The Army Plane that Crashed Into a Wall Street Skyscraper

Lower Manhattan skyline.

The Army Plane that Crashed Into a Wall Street Skyscraper

May 20th, 1946 saw an Army plane colliding with a Wall Street highrise. Now, plane accidents were nothing new to New York City. After all, the Empire State Building suffered a collision from a B-25 Mitchell bomber just the year before. Today’s recap covers the accident, as well as a bit of the background information surrounding it.

Horror from the Skies

Army plane
Aviation was still relatively new, however accidents like this were infrequent.

One of the worst scenarios you could imagine is an Army plane colliding with a building. Unlike airliners, these sorts of vehicles are laden with other potential hazards in addition to aviation fuel.

A Possible Cause

Army plane
The C-45 transport plane that crashed into the building is a sizable vehicle meant for troops or vehicles.

The Army plane in question had a few things going against it. While the pilot seemed to maintain course, it was a foggy evening and it was dark.

The Moment of Impact

Army plane
Wall Street was thankfully empty when the crash happened.

While the Army plane was seeking out a landing strip, tragedy struck. The aircraft collided with a highrise building, hitting the 58th floor of the structure.

Falling Debris

Army plane
At any other time of day, this could have been a horrible accident to read about in history books.

Compared to other accidents, an Army plane hitting a building creates different hazards. Brick and mortar fell from the highrise, littering the street below.


Army plane
The plane’s impact seemed to center around a single office, which was destroyed in the process.

While the accident itself is catastrophic, there were thankfully no innocent bystanders in harm’s way. That can be attributed to the hour when the accident took place.

Dangerous Streets

Army plane
Most of the debris on the street came from the building itself, rather than the plane.

The debris strewn about the street created new hazards, but thankfully that would be swiftly fixed. The lack of people present meant there was no imminent danger.

Twisted Steel

C-45 Transport
Chunks of the plane could be found nearby, but the bulk of the aircraft was in the building above.

Not much was left of the Army plane after the collision. Twisted pieces of the fuselage and propeller would find their way to the street below.

The Human Cost

C-45 Transport
Thankfully, the plane wasn’t loaded with a full load of troops.

Sadly, all five crew members aboard the Army plane perished in the crash. While horrific, it could’ve been far worse if the nearly 5,000 building occupants had been present during business hours.

Structural Damage

C-45 Transport
This is unrecognizable as a plane, it just looks like a mess of metal and other materials.

Upon collision, the Army plane created a ten-foot hole in the side of the building. This would need immediate repairs and an assessment to ensure the building was structurally sound.

What Remained

C-45 Transport
While the occupants of the plane were likely dead upon impact, it makes for a sad occasion.

The cockpit of the Army plane was smashed to pieces upon impact. All that was left was twisted steel and cabling, scattered on the floor of an office nearly 700 feet off the ground.

Luck Despite Tragedy

C-45 Transport
Compared to other aircraft accidents, the damage and loss of life was minimal.

Despite the horrific damage, this accident could’ve been far worse. New York City’s financial district is a bustling place, and further tragedy could have ensued if this accident had taken place during the daytime hours.

Watch the Full Video

C-45 Transport
New York City’s financial district would recover easily, but this was a sobering incident nonetheless.

If you’d like to see the newsreel, you can view it here. Today’s recap covered just one event out of many that occurred in 1946, and the whole thing is great viewing as a historical time capsule.

To top