Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Hudson Connection to History

Seventy-two years ago, on July 28, 1945, a B-25 bomber crashed into the Empire State Building. It was a freak accident, caused by heavy fog. describes what happened:
The B-25 Mitchell bomber, with two pilots and one passenger aboard, was flying from New Bedford, Massachusetts, to LaGuardia Airport in New York City. As it came into the metropolitan area on the Saturday morning, the fog was particularly thick. Air-traffic controllers instructed the plane to fly to Newark Airport instead.
This new flight plan took the plane over Manhattan; the crew as specifically warned that the Empire State Building, the tallest building in the city at the time, was not visible. The bomber was flying relatively slowly and quite low, seeking better visibility, when it came upon the Chrysler Building in midtown. It swerved to avoid the building but the move sent it straight into the north side of the Empire State Building, near the 79th floor.
Upon impact, the plane's jet fuel exploded, filling the interior of the building with flames all the way down to the 75th floor and sending flames out of the hole the plane had ripped open in the building's side. One engine from the plane went straight through the building and landed in a penthouse apartment across the street. Other plane parts ended up embedded in and on top of nearby buildings.

Fourteen people were killed in the accident--the two pilots and the passenger on the plane and eleven people in the building. It was a Saturday, so there were fewer people in the building than there would have been on a weekday.

Recently, local historian Paul Barrett discovered a Hudson connection to the tragedy: Dolores Kowalski. In the summer between her sophomore and junior years at Hudson High School, Kowalski had a summer job at the Empire State Building. She was on the 86th floor of the building on the Saturday morning when the plane crashed into it. An article that appeared in the Albany Times Union on August 3, 1945, recounts her experience.

Two years later, Kowalski graduated from Hudson High School. Here is her picture from the 1947 yearbook.

There are a few questions about Kowalski that neither Barrett nor Gossips has been able to answer. What was her job at the Empire State Building? The 86th floor, where she was when the plane hit the building, is the observation deck. The Times Union says that she lived with her mother at 202 Allen Street, but there's a factory building at that address today which is generally believed to have been constructed in the 1930s. Then there's the most intriguing question: What happened to Dolores Kowalski, president of the National Honor Society, co-editor of the Owl, who liked to read and travel, after she graduated from Hudson High School?


  1. What I remember ... "The other engine and part of the landing gear plummeted down an elevator shaft." Jet fuel...B-25 was not a jet.

    1. You're correcting not me.

    2. I used to work at the ESB, where it was a universally accepted detail that the second engine was disassembled on location and then removed via the elevator.

      I don't see where Gossips suggests otherwise.

  2. Tim ... Having worked in the ESB gives you no credibility ... you're offering hear say gossip.

    1. Kindly said, and I wouldn't deny it. It does thicken the plot, though.