Colonel, United States Air Force
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — The remains of two Air Force pilots killed when their jet slammed into Mount Rainier in 1968 will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday.
Lieutenant Colonel Ivan O'Dell and Colonel Wilfred Crutchfield died while flying from Mather Air Force Base in California to McChord Air Force Base in Washington state.
The wreckage of their T-33 trainer was found in October 2004 by hikers after it moved with a glacier down the side of the volcano from 10,900 feet to 6,700 feet.
Marjorie O'Dell, who has lived in Idaho Falls for 12 years, was contacted in November 2004 and told her husband's remains had been found. She and her two daughters, Donna Woolstenhulme of Victor and Karen Thomas of Chicago, plan to attend the services at Arlington National Cemetery.
Marjorie and Ivan O'Dell were married 22 years.
"He was so good-natured," she told the Post Register newspaper here.
During his 26-year-career, Ivan O'Dell flew hundreds of missions in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star and Air Medal with 21 Oak Leaf Clusters.
"We were out (of the Air Force) for four years, and you never met a more unhappy man," Marjorie O'Dell said. "He belonged to the Air Force."
Investigation reports of the crash said that Crutchfield piloted the airplane, which had been handed off to air controllers in Seattle during its flight north. Marjorie O'Dell said that a friend later told her an inexperienced controller gave the pilots wrong directions, and that Ivan O'Dell had radioed that, "Your instructions do not correspond to my instruments," before radio contact was lost.
Woolstenhulme was 12 when her father died, and said the first emotion she felt after hearing her father's body had been found was anger.
"For me, there was closure a long time ago," she said. "It was all pretty confusing when I was 12. All the services they had then are kind of a blur."
She said she's nervous about old feelings returning at the ceremony at Arlington.
"I look at it as a great honor to my father,
a culmination of his life," she said.
12/8/2005 - WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- After spending the last 37 years entombed in a glacier, two Airmen were finally laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.
Colonel Wilfred B. Crutchfield and Lieutenant Colonel Ivan E. O’Dell received full military honors at their December 7, 2005, burial ceremony, with several family members in attendance.
“I appreciate that the Air Force never forgets its own,” said Hayden Crutchfield, the colonel’s youngest son. “We’re so grateful to the Air Force for taking the time and effort to go and retrieve them. This gives an appropriate level of honor for the sacrifice they made.”
The Airmen were flying home to McChord Air Force Base, Washington, in their T-33 Shooting Star when they crashed into Mount Rainier April 15, 1968, some 10,800 feet above sea level. The wreckage and remains were embedded in a glacier, preventing a recovery team from reaching them.
Over time, parts of the glacier melted as it moved down the mountain. In September 2004, a scientist found wreckage debris. Two weeks later, teams from the National Park Service and the Air Force services mortuary found and recovered remains of the missing men.
“I never stopped believing they would find them,” said Colonel O’Dell’s widow, Marjorie. “My children were astonished when we got the phone call.”
The colonels both led very successful Air Force careers. Colonel Crutchfield flew in three wars. Colonel O’Dell received the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bronze Star for his aerial achievements.
“Dad loved being a fighter pilot,” said Mr. Crutchfield, who was 9 years old when his father died. “He was larger than life. He’d come home in his wool uniform and I’d jump in his arms. I still remember what it smelled like.”
The families were impressed with the horse-drawn caisson, band and members of the Air Force honor guard participating in the funeral service.
The ceremony says something about how the military takes care of its own and honors not only the fallen, but their families as well, said Rev. Kendall Crutchfield, the colonel’s eldest son.
He also said the funeral is a way to gain some closure to losing his father.
“We didn’t really get to say good-bye,” Reverend
Crutchfield said. “Now we know where he is and can always come to visit
him. I’d never been to Arlington Cemetery, and to have my father buried
here, well you don’t get better than
His children stood watch as Colonel Crutchfield's remains and those of his co-pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Ivan O'Dell, were lowered into the ground in a single casket at Arlington National Cemetery on December 7, 2005. The Air Force flew the families, including Crutchfield's son, Hayden Crutchfield of Lake Worth, to Virginia for the burial.
The service came 37 years after the pilots' jet crashed into Mount Rainier in Washington state. The pair were returning to McChord Air Force Base from Mather Air Force Base in California, where, ironically, they were scheduled to be recertified in ejection seat training.
During the return flight on April 15, 1968, Colonel Crutchfield and Lieutenant Colonel O'Dell received wrong directions from an air traffic controller. Reports later blamed the crash on human error.
The area was searched, but weather conditions prevented recovery teams from finding the plane or the men. Only a few items were recovered.
A memorial service for Colonel Crutchfield, who was known as "Crutch," was held in his hometown of Madisonville, Kentucky, after the crash. Even so, close friends and family, who knew him as "Willy," hoped he might someday walk out of the mountains at any time, his son said.
In October 2004, wreckage from the pilots' plane, a T-33 trainer, surfaced. The plane apparently traveled down the side of Mount Rainier along with a glacier. The remains of the two men later were recovered, and the plane's tail section was recovered a few months ago.
The men were buried with full military honors. Colonel Crutchfield joined the Army Air Corps during World War II. During the war, he distinguished himself as the most highly decorated airman from Kentucky. He remained in the Air Force for 25 years.
Colonel Crutchfield was a frequent visitor to the Lake Worth area, where his mother and stepfather, Neva and Hayden Ogden, lived. They came to the area in 1946, and his stepfather served on the board of directors of the former First Marine Bank.
Eventually, Colonel Crutchfield hoped to retire in Lake Worth, said his son Hayden, who is telephone sales supervisor for the Florida Pennysaver.
Colonel Crutchfield's third wife, Helen, died in January 2004. "She really kept my dad's memory alive to us," Crutchfield said.
The burial ceremony was the first time the families of both pilots were reunited since 1968. Lieutenant Colonel O'Dell's wife and two daughters attended the ceremony as well.
Among those present for the burial were an assistant undersecretary of the Air Force and a three-star general.
"The military doesn't forget," Crutchfield said. "They never give up. They never rest."
Crutchfield said he was glad the families had a year to prepare for the ceremony. It was difficult but did provide some degree of closure, he said. "This was our Christmas present from the past."
U.S. Air Force Honor Guardsmen lead the caisson carrying the remains of Colonel Wilfred B. Crutchfield
and Major Ivan E. O'Dell to their gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery. The remains were laid to rest with
full military honors here, December 7, 2005. The Airmen died in a plane crash in 1968 but their remains were
not discovered until October 2004
Posted: 5 December 2005 Updated: 9 December 2005 Updated: 4 January 2006
Photo Courtesy of Roxsanne Wells-Layton, July 2006