bereaved.
In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, a small research team was rapidly
assembled under the proponency of the Walter Reed Army Institute of
Research, the 101st Airborne Division, and the Uniformed Services University
of the Health Sciences.
The team, composed of Army and Air Force
investigators, was sent to Ft. Campbell and Dover to observe and document
responses of affected groups to this traumatic event. The following report
is written by the members of that team, and other, for the purpose of
sharing observations collected over the course of the six month period
following the crash.