Tragedy

Tragedies and Tribulations

Ninety-five men died since the Lincoln Air Force base was reactivated in 1953 until the last aircraft crash November 22, 1964.


 

May 27, 1955

 

A B-47 in the process of landing at the base crashed on the runway during the early morning hour.  The accident occurred at 2:54 a.m.; a little more than two hours after the bomber took off for a night navigation training flight.

 

The crew of four escaped injury, but the aircraft suffered substantial damage.

 

This was the first crash at the base since its reactivation as the Lincoln Air Force Base.  It would be the first of many, the majority of which took the lives of the crew.

 

Crewmembers of this aircraft were:

Captain J.G. Kondsi, 27, of Eagle Pass, TX;

Pilot 1st Lt. E.A. Knight of Walla Walla, WA;

Navigator 1st Lt. J.A. Evans, 37, of Los Angeles, CA;

Air Engineer Airman 1st class E.F. Seagraves, 21 from Stanwood, WA.

 


 

December 3, 1955

 

Three Lincoln Air Force Base airmen were killed.  That’s all I have for the moment on this one.


 

 

December 19, 1955

 

An Air National Guard fighter plane crashes into parked aircraft.

 

Crash on Dec 19 1955

Figure 1  The remains of a Nave Neptune and Beech C-45, both from the Lincoln Naval Air Station.

navy fire

Figure 2  The resulting fire from the runaway plane.


 

April 5, 1956

  • 53-4209

Around 11:25 in the morning, a B-47 from the 307th Bomb Wing took off from the Air Base and headed in a northerly direction.  Approximately 15 minutes later, it exploded and burst into flames about 2000 feet in the air and crashed into the ground three miles south and ¾ miles east of Ceresco, NE.  The crew of four, one over the normal crew compliment, was killed.

The concussion from the blast was felt in Lincoln and Ceresco where windows were broken out in several establishments.  Debris from the crash was strewn over a wide area on the Martin Johnson farmstead.  Smoke billowing up could be seen for miles, drawing a large crowd of spectators.  The crewmen were thrown free of the wreckage and an open parachute from one of the crewmembers was found opened nearby.

Captain Leo Beers.jpg
Captain Leo Beers, standing near an engine pod, participated in the crash investigation.

This was the first fatal crash of a B-47 since the reactivation of the air base.

 

Those killed were:

 

2nd lt. Anthony C. Marcanti

1st  lt. Lawrence A. Schmidt

A1C James J. Berry, Crew Chief

4th person’s name was withheld


 

April 23, 1956

 

When other factors are added to training flights that already are fraught with danger, spring thunderstorms only augment the things that can and do go wrong.  Lucky for this crew, it wasn’t any worse.

On Monday, April 23, 1956, a B-47 was flying over Red Oak, IA, on a regular training mission.  There were thunderstorms in the area with frequent lightning and moderate to severe turbulence.  2nd Lt. Ragland, acting as pilot of the aircraft, heard a bump to the left and  looked out at one of  the jet engines that hang on the wings.  To his surprise, the left outboard engine, had fallen off.

The crew turned the aircraft towards the Lincoln Air Force Base and proceeded to head home.  After arriving back in Lincoln, the aircraft circled the airport for two hours, burning off fuel to lighten the load and decrease the chance of an explosion if something were to go wrong during landing.

Brig. Gen. Claude Putnam, 818th Air Division commander at the base, went to the control tower when informed of the mishap and was in contact with the plane during the time it circled the field.

However, the crew brought the plane in for a perfect landing and the six crash trucks and one ambulance were not needed this time.

The crew for this hapless mission was:

 

Major R. M. Murphy Jr., 40, of 1835 D Street

Capt. James A Carr of 4945 Colfax

1st Lt. Henry E. Thoenes

2nd Lt. R. E. Ragland

 

A base spokesman stated at the time that lightning might have struck the aircraft, causing the engine to come loose from the airframe.

 

A crew was sent to Red Oak to recover the engine, which fell to the ground about 50 feet from the local airport hangar, causing no damage.


