Last revised: August 20, 2016 --



SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY, New York
Photo Album
#2B.


January 6, 1959


THE HUMAN TOLL - CASUALTIES, SURVIVORS, NEXT-OF KIN
Newspaper Articles About AFIT Barracks Fire
(NOTE: Many references to photos omitted because of reproduction legibility.)
 

1. "7 Student-Airmen Perish in SU Barracks Holocaust"

2. "13 Injured, 23 Escape Inferno"

3. "Hospital List of Injured"

4. "It was a River of Fire Going Down the Hall"

5. "7 Airmen Die in Barracks Fire"

6. "...Flames Drove Us Back, We Couldn't Get Out..."

7. "Light Sleeper, He Flees Fatal Fire"

8. "Fire Survivors 'Barely Had time to Dive Out' "

9. "Photos Tell Grim Story of Early Morning Blaze at SkyTop" -  (N/A)

10."Air Force Experts Join in SkyTop Fire Inquiry"

11. "Shock, Sadness, Work Fill Hours After Fire"

12. "7 Die in Mystery Holocaust"

13. "16 Men Hurt; All Are Airmen"

14. "SU Blaze Remains Mystery--"

15. "Survivors' Tales Vary - Can't Pinpoint Fire Origin"

16. "Sad, Tough Job Falls To Air Force Officer"

17. "Blood Donors Break Record to Aid Airmen"

18. "Barracks Fire, 2 Plane Crashes Kill 11 AF Men, Injure 16 Others"

19. "Syracuse Fire is Fatal to 7 AF Students"

20. "Fire Kills 7 Airmen at Syracuse U. Dorm"
              (City Youth Among 13 Injured)

21. "City Survivor Saw 'A River of Fire' " -  (N/A)

22. "Syracuse Fire Kills 7 Airmen"

23. "Seven Airmen Die in Barracks Fire"
(16 Hurt, Others Escape by Diving Out of Windows at Syracuse U. Installation)

24. "LaCrosse Man Now Listed as Missing in Fire"

25. "Dorm Ignites - Manning Airman Dies in Fire at Syracuse"

26. "Airman From Norwalk Among Fire's Victims"

27. "Stoll Rites Slated Monday at Norwalk"

28. "Ohioan In Fire"

(An Event we will never forget!)


ITEM 1

Source:   Syracuse Herald-Journal, Syracuse, N. Y.    Date, Edition:  Tuesday Evening, January 6, 1959, pp. 1-2 (FINAL)

[Headline, Page 1:]

“7 Student-Airmen Perish

In SU Barracks Holocaust”


13 Injured, 23 Escape Inferno”

By Thomas J. Kennedy and Edward B. Griffin

     Seven Air Force students perished in a predawn fire today that flashed through a Syracuse University Sky Top barracks in near-zero weather.

     Thirteen others have been hospitalized in a holocaust that melted the one-story metal barracks.  Forty-three students occupied the barracks.

     Air Force officials released names of three of the dead at 3:40 this afternoon.

     Dead are:

     Airman First Class BILLY D. MARLOW, 29, of Converse, Tex.

     Airman Third Class MICHAEL E. GASPARRI, 19, of 155 School St., Yonkers.

     Airman Third Class EDWARD E. DUGGAN, 23, of 3 Cedar St., Manning, S. C.

     The dead and injured are part of the Air Force Special Russian language unit that moved into the University last Friday.

     The metal walls of the one-story 40 by 125-foot prefabricated barracks contained the roaring flames.  Firemen compared the interior of the building to a “raging blast furnace.”


     Fire reports indicated that an explosion, possibly in the central oil heating system, touched off the blaze about 5:30 a.m.

     Survivors told Asst. Fire Marshal Fred Patuna the fire seemed to originate in the center of the building.

     Capt. A. J. Del Signore, head of the unit whose headquarters are at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, withheld identification of the remaining dead until next of kin were notified.

     Capt. Del Signore said it appeared the seven men perished in their beds.  He told Patrolman Cosmo Cappelletti, “Some of the boys were real sound sleepers.”

     Morgue attendants reported the bodies charred beyond recognition.  They said positive identification would have to be made through dental charts.

     The barracks, located on Lambeth [Lambreth] Ct., is about a half mile south of E. Colvin street near the university tennis courts. 

     Survivor Daniel Cushner [Kushner] from Paterson, N. J. told newsmen he was awakened early by what he thought was a blast.

     “I opened the door and saw the hallway was filled with flames.  My room mate, Chris Donaldson (who was injured) and I heard our buddies screaming:  ‘Fire, fire,’” Cushner said.

     Cushner, who was uninjured but shivering in the cold, broke a window and escaped from the west side of the building.

     Firemen took one body from the rear of the melted ruins and others from the front right of the building.

     Patuna and Police Arson Sgt. Joseph Jewell were interviewing survivors who were taken to other Sky Top barracks.

     Airmen told authorities of a soft drink machine that had a loose wire in the plug.  They said it had not been operating correctly.  In order to get the machine to work they told of moving the wire cord to establish contact.  This machine, police said, was located in the center of the barracks.

Special Students

     The airmen are part of the Air Force Institute of Technology.  The students are taking a nine-month crash language program that stresses Russian.

     Firemen received a telephone alarm at 5:36 a.m.  Four engine companies, two trucks and the rescue squad were dispatched to the E. Colvin and Comstock area where precious moments were lost until they discovered the location of the fire, police said.  Firemen said the unidentified caller may have been unfamiliar with the city.

     Capt. Del Signore said that last night’s roll call at 11:30 p.m. counted 40 to 43 men assigned to the barracks.  The other three might have spent the night in Syracuse on pass, he said.

     Arriving firemen found the barracks roaring with flames.  Airmen were carrying injured from the building which glowed cherry red with the intense heat.

     Eastern Ambulance used five ambulances working in relays to move the injured to University area hospitals.

     District Chief Robert Clapper and First Deputy Chief Paul Coombs directing firemen, said the soot blackened survivors lost everything in the fire.

Hampered by Wind

     Firemen were hampered by wind gusts of 35 miles an hour that fanned the blaze to an inferno.  Near-zero temperatures added to the difficulties.

