Forgotten History: The Empire State Building Plane Crash


Benjamin Jensen, Columnist

On July 28, 1945 A B-25 military bomber crashed into the Empire State Building in Manhattan, New York. 14 people were killed, and the crash was deemed an accident due to heavy fog. 


The bomber itself was a B-25 that had 2 pilots and 1 passenger. The plane was instructed by air traffic control to land at LaGuardia Airport. However, due to the thick and heavy fog, air traffic control instructed the plane to land at Newark Airport instead. Because of this sudden change, the bomber had to fly over Manhattan. Air Traffic also notified the plane that the Empire State Building (which was the tallest building in the city in 1945) was completely invisible due to the fog.  


The bomber flew slow and low in order to increase visibility. However, the bomber was about to crash into the Chrysler building. The pilot quickly evaded the Chrysler building and slammed into the north side of the Empire State building, near the 79th floor. Luckily, it was a Saturday, so not a lot of Empire State building employees were present. Upon impact, the fuel from the bomber filled the room with flames which spread all the way to the 75th floor. A large hold was made at the impact point, and the right wing of the plane clipped off and parts flew everywhere onto the streets and top of neighboring buildings.


One of the engines of the bomber snapped an elevator cable. One woman was in the elevator at the time of the crash. The elevator began to fall at high speeds causing the emergency elevator brakes to engage, saving the woman from a fatal crash. Rescuers and first responders were able to safely rescue the woman from the elevator.  


11 people were killed in the accident, either from burning, impact, or being thrown out of the building. All 11 deaths were a part of the “War Relief Services department of the National Catholic Welfare Conference.” Every person on the plane was also killed. 


The impact resulted in an 18 by 20 foot hole in the building and cost around 1 million dollars to repair (around 10 million dollars today). Luckily, the structural integrity was not damaged from the crash. 

Credit: NY Daily News
Credit: Ernie Sisto/AP Photo