 

May 2, 1956

 

A B-47 belonging to the 98th Bomb Wing crashed three miles short of the Northwest runway at  after departing on an evening training mission.   Eyewitnesses said the plane appeared to be trying to belly in for a landing, crashed, then exploded and burned.  The crash site was on farmland owned by Edmund Nelson, ½ mile west of 79 Hiway and 2 ½ miles north of U.S. 34.

Gayle Spath, whose father farmed ¼ mile southwest of the crash site, said the bomber bellied in, dug out a big hole, bounced, then exploded.  The plane hit in the knoll of a small hill, then plowed into the ground.  The wreckage was spread over several hundred yards.

Brig. Gen. Claude E. Putnam, commander of the Lincoln base, was at the scene.  Authorities immediately placed tight security measures about the area.

Crash equipment from lafb and Malcolm fire department were at the scene. The Malcolm dept. arrived first.

According to the base officials, the aircraft departed from the lafb at 8:15 p.m. for a 5 1/2 hour training mission.  It was not due to land until 1:45 a.m. Thursday.

 

Those killed were:

Captain Marion J. Perdue, age unknown.

Captain Charles H. Stonesifer, 34

2nd Lt. Linwood H. McIntosh, 21

  1. Sgt. William Rockholt, 24

 

Capt. Perdue, was featured in a nation-wide television salute March 23 1956 to Strategic Air Command on its 10th anniversary.  The cameras followed him at home with his three children, at the base, on the flight line, and in the air piloting his plane.


 

July 27, 1956

/B-47/Overseas Base, No. 7
A B-47 aircraft with no weapons aboard was on a routine training mission making a touch and go landing when the aircraft suddenly went out of control and slid off the runway, crashing into a storage igloo containing several nuclear weapons. The bombs did not burn or detonate. There were no contamination or cleanup problems. The damaged weapons and components were returned to the Atomic Energy Commission. The weapons that were involved were in storage configuration. No capsules of nuclear materials were in the weapons or present in the building.

CDI: The crash occurred at Lakenheath Royal Air Force Station, 20 miles northeast of Cambridge, England. The plane was part of the 307th Bombardment Wing and had recently come from Lincoln Air Force Base, Nebraska. As part of what was called “Operation Reflex,” B-47 bombers were regularly rotated, usually on a 90-day basis, to bases in the United Kingdom and North Africa. In the storage igloo were three Mark 6 nuclear bombs, each 12 feet long and 6 feet in diameter. Each bomb had about 8000 lbs. of TNT as part of its trigger mechanism. The blazing jet fuel did not ignite the TNT and was extinguished by the base fire fighters. The four crewmen were killed. “It is possible that a part of Eastern England would have become a desert” had the TNT exploded and showered radioactive materials over a wide area, said a now retired Air Force general who was in the U.K. at the time. “It was a combination of tremendous heroism, good fortune and the will of God,” said a former Air Force officer who was on the scene.

It is not clear when American nuclear weapons were first deployed to Europe. The process went through several stages. In early July 1950 President Truman approved forward bases in England. On December 6, 1950 President Truman endorsed the Joint Chiefs’ request that non-nuclear components of atomic bombs be stocked on board the aircraft carrier, USS Franklin Roosevelt, stationed in the Mediterranean.

 

From the Radioactive New Newsletter, it says “On July 27, 1956, A B-47 bomber crashed at Lakenheath Airbase(see other word document describing this town) in Suffolk, England.  While the bomber carried no nuclear weapons, it hit a concrete weapons storage bunker where four U.S. Mark VI nuclear bombs were stored.  In the collision, three of the bombs sustained damage that could have resulted in detonation.  In explaining the accident, General James Walsh, commanding officer of the 7th Air Division, told General Curtis LeMay, commander of the strategic air command, “ then the aircraft exploded, showering burning fuel over all, Crew perished.  Preliminary exam by a bomb disposal officer says it was a miracle that one Mark VI with exposed detonators sheared didn’t go.””