     Sky Top is a group of 15 prefabricated barracks and a recreation hall that were set up by the Syracuse University during the war.  Later they were used for freshman housing.

     Engine Companies 7, 10, 6, 21 and Trucks 5 and 7 with the Rescue Squad responded to the alarm.  Later two pumpers were dispatched to the scene.

     No Syracusans were believed to be among the dead or injured.

     The Rev. Francis McLaughlin of St. Theresa’s Church administered last rites of the Catholic Church.  The Rev. Robert J. Thomas of the Fire Department was also on the scene aiding the survivors.

 


[Article at top-left side of Page 1:]

“Hospital List of Injured”

     Thirteen injured in the Skytop fire, their condition and the hospitals they are in:

     James Kowalczyk, 17, N. Main St., Palmer, Mass., extensive body burns, face lacerations, complete shock, “critical condition,” Crouse-Irving.

     Peter Dowling, 25, 3422 Michael Rd., Kalamazoo, Mich., burns of the arms, hands, lacerations of the left foot, complete shock, “serious condition,” Crouse-Irving Hospital.

     Ronald Fandrick, 18, of Underwood, N.D., burns of the chest and arms, laceration of right knee, “good condition,” at Memorial Hospital.

     Donald Dowling, 18, (no relation to Peter Dowling), laceration of lower left leg, “good condition,” Memorial Hospital.

     Robert Muhlbauer, 18, Niagara Falls, cut on head and leg, “good condition,” Memorial Hospital.

     John Keller, 22, Mount Dora, Fla., laceration on right elbow, “good condition,” Memorial Hospital.

     Thomas Hackett, laceration on left foot and leg, “good condition,” Memorial Hospital.

     John Donaldson, 18, of 2333 Parklonan Ave., Reading, Pa., burns of the body, “good condition,” Onondaga General Hospital.

     Hubert Carignan, 30, of 95 Third St., Turners Falls, Mass., burns of the body, “good condition,” Onondaga General Hospital.

     Ray Presley, 20, of 1433 Brookside Ave., Knoxville, Tenn., burns of the body, “good condition,” Onondaga General Hospital.

     Victor Ingalls, 28, Stolley Rd., Alma, N. Y., burns of face and chest, “fair condition,” University Hospital.

     Edward Balliet, 18, Jim Thorpe, Pa., burns of face, chest, “fair condition,” University Hospital.

     Alan Conley, 18, of 222 St. Clara St., Fort Huron, Mich., scalp lacerations, cuts, “good condition,” University Hospital.


[Article at bottom-right of Page 1:] 

“‘It Was a River of Fire Going Down the Hall’”

By RICHARD F. LONG

     “It was just like animals trying to get out of a cage.  It was awful.  The place went up like a matchbox.”

     These are the words of Sgt. Peter Dowling, 25, of Kalamazoo, Mich., who is in Crouse-Irving Hospital after the disastrous fire this morning at a Skytop barracks.

     “Everybody was jumping out of windows,” he told a nurse.

     Dowling was among the group of Air Force personnel who came to Syracuse to study the Russian language at Syracuse University.

     Donald Dowling, 19, of Rochester, no relative to Peter, told a Herald-Journal reporter:

     “It was a river of fire going down the hall.  I was terrified.”

     Dowling, who is in satisfactory condition in Memorial Hospital with a laceration of the lower left leg, said he was awakened shortly after 5 a.m.

     “I heard a cracking sound.  I thought it was the man who comes around to wake us up, knocking on the door.

     “I sat up in bed. I could see the light filtering through the cracks in the door.  It was an orange light.

     “I got up out of bed and opened the door.  It was a river of fire going down the hall.  I was terrified.

     “I slammed the door, woke up my buddy and we broke down the window trying to get out.”

     Dowling was not burned but suffered the cut jumping out of the window.

     He said the barracks had 22 rooms with two men to each room.

     His room was near the middle of the barracks, where the steam heater was.

     [Peter] Dowling said he was sleeping when he heard someone yell “Fire.”  He continued:

     “I knew there was a fire extinguisher outside my door.  I jumped out of bed and opened the door.

     “The fire and the smoke were so great I couldn’t stand it.  I had to close the door.”

     Dowling said he and his roommate, Sgt. Thomas Merfeld from LaCrosse, Wis., smashed the window and jumped out.

     “Everything happened so fast,” Dowling said, “I don’t know how it started or what happened.”


[Caption under photo at center-bottom of Page 1]
COMFORTS AIRMAN
.  The Rev. M. Wesley Konrad, left, of Calvary Episcopal Church, former Episcopal chaplain at Syracuse University, comforts Airman Donald Dowling at Syracuse Memorial Hospital, who described hallway as a “river of fire.”  The Rev Mr. Konrad then telephoned Dowling’s parents at Rochester to tell them he is safe.

[Caption under photo at top-left of Page 2:]
ESCAPED.
  Airman Third Class Ray C. Presley, 20, left, of Knoxville, Tenn., and Sgt. Hubert W. Carignan, 30, of Turners Falls, Mass., exchange stories of how they escaped from burning barracks at Sky Top in disastrous fire that claimed the lives of seven.  Presley suffered a blistered hand and singed hair as he ran out of the building.  Sgt. Carignan jumped through a window that had been smashed by his roommate.

[Caption under photo at top-right side of Page 2:]
LIFE-SAVING DIVE.
  Airman Third Class John Donaldson, 18, of Reading, Pa. broke his room window with a chair and dove out to safety in fire that saw seven die in Sky Top barracks this morning.  Donaldson is shown with Nurse Mrs. Mary Mattice on stretcher at Onondaga General Hospital.  Donaldson cut his hands, head and arm in the leap.  His roommate also leaped to safety.


[Article at center-left side of Page 2]

Airmen Recount Tragedy

“ ‘Flames Drove Us Back, We Couldn’t Get Out . . .’ ”

     Tales of hairbreath escapes and acts of heroism were told by youthful airmen who survived the early morning fire at Sky Top.

