On October 31, 1969, the United States had the “longest lasting” hijacking case in history.

The hijacker, a 20-year-old Vietnam veteran, hijacked the plane from Los Angeles to Denver, through New York, Bangor, Shannon, and finally in Rome.

The transatlantic hijacking journey covered a total of 11,000 kilometers and lasted 18 hours and 22 minutes, making it the first time in U.S. history that an aircraft had been hijacked off the American continent. But the hijacker’s purpose was “simple” – he thought

Go home

“The longest hijacking roadmap in history”

Raffaele Minichiello

A native of Italy, he moved to the United States with his family at the age of 13 because of the impact of the 1962 Irpino earthquake.

Five years later, as an adult, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps. After six months of training, he arrived in Vietnam at the end of 1967 with a true “American dream”, a young man eager to gain true identity through fighting.

At the front, Minichiello was indeed very brave, and he was awarded the Cross of Valor by the South Vietnamese government for saving many comrades. But in war, the main task of these young people is, of course, to attack and kill.

Minichiello in Vietnam

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, as many as 30 percent of military personnel who fought in the Vietnam War have some degree since they returned home

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

。 Minichiello was no exception, and in 1969, he returned to the United States and watched the entire society’s anti-Vietnam War reach its peak, which undoubtedly greatly shaken his faith.

But the more immediate blow came from an injustice he suffered.

While in Vietnam, he regularly deposited money into a savings fund account, saving $800 over two years. In 1969, his father returned to Italy because of cancer, and Miniciello also wanted to take care of his father after withdrawing all the money.

But when he returned to the California barracks, he found only $600 left on his account and received no feedback on his complaints to his superiors. So he took advantage of his drunkenness one night and decided to pry open the barracks commissary and steal $200 “credit”.

But after succeeding, this inexperienced young man actually collapsed on the floor of the commissary because he was drunk. Because of this, he was accused of going to a military tribunal –

On the day of the hijacking, he was supposed to appear at a court-martial at Camp Pandoton, California.

Anti-war march

Under the combined influence of all these factors, this 20-year-old confused young man decided to do another stupid thing…

He disassembled a gun, put it in his backpack along with a pile of bullets, and ran to the Los Angeles airport in California. At 1:30 a.m., Minichello, dressed in camouflage uniforms, boarded Flight TWA85 bound for San Francisco.

To circumvent the airport’s inspection, he performed “some impromptu flirting” with the flight attendant on the spot. Then, just

I followed the flight attendant to the “secondary entrance” without checking and successfully boarded the plane

This also shows how perfunctory the security checks at the airport were at that time. At the time of the hijacking at the end of October 1969, there had been 54 hijackings in the United States during the year — an average of one every six days.

The three flight attendants on board explain the details of the hijacking to reporters after they were released The far right is Demonico

After the plane took off smoothly, Miniciello hid in the bathroom with his bag, skillfully assembled the gun, and checked the loading. He then walked to the work area with a rifle in hand and ordered the flight attendant

Charlene Delmonico

Take him to the cockpit.

The experienced flight attendant asked him to prove it was a real gun, so Miniciello gave her a genuine 7.62 caliber bullet.

After being smoothly taken to the cockpit, Miniciello made his own request to the crew: “Turn around and go to New York, then to Rome.” ”

FBI agents holding the bullet handed to the flight attendant by the hijacker

Then the question arises. captain

Donald Cook

Explain to the still nervous gun-wielding young man that there is not enough fuel to go to New York, and we do not have driver’s licenses for international routes to Rome.

Then, in a slightly awkward atmosphere, the experienced captain repeatedly proposed, and the crew had a very deliberative communication with the hijackers.

The crew proposed to be close first


Landing to refuel, and then to New York, the hijackers agreed; They also proposed that all passengers be disembarked in Denver without delaying customers, and the hijackers agreed.

When the hijacker proposed that a flight attendant must be left, he wanted to choose Demonico, who led the way, but the captain chose another flight attendant named Robetta. Just when the two sides had this dispute, the flight attendant who brought everyone coffee

Tracey Coleman

Interjected: “I’ll go, I have a boyfriend in New York, you can drop by and see him.”

Minichiello thought for a moment and agreed.

Minichiello’s gun and camouflage uniform, boots

According to the crew’s description, Miniciello has been very polite since the initial tension.

When landing in Denver, a passenger got off the plane and found that a piece of clothing had been left behind, and dared to turn around and ask Miniciello, who was “dropping off” at the door, if he could go back and pick it up, and received a very relaxed answer: “Of course.” ”

The plane’s landing, unloading, and refueling in Denver was calm. Subsequently, Captain Cook, co-captain Williams, mechanic Hora, flight attendant Koeman, and hijacker Miniciello took off again and went to go

New York JFK Airport


On the way to New York, Miniciello, who enjoyed the “personal jet service”, even put down his gun and mixed himself a cocktail in first class.

However, when landing in New York, things suddenly changed.

It turned out that at that time, the FBI believed that there was absolutely no precedent for hijackers to take the plane out of the American continent, so it mobilized nearly 100 agents dressed as mechanics to prepare for the raid.

But just as they slowly approached the plane, a gunshot broke the silence.

For a moment, no one knew what was going on on the plane.

There were no casualties in the cockpit, no casualties from ground mechanics and FBI agents, and calm was restored to the cabin where Minichiello was guarded alone after that shot. The FBI, of course, believed that the hijackers discovered their operation and issued a warning shot.