 

Another report from “http://prop1.org/2000/accident/facts1.htm” says, 13. 1956, 26th July – U.S.A., ENGLAND

An American B-47 with weapons aboard crashed into a storage igloo containing several nuclear weapons. The bombs did not burn or detonate.- (The Defense Monitor – Vol.X No.5 1981 Washington D.C. “The National Times. 15th March 1981). This air crash at a United States Air Force base could have turned the area into a nuclear “desert” according to new details that have emerged in the U.S. The crash, occurred when a B-47 bomber skidded on the runway after a flight from Nebraska and burst into flames. Blazing jet fumes gushed towards a shelter housing three nuclear bombs, each containing eight tonnes of T.N.T. and a quantity of uranium, according to the new details. Had the fire ignited the T.N.T. it is possible a part of eastern England could have become a desert, while the uranium could have exposed the area to contamination. (“The Age” 10th August 1981)

 

 

More on the 27 july crash.  27 July 1956 Lakenheath RAF Air Base

On Friday afternoon, Crew R-38 was involved in an aircraft accident in which all crewmembers were fatally injured.  On board were the following officers and A&E technician:  A/C Commander, Captain Russell R Bowling: Co-Pilot, 2/Lt. Carroll W. Kalberg; Observer, 1/Lt. Michael J. Selmo; A&E Technician, T/Sgt. John Ulrich.

 

Even more information on this crash from: http://www.keconnect.co.uk/~defcon/news.htm

On 27 July 1956 at 1439hrs A B47no 53-4230 Stratojet from Lincoln AFB Nebraska lost control and slid off the runway at Lakenheath straight into the Nuclear weapon store, containing three Mk 6 atomic weapons . Its fuel tanks exploded, killing the crew and ensuing fire enveloped a storage igloo containing several weapons Details of this incident were not released until 1979. Piloted by a Capt Russell R Bowling. co-pilot 2/Lt Carroll W Kalberg: Observer 1/Lt Michael J Selmo TSGT John Ulrich an A&E Technician. Total loss of plane 2.07m dollars Igloo Building destroyed no 162 cost 1.0 million dollars.

 

Capt. Bowling spent 11 months in the EuropeanTheater and flew 46 combat missions in B-26’s during WWII earning the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with seven clusters, and the Purple Heart and a good conduct medal.  He was a 1940 graduate of Hearne, TX high school, and was a city fireman before joining the USAAF.  He was also a Master Mason.

 

Capt. Bowling, 34 years old,  left a wife Mary, and their children, Robert L, 8, Rebecca Jean, 5.  They lived at 2820 So. 42nd Street.  His hometown was Gause, TX.

 

Lt. Kalberg was 26 was from Cokato, MN and lived at the bachelor Officers Quarters on the base.  His father, Oscar of Cokato, MN was his closest living relative at the time of his death.  He received the Good Conduct ribbon as well as the European Occupation National Defense ribbon.

 

Lt. Selmo was 25 and his wife’s name was Caryl Ann.  He was from St. Petersburg, FL.  His parents were Mr. And Mrs. Michael Selmo of St. Petersburg.

 

Sgt. Ulrich, 31, wife’s name Selma and child’s name was Charles, who was 6, lived at 1130 Judson.  He was from Baltimore, MD, where his parents still lived at the time of his death.  They were Mr. And Mrs. Francis V. Ulrich.  Sgt. Ulrich was the crew chief of the B-47.

Sgt. Ulrich served 20 months in the European theater during WWII as a radar mechanic and during the Korean War he spent 13 months on Okinawa as a radar inspector.  He received the Good Conduct ribbon.


 

August 6, 1956 Lincoln Naval Air Station Accident

Although not technically a part of the Lincoln Air Force Base, the Navy had a presence at the airport, known to them as the Lincoln Naval Air Station. They also had their share of crashes.

Around 9:20 p.m. on August 6, 1956, Lt. Billie R. Benge, 32, of Grant, NE, was on a routine night familiarization flight in an F9F-6 Cougar when he suffered from vertigo.  He was passing through a cloudbank at 20,000 feet with two other LNAS airplanes and as a result of  vertigo, bailed out, landing on the Ed Schultz farm about12 miles southeast of Grand Island, NE.

The plane had 2 ½ hours of fuel onboard when it dug a huge crater near Doniphan, NE.  The crash resulted in a fireball, reported by area residents.  The plane was not located until a day later when the hole was found after a search was conducted.