     Staff Sgt. Hubert W. Carignan, 30, of Turners Falls, Mass. said he was awakened by his roommate, Staff Sgt. Ralph Lively, who kept shouting “Fire!  Fire!”

     “We headed for the door but the flames drove us back and we couldn’t get out,” Carignan said.

     “Lively grabbed a chair and smashed the window.  The flames were licking over the roof and were whipped into the window by the wind,” Carignan said.

     Carignan, a veteran of seven years in the Air Force and just returned from a four-year tour of duty in Japan, said they both dived through the window to safety.

Woke His Buddy

     Airman Third Class Ray C. Presley, 20, of Knoxville, Ten., who escaped with blistered hands and singed hair, said the fire “seemed” to have started across the hall from his room which was at one end of the prefab.

     Awakened by the screaming airmen, Presley said he unlocked the door leading to the hall and then woke up his buddy, Remus Tidwell.

     “We ran out and down the hall to the exit and the fire followed us right out the door.  “Boy, were we lucky,” the plucky airman said.

     Kenneth Avery of Cambridge, Mass. told authorities, “Fire was everywhere when I opened the door.  I cracked open a window and got out.”

     Ted Lemery of Glen Falls told of seeing black smoke creeping through cracks in his room’s door.  He said he heard loud popping in the hallway before he leapt from the window.

     With the exception of Presley and Tidwell the majority escaped by diving through windows in the all metal structure. 

     Some 18 to 20 escaped unscathed and they all said that was the only possible means of exit.

     Live fire was shooting down the long center hallway and the heat was intensive.  It was so hot it melted the metal sides of the prefab, leaving only the supporting thin steel beams.

     Kushner is believed to be the only airman that escaped fully clothed.

     He said he slept in his clothing last night while all the others were in their underwear.


[Article at center-left of Page 2]

Light Sleeper, He Flees Fatal Fire

     Being a light sleeper paid off for Airman Third Class John C. Donaldson in this morning’s fatal fire at Sky Top.

     Donaldson, who hails from Reading, Pa., was in Onondaga General Hospital when he told of his escape.

     “I’m not a heavy sleeper so I heard the yells of ‘fire,’” he said, adding, “I woke my roommate, Dan Kushner.

     “Dan opened a door leading to the hallway and flames shot through it into our room.  I slammed the door, took a chair and smashed the window.

     “I dove through the window first and Kushner followed me.  I got cut up landing on the broken glass; Kushner landed on me.


[Caption under photo at center of Page 2:]
ANSWER APPEAL
.  Service men and civilians jammed the Red Cross center after emergency appeal was broadcast for blood for airmen injured in this morning’s holocaust at Sky Top.

 

[Article at bottom-right of Page 2:] 

“Fire Survivors ‘Barely Had Time to Dive Out’ ”

   By ROBERT W. DRIVER

     The seven men who met a fiery death in today’s tragedy at Sky Top probably didn’t know what happened.

     Without exception, survivors told the same tale—“we woke up in the middle of the smoke and yelling.  The hallway was filled with fire.  The only way out was through the windows.”

     Nobody had the slightest idea how the fire started.  They barely had time to dive through the windows.

     Some said it seemed as if most of the flame came from the middle of the barracks.  Others had the impression it stemmed from one end.

     An Air Force official, Capt. A. J. Del Signore, said a bed check was made at 11:30 p.m.

     He asked the survivors, “Did any of you come in after bed check?”

     Nobody answered.

     Several survivors said the fire doors in the hallway were open before the fire.

     The Air Force said no provision was made to have an all-night “fire watch” maintained in the barracks.

     A University spokesman said the barracks are made of aluminum on the outside with insulation-lined walls of fiberwood and plywood flooring. 

     He said the furnace room, located near the center of the barracks, is partially surrounded by concrete.

     The barracks are heated by steam, coming from an oil furnace.  The fuel tanks are underground, the spokesman said.

     When interviewed, the men were grouped in the barracks next to the scene of the disaster.

     They were wearing partial uniforms, civilian jackets—anything that would serve as clothing.

     Only three men reported taking anything with them from the burning barracks.

     One man said he grabbed two civilian suits; another grabbed a sports coat; a third reported, amid laughter from the other survivors, that he saved a pair of brogans.

     A man who said he believed he was the first one out of the building said he ran the length of the barracks shouting, “Fire!”

     The same man said he glanced at his watch, which read 5:30.

     An airman in the next barracks turned in the alarm.

     Most of the survivors were youngsters, still in their teens.  Almost half, according to an official, were just out of basic training.

     Their stories were the same, “We didn’t have time to think—we just moved.”

 


ITEM 2

Source:   Syracuse Herald-Journal, Syracuse, N. Y.   
Date, Edition:  Wednesday Evening, January 7, 1959, p. 1 (FINAL, NIGHT EDITION)

[Article at center-left side of Page 1:] 

“Air Force Experts Join In Sky Top Fire Inquiry”

     A specialist is . . . due here to establish identification of the seventh airman who lost his life.  Six of the victims have been positively identified.

     Capt. A. J. Del Signore, commanding the detachment on the Hill, said the identification specialist, Maj. A. J. Howell, will come here from Griffiss Field.

     S/Sgt. Thomas P. Merfeld, 28, of LaCrosse, Wisc., has been listed only as “missing.”

      Five of the seven men died in their beds.  One died as he apparently staggered outside, a human torch.  The seventh died in his room next to a rear exit.

     Positive identification of six of the dead has been made as:

     Airman 1/c Billy D. Marlowe, 29, of Converse, Tex., survived by wife, Lulu Mae; a son, 4, and daughter, 6.

     Airman 3/c Michael E. Gasparri, 19, of Yonkers, son of Samuel N. Gasparri.

     Airman 3/c Edward E. Duggan, 23, of Manning, S. C., survived by his mother, Mrs. Lillian Benbow Duggan.

     Airman 3/c Joseph E. Stoll Jr., of Norwalk, Ohio, son of Joseph E. Stoll.

     Airman 3/c Frederick M. Browning, 21, of Enfield, N. C., son of Jesse R. Browning.

