Archaeologists on Fort Drum find some very unique items left over from one of the worst tragedies in the post's history: A barracks fire in 1947 that killed five soldiers. YNN's Brian Dwyer tells us more on this fascinating discovery and explains how the search came about.
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- It starts in the winter of 1947. The Army is about to embark on the largest wintertime air operation in its history: Exercise Snowdrop.
Soldiers from Fort Bragg, North Carolina on Pine Camp, what's now known as Fort Drum, are ready to train. But in the early hours of December 10th, fire erupts in a barracks building.
"There were approximately 15 people in that barracks," Fort Drum archaeologist Duane Quates said. "Ten of them made it out alive. Four of them died of smoke inhalation and one of them was severely injured."
That man, Captain Francis Turned, died 18 days later, a hero.
"He's reported to have been the guy that saved the 10 people that made it out alive by raising the alarm and helping the wounded exit the building," Quates said.
The building was demolished two years later.
"Once they demolished the site, it was pretty much forgotten about. In fact, I didn't even know about it until the daughter of Francis Turner, she actually came here in October of 2010 and wanted to visit the site to see where her father died."
Turner's daughter shared the story of her father and the fire with Quates.
''It was rather somber," Quates said. "She never cried, but it was a moment I think she had been preparing for all her life because she was only one-year-old when her father died."
A story the archaeologist in him couldn't ignore. Using special equipment, he found thousands of items. Everything from structural stuff to things like a lapel pin, camera film and more. He also found a dirt covered typewriter. He can't clean it, because they're not yet sure if the dirt is holding it together. But some research shows who it may have belonged to: The man charged with reporting back on Exercise Snowdrop, Capt. Francis Turner.
"He's the only person I know that would have needed a typewriter in the building," Quates said. The rest of the officers in the building were ski instructors and training instructors."
Now in the aftermath of that fire, the wife of Lieutenant Rudolph Feres, another one of the soldiers who died, lost a lawsuit she filed against the government for wrongful death. That now famous ruling we know as the Feres Doctrine has kept any soldier or family member from every doing it.
Fort Drum is looking to put a historical marker at the site of that fire.