73 Years Ago Today: SAC Transport with Nuclear Secrets and Mysterious Cargo Crashes in Atlantic. Then it Gets Weird. | Aviation

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Douglas C-124A Globemaster II 49-244 in January 1951. (Image credit: via Don Wagner)

A Desperate Plea for Help. A Terrifying Survival Ordeal. A Bizarre Disappearance, and the Strangest Cold War Mystery You’ve Never Heard Of.

It started out as a seemingly routine Strategic Air Command transport flight across the Atlantic. Then it became an alarming inflight emergency. And then, a harrowing survival ordeal. But it ended with the disappearance of America’s largest cargo plane and every survivor on board- including a man who held America’s nuclear secrets. All without explanation. What happened in the bizarre loss of USAF C-124A Globemaster II aircraft number 49-0244 on March 23, 1951?

We’ll likely never know. And that may be on purpose.

This isn’t the summary of a Cold War paperback spy thriller. It isn’t a fictional plot hatched by Tom Clancy, Ian Fleming or Alistair MacLean. This really happened. And while Cold War history is rife with factual tales of “broken arrow” lost nukes, spy-pilot prisoner swaps and true-life espionage, something about the mysterious disappearance of aircraft 49-0244 continues to itch at our national conscience.

“There were 53 survivors, they were spotted in rafts. The next day they disappeared. I’ve been stonewalled. I know there’s something hidden”, said retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Keith Amsden, the brother of Robert Amsden, a flight engineer on the USAF C-124A Globemaster II strategic heavy transport aircraft that crashed in the Atlantic on March 23, 1951.

The aircraft was spotted floating on the surface with survivors in rafts by search and rescue crews. Survivors included Brigadier General Paul Thomas Cullen, who had directed photographic operations during American nuclear bomb tests at Bikini Atoll…

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