     Airman 3/c Remus A. Tidwell, 18, of Oneonta, Ala., son of Sargeant R. Tidwell.

     Their remains have been sent to Nunn’s Funeral Home at Rome, which under a contract with the Air Force will supervise shipping them to their homes, the Coroner’s Office said today.

     Tidwell was at first believed safe.  His roommate Airman 3/c Ray C. Presley, 20, of Knoxville, Tenn., reported he awakened Tidwell when the fire was discovered.

     “We ran out and down the hall to the exit and the fire followed us right out the door,” he said yesterday, thinking his buddy had escaped.

     An Air Force dentist and physician who identified the six were unable to identify the seventh victim.

     It is expected the seventh will be identified by a specially trained team from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, today.

     Merfeld also was thought to have escaped.

     Donald Dowling, 19, of Rochester, Merfeld’s roommate, said he and Merfeld smashed a window in their quarters and jumped out.

     Of the 16 airmen injured, four remain in hospitals.  They are:

     Victor Ingalls, 28, of Alma, burns of the face and chest, and Edward Balliet, 18, of Jim Thorpe, Pa., burns of face and chest, in fair condition in University Hospital.

     James Kowalczyk, 17, of Palmer, Mass., body burns and face cuts, in fair condition at Crouse-Irving Hospital.

     Ronald Fandrick, 18, of Underwood, N. D., burns of chest and arms and cuts on right knee, in good condition at Veterans Administration Hospital.

     Arriving yesterday afternoon from Wright-Patterson with Col. Tyler, were Maj. Donald W. Johnson and Capt. H. A. Finney.  They are here to “lend a hand with arrangements,” according to Capt. Del Signore.


 [Article at top-left side of Page 4:] 

“Shock, Sadness, Work Fill Hours After Fire”

By ROBERT W. DRIVER

WATCH BUILDING AS BUDDIES' BODIES ARE REMOVED

     Barracks M-2 at Sky Top was disaster headquarters yesterday after the tragic fire in which seven airmen lost their lives.

     Only 200 yards away from the ruins, M-2 swarmed with Air Force personnel, University officials, military intelligence men, reporters, photographers and firemen.

     In the confusion and noise, these men were performing unhappy but necessary jobs.

     The Air Force made arrangements to clothe and find housing for the survivors.  Firemen combed through the rubble to try to find the cause of the fire.

     Newsmen stood by to gather the facts of the disaster, then dashed for telephones to call it in.

     The saddest job went to those whose duty it was to notify the families of the dead airmen.

     If there was a sense of tragedy among the men in M-2, it was not of personal loss.  The men who died had not been stationed here long enough to form many strong friendships.  Their deaths were a shock, but work must go on.

     Here is what you saw and heard in M-2 yesterday:

     You saw the Air Force captain, in charge of the detachment, calmly giving orders, answering questions, trying to fashion order out of confusion.

     You saw men constantly talking into telephones, speaking with families of the airmen, living and dead.

     You saw the University’s director of information services, always on his feet, giving out every fact he could, quietly talking with newsmen, then leaving them to try to get more facts.

     Blue-uniformed airmen brought in coffee; ashtrays quickly filled up; in a back office, a secretary with a university official beside her placed calls to Western Union and waited for confirmation from the families of the dead.

     You ducked next door to a barracks with a telephone booth, and you learned what the barracks at Sky Top are made of:  floors that tremble under foot, walls whose flimsiness vibrates under the wind, a matchbox waiting for a careless match.

     You walk into an Air Force office and get told off by an officious clerk who warns you about security regulations, so you leave.

     As the day wears on, talk begins of Air Force officers flying in from Dayton to look over the scene and meet with University officials.

     Reporters keep hoping the list of the dead will be released in time for their paper’s deadline.

     You don’t hear many rumors, because by now most of the facts are known.  All that’s left are the names of the dead and the cause of the fire.

     You go out into the cutting wind and walk up to the burned barracks, and there you see the fragments:  part of a sport shirt, the metal backbone of a notebook, the charred pages of a magazine called “Motor Trends.”

     You return to M-2 and find the names of the dead are finally being released.  The Air Force officers from Dayton arrive shortly afterward.  So does the vice chancellor.

     The officers look around the burned barracks as darkness moves in.

     By now it is late and all the names of the dead have been given out.

     M-2 is quiet as you leave.  Most of the students are back from classes, and the barracks are filling up.  All except one.

 


ITEM 3

Source:  The Post-Standard, Syracuse, N. Y.     Date, Edition:  Wednesday, January 7, 1959, p. 1 (Metropolitan Final)

[Headline, Page 1:]

“7 Die in Mystery Holocaust”


Tidwell, 18, of Oneonta, Ala., son of Sergeant Remus Tidwell.

     Listed as missing was Staff Sgt. Thomas P. Merfeld, 28, of 911 Market St., LaCrosse, Wisc.  He is married and has a son, 3, and a daughter, 5.

     The fire broke out about 5:30.  The first airman to escape said he discovered the blaze at 5:30 a.m.  The first call went to fire alarm headquarters at 5:36 a.m.

     Within three minutes, a call went out for the Rescue Company, and at 5:51 a.m. another call went out for two more engine companies and Deputy Chief Paul W. Coombs.

     Firemen of Engine Co. 4 could see the flames from Colvin and Garfield Sts., two miles away.

     When they arrived, they saw the body of one airman on the ground just outside the rear of the barracks.  They could not start the task of looking for the other bodies until the fire was brought under control more than two hours later.

     Capt. A. J. Del Signore, commander of the Air Force Institute of Technology detachment at Syracuse University, said 16 men were injured as they jumped through the windows.  Another 19 got through the windows unhurt.  One man, at least, was able to escape through the oven-hot hall.

[OMISSION]

     The barracks that burned housed 43 airmen-students.  When the fire broke out, the men who awoke scrambled through the windows, first breaking them with chairs.

     However, [five?] of those who died were found in their beds and apparently died in their sleep.

     Peter Dowling, one of the airmen, said the building “went up like a matchbox.”  His description was confirmed by witnesses from the barracks next door and by those who escaped.

