published Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

Texas man hopes to bury father lost for decades

  • photo
    Jerry Hoblit holds a picture of his father, Col. Noel Hoblit, who was killed in a military plane crash and missing for 60 years. The wreckage was discovered in June 2012 in Alaska.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

WILLIS, Texas — A 77-year-old Southeast Texas man hopes to one day be able to bury the remains of his father after the discovery last year in an Alaskan glacier of a military plane that crashed in 1952, killing all aboard.

Retired Col. Jerry Hoblit, a Vietnam veteran, was 16 when he learned that his father, Col. Noel Hoblit, was among the 52 people killed when the Air Force C-124A Globemaster crashed on Nov. 22, 1952, on Mount Gannett.

"I was asleep and I heard the commotion downstairs. My mother was crying," Jerry Hoblit, who lives in Willis, about 50 miles north of Houston, told The Courier of Montgomery County. "Being an Air Force brat, I knew exactly what was going on."

The debris was discovered in June 2012 while Alaska National Guardsmen were flying a Blackhawk helicopter during a training mission near the glacier about 40 miles east of Anchorage. The excavation process has slowly moved forward since then.

After the crash, military teams tried to go to the site, but constant bad weather got in the way until it got buried in the snow and became part of the glacier.

"I didn't know my father until I was 9, because of World War II," Hoblit told the newspaper. "But from age 9 until I was 16, I got to know him by skiing with him every Sunday in the Cascade Mountains."

"Because of the bond we made while skiing, I became a life-long skiing enthusiast," he said. "He was bringing me a pair of Henke ski boots when they crashed. They were all the rage back then."

He told The Associated Press that he's not yet gotten word on whether his father's remains have been identified or whether any of his belongings have been found. He says if his father's remains are found he and his brother will arrange a memorial service and likely bury the remains at the marker for his father in Arlington National Cemetery.

Hoblit said when he heard the news that his father died in the crash, his first reaction was that he knew he wasn't a child anymore.

"I had to grow up," Hoblit said. "My little brother was ten years younger than me and I thought 'he is never going to know our father.'"

He and his brother both went to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and then into the Air Force.

Hoblit flew three tours during the Vietnam War.

"Living on an Air Force base, I always wanted to be a pilot," Hoblit said. "My dad wanted me to be in medicine."

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