Pilot authors book on Lakers' 'miracle' Carroll landing
May 20, 2013
The DC-3 carrying the Minneapolis Lakers (a professional basketball team that later became the Los Angeles Lakers) sits in a cornfield on the Elmer Steffes farm north of Carroll on January 18, 1960. Note the snow cover and standing corn visible in the bottom half of the photo.
About the Author
Harold Gifford has had a very diverse career in military and commercial aviation. He is a World War II veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corps and after a 29-year career, he retired as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. Harold and his wife, Carol, live in suburban St. Paul, Minn.
Signalman Publishing this morning announced the release of a book about the Minneapolis Lakers' plane landing in Carroll in January 1960, "The Miracle Landing: The True Story of How the NBA's Minneapolis Lakers Almost Perished in an Iowa Cornfield During a January Blizzard" is authored by Harold Gifford of Woodbury, Minn., one of the plane's pilots.
The book is available in paperback and as an ebook for the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes & Noble Nook, and through the Apple iBookstore.
On the evening of Jan. 17, 1960, after a game in St. Louis, the Minneapolis Lakers boarded their DC-3 for the flight home. Perhaps the memory of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper perishing in an Iowa cornfield only 11 months earlier had faded.
In any case, this flight would be like no other. For the first time in print, the co-pilot of that flight, Gifford, tells the real, full story of what happened that almost wiped out the Lakers before that NBA dynasty even had a chance to really get started.
"This incredible story is a turning point of Lakers history and the more the fans know about their team the more they love us," said Jeanie Buss, executive vice president of the Los Angeles Lakers. "Because of this miracle landing, the players and other passengers on this flight would be able to continue their lives with their families and loved ones for the next half-century."
At 1:40 a.m. Monday, Jan. 18, 1960, the twin-engine DC-3 transport, carrying the Minneapolis Lakers basketball team and piloted by military veterans Vernon Ullman and Harold Gifford, made an emergency landing through a blinding snow storm in a cornfield that is now the Collison Addition in northeast Carroll.
Ten members of the Minneapolis ball club walked off the plane without injury. Just one year later, the Lakers, with rookie sensation Jerry West from West Virginia University added, were in Los Angeles, where they would become one of the most storied franchises in all of sports.
"Every aviator should read this book, said Pat Moran, past president of the Minnesota Business Aviation Association. "A fascinating account of what went wrong and what went right in the cockpit."
The Lakers, one of the more tony and iconic sports franchises the world over, donated $25,000 to the City of Carroll for construction of a Laker court at Veterans Park, just a few dribbles and a 3-point toss away from the site of the Minneapolis Lakers' emergency plane landing.
Gifford is expected to schedule a book-signing event in Carroll.
"The Miracle Landing" (ISBN: 978-1-935991-97-7, Trade Paper, 174 pages, $13.99, Non-fiction/Sports History) from indie book publisher Signalman, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble.com and wherever fine books are sold.
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