     There is no fire watch, as is customary at military installations.  A bed check is made nightly.  One was made at 11:30 p.m. Monday.  Then the university patrol makes regular checks.  The last check yesterday was made at 3 a.m.

     A spokesman for the university said the Air Force is expected to make some changes in security procedures that were thought adequate.

     Despite the tragedy, classes went on as usual at the Institute.  This was done partly to keep the minds of the men off the fire and the deaths of their buddies.

     The fire department chaplain was on hand during the blaze.  And the Rev. Thomas J. McLaughlin administered the last rites of the Catholic Church to three of the dead.  He returned to St. Therese Church, where he offered a [memento?] in the 7:30 a.m. mass.

     Vice Chancellor Finla G. Crawford said:

     “Everyone is deeply shocked at the tragedy that came without warning early this morning.  Our concern throughout the day has been to meet the needs of the casualties and to maintain contact with the families of the members of the detachment.  At this hour, 5 o’clock, the Air Force has been in touch with the nearest of kin and will release the names of the casualties to the press as soon as possible.

     “In the meantime, Syracuse University personnel have been at Skytop since 6:30 this morning and have been in touch with hundreds of families who have telephoned to inquire about the safety of their sons.

     “The Air Force Institute of Technology has sent Col. John Tyler, Maj. Donald Johnson and Capt. H. A. Kinney to represent that organization.  Every effort is now being made to investigate the cause of the fire and until those reports are in our hands further comment about the cause would be premature.

     “The university extends sincere sympathy to the families of those who died or were injured in the fire.  This expression by the university is also joined by Col. Tyler and his associates from the Air Force Institute of Technology at Dayton, Ohio.”

     Most of the men in M7 had recently arrived in Syracuse and about half of them had started classes Monday in the specialized language course.

[OMISSION]


[Article on top-right side of Page 1:] 

“16 Men Hurt; All Are Airmen”

By Leroy Natanson

     Air Force and city officials turned yesterday afternoon to the grim job of determining the cause of the blaze at Skytop, Syracuse University, in which seven airmen perished and 16 others were injured early in the morning.

     Five of the seven men died in their beds.  One died as he apparently staggered outside, a [fireman?] said.  The seventh died in his room near the rear exit.

     An Air Force [team?] of a [dentist?] and a [physician?] made official identifications of six of the dead.  It was not possible for them to identify the seventh.  A specially trained identification team from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, O. flew in yesterday afternoon to start work on the remains of the seventh airman.

     The Air Force withheld the names of the dead for several hours pending notification of next of kin.

 

 [Article at center-right side of Page 2?:]

Survivors’ Tales Vary

Can’t Pinpoint Fire Origin

     It was impossible to determine just where the fire started in the one-story metal barracks at Skytop, Syracuse University, when seven airmen perished yesterday.

     This is the opinion of fire experts who interviewed the survivors.  Reporters also interviewed the 20 men who escaped without injury just before they boarded a bus for Griffiss Air Base in Rome where they were to receive new uniforms.

     When a reporter asked where the fire started, each man had a somewhat different version.

     One man, whose room was in the center, near the oil furnace, said the fire seemed to be at the front end.  Another man said he thought the flames were at the other end.

     Several men said they thought the flames were in the center of the structure.  The men also made it clear that they had little time to investigate closely.

     They said, to a man, that the flames in the hall created such intense heat that it was impossible to get into the hall.

     The first man to jump out of a window said he ran along the outside yelling, “fire, fire.”  He did not turn in the alarm to the fire department.  That was done by an airman in the next barracks.

     The fire was discovered by the first man at 5:30 a.m., according to his watch.

     He said that before he could do much, the entire building was enveloped in flames.

 


[Article at bottom-right side of Page 2?:]

Sad, Tough Job Falls To Air Force Officer”

     The toughest—and saddest—job in Syracuse yesterday fell on the shoulders of Capt. A. J. Del Signore, commander of the Air Force Institute of Technology detachment at Syracuse University.

     To the captain fell the task of compiling all the information about the dead, the injured, the survivors, the program.

     The captain was badgered with hundreds of phone calls, scores of which he personally answered.  A horde of reporters stuck by his side, shooting questions at him throughout the rough morning.

     Then came the phone calls—and later visits in person—from his superiors at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, O.

     In addition, Capt. Del Signore coordinated all the activities connected with seeing that his men were provided with uniforms, food, medical attention, and that the school continued in operation.

     Two mothers of boys who died in the flames called Capt. Del Signore to confirm the sad news.

     In addition, the captain conferred throughout the day with fire officials and arson investigators trying to reconstruct what had happened.  He was at the blaze early, went without breakfast and had lunch about 1:30 p.m.  This took him only a few minutes, then he was back on the job.  

 

[Article at bottom-right side of Page 2?:]

Blood Donors Break Record to Aid Airmen”

     A rush of 251 volunteers to give blood broke all records at the Red Cross Regional Blood Center after yesterday’s fire.

     The Red Cross reported that the number of donors was the highest in its history.  The nearest record to yesterday’s was 150 volunteers on Pearl Harbor Day.

     An appeal for blood was sent out at 9 a.m. for treatment of Air Force men injured in the tragic fire which took the lives of seven men at Syracuse University.

     By 11 a.m., there were so many volunteers in the building that workers could not take care of them all.

     The appeal was recalled at noon because no more could be processed in one day and the need had been met.

     It was a regular donor day at the center, so medical teams were on hand.

     Telephone calls from as far as [Parson?], Ont. were received from persons offering to come to Syracuse to donate blood for the emergency.

 

ITEM 4

Source:   STARS AND STRIPES, EUROPEAN EDITION     Date, Edition:  Wednesday, January 7, 1959, p. 2

[Article at top-left side of Page 2:]

“Barracks Fire, 2 Plane Crashes

Kill 11 AF Men, Injure 16 Others”

From Press Dispatches

     A fire and two separate plane crashes took the lives of 11 Air Force men and injured 16 others.

     In Syracuse, N.Y., wind-blown fire killed at least seven student airmen and injured 13 as they fought to escape from their barracks dormitory at Syracuse University.

