Airline crash that took actress Carole Lombard’s life happened 70 years ago

In this Aug. 18, 1933, file photo, Carole Lombard, well known screen actress shown on the courthouse steps at Carson City, Nev., following her divorce from her husband, William Powell.
In this Aug. 18, 1933, file photo, Carole Lombard, well known screen actress shown on the courthouse steps at Carson City, Nev., following her divorce from her husband, William Powell. AP Photo/File

On this day 70 years ago, the United States had barely entered World War II. Wartime restrictions on night lighting may have helped extinguish one of Hollywood’s brightest stars, 33-year-old Carole Lombard.

Through the 1930s, she’d sparkled in comedies still enjoyed today: “Twentieth Century,” “Nothing Sacred” and “My Man Godfrey.” By the end of that decade Lombard was married to Clark Gable, the hottest male box-office draw of the moment.

On Jan. 16, 1942, the petite blonde star was returning to him after a war bond drive in her native Indiana. Lombard, her press agent and her mother boarded TWA Flight 3 in Indianapolis.

After a refueling stop in Las Vegas, the plane took off for Burbank. Shortly afterward, it crashed into a vertical cliff in Nevada’s Spring Mountains, killing all 22 people on board.

An investigation indicated that some beacons on the ground had been turned off because of war-related blackout orders. After Carole Lombard’s death, President Franklin Roosevelt awarded her the Medal of Freedom as the first American woman killed in the line of duty during World War II.

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