Lt. Benge’s only injury was a stiff neck.


 

Lincoln Air Force Base Airman Injured

 

Eight months prior to this crash, an airman suffered injuries when an ejection seat he was installing discharged, hitting him in the head.  Seaman Lococo was admitted to the Veterans Hospital with little chance of survival.  He suffered from a slight concussion, plus deep cuts on his face and neck, and across his lip and cheeks.  Surgery was required to repair his nose and open his airways.

 


 

October 10, 1956

 

During the late 1950’s, part of SAC’s mission was to ensure bomber wings could quickly move from one area of the world to another, to get closer to the enemy to substantially reduce the strike time.  Most of these TDY’s were conducted in England.  During October of 1956, Lakenheath England was one of these excursions.

 C-118

To operate a bomber squadron overseas in the 1950’s required a large amount of ground

crew and equipment.  The men and machinery made the trip compliments of the aircraft and crew of MAC, using C-118 Liftmasters.  Able to carry up to 69 men, the trip from England to Lincoln was made via the Azores, then either Westover Field, MA, or Maguire Field, NJ., then on to Lincoln. 

 

On October 10, 1956, one C-118 was making one such Atlantic crossing, heading towards the Azores.  On board were 59 men from the Air Force and Navy, 48 men and 2 officers assigned to the Lincoln Air Force Base, eager to get home to their loved ones.  Approximately 158 miles north of the Azores, the plane crashed.

 

Shortly after that, SOS signals were heard from passing commercial airliners, three owned by Pan American World Airways.  They were thought to emanate from the downed plane. 

 

Word soon reached Lincoln of the missing aircraft.  However, officials from the base didn’t believe any Lincoln personnel were aboard the plane due to the makeup of the passengers. 

 50 LAFB officers and airmen were killed when a C118 transport went down in the Atlantic Ocean while en route from England to the Azores.

The Lincoln paper reported the following on October 11.  Sea Search is Ordered For Aircraft

4-engine ship long overdue.  Carrying AF, Navy Men from England to U.S.

The plane, a DC6, or air force version C-118, was headed toward Westover Field, MA, or Maguire Field, NJ. At this time, the Lincoln air base officials didn’t think any Lincoln personnel were aboard.

October 12 Lincoln journal said 59 personnel were aboard the aircraft.  50 of the missing men, 48 enlisted and two officers, are from the LAFB.  SOS signals were heard from passing commercial airliners, thought to be from the missing airmen.  Three of the liners were owned by Pan American World airways.  A radio station at Lajes base heard the SOS signals too.

They were regular SOS signals and not signed.  It was unknown if they were from the missing men.  Throughout the day on Thursday, an armada of aircraft including giant jet bombers, crisscrossed the western Atlantic waters in search of the huge C-118 Liftmaster. The SOS signals were estimated to come from a point about 158 miles north of the Azores.  The journal article explains in great detail the amount of time that went into the search for the men.  They were never found.

 

Missing were:

