Jack's Musings: US Navy Band Disaster of 1960 April 14 2009, 25 Comments

MUSINGS By Jack Kopstein

IN MEMORIAM The Trumpet will be heard on High The Dead shall live, the living die And their Music will un-tune the Sky

US Navy Band Air Disaster in 1960

It has been 49 years since the shock and sadness of when America’s top-notch corps of military musicians of the United States Navy Band lost their lives in an air accident in Brazil on February 25, 1960. President Eisenhower called the crash extremely tragic as it wiped out the cream of the Navy band’s orchestra, which some said could take its place with the greatest of the world’s symphony orchestras. Nineteen of the orchestra members perished, including one of the leaders, Lt. J. Harold Fultz. The group were scheduled to have played at a dinner that evening in honour of the President of Brazil. It cast a pall over the entire visit, the first by a seated President of the United States. “President Eisenhower was extremely upset and saddened as he knew band members personally,” said White House press secretary Jim Haggerty. Most of the newspapers in the United States selected a United Press International backgrounder to describe the work of US Navy musicians. The article said in part,

Most of the members are enlisted men who fought their way to the top in extremely tough competition. The band is faced with the task of replacing the entire orchestral contingent of strings. In doing so, it will follow the same high standards in effect since 1925. That was the year the Navy band came into existence, under an act of Congress signed by President Calvin Coolidge.

The conductor of the Navy band in 1960 was Commander Brendler, who had held the post since 1937. He was with the larger contingent at Buenos Aeries when the crash occurred. The remaining band members were grief stricken. A memorial stained glass window was erected in the Christ Church in Rio de Janeiro and dedicated on September 24, 1961. The Chief of the US Naval Mission in Brazil unveiled the memorial which read “TO THE GLORY AND MEMORY OF THE MEN OF THE US NAVY WHO LOST THEIR LIVES IN THE AIR DISASTER FEBRUARY 25th 1960.” The following is a list of the UNITED STATES NAVY BAND that perished in this terrible accident. Assistant Leader LT Johann H. Fultz MU2 William F. Albrecht MUC Elmer L. Armiger MUC Henry Bein MU2 Milton C. Bergey MU1 Robert L. Clark MU1 Anthony M. D’Amico MUS Albert J. Desiderio MU1 Reyes S. Gaglio, Jr. MU1 Richard D. Harl MU1 Gerald R. Meier MUC Raymond H. Micallef MUC James A. Mohs MUC Walter M. Penland MUC Earl W. Richey MUC Jerome Rosenthal MU1 Vincent Tramontana MU1 Roger B. Wilklow MUC Jefferson B. Young