Book Chronicles 1965 Wichita Plane Crash

By: Phil White Email
By: Phil White Email

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Saturday, October 5, 2013

It took 42 years for a memorial to the victims of the Piatt Street plane crash to be erected at the crash site. Now, nearly 49 years after the worst non-natural disaster in the state's history, a Kansas author says it is past time for the event to be properly chronicled.

Topeka historian and former U.S. Air Force Airman D.W. Carter has published a book about the January 16, 1965, disaster. He said he wanted to make sure the story was finally -- and fully -- told.

"There was this sort of quiet that happened after 1965 concerning this plane crash," Carter said.

Carter did not feel enough people knew about the crash of a fully loaded KC-135 into a north Wichita neighborhood. The crash killed 23 people on the ground as well as the plane's seven crew members.

Carter first learned of the crash when he arrived at McConnell Air Force base as an airman in 2003.

"I just could not believe that there was not more there," he said. "There wasn't a whole lot written on it and I wanted to know more."

He set about learning more then making sure others would know more by publishing Mayday Over Wichita. The book studies the events leading up to the crash and Carter attempts to dispel commonly held misconceptions about what caused it.

"Hopefully I've done that," he said. "Hopefully we can show that many of those rumors were unfounded and we have the truth now through the reports and those primary source documents I talked about."

The book is geared toward to those who know only a little about the crash and toward those who know nothing about it.

"I hear little tidbits of it from time to time, so it's nice to hear the whole story coming out of what went on and why and the aftermath and how it all came together," said Stephen McCue, who attended a Saturday presentation by Carter at the Kansas Aviation Museum.

Carter wanted to make sure every reader walks away with an understanding of the cause of the disaster, its effects on the community and the racial issues surrounding the tragedy.

"Our job as historians is to tell the story; an objective truth about what happened," he said.

Carter's next presentation about the Piatt Street tragedy is set for 2 p.m. next Sunday, Oct. 13, at the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum in downtown Wichita. He will also be selling and signing copies of his book.

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