From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Joseph Melesky '47

Date of birth: September 13, 1924

Date of death: January 18, 1960

Age: 35

Lucky Bag

From the 1947 Lucky Bag:


From the Kingsport News Tennessee on January 20, 1960, via GenDisasters:


Holdcroft, Va. (AP) -- The fire-blackened wreckage of a Capital Airlines Viscount, yielded the last of 50 bodies Tuesday, nearly 15 hours after the Chicago-to-Norfolk plane pancaked into a swampy ravine near here.

Throughout the day rescue workers toiled under a clear sky in marked contrast to the fog and rain that shrouded the area when the prop-jet airliner crashed Monday night. The last two bodies brought out were the stewardesses, finally reached by searchers who crawled on hands and knees from the nose through the still-smouldering ruins.

Immediately after these bodies were removed, teams of investigators began sifting through the tangled debris looking for clues that might show why the plane fell.

A spokesman for the Civil Aeronautics Board termed the crash pattern "a little unusual. It was as if it had been let down by parachute."

There was no swath cut through the trees, such as a falling plane usually makes. A black gum tree impaled the plane and thrust 30 feet through the mid-section of the fuselage. Only six trees in the immediate area showed any marks of the tragedy.

Cause of the crash was not readily apparent.

The pilot, Capt. JAMES B. FORNASERO, 50, made a routine radio check with the Norfolk tower, at about 10 p.m. Then at 10:20 about 10 minutes before the plane was due to land, trouble apparently developed.

Three times the craft circled over the farm home of ROBERT H. TENCH. The last time the engines roared as if they were wide open -- and then silence.

Each body brought from the plane was strapped in, an indication those aboard expected a crash landing. The bodies of the stewardesses in their seats facing the tail, were held by safety belts.

It was the nation's worst air disaster since Feb. 3, 1959. Then 65 persons perished in the crash of an American Airlines plane in the East River while attempting a landing at New York's LaGuardia Airport. Only three months ago, 26 of 27 persons died when a Piedmont Airlines plane slammed into the Blue Ridge Mountains near Charlottesville, Va.

The Capital plane, flight 20, had left Washington at 9:48 p.m. with 46 passengers -- 29 men, 14 women and 3 children -- and a crew of four. Forty-one of the passengers boarded the plane in Washington for the short hop to Norfolk. The others were through passengers from Chicago who came in on another section of the flight and switched planes in Washington. The airline said this was routine on many flights through the capital.

Joe is buried in California.

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Class of 1947

Joseph is one of 27 members of the Class of 1947 on Virtual Memorial Hall.