Captain Cook, who clearly saw the scene outside the window, also thought so, so he shouted loudly for all the personnel near the plane to leave, and the fuel was not refilled, and he was directly ready to take off.

At this juncture, two pilots with international flight qualifications

Billy Williams


Richard Hastings

Pushing away the FBI agent, he risked being killed and boarded the plane with his hands raised.

Change shifts and take off again.

These two retrograde pilots were actually the most touching to me in the whole incident. Out of concern for the flight qualifications and experience of their colleagues, of course, they also considered the risk of fatigue driving such a long distance of cross-border flight, so they risked boarding without hesitation when the hijacker had already fired a shot and was in a state of high tension.

An after-examination revealed that Miniciello’s shot penetrated the roof of the cabin and hit the oxygen tank. Fortunately, it did not penetrate, otherwise an explosion accident is inevitable. And this shot, it’s quite obvious that he himself was too nervous so he went off the fire …

Sudden changes in New York left no refueling, and the plane had to go to nearby Bangor Airport in Maine to refill up to cross the Atlantic.

In the few contacts, the police also noticed that the crew was still relatively safe, so they abandoned the stupid strategy of storming. The hijacked plane was thus able to fill up in Bangor, fly to Shannon Airport in Ireland, and finally successfully arrive at Rome International Airport.

Interestingly, for the second half of the trip for nearly ten hours, Cook and Coman went to the first class to chat with Minichiello and found that he was actually an easygoing, polite and humorous person. Cook, who had served in the U.S. Air Force, told him about his military experience, and Miniciello told them what happened to him and why he wanted to return to Italy.

They even played cards in the first class – I don’t know how the two who risked their lives to take over the piloting of the plane would complain about everything in front of them if they looked back.

At 5 a.m. on November 1, after 18 and a half hours and 11,000 kilometers of sailing, all seven people successfully landed at Rome International Airport. Minichiello made one last request: a car, and an unarmed policeman.

The crew recalled that Miniciello, who was back in Rome at the time, acted like the host and asked them if they wanted to take his car to the local hotel to rest. Of course, everyone politely declined.

After apologizing to everyone for “causing you a lot of trouble,” he got off the plane with a gun, took new hostages and drove away. The longest hijacking of aircraft in history has finally come to an absurd.

There was also an unknown band on the hijacked plane, Harpers Bizarre, who became popular for a while

The crew was relieved, but the story of Miniciello and the Rome police was just beginning.

Driving about 6 miles from central Rome to his hometown of Naples, he managed to shake off the tracking of 4 police cars. But after many years of not returning, the road changed greatly, and finally he stopped at the end of a road that was too narrow to walk, let go of the hostages and left on foot.

Hundreds of police officers throughout Rome searched for 5 hours with countless police dogs, police cars, and helicopters, and finally successfully arrested him wearing only shorts and vests in a church.

Minichiello arrested

After his arrest, Italy had two options: extradite him back to the United States, where he could face the death penalty; Or directly accuse him.

Unexpectedly, after the news of this global hijacking spread in Italy, he quickly became a hero in the hearts of the Italian people. This is

The story of an Italian guy who returns to his home country at all costs

, not the incident in which gunmen with guns held hostage to the plane as determined by the United States.

Ultimately, an Italian court ruled not to extradite him back to the United States. He was tried solely for illegally bringing weapons and ammunition into Italian territory and was eventually sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment. However, his sentence was eventually reduced to only one and a half years, and he was released on May 1, 1971.

Minichiello on trial in Rome (far right)

On the day that Miniciello was released from prison, Italian journalists rushed to report, and more people who came to “chase stars” surrounded him.

However, after failing to enter the film and television industry, he also quickly returned to a peaceful life. Later, he became a bartender, married the boss’s daughter, and opened a pizzeria together, which was called “Hijacking”.

The day Minichiello was released from prison

However, the god of fate still seems to refuse to give him a peaceful ending. In 1985, his pregnant wife died along with the fetus in her womb due to medical malpractice.

Indignant, Minichello almost went down the extreme path of his youth – he obtained guns and ammunition on the black market and prepared to attack a medical convention in Rome as retaliation.

Fortunately, during his fundraising efforts, a colleague named Tony took advantage of his grief to evangelize him, eventually believing in God and canceling the horrific attack plan.

In fact, during the 1980 earthquake in southern Italy, he also drove to the disaster area three times in two weeks; After returning to the United States in 1999 to meet with old comrades-in-arms, he also organized an “apology meeting” in 2009 to reunite with the crew of that year.

Now, rumors have it that there is an account on YouTube called Raffaele Minichiello, on which an old man shares videos of himself playing accordion all day – the former hijacker himself.

Avatar of YouTube account Raffaele Minichiello

Time has passed, and the robbers and heroes of the past are getting old, and the authorities are no longer pursuing these old controversies.

But from Minichiello, we can clearly feel the variability of human nature.

Describing a person as a good person or a bad person is a one-sided act, but

How to establish a perfect and healthy social system to promote everyone to do good and not do evil is the most worthy of our consideration.

Lauren McMah. Heart-throb hijacker who took over TWA flight 85. November 16,2019

Khalid Elhassan. This Heartthrob Marine Became an Italian Folk Hero For Hijacking a Plane. History Collection. June 17,2019

Roland Hughes. The “longest and most embarrassing” hijacking case has not yet been heard. BBC News.29 October 2019

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