John E. Simpson Captain, United States Air Force

From a contemporary press report: September 1997:

On the 39th anniversary of their deaths on an aerial spy mission over Soviet Armenia, 17 Air Force officers and airmen were publicly honored Tuesday by one of the most secretive branches of U.S. intelligence.

In an outdoor ceremony near its headquarters, the National Security Agency — the government's code-breakers and code-makers — dedicated an Aerial Reconnaissance Memorial to cryptologists who died on spy missions during the Cold War, including the crew of a C-130 plane shot down by Soviet fighters on September 2, 1958.

“We will never forget their sacrifice,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minihan, director of the National Security Agency, at a ceremony attended by several hundred, including relatives of 11 of the 17 members of the C-130 crew.

U.S. officials, who for years denied the C-130 was on a spy mission, now say the plane strayed from its planned route over eastern Turkey and crossed into Armenia, where it was attacked by Soviet MiG-17 fighters. The C-130 crashed near Sadnashen, a village 34 miles northwest of Yerevan, the Armenian capital. The plane was equipped to intercept Soviet communications signals.

The Soviets returned the remains of six of the crewmen shortly after the crash. Five of the six have been positively identified. The 11 other men remain unaccounted for and are believed to have burned up in the crash.

General Ralph E. Eberhart, the Air Force vice chief of staff, said public recognition was long overdue for the C-130 crew, whom he called “those silent warriors.”

Mark Simpson, 39, an Air Force major, was 31/2 months old when his father, Captain John E. Simpson, took off in the C-130 from Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.

Just last April the Simpson family learned that DNA testing had confirmed that one set of remains returned by the Soviets was John Simpson. He will be buried on Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery.

At the Fort Meade ceremony, Mark Simpson's older brother, John E. Simpson Jr., accepted the posthumous Air Medal on behalf of his father. The medal, for meritorious service, was awarded to each of the 17 crew members.

“It's good for our family,” Mark Simpson said afterward. “And it's an opportunity for some families to gain closure.”

Other members of the C-130 crew included Captain Paul E. Duncan, Captain Edward J. Jeruss, Captain Rudy J. Swiestra, First Lieutenant Ricardo M. Villareal, Master Sergeant George P. Petrochilos, Technical Sergeant, Arthur L. Mello, Staff Sergeant Laroy Price and Airman 1st Class Robert J. Oshinskie. There were also eight men with the rank of Airman 2nd Class: Archie T. Bourg Jr., James E. Ferguson Jr., Joel H. Fields, Harold T. Kamps, Gerald C. Maggiacomo, Clement O. Mankins, Gerald H. Medeiros and Robert H. Moore.

Also See:  Armenia Crash File

Read our general and most popular articles

Leave a Comment