In October of 1933, a United Airlines flight with seven people aboard was blown up with a bomb over Chesterton, Ind. A young federal agent named Melvin Purvis headed up an exhaustive investigation, involving hundreds of leads. But eighty years later, the crash remains a mystery, the first case of aviation terrorism in America.
The aircraft, a Boeing 247, was luxurious for its day. Considered the first modern “airliner”, the plane offered passengers heat on chilly evenings, comfortable seats, even a restroom. It was near that lavatory that investigators believe a bomb was placed by persons unknown. On the evening of October 10, the aircraft took off from Newark, N.J., made a brief stop in Cleveland, and was minutes from what is now Chicago’s Midway Airport. The pilot radioed a position report at 8:39 p.m. But there were no further transmissions.
The files of the nascent FBI, known then as the “U.S. Bureau of Investigation”, tell of farmers witnessing the explosion. The tail of the aircraft was blown from the fuselage, and two passengers fell to their deaths. The other five people on board died from the impact, or the ensuing fire.
For video and the complete story by Phil Rogers of WMAQ-TV, click here.