     “It was like trying to get out of a cage,” moaned Sgt Peter Dowling, 25, of Kalamazoo, Mich., in his hospital bed.

     The one-story, prefabricated barracks housed 45 Air Force men assigned to the university to study Russian.  Their headquarters was at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio.

     Fire officials said the fire apparently started from a heating unit as the students slept.

     Winds up to 50 mph whipped the flames into “a river of fire,” said Donald Dowling, 19, of Rochester, another of the injured.

     At Bunker Hill Air Force Base, Ind., an Air Force C119 Flying Boxcar crashed and burned while coming in for a landing, killing all three crew members.

[OMISSION]

     At Plattsburgh AFB, N.Y., a B47 jet bomber crashed and burned on takeoff, killing one crewman and injuring three others.

[OMISSION]

     Meanwhile, in Washington, the Defense Department identified two Navy men who were killed in a plane crash at Marble Point in the Antarctic Sunday.  Three others were injured.

[OMISSION]

 


ITEM 5

Source:  Utica Daily Press, Utica, N. Y.     Date, Edition:  Wednesday Morning, January 7, 1959, p. 1

[Article on top-center of Page 1:] 

“Syracuse Fire Is Fatal to 7 AF Students”

     Syracuse (AP)—Seven Air Force students perished in their sleep yesterday and 16 others were injured in a wild scramble to flee wind-whipped flames that made an inferno of a barracks dormitory at Syracuse University.

     Twenty-five airmen escaped without injuries of consequence, mostly by jumping through windows of the one-story building.

     Firemen, battling in near-zero weather at 6 a.m., kept the flames from spreading to the 14 other barracks of a university housing development atop a hill overlooking the city.

     The dead include:

     Airman First Class Billy D. Marlow, 29, of Converse, Tex., who left a wife and two children; Airman 3/c Michael E. Gasparri, 19, of Yonkers; Airman 3/c Edward E. Duggan, 23, of Manning, S. C.; Airman 3/c Joseph E. Stoll Jr., 18, of Norwalk, Ohio; Airman 3/c Remus A. Tidwell, 18, of Oneonta, Ala., and Airman 3/c Frederick M. Browning, 21, of Enfield, N. C.

     The Air Force said it had not identified the seventh dead airman.  However, it listed as missing Staff Sgt. Thomas P. Merfeld, 28, of Lacrosse, Wis.

     The 45 men, many of them in their teens, had just been assigned to the university for a nine-month course in Russian.  Their headquarters is Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, where they are attached to the Air Institute of Technology.

     Fire officials said the fire apparently started from an oil-fed steam boiler in the center of the 22-room building, which was pre-fabricated of metal and composition board.

     The one hallway in the barracks turned into “a river of fire.” Airman Donald Dowling, 19, of Rochester, told reporters from his hospital bed.

     The escape was “like animals trying to get out of a cage,” said Sgt. Peter Dowling, 25, of Kalamazoo, Mich.

     Many of the injured were cut and bruised, as well as burned.  None was considered in critical condition last night.

     Donald Dowling, not related to Sgt. Dowling, said he was terrified when he opened the door of his room, so he slammed it and crashed a chair through a window to escape.

     “The barracks went up like a matchbox,” Peter Dowling said.

 *     *     *

 

ITEM 6

Source:  Rochester Times-Union, Rochester, N. Y.     Date, Edition:  Tuesday Evening, January 6, 1959, p. 1

[Headline, Page 1:]

“Fire Kills 7 Airmen At Syracuse U. Dorm”


[Article on top-left side of Page 1:] 

“City Youth Among 13 Injured”

     Seven airmen students were killed today in an Air Force barracks dormitory fire at Syracuse University.

     At least 13 others – including Airman Third Class Donald Dowling, Jr., 18, of [20 Douglas?] St., Rochester – were injured.

     Dowling hurt his left leg when he leaped through a window to escape fire at the Syracuse University dormitory in good condition.

     The fire broke out between 5 and 6 a.m. in the Air Force dormitory housing 45 men assigned to the university as students of Russian.  The barracks is at the university’s Skytop housing development, on a hill overlooking the city.

*     *     *

     WINDS up to 25 miles an hour fanned the flames into a “river of fire.”

     The building “went up like a matchbox.  It was awful!” a survivor said.  Firemen were hampered by the wind blowing xxxx and a temperature of 7 degrees above zero. 

[Remainder of article is not available]



ITEM 7

Source:  The Troy Record, Troy, N. Y.     Date, Edition:  Wednesday Morning, January 7, 1959, p. 1

[Caption under photo at top-left side of Page 1:] 

GRIM SEARCH—Firemen searched the remains of an Air Force Institute of Technology barracks at Syracuse University for bodies and for the cause of the flash fire which killed seven airmen yesterday.  Of the 43 billeted in the building, 20 others were injured.  The airmen are members of a special detachment taking language courses at the university.  Cause of the blaze has not been determined.  (UPI Telephoto)


 [Article at top-left side of Page 1:] 

“Syracuse Fire Kills 7 Airmen”

     Syracuse (AP)—Seven student airmen perished in their sleep yesterday and 13 others were injured in a wild scramble to flee a fire-engulfed barracks dormitory at Syracuse University.

     Heavy winds fanned the flames into a “sea of fire” in the prefabricated building high atop a hill overlooking the city in the university’s student housing development.

     “It was terrible,” said Airman Donald Dowling, 19, of Rochester.  “It was like a river of fire going down the hall,” he said from his hospital bed.

     The one-story building, constructed of metal and composition board, housed 45 U.S. Air Force student-airmen assigned to the university for a 9-month Russian language course.

     Their headquarters was at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

     The Air Force identified the dead as:  Airman 1/C Billy D. Marlow, 29, of Converse, Tex.; Airman 3/C Michael E. Gasparri, 19, of Yonkers; Airman 3/C Edward E. Duggan, 23, of Manning, S. C.; Airman 3/C Joseph E. Stoll Jr., 18, of Norwalk, Ohio; Airman 3/C Remus A. Tidwell, 18, of Oneonta, Ala.; Airman 3/C Frederick M. Browning, 21, of Enfield, N. C.