Captain Robert W. Ryan, 37, Harrold, SD,

Captain Kenneth Edgar Goodroe, 34, Dallas, TX,

A1c Alton J. Gaines, 21,  Denver, CO

A2c Orest D. Giancola, 21, New Castle, PA

A2c Cloyse A. Hepler, 19, Chicago, IL

A1c Ronald L. King, 30,   North Platte,

A2c Robert Lada, 21,  Staten Island, NY

A1c Joseph D. Loontiens, 21, East Moline, IL

A2c Frank C. Williamson Jr., 20, Princeton, NE

A1c Earl F. Vasey, 22, Saginaw, MI

  1. Sgt. William Caisse, 35, Milford, NE

A2c Conrad J. Buchler, 20. Waterville, OH

A2c Gene O. Godfrey, 20, Mineral Point, WI

A2c Albert L. Beard, 21, Filmore, CA

A2c Edmund R. DeWolf, 20, Brighton, MA

A2c John F. Desanto, 21, Euclid, OH

A2c Eugene D. Gruenberg, 23, Polar, WI

A3c Gerald A. Hummel, 20, Cobleskill, NY

A1c Richard K. Hunter, 21, Tyrone, PA

A3c Robert H. Lipina, 18, Cleveland, OH

A2c George R. Luce, 19, Port Alleghany, PA

A1c Robert C. Urban, 24, Silver Lake, MN

A2c James B. Whitlock, 19, Chicago, IL

A2c Lyle C. Giberson, 21, McPherson, KS

A2c William R. Rae, 20, Taylorville, IL

A2c Leonard J. Roman, 20, Nantilcoke, PA

A1c Michael E. Macedonia, 24, Claremore, OK

A2c Stanley Oscar, 20, Chicago, IL

A2c James L. Schorr, 19, Keokuk, IA

A2c Henry J. Schuver, 20, Alton, IA

A3c Robert D. Spurting, 19, Fonda, IA

A3c Earl E. Tanner, 18, Dee Branch, AR

A3c Bruce R. Stewart, 19, Manchester, TN

A2c Herbert A Banks, 21, of Chicago, IL

A2c Billy B Grogan, 22, Flora, IL

A3c Willie B Ferguson, 19, Altonna, AL

A3c Ronald L. Gardner, Troy, KS

A3c Lee R. Kane, 18, Boyertown, PA

A3c Sherman W. Lock, 21, Elkhart, IN

M Sgt. Thomas L Decota, 30, Baraga, MI

A2c Raymond Drake, 22, Ladonia, TX

A3c Charles W. Hannah, 18, Crockett, TX

A2c Dale R. Brockman, 27, S.Chicago Heights, IL

A1c Lloyd D. Harding, 23, Cavalier, ND

A2c Ralph M. Pacelli Jr, 21, Schenectady, NY

A3c Donald L. Reynolds, 20, San Diego, CA

A3c Aberlardo Silder Jr., 20, Brownsville, TX


 

November 17, 1956

  • 53-4235

 A Nebraska Air National Guard F-80 fighter plane performing touch and go’s at the Lincoln Air Force Base at around 6:12 p.m. mistook the ramp area for the runway and crashed into two B-47 bombers before coming to a stop.  2nd Lt. Robert L. Young, the pilot of the F-80, was killed instantly as well as two airmen, A1C John Lawrence Delancey, 21, of Chicago, IL and A2C Donald Russell Price, 20 of Easton, PA, the crew chief and asst. crew chief of the first B-47 he hit.  Both were working inside the aircraft when the accident occurred.

runway diagram crash

 

 Seven other men were also injured.  One of those, A2C Leo J. Streicher of Patterson, NJ, was in fair condition at the Lincoln Veterans Administration Hospital with burns over 35% of his body.  The other injured airmen were:

1st Sgt. Ralph Paff

A1C Roger Fred Smith

A2C Melvin Werschky

A2C Pasquale Palma Jr.

A1C Louis Silva

A2C Charles Clayton

Palma, Silva and Clayton suffered burns while fighting the fire.  The others were injured in the crash.

B-47 that hit F-80.jpg

Figure 4 Remains of one of the B-47’s hit by the F-80.

The fighter plane was landing in a southerly direction.  Several other B-47’s parked along the flight line were removed to prevent further fires.  The two damaged B-47’s were carrying live ammunition, which added to the dangers of fighting the fire.  Several witnesses said they saw tracers from the ammunition going off.

remains of F-80 Lt Young

Figure 5  The remains of the F-80 can be seen in front of  what remains of the B-47 left wing and engine pod.

Lt. Young was buried the following Wednesday in Lincoln Memorial Park.


 

April 5, 1957

 

A B-47 from the 98th Bomb Wing burned after making a crash landing at the base. No one was injured.

Witnesses say the landing was normal until a crosswind came up and blew the airplane off the runway.  A wing dug into the ground and spun the aircraft around.  It ended up on the tarmac between the Navy hangar and the Air National Guard hangar.

The pilot released the canopy which exploded off the airplane, allowing the crewmembers a quick escape route.

This crash marked the one-year anniversary of the crash that killed 4 air base men a year ago.

It is interesting to note that Captain Stevenson participated in a bowling tournament the night of the crash!

