Given the hustle and bustle of New York City, it is not surprising to find a few stories have slipped out of the collective consciousness and been relegated to a few paragraphs in the trivia section of travel books. However, some forgotten events become somewhat inexplicable when viewed with modern perceptions and fears. Such is the case of a B-25 bomber that crashed into the upper floors of the Empire State Building on this date 64 years ago.
On the morning of July 28, 1945, the so-called "Billy Mitchell" bomber got lost over a deep fog that enveloped the city en route to Newark, New Jersey. Pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Bill Smith, attempted to get his bearings by descending to 1,000 feet, but found he strayed into the heart of the city. He quickly maneuvered his plane to avoid hitting the skyscrapers, but his new course of direction put him directly in line with the Empire State Building. At 9:49 A.M., the plane crashed into the building on 79th floor at a rate of approximately 200 miles per hour. At the time, the nation was nearing the end of World War II and fears immediately resonated throughout the city that it was under attack - an eerie foreshadow of events years later.
Amazingly, the tragedy was not as bad as it could have been as only 14 lives were lost in the crash, including the three-member crew of the B-25, despite a crowd of over 60 people on the observation deck at the time. The reason for this was actually quite simple. It happened on a Saturday and the typically full offices were relatively empty for the weekend. In the middle of destruction, there were also stories of survival and hope – including the tale of a woman that survived a 1,000-foot plunge in one of the building's elevators.
Read more about this and other tales of the Empire State Building.