21 Killed In Iran Plane Crash

U.S. State Department | December 23, 1951

The Mossadegh Project | March 31, 2022                    

U.S. press release regarding the devastating December 22, 1951 plane crash in Iran in which 21 people perished. Eight Americans, including the Point Four director and his wife, were killed, along with six Iranians, a German, an Indonesian, and five Egyptian crew members of the MISR aircraft.

U.S. State Department Documents | IRAN

The Department of State Bulletin
Vol. XXVI, No. 654 • Publication 4451
January 7, 1952

Point Four Officials Die In Plane Crash Near Tehran

[Released to the press December 23]

The Department of State regrets to announce the deaths in crash of a MISR airplane in Iran of Henry O. Bennett, Administrator, Technical Co-operation Administration of the Department; his wife, Vera Connell Bennett, both from Stillwater, Okla.; Albert Cyril Crilley, Special Assistant to the Administrator, Washington. D. C.; Benjamin Hill Hardy, Public Affairs Officer, TCA, Barnesville, Ga.; and James Thomas Mitchell, Audio-Visual Educational Specialist, TCA, Stillwater, Okla.

Also aboard the plane were Jesse Lee Smith of the Centennial Cotton Gin Company, Columbus, Ga.; Louis Hendrik Jordal, identified as a former soldier and apparently a member of the Department of Botany, University of Michigan; and Emijean Sneideegar, said to be an American of Iranian origin, in transit from Cairo [later identified as Emijean Snedegar of District Heights, Md., director of nursing for the medical program for Foreign Service employees].

The MISR plane [Egyptian] with the Bennett party aboard crashed on the evening of December 9, apparently between 8 and 9 o’clock in a blinding snowstorm, about 3 miles northwest of Tehran. There were 16 passengers and 5 crew members aboard. It was clear that all were instantly killed. Most of the bodies were burned beyond recognition, although a certain amount of identification is bring made with the help of unburned papers, jewelry. et cetera. Mr. and Mrs. Bennett were not burned and their bodies were found lying together near the wreckage.

The MISR airplane left Baghdad so late as to put it in Tehran after dark. A heavy snowstorm had set in before the plane arrived over the field at Tehran at 7:10 p.m. The ceiling was low and the tower fired repeated flares and was in radio communication with the plane until 5:45 p.m. The last message reported received from the plane was “We now see the runway.” A large crowd which had gathered to receive the party heard the plane turn and go out of earshot. Among those at the airfield awaiting the plane were Ambassador Loy Henderson and William E. Warne, director of the United States technical and economic aid program for Iran.

Ambassador Henderson returned to the Embassy at 9 p.m., leaving Mr. Warne and other Americans at the airport. Mr. Warne waited at the airport until 11:30, making every effort to get word of the plane.

The gendarmerie and other Iranian officials searched for traces of the plane all night under the direction of Ahmad Shafiq, director of Civil Aviation. Wreckage was sighted early on the morning of December 23 during a lull in the snow-storm by an Iranian searching plane in which were Shafiq and Maj. Luther Freas, Assistant Air Attaché. Ambassador Henderson, Mr. Warne, and Vice Consul Lewis Hoffacker arrived with the first search party at the scene at which there was no living person. The wreckage was within 5 miles of the airport in a deep gulley among low hills. The plane had hit one hill, leaving tire tracks; hit a second hill, leaving two propellers; and crashed against the side of the gulley.

Ambassador Henderson reports that the Chief of Protocol of the Foreign Office has called on him to express condolences on behalf of the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, and other members of the Cabinet at the loss of the distinguished American citizens in the plane crash. Dr. Mosadeq has telephoned Ambassador Henderson to express his grief and is sending Mr. Bousheri, Minister of Roads, to call at the Embassy on his behalf. [Premier Mohammad Mossadegh, Amir Homayoon Bousheri]

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Related links:

William E. Warne to Loy Henderson Re: Talk With Minister of Economy (May 1953)

An American Policy in Iran | The Muncie Star, June 26, 1951

Onder de loupe: Perzië | Utrechtsch Nieuwsblad, August 24, 1951

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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