 

The crew was:

 

Capt. Lyle F. Knight, 34

Capt. Robert L. Stevenson

Major George W. Leggat

1st Lt. Gerald A. Danko, Observer

 


 

December 13, 1957

Three LAFB men were killed when a B-47 crashed while attempting an emergency landing at Duluth, MN Municipal Airport. Three of the jets six engines, all on one side, were reported out.

The crew was identified as:

 

Maj. William F. Gardner, 37, of 3440 Otoe, the B-47’s Commander.

Captain Bryon H. Blackmore, 35, of 2001 Morningside, Navigator.

Capt. William A. Baldwin, Jr, 37 of 931 Mulder Drive, Pilot.

 

The crippled plane crashed and exploded in a brilliant fireball near the Duluth airport, seconds after reporting three of its engines not functioning.  It stalled as it was turning for an emergency landing and plunged from a height of about 200 feet into brush land a half mile north east of the air national guard headquarters.

 

Officials from the Lincoln Air Force Base said the B-47 was on a routine training mission, a round robin flight, in which the plane covers a certain course but makes no landings before return to home base.  Duluth was not on the planes course.

 

All three crewmen were married and had at least one child.

 

Air National Guard Crash

 

The Nebraska Air National Guard had its share of accidents, too.  A T-33 jet trainer from the 173rd fighter-interceptor squadron crashed on this day after departing the airbase and flying to Oakland, CA.  1st. Lt. Richard Thomason and 2nd Lt. William R. Reinders, both of Lincoln, escaped injury.

 


 

February 18, 1958

A B-47 jettisoned both fuel tanks following a heavy weight takeoff and #2 and #3 engine fire

indicators illuminated and overheat wing indicator came on. One tank hit the Aero Repair

hangar and the other struck a 98th BW B-47, 53-6204 being pre-flighted. Killed were the

crew chief and an A&E technician. Clive D. Wilson A2C, was injured.
April 24, 1958

Two Lincoln Air Force Base men were killed in a B-47 crash at Goose Bay, Labrador.  The plane was from the 345th Bomb Squadron of the 98th Bomb Wing.  It was taking off from Goose Air Force Base and was headed to Lincoln.

 

The Lincoln star says:

2 lafb officers killed, 1 injured, as b47 hits ice covered goose bay.

 

The crash happened at goose bay, Labrador at 11: 20 p.m. CST Thursday.  The two crewmen were identified as:

 

1st Lt. Benjamin C. Iglaure, 27, of Baltimore, MD.  the pilot.

1st Lt. Thomas H. Opsomer, 30, 3355 S. 38th Street, Lincoln, the navigator.

 

Major Ivan, C. Henry Jr, 36, of 3321 Pawnee, Lincoln, the aircraft commander, survived the crash.

 

The plane was from the 98th bomb wing, 345th bomb squadron and was bound for Lincoln after taking off from Goose Air Force Base.  It crashed 3 to 3 1/2 miles from the goose air base.

 

Capt. Calvin W. Jackson of Salt Lake City, UT, of the 54th Air Rescue squadron, picked up major Henry immediately after the accident.  The bodies of the other crewmen were found in the wreckage later.

 

Lt. Opsomer, a native of Kawkawlin, MI, is survived by his wife, Edna.  Lt. Iglaure is survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Iglaure of Baltimore.  Major Henry, of LaMesa, CA, lives in Lincoln with his wife Nora, and a son, Lee, 10.  He was reported in good condition.  He received minor second-degree burns around his head, Lafb officials said.

 


 

October 8, 1959

  • 51-5248

Many of the flights out of the Lincoln Air Base were routine training flights.  Some of these round-robins included 4 crewmembers instead of the standard compliment of three.  1st. Lt. Robert B. Kelly, the regular co-pilot for the training flight this morning, stayed behind to make room for Maj. Ecelbarger and Capt. Nowlin, instructors for the B-47.  He would have had no idea this might have been his last flight.

October 8 1959 drawing

The flight was to include a jet assist takeoff, or JATO launch, where propellant bottles were attached to the rear of the bomber which, when fired, allowed the big bomber to get airