In October 1972, two U.S. congressmen disappeared after their plane crashed somewhere in Alaska. Nearly five decades later, the mystery of why the plane went down and where the congressmen went remains unsolved.
Publish Date: Mar 16, 2021
good evening. Search planes and fishing boats hunted along the Alaska coast today for a small plane that disappeared yesterday on a flight from Anchorage to Juneau. On that plane, four men, one of them the Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, Hale Boggs of Louisiana. The 58 year old Louisiana congressman was in Alaska campaigning for the re election of that state's only congressman, Nick Begich. Boggs spoke Sunday night at a dinner for Begich at an Anchorage hotel before leaving with them and others yesterday morning on the flight, Do you know it was a warm reception? But then the next day trouble somewhere along the 550 mile planned flight path, the plane disappeared in a rainstorm. Yeah, mhm! Oh, mhm. Close your eyes. Picture Alaska. What do you see? Mountains, snow waves? Do you feel cold alone? Somewhere in that expanse lies the wreckage of a missing Cessna and the bodies of four men, including two U. S. Congressman. Their disappearance on October 16th, 1972 prompted the largest search in American history, a search that spanned 39 days and covered 325,000 square miles. Yet no sign of the men or their plane ever surfaced. No oil slick, no wreckage, nothing ever. This story is one of the great mysteries of American history, but you've probably never heard of it, and that's okay. Even in 1972 it vanished from the headlines. Within weeks, a nation consumed with Watergate and Vietnam quickly moved on. For the families of the men of Congressman Hale Boggs and Nick Beckett, pilot Don Johns and political aide Rust Brown, it was a slower process without a wreck. There were no definitive answers, no closure. 11 Children, including the journalist Cokie Roberts and future U. S. Senator Mark Begich, lost their fathers. The weather that day in 1972 was turbulent disguise. A violent gray. The plane was last heard from near a rugged mountain pass. It was presumed to have iced up and crashed, perhaps crumpled into a glacier or submerged in frigid water. That presumption that the plane was felled by ice explains in part, why so little attention has been paid to this story during the past 50 years. Alaska Bad weather, a small plane, nothing special. Sure, there were two congressmen on board, so what right. But the story that was never told the story I uncovered during a nine year investigation is much more complex. My name is John Wall Zack. I'm an investigative journalist based in New Orleans, and since 2011, I've obtained thousands of pages of government documents, interviewed dozens of people and traveled all over the nation researching the disappearance. What I learned is bizarre and until now, largely untold. Nearly 50 years after the plane vanished, people are dying and time is running out. This mystery will be solved now or will likely never be solved. And to be honest, I'm exhausted. But I'm making one final push to solve this case. I'm not giving up yet, but I need your help. One last thing I struggled with. Whether or not I should even tell this story or just let it be publishing it will hurt people. It will drag out allegations of affairs and murder. Few people, including FBI agents, journalists and politicians, end up looking good at the end. If you're in Alaska and you're hearing us for the first time, ask yourself why, because well connected people in your state no significant parts of this story, and they're not telling it to you. But first, some background. Let's flash back to October 15th, 1972. Uh, the only thing I remember was that my husband tell me we were having a reception and expecting, I don't know, 120 people or something. That's Susan Mellish. She and her husband, Donald, hosted a cocktail fundraiser for the congressman in Anchorage the night before they disappeared. Donald remembers that Boggs, who had just flown in from D. C, was jet lagged but jovial as he spoke to a small crowd in front of the fireplace, was having a good time and they talked about your trip. And, you know, Bob's were excited about going down to South, East and country, and that's about it. After the reception, the congressman drove to a dinner fundraiser in a packed hotel ballroom. Their final public event, Alan Dodds Frank was a young reporter who covered it for the Anchorage Daily News. Lodges are very energetic, thoughtful speaker who pumped up the crowd, you know, and he's got everybody on their feet and more important, he was. He was a big attraction