1945: Stunned reactions after a plane struck the Empire State Building

 

On the morning of July 28, 1945, a B-25 Mitchell bomber on a routine personnel transport out of Massachusetts encountered heavy fog and became disoriented as it passed over New York City on its descent into Newark Airport.

At 9:40 a.m., it smashed into the north side of the Empire State Building.

The impact blasted a fiery hole through the 78th and 79th floors. One of the bomber’s engines shot completely through the building, tumbling out the other side and destroying a sculptor’s penthouse studio across the street.

All three crew aboard the bomber were killed, along with 11 people in the building.

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1945 plane crash at Empire State Building
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1945 plane crash at Empire State Building
UNITED STATES - JULY 28: Army B-25 Mitchell bomber smashed beyond recognition into Empire State Building. One of the bomber's motors, trailing part of the plane, crashed through two walls of the building, plummeted through roof and ended up burning in studio at 10 W. 33d St. (Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) A B-25 lost in a fog hanging low over New York Building, a bomber crashed into the Empire State Building at approximately 10 A.M.. On July 28th. An explosion rocked the building and a four alarm fire building, bounced off the tower, and fell to the roof of a building on 33rd street, showering debris over the area. Harry A. Berger of 888 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, is shown reside a section of the ill-fated plane that landed in 33rd Street.
July 1945: Part of a US B-25 bomber which crashed into the Empire State Building in New York City. The main part of the wreckage fell into the street, while leaking petrol set the upper stories of the building on fire. All three crewmembers and eleven office workers were killed. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 29: B-25 Mitchell bomber plane crashes into Empire State Building. Pieces which crashed the building are cut up for removal from the 78th floor. (Photo by Wally Seymour/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Aiding Casualty from Empire State. Manhattan, New York, New York: Firemen and police are aiding a woman victim from the Empire State building after an Army bomber crashed into the giant structure today. Estimates of the dead vary from five to fifteen, and more than 100 were reported injured. The plane, which came from the New Bedford, Mass., air base, was en route to Newark. The tower of the building was wreathed in fog when the bomber hit the 78-79 floors, exploded and scattered burring gasoline wide area. Greater portion of the plane wreckage was found inside the building.
(Original Caption) 7/29/1945-Firemen working amidst the wreckage from a plane which crashed in to the Empire State Building.
UNITED STATES - JULY 29: B-25 Mitchell bomber plane crashes into Empire State Building. Workmen clean up the debris in the office of the National catholic Welfare Conference. Nine of organization's staff were killed in this room. (Photo by Wally Seymour/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Twisted metal is all that remains of typewriters at National Catholic Welfare Conference, on 79th floor of Empire State Building. Restoration work is proceeding at rapid pace on two hardest hit floors.
(Original Caption) A man holding up debris from the wreckage of a bomber plane which crashed into the empire State Building is shown in this picture. (Photo by AS400 DB/Bettmann Archive)
UNITED STATES - JULY 28: Smashed beyond recognition, bits of the 10-ton Army B-25 Mitchell bomber hang from the huge hole torn in the wall of the Empire State Building. Photo, looking east in the north side of the building, shows how plane's impact bent huge girders, shattered thick concrete floor, turned world's highest building into a pillar of horror and death. (Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
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Lift cables were snapped by the blast, sending elevator operator Betty Lou Oliver plummeting 75 stories to the basement in seconds.

When rescuers pulled her from the tangled wreckage, she was somehow still alive (and the holder of a new record for longest elevator fall survived).

On the ground below, famed photographer Arthur Fellig (better known as Weegee, for his seemingly supernatural ability to show up at accidents and crime scenes before the police) arrived on the scene in minutes.

Rather than try to photograph the sky-high blaze, Weegee turned his large-format camera on the expressions of the stunned and confused crowds around him.

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Reactions to plane crashing into the Empire State Building in 1945
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Reactions to plane crashing into the Empire State Building in 1945
A young woman, wearing rain gear, perhaps looking up at the Empire State Building, straining to see where a plane has hit the world's then tallest building, New York, August 5, 1945. (Photo by Weegee (Arthur Fellig)/International Center of Photography/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Unchecked tongues of flame streak out of 78th floor windows of the Empire State Building shortly after a B-25 Bomber crashed into the east wall of the skyscraper on the morning of July 28th. All available fire-fighting equipment was rushed to the scene of the crash as a four alarm fire swept through seven stories of the explosion rocked building. Smoke and low-hanging fog shroud the tower of the giant structure.
A view of the hole rammed into the 78th and 79th stories of the Empire State Building by a U.S. Army Bomber flying in the fog. Part of the wreckage hangs from the 78th story, New York, New York, July 28, 1945.
Last Saturday morning, Weegee - whose 'Naked City' portrays New York in terms of people involved in crime, poverty, disaster - covered the city's most spectacular accident by snapping these photos of persons straining to see where a plane has hit the Empire State building, the world's tallest skyscraper, New York, August 1945. (Photo by Weegee(Arthur Fellig)/International Center of Photography/Getty Images)
Close-up of a man as he looks up at the Empire State Building where a plane (a North American Aviation B-25 Mitchell bomber) had crashed into the building between the 78th and 80th floors, New York, New York, July 28, 1945. The crash killed 14 people, and it (and the resulting fire) caused over a million dollars worth of damage. (Photo by Weegee(Arthur Fellig)/International Center of Photography/Getty Images)
Close-up of a man as he looks up at the Empire State Building where a plane (a North American Aviation B-25 Mitchell bomber) had crashed into the building between the 78th and 80th floors, New York, New York, July 28, 1945. The crash killed 14 people, and it (and the resulting fire) caused over a million dollars worth of damage. (Photo by Weegee(Arthur Fellig)/International Center of Photography/Getty Images)
Close-up of a woman as she looks up at the Empire State Building where a plane (a North American Aviation B-25 Mitchell bomber) had crashed into the building between the 78th and 80th floors, New York, New York, July 28, 1945. The crash killed 14 people, and it (and the resulting fire) caused over a million dollars worth of damage. (Photo by Weegee(Arthur Fellig)/International Center of Photography/Getty Images)
Close-up of two men as they looks up at the Empire State Building where a plane (a North American Aviation B-25 Mitchell bomber) had crashed into the building between the 78th and 80th floors, New York, New York, July 28, 1945. The crash killed 14 people, and it (and the resulting fire) caused over a million dollars worth of damage. (Photo by Weegee(Arthur Fellig)/International Center of Photography/Getty Images)
Close-up of a man as he looks up at the Empire State Building where a plane (a North American Aviation B-25 Mitchell bomber) had crashed into the building between the 78th and 80th floors, New York, New York, July 28, 1945. The crash killed 14 people, and it (and the resulting fire) caused over a million dollars worth of damage. (Photo by Weegee(Arthur Fellig)/International Center of Photography/Getty Images)
Close-up of a girl as she looks up at the Empire State Building where a plane (a North American Aviation B-25 Mitchell bomber) had crashed into the building between the 78th and 80th floors, New York, New York, July 28, 1945. The crash killed 14 people, and it (and the resulting fire) caused over a million dollars worth of damage. (Photo by Weegee(Arthur Fellig)/International Center of Photography/Getty Images)
A nun, wearing a habit, looks up at the Empire State Building, New York, August 1945. A crowd strained to see the city's most spectacular accident, when a plane hit the Empire State Building. (Photo by Weegee(Arthur Fellig)/International Center of Photography/Getty Images)
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