     The name of the seventh man was not released, pending notification of the next of kin.

Cause Not Determined

     Fire officials said the cause of the fire was not available but said it appeared to have started in the barrack’s heating unit in the center of the building.

     The escape was described by Sgt. Peter Dowling, 25, of Kalamazoo, Mich., as similar to “animals trying to get out of a cage.”  Dowling was hospitalized with burns and cuts.

     Donald Dowling, not related to Sgt. Dowling, said he was “terrified when he opened his door in the 22-room dormitory.  He said he slammed the door and crashed a chair through a window to escape.

     The barracks was one of 15 erected in 1947 in the university’s Skytop housing development, about one-half mile southeast of the campus.

     “It went up like a matchbox, Peter Dowling said.  “I tried to get to a fire extinguisher in the hall, but the fire and smoke were so great I couldn’t stand it.  Everybody was jumping out of windows.”

Fight in Zero Cold

     Firemen, battling the fire in near zero temperatures and blowing snow, controlled the flames about an hour and a half after the fire was discovered, at [11?] a.m.

     The students had arrived Friday to begin the 9-month crash program which stresses Russian.  The program, established in the 1940s, is subsidized by the government of the Air Force.

     Many of the survivors were sent to Griffiss Air Force Base at Rome to receive a new issue of equipment.  Few escaped the fire with outer clothing.

     The pattern of escape was similar in most instances.  Chairs were crashed into windows when the trapped airmen found the hall raging in flames.  Many of the men were cut and bruised in their flight.

     Airman Ray C. Presley of Knoxville, Tenn. was one of few who fled through the corridor.

     “Boy, was I lucky.  I ran down the hall and the fire followed me right to the door,” he said.

     The heat of the flames melted the thin metal skin of the barracks’ outer surface.  Only the twisted and charred structural ribs remained on the blackened cement floor.

     Skytop was opened in 1947 to house veterans attending the university.  Later it was designated as a dormitory section for non-veteran students.

     The flames were visible to firemen en route to the scene soon after the first alarm was received.

     Firemen said several of the airmen were assisting their injured buddies to safety when medical teams arrived.

 

ITEM 8

Source:  The New York Times, New York, NY     Published:  Wednesday, January 7, 1959

“SEVEN AIRMEN DIE IN BARRACKS FIRE”

“16 Hurt, Others Escape by
Diving Out of Windows at
Syracuse U. Installation”

Special to The New York Times.

 SYRACUSE, Jan. 6—Seven Air Force men were killed and sixteen injured in a pre-dawn flash fire today in a Syracuse University barracks.  Twenty others escaped, most by diving out of windows.

       The men were part of a special unit that arrived last Friday to take a Russian Language course.

       The fire, which occurred in near-zero temperature, destroyed the prefabricated barracks, part of a cluster at the university.  It cause had not yet been determined.  First reports indicated that an explosion in the oil heating system might have touched it off.

       Policemen and fire experts were also investigating the possibility that a short-circuit in a soft-drink machine might have caused the blaze.

       The dead were:

       Airman 1/c Billy D. Marlow, 29 years old, of Converse, Tex.; Airman 3/c Michael E. Gasparri, 19, of Yonkers; Airman 3/c Edward E. Duggan, 23, of Manning, S. C.; Airman 3/c Joseph E. Stoll Jr., 28, of Norwalk, Ohio; Airman 3/c Remus A. Tidwell, 18, of Oneonta, Ala., and Airman 3/c Frederick M. Browning, 21, of Enfield, N. C.

       The seventh victim was tentatively identified as Staff Sgt. Thomas P. Merfeld, 28, of LaCross, Wis.

Injured Not Critical

Capt. A. J. Delsignore, in charge of the unit that had come from Wright-Patterson Air-Force Base in Dayton, said it appeared that five men had perished in their beds.  The body of another was found near a rear exit and the seventh outside.  None of the injured were considered critical.

Airman Donald Dowling, 19 years old, of Rochester, said he had been awakened by a warning shout.  He said he had seen light filtering through cracks in the door to his room.

“It was a river of fire going down the hall,” he said.  He slammed the door and awakened his roommate, Sgt. Thomas Merfeld of La Cross, Wis.  They smashed a window and jumped out.

Sgt. Peter Dowling, 25, of Kalamazoo, Mich., was hospitalized with burns and cuts.  He said:

“It was like animals trying to get out of a cage.  The barracks went up like a matchbox.  I tried to get to a fire extinguisher in the hall, but the fire and smoke were so great I couldn’t stand it.  Everybody was jumping out windows.”

Airman 3/c John C. Donaldson, 18, of Reading, Pa., said he had been awakened by shouts.

“I opened the door of my room, and the flames drove me back.  I slammed the door, opened the window and dove out.  My roommate landed on top of me.

 Copyright © The New York Times

 


ITEM 9-a

Source:  San Antonio Light, Sunday,   Date, Edition:  Jan. 11, 1959, p. 6-B.

1—Deaths

MARLOW

A/1C Billy Dale Marlow, age 29, passed away in Syracuse, N. Y., Jan 5 [sic]

Survivors: 

   Wife, Mrs. Lula Mae Hoeneke Marlow; 

   daughter, Viki Lyn;

   son, Thomas Jeffery,

        all of Converse, Texas;

   parents, Mr. and Mrs. Elsa Marlow, St. Louis, Mo.;

   brothers, Mr. J. L. Marlow of Cedar Hill, Mo., and Mr. C. E. Marlow of Phoenix, Ariz;

   sister, Mrs. W. T. Wobus of Springfield, Ill.

Services.  1:30 p.m. Monday, Drawing Room, Charles Hanavun Funeral Home with Chaplain Albert A. Lehmke officiating.

Interment.  Ft. Sam Houston National cemetery.  Full military honors.

The family appreciates the beauty and sentiment as expressed by flowers, but requests they be omitted in favor of a donation to the charity of your choice.

Arrangements by Charles Hanavan CA7-5111.

 

ITEM 9-b

Source:  Winona Daily News, Winona, Minnesota,    Date, Edition:  Wednesday, January 7, 1959, p. 11

“La Crosse Man Now Listed as Missing in Fire”

     SYRACUSE, N. Y. (AP)—The Air Force has identified six of seven Air Force students who perished Tuesday when wind-tossed flames made an inferno of a barracks-type dormitory at Syracuse University.

     The Air Force said it had not identified the seventh dead man.  However, it listed as missing Staff Sgt. Thomas P. Merfeld, 28, whose wife Donna Marie lives at La Crosse, Wis.

     Sixteen other students were injured.  Twenty airmen escaped without injuries of consequence during a wild scramble at 6 a.m. in near-zero weather.

     Listed as dead were:  A.1.C. Billy D. Marlow, 29, of Converse, Tex.; A.3.C. Michael E. Gasparri, 19, of Yonkers, N. Y.; A.3.C. Edward E. Duggan, 23, of Manning, S. C.; A.3.C. Joseph E. Stoll Jr., 18, of Norwalk, Ohio; A.3.C. Remus A. Tidwell, 18, of Oneonta, Ala.; A.3.C. Frederick M. Browning, 21, of Enfield, N.C.

     Merfeld was the father of a daughter, 5, and a son, 3.

 


ITEM 9-c

Source:  Florence Morning News, Florence, S. C.,      Date, Edition:  Wednesday Morning, January 7, 1959, p. 1

DORM  IGNITES

Manning Airman Dies in Fire At Syracuse

     A Manning man, A-3c Edward E. Duggan, was one of seven Air Force students who perished in their sleep Tuesday as wind-swept flames made an inferno of a barracks dormitory at Syracuse University.

     Thirteen other students were injured in the wild scramble to escape from the burning building.

     Twenty-five airmen escaped without injuries of consequence, mostly by jumping through windows of the one-story building.

     Firemen, battling in near zero weather at 6 a.m., kept the flames from spreading to the 14 other barracks of a university housing development atop a hill overlooking the city.

     A3-C Duggan, 22, was the son of Mrs. Lillian Ervin Duggan, of Manning.

     He was born in Atlanta, Ga., May 6, 1936, but most of his life had been spent in Manning.  He was a graduate of the Carlisle School and attended The Citadel in Charleston.

     The 45 men, many of them in their teens, had just been assigned to the university for a nine-month course in Russian.  Their headquarters is Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, where they are attached to the Air Institute of Technology.

     Fire officials said the fire apparently started from an oil-fed steam boiler in the center of the 22-room building, which was prefabricated of metal and composition board.

 

ITEM 9-d

Source:  The Chronicle-Telegram, Elyria, Ohio,    Wednesday Morning, January 7, 1959, p. 13

[Article at bottom-center of Page 13:] 

 “Airman From Norwalk Among Fire’s Victims”

     An area GI was among the seven victims of a Syracuse University dormitory barracks fire yesterday, Air Force authorities revealed today.

     The area victim was identified as Joseph E. Stoll, Jr., 18, Airman 3/c, son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph E. Stoll, 41 Marshall St., Norwalk.

     The seven victims, and 18 other GI’s who were injured, were part of a group studying the Slovak languages.  They had been stationed at Lackland air Force Base, Tex., and were assigned to the nine-month course at Syracuse as part of their training.

     A total of 43 GI students were quartered in the building, which was engulfed by flames, apparently starting from an oil-fed boiler, about 6 a.m. yesterday.

     Stoll graduated last June from Norwalk St. Paul High School, and had enlisted in August.

     He was prominent in both high school athletics and studies.  He won letters in football and baseball, and graduated 10th in his class scholastically.

     He was an American Legion essay contest winner, at Norwalk, and had won the Bausch and Lomb science award for having the highest four-year average in science studies.

     Funeral arrangements are incomplete.

     In addition to his parents he is survived by two younger brothers and two younger sisters.

     He had returned to Syracuse on New Years Day when his parents took him to Cleveland airport to catch a plane.

     At Syracuse, meanwhile, city officials and Air Force specialists were still seeking exact cause of the blaze.


ITEM 9-e

Source:  The Chronicle-Telegram, Elyria, Ohio,   Date, Edition:  Thursday, January 8 1959, p. 18

[Article at bottom-center of Page 18] 

 “Stoll Rites Slated Monday At Norwalk

     NORWALK – Funeral services for Joseph E. Stoll Jr., 18, Air Force student killed Tuesday in the Syracuse University dormitory barracks fire will be Monday at 9:30 a.m. in St. Paul’s Catholic Church.  The Rev. Arthur S. Badger will officiate.  Burial will be in the parish cemetery.

     Friends will be received at the Graham-Young Funeral Home after 7 p.m. Saturday.


ITEM 9-f

Source:  Mansfield News Journal, Mansfield, Ohio,    Date, Edition:  Thursday, January 8 1959, p. 33; and
Source:  The Marion Star, Marion, Ohio,
  Date, Edition:  Wednesday, January 7, 1959, p. 16

[Article at middle-right side of Page 33 (first source), Page 16 (second source)] 

 “Ohioan In Fire”

     SYRACUSE, N. Y. (AP) – Airman 3 C. Joseph E. Stoll Jr., 18, of 41 Marshall St. Norwalk Ohio, is among those listed as dead in Tuesday’s barracks fire at Syracuse University.  He leaves his father, Joseph E. Stoll Sr.


 


Source of Articles Above:

   1             Syracuse Herald-Journal, Syracuse, N. Y. (Jan 6, 1959)                     

   2             Syracuse Herald-Journal, Syracuse, N. Y. (Jan 7, 1959)                     

   3            The Post-Standard, Syracuse, N. Y. (Jan 7, 1959)                               

   4            STARS AND STRIPES, EUROPEAN EDITION, (Jan 7, 1959)                 

   5             Utica Daily Press, Utica, N. Y.                                                                

   6             Rochester Times-Union, Rochester, N. Y.                                            

   7             The Troy Record, Troy, N. Y.                                                                   

   8             The New York Times, New York, NY                                                        

   9              Various Newspapers (Local Reporting)                                              


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