Deportee Plane Crash  Memorial

Deportee Plane Crash Memorial

Death 28 Jan 1948
Coalinga, Fresno County, California, USA
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Fresno, Fresno County, California, USA
Memorial ID 124676699 · View Source
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Plane Crash Victims. On January 28, 1948, a Douglas DC-3 aircraft was chartered by the Immigration and Naturalization Service to fly twenty-eight Mexican citizens who were being deported to El Centro, California. At approximately 10:30am, witnesses noticed the plane trailing white smoke from one of its engines when the left wing suddenly ripped off, spilling several passengers out of a large hole in the fuselage before the plane caught fire and spiraled to the ground, exploding in a ball of fire. A subsequent investigation by the Civil Aeronautics Authority discovered that a fuel leak in the port engine's fuel pump ignited the fire that caused the crash. The Mexican victims of the accident, 27 men and one woman, were placed in a mass grave at Holy Cross Cemetery in Fresno, with only 12 of the victims ever being identified. Later that year, Woody Guthrie wrote "Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)" as a protest poem by what he considered the racist mistreatment of the passengers before and after the accident, inspired by the fact that radio and newspaper coverage of the event did not give the victims' names, but instead referred to them merely as "deportees" while reporting the names of the flight crew and a security guard. A decade later, the poem was set to music and given a haunting melody by a schoolteacher, and shortly thereafter, folk singer and friend of Guthrie, Pete Seeger, began performing the song at concerts and it was his rendition that popularized the song. Among artists who have recorded and performed the song are The Kingston Trio, Judy Collins, The Byrds, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, Hoyt Axton, Peter, Paul & Mary and Bruce Springsteen. On Labor Day of 2013, a headstone was unveiled at the mass grave to more than 600 people in attendance including relatives of the victims. The memorial includes the names of all twenty-eight of the Mexican nationals that were formerly known as "deportees".

Bio by: Louis du Mort


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Louis du Mort
  • Added: 5 Feb 2014
  • Find A Grave Memorial 124676699
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Deportee Plane Crash Memorial (unknown–28 Jan 1948), Find A Grave Memorial no. 124676699, citing Holy Cross Cemetery, Fresno, Fresno County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .