There is a memorial stone in Downing Cemetery near Deckerville, Michigan with the following inscription:
Betty Sims Cannin
IN MEMORY OF MY PRECIOUS WIFE
BETTY SIMS CANNIN. AIRLINE STEWARDESS,
WHO CRASHED AT SEA SEPTEMBER 23, 1962
Chief Stewardess Elizabeth Sims Cannin was named in most publications only as Elizabeth Sims. Before she died in the Atlantic crash landing, she told her family that the flight was to be her last. She told of her plans to leave flying when she visited relatives in Highland Park, Michigan. She said she had given the Flying Tiger Lines 30 days notice. She was married just two weeks before the crash and had told only but a very few of her closest friends. Her new husband, James, was a commercial pilot.
* * * * * *
In the four-page story that appeared in the Saturday Saturday Evening Post magazine in late October 1962, Air Force Master Sergeant Peter Foley, a crash surviver himself and a reporter for the Stars Stripes newspaper in Darmstadt, Germany, gave us his recollections of the role of the brave women who served as Flying Tiger 923’s flight attendants, with special attention to Betty Sims:
“. . . With the failure of two engines, our lives were totally in the hands of the pilot and his crew.
“Captain Murray called chief stewardess, Betty A Sims to the cockpit to brief her on the situation. She was a slight, pretty girl of 31, with 10 years of flying experience. She had been married just two weeks before and had given notice that this was to be her last trip.
“We all looked up anxiously at Miss Sims as she emerged from the cockpit and walked swiftly down the aisle. There was no sign of concern on her face. We watched her pick up the public-address system microphone. She relayed the captain’s message that there was no immediate danger, that Super Constellations are built so they can fly on two engines. She explained that the reduced power made it impossible to heat our dinners, but that cake and coffee would be served in a few minutes.
“Then she asked us, as a routine precaution to get our life jackets out of our seat pockets. Miss Sims and her three assistants, Carol Ann Gould, Jacqueline Brotman and Ruth Mudd, helped us into the life jackets and led us through ditching drills. Miss Sims was still wearing the dark-blue pinafore she had put on to prepare dinner. She kept telling us that this was just practice and there was no emergency. I doubted it.
“The stewardesses collected our shoes and all sharp objects and put them in bags. They told the women passengers to remove their stockings and tie them around their waists. This would give rescuers a handhold if the women needed help in the water. Anything loose that might fly around the cabin was stowed away. Even the door to the cockpit was taken down and placed in the coat compartment.
”Miss Sims placed a stewardess or military man in charge of each of the four emergency exits by the wings. The navigator, Samuel Nicholson of Dallas, PA, took a seat by the large cabin door at the rear. Miss Sims said the four life rafts were kept in compartments in the wings. A fifth raft would be available for launching at the cabin door. Nicholson sent two passengers forward to get the folded-up raft, take it out of its container, and place it near the door.
“ . . . time went by. Passengers attempted to remain calm by contemplating, praying or playing cards.
“We’d finished our third or fourth ditching drill when I began to feel the power being pulled on and off an engine. I looked out my window and thought I saw a ball of fire between No. 1 and No. 2 engines. Then I heard bells. It sounded like the fire warnings on an engine. A few minutes later No. 2 stopped with a thud you could both hear and feel.
“Within seconds, Captain Murray’s voice came over the loudspeaker. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said calmly. “This is the captain. We are going to ditch.”
“The lights were off so our eyes could get used to the dark. Betty Sims hurriedly ran through the ditching instructions once more. “Be sure your seat belt is tight and your seat upright. Keep your head down on your knees, your arms crossed over your head, holding your elbows and brace against the seat in front.
“Although we were losing altitude fast, the stewardesses went along the aisles for a final seat-belt check. One of the men hollered to the women, “Sit down, sit down before we hit.
“And that is the last seen or heard by anyone from Stewardess Elizabeth “Betty” Sims. She was not yet known to the public by her newlywed name of “Cannin.”
[Our thanks to Mr. Robert Yarrington who posted a brief note and the text of the memorial as a reader comment on this web site. Mr.Yarrington is not related to Betty Sims in anyway and does not know any of her family or friends. He was simply working as a volunteer on a genealogical project for the cemetery. He turned to the web for information. He her name in to Google search and that led him immediately to this web site and an earlier story about Elizabeth Sims Cannan.]
What a brave women. Her instructions to the passengers before hitting the water, saved many lives. Her soul and the souls of the others that died are waiting to greet their loved ones in heaven.
SPC/4 Blake Henry
81st Airborne Arty., Wiesbaden, Germany, 1961-1964
Hello my uncle is looking for members of his unit that was in Germany in 1661- 1964.
His name is Raymond Zammert . would you happen to remember him? If so he asks that you call him 218- 289-3784 thank you.
Hi JoAnn. I was in Germany from 1961-64. What unit was your uncle in? I was at Weisbaden, Germany with the 8th Army 81st Airborne Arty. I don’t remember him but I can’t remember where I left my false teeth or wallet either. If he was in my unit I can call him and we could throw a few names around to see if it rings any bells.
He was in the c battery. 5th battalion 81st airborne in Weisbaden same time you were. He is trying to find comrades to get in touch with. Thanks for replying
Hi. I talked to my uncle and he asked that I give you his phone number. His name again is Raymond Zammert. His ph is 218 289-3784. He lives in Minnesota. He would love to talk to you. Thanks
I’ll call your uncle on Sunday 2/16. I’am sure we’ll have a nice talk about our time in the same Airborne unit in Germany.
I just talked with your uncle. We had a nice talk and he was happy to hear from someone that was in his unit. I told him about a web site that has pictures etc about our unit in Germany. I told him I would give it to you. He says he has no computer and really has no need of one. Here is the web site: http://airborne81reunion.com/. My email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
It was great talking to him and I enjoyed it. May God bless you all.
He called me. He was so happy. Thanks. Will check. it out and get together with him. Take care.
Thanks again Fred for remembering Betty Sims Cannin.
She was very very brave and calm as I asked her “what if I forget how to open the raft compartment door?. She said, “don’t worry Carol I will show you.”
Carol Gould Hansen