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I vividly remember the day of the crash. The weather was very bad that day. The first sortie was recalled and we were able to refuel only two aircraft before fueling went on weather hold as well.

Capt. Mike Crandall was off station that day , but he and his wingman “snuck in ” under the weather. I was expediting that day and picked him up at the airplane. He asked about our jet (84-1292). I told him that it was in the garage (phase inspection). As I dropped him off at ops he said “Remind me about nose art when I get back.” Those were the last words I heard Mike say.

Back in ops, LtCol. Rick Huss told Mike that Capt. Bob McCormack still needed to be upgraded to flight lead and Mike volunteered to take him up. Bob was to fly 1395 and Mike 1401 the only two aircraft refueled.

On start up Bob had hydraulic indication problems and we fixed them. Mike was in the other flight so I didn’t know he was flying.

The aircraft were configured without external fuel tanks so their flight time was less than a hour. After an hour passed, we figured they “weathered in” at some other bases as it was common. After 90 minutes I was radioed to meet with my supervisor. He asked for me to quietly get the maintenance forms for 395. Fearing the worst I asked him if the aircraft was lost. he said “Just get the forms and don’t discuss anything with anyone.”

The aircraft had collided. Bob was thrown (not ejected) out of the jet. He landed in a farmer’s field with a broken back. A farmer’s daughter (yes this is true) picked him up in the family car as he was walking toward the farm house. He phoned in the base to report the collision.

The squadron was monitoring the SAR net, listening to the search effort. There were two beepers going off. In the other room, Capt. Karl Gruner was listening to German radio hoping for a news report. When Bob phoned, they then began looking for Mike. It was then that German news reported that two F-16’s had in fact collided, resulting one pilot dead and one severely injured. That is how we found out that Mike was dead. The Polizei had found his body, he had had a good chute but he died in the collision.

I went home not knowing that. Knowing two jets were down, I prayed the crew chief prayer that all pilots were safe. The next morning I read in the Stars and Stripes, that Captain Michael A. Crandall had died the night before.

I sat in my stairwell and cried .

Mike was my pilot and my friend. He is buried at the Academy. Every now and then I see cadets serving at Nellis AFB. If I get a chance to talk I tell them that when they are struggling and don’t think they can hack it, to visit Mike. We lost many, many friends during the Cold War. Let no one forget that there was and still is great valor on “routine training missions”.

Mikey is at the Air Force Academy,

Colorado Springs, Colorado.

OTHER HEROES


{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Lorraine October 8, 2009, 15:12

    My name is Lorraine Thomas. I was assigned to the 313TFS and was working the operations desk the day of this crash. My AFSC was 271X2
    I never to this day knew that the other pilot was Cpt. Crandall and that he died.
    I was taken by other pilots to go and see Cpt. McCormick at a hospital in Frankfurt.
    I was a very young girl only 19 years old and I wonder if my fellow "Puppy's" were trying to shield me from the tragedy?
    Thank you for this story, I am very sorry to learn about this.
    I pray for the family even now today.
    Thank you, I was doing some searching on the website to find fellow 313 Lucky Puppies…

  • jckl1027 May 23, 2010, 12:41

    Hey Maddog- my name is Jason Crandall and I think I'm related to Mike Crandall. My father was also an Air Force captain from 1982 to 1992 and was stationed in Germany twice (once at Zweiibruecken and once at Sembach). What base was Capt. Crandall serving at when he died? Do you know anything about his immediate family or where he was born, by chance? I'd love to find out more about him.

  • Rob Buchanan May 24, 2010, 11:49

    Hi guys, I was an assistant Dedicated Crew Chief assigned to F-16 84-1394 under SSGT. Al Nott and was working Hot Pits refueling the day this happened. I was picked up by the 2 truck and brought to launch out 84-1395 ( my sister ship ) as her ADCC had an appointment. The launch went uneventful with Capt. McCormick and I returned to Hot Pits and was told they might do a few pits before returning. I waited a while and eventually Super came by to pick me up, and answer a few questions relating to the launch of 1395. Only later did I realize what had happened through my fellow Crew Dawgs Walt Chamberlain and Jim Greathouse, as well as Lead, Super, and Aggie. May Mike rest in Peace as well as all the others lost serving our great country. Thanks Walt, for this somber reminder this special day, Memorial Day, and we appreciate all your hard work. SRA Rob Buchanan " BUCKY" 313th AMU, 1986-1989

  • Ken Rankin May 24, 2010, 20:18

    It has been long enough that I no longer recall the exact details of the day it happened, though I think I was likely working night shift and the dust had already started to settle. I do recall the details of the crash and the recovery. I recall standing outside the base chappel with a huge crowd of overflow that would have filled the place again 4 times over. I recall the missing man formation and seeing his wife and young children coming out and my own wife understanding how close in age we were to her and it really hit home.

    I was a SrA at the time and recall Mike coming out a couple of times. He was a fun young guy that always had a smile and he loved talking to the ground crew, no matter what jet he was flying. He was the kind of guy that was easy to like. I will always remember those days in the 313th. I was a cocky ADCC myself and still learning the ropes. If I recall correctly, I was assigned to 84-1294. I later would get a hard core education on the F-117, but that is another story for another day…Walt and I shared that chapter as well (along with a few other ex-puppies).

    In perspective, it was over 20 years ago. I have retired from the military and I now have two of my four kids on active duty in the USAF. I have lost friends and relatives to wars. My dad was a veteran and it has been a sort of tradition in our family going back a few centuries. If there was a war in the world, someone in my family has been in just about every one of them (it's a big family). I never would have thought that I would have so many reasons to raise a glass on Memorial Day.

  • Anonymous May 30, 2011, 14:20

    Mike was a fine pilot, but this crew chief is one of the very rare members of the world's greatest Air Force…Walter Chamberlain is one of the most passionate, dedicated people I have had the pleasure of knowing. Walt, I know you put him in a good jet…The rest was in God's hands my freind. No pilot ever had to worry about an aircraft that you let them fly…

  • Tom June 30, 2011, 13:53

    I was Michael's brother and I miss him deeply. I actually had a dream with him in it last night, and it was great to see him. I was 16 years old when the plane crash happened, and for the family our whole world changed the day we found out about the crash. Michael was not only my brother but also was a father figure to me when I was a young boy. I have so many great memories of him. Thanks to his surviving wife his daughter who was only a baby at the time of the crash, has turned out to be a terrific young lady and I am very proud of my niece. She displays a lot of those great qualities that Michael had. The family misses him all the time, but especially this time of the year. Thanks to all for their prayers for the family. I'm so grateful for this website to honor Michael.

  • Fredrick May 27, 2012, 07:31

    My best friend knew the Captain and posted a link to this story. I am a Navy veteran (Radioman 2nd Class Petty Officer, E5), 1981-1986 active.

    I also had the good fortune, when I was very young (2nd grade, 1968) to visit the Air Force Academy when my family lived in Manitou Springs, CO.

    I can only offer my sympathies to family and friends of the Captain, and a salute of my own to him.

  • walt313 May 27, 2012, 07:59

    Mikey flew F-4’s as a navigator at Spangdahlem AB, West Germany.. He then came back to USAFE to fly with us at Hahn AB.
    Mikey at Spangdahlem AB

  • Pete Abbey May 27, 2012, 08:03

    Ohhhh Walt. I remember Mike. I remember serving on the frontier of civilization with many good people. I remember. Thanks, Mike.

  • Sue Christian-Garza May 27, 2012, 08:17

    I was Jerri’s “fire guard” when she launched him out that terrible day….. So very sad……

  • Walt May 27, 2012, 08:21

    I didn’t know that Jerry launched him out. I always assumed she was not there. I remember that I thought it was so unfair that she got counseling for the event because she lost her jet and I lost my pilot and didn’t get shit.

  • walt313 May 27, 2012, 08:37

    When “Popeye” Doyle went in I was doing a weight check at the orderly room. All we had was an emergency inventory order. I rushed back to the section and went through hard ops. No Mikey. His van was in the parking lot. I rushed over to soft ops and started looking through the offices. I breezed by his office to see Mikey at his desk. I was making my escape when I heard, “WALT!” Mikey sat me down by his desk and asked what I was doing. “You know, just hanging out”, I answered. “You were looking for me, weren’t you?”, he asked. “Yeah”. “It was Popeye in the Tenth”, he said “You thought it was me”. “Yeah”. He offered me a cup of coffee. “You have to remember that Popeye died doing what he Loved.”, he said to me. Then he said, “If I go, you have to remember that.” Three month later, Mikey was dead.

  • Neal Layfield May 29, 2012, 08:08

    I Didn’t remember the weather that day, But I remember not expecting 308 coming home and surprising us, he was in his always cheerful mood that we all knew him for.

  • walt313 May 29, 2012, 08:17

    I remember picking him up from 308. Dropped him off at Ops. As he got out of the truck he said, “Nose art. We have to talk about nose art.”

    I said, “Okay”. And he he was gone.

  • Darillyn Lamb Starr July 18, 2014, 21:45

    I very much appreciate your recollections of what happened. My husband was stationed at Hahn AFB, at the time this happened and I remember it, well. As a Marine Corps brat, I have been very sensitive to such losses all my life. I sang at the memorial service for Capt. Crandall, on the base. I had sung for many funerals, but never for someone killed in the line of duty, prior to this. Fortunately, I requested to do so early in the service. I could depend on keeping my emotions under control until then, but not after. When we went outside and saw the fly-by, which I had not seen before, it took my breath away, and the bugle call even more so. But what really made me sob was when I looked up to see Capt. McCormick, standing there on crutches and wearing a cervical collar, saluting, with tears streaming down his cheeks.

    I saw his wife and her baby once, after that, at an officers’ club luncheon. Her father was still active duty and was stationed at Rhein-Main, I believe, so she remained in Germany. I still have the little David Winter Cottage she gave me for singing at the service.

    I don’t think most people with no connection to the military know of the level of comaraderie, concern, and out and out affection that exists between those who serve our country. It can be even closer than family.

  • Walt July 20, 2014, 17:45

    Darillyn,
    Thank you sharing. Thank you for singing so sweetly. The chapel was packed that day and my wife and I wound up in the Crying Room in the back sitting with Captain “Fess” Parker. We were all crying. I remember Capt. Mc Cormick insisting on standing up for the flyby. We had a couple of quiet words and then the jets roared over. To this day I can’t get through a missing man formation without choking up and remembering that day.

  • Walt February 24, 2015, 10:19

    Thanks.

  • Rich Anderson, Major, USAF-Retired April 3, 2015, 05:55

    Mike Crandall was a WSO in the 480 TFS at Spangdahlem when I arrived in Jan 82. He was the Snacko (had to keep the fridge full in the break room). In addition to flying in the same squadron, he was also a family friend. He had a girlfriend at the time he wanted to marry but she was reluctant because she was afraid of the danger of his job (according to Mike). He was very upset about it. I am not sure if they ever married but I heard rumor that they did (I assume this is the same woman mentioned in these comments). He went off to UPT and got his F-16. Graduated top of his class. He was very dedicated and always pushed himself. The day of the mid-air, he was exhausted. He was flight lead and demonstrating a barrel roll reposition to Bob McCormick. Mike rolled up too close and his canopy impacted the bottom of McCormick’s aircraft. Mike was killed instantly. The report I read said that he never ejected and rode the aircraft in. The plane hit the ground at such a shallow angle that it stayed in tact. The Politzei found Mike still strapped in the aircraft. I knew Bob McCormick’s wife Johanna when I was an instructor at Mather AFB. She worked at the credit union. When Mike was still at the 480 TFS at Spangdahlen, he gave my wife one of his name tags before he left for UPT. She still has it. I didn’t know Bob, but MIke was an incredible guy. Did not have an enemy anywhere. Bob’s wife was really nice (we were friends).

  • Walt April 3, 2015, 11:13

    Thanks Rich,
    You’re description of the mishap makes sense. LtCol Huss told me that Mike had a good chute. That the canopy link failed and the seat went.

    Walt

  • Dana Pratt April 22, 2015, 03:53

    Michael was a frequent guest at our home when he was my brother Kellys’ roommate at the Academy. Our family loved him so much, my mom pretty much adopted him and soon he would just come to our house during breaks whether my brother was with him or not! He gave my Grandmother her first ride on a motorcycle. We didn’t find out about Mikes’ passing until my brother went back to the Academy. We were blessed to know him, and send prayers to his family. If I remember he had several younger siblings as well as his wife and child. God bless you Mike. You were deeply loved.

  • Gregory C. Lindsay April 22, 2015, 09:01

    I remember this……I was driving the weapons (Orange 4) truck

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