21 Sep DO THE RIGHT THING
“DO THE RIGHT THING.
IT WILL GRATIFY SOME PEOPLE
AND ASTONISH THE REST.”
I have been known to tilt at windmills. If you don’t know what ’tilting’ is go look it up. If you don’t then I will assume that you are reasonably well read.
In my search for stories of Kansas and Kansans one story has been in the back of my mind since I was a kid. My family have been friends of the Blasi family for over 50 years. I am not going to say which ones because there are a bunch of them and we are friends of a whole bunch of them.
I have written before about the fate of Daniel Blasi. As an Army private he was on a K-130 cargo plane that was on a mission during the Korean War in Alaska. His flight was named GAMBLE CHALK ONE. There were two Gamble Chalk aircraft in the fight.
In the military’s wisdom they wanted to see if they could push the limit of what they could do. The test that these two aircraft were on was to see if they could fly at night in Alaska in blizzard conditions. So they loaded 18 men, 2 Jeeps, and a trailer on each aircraft and were to fly from point A to point B.
These were conditions that no bush pilot would have attempted. The only navigation that they had was two commercial radio stations to triangulate from. Not knowing that the stations were being used for this purpose, one went off the air at midnight. Gamble Chalk Two managed to make it to the destination. Gamble Chalk One never showed up.
The flight lay lost for decades. The general location was known to the military but is so inhospitable that no attempt to find and recover remains was never attempted.
The lost aircraft and all personnel have been on Mount Silverthorn since 1953. The crash site was found. A local geologist discovered the site. In 2018 a fight was taken to the site and a serial number plate was recovered to confirm that this was the lost Gambel Chalk One.
But the discovery goes back to the 1990’s when Daniel Blasi’s nephew was stationed in Bosnia. A helicopter pilot and instructor in the US Army had a lot of down time. This was the time that computers were making their appearance. Leo Blasi spent hours locating information and families names of the lost.
He started the effort to find the crash site and bring the boys home to their families. In St. Leo Kansas in the cemetery is a stone on a grave in the Blasi family plot that is empty. But Daniel’s name and picture is on the marker in the hope that someday this will actually be a grave and not a memorial.
In the passing years Leo Blasi married and raised a family. Becoming a widower Leo answered a call that he had been carrying from early in life of entering the seminary and was ordained a Priest in the Salina Diocese. Now Father Leo has continued to work towards bringing his uncle home to his grave for his family. Last year Leo’s father Frank and mother Jeanette were able to go to Alaska and fly over the crash site. Frank hoped to be able to see his brother interned in his grave. But we lost Frank this summer.
The weather on Mt. Silverthorn is only good enough to send an expedition to the site in August of each year. We were waiting for word of the deployment of the experts to recover remains all through the month of August. We had no word.
For some reason the expedition did not happen and there is an effort of trying to find out why. When the missing are brought home from WWII, Vietnam, and North Korea, we are at a loss as to why the missing cannot be brought home from Alaska?
I was hoping that the story could be finished in time for my book KANSAS ODDITIES. Then I was hoping it would make it into my second book ECCENTRIC KANSAS. Now I am hoping that the final chapter of Daniel Blasi and Gamble Chalk One will be in my third book.
There is a letter writing campaign to State and Federal officials as well as the White House to get the energy behind this project. I have had response from my Kansas State Senator and he has really taken this story and is contacting everyone he knows that can help get the story known and get some action.
I hope that you, my readers, will talk and send letters to our elected officials. It is also something that our American Legion and Veteran’s groups can get behind.