The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #41992   Message #611214
Posted By: Joe Offer
16-Dec-01 - 06:27 PM
Thread Name: Origin: Plane Wreck At Los Gatos (background)
Subject: Deportee - Plane Wreck At Los Gatos Canyon
Aw, I guess it doesn't do much good. It's obvious that Spirit Whale can't read.

The wreck was in Los Gatos Canyon outside the small city of Coalinga, which is about 105 miles southeast of Los Gatos. I don't believe that Coalinga has a newspaper, or that it had one in 1948 (other than the weekly Coalinga Record - don't know how old it is). The "local" newspaper for the area is the Fresno Bee (Fresno is the county seat, although it's a long way from Coalinga). I wasn't able to check the Fresno newspaper, but our Sacramento Bee is published by the same company and often uses the same writers. There was good, front-page coverage of the accident in both the Sacramento Bee and the Sacramento Union, on the afternoon of the day of the crash, and on the following day (although none of the articles gave names for the deportees). The third day following, the papers were filled with news of the death of Mahatma Gandhi, and the Plane Wreck at Los Gatos Canyon was forgotten until Woody Guthrie wrote a song about it.

The newspaper articles came from United Press and Associated Press, not from local writers - although the California newspapers contained many details that were edited out of the shorter form of the same article that was published in the New York Times (above) - this is the article that Woody Guthrie probably read.

There's no evidence of a cover-up or of any particular local embarrassment. It is still the usual practice of American newspapers to identify only local victims of disasters - victims from places afar are less often mentioned by name. It is sad that these people were far from home when they died, but I don't think it's fair to raise an outcry about the fact that the newspaper didn't publish their names. I don't think that's the point of the song. Publishing their names wouldn't have helped a thing - the tragedy in it all is that these people were unknown and unwanted, and there was no reason to publish their names. Farm labor is still one of the most demeaning jobs in the United States, and yet we are all dependent upon the people who do this work.
Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can raise our good crops?
To fall like dry leaves and rot on our topsoil
And be known by no names except "deportees"
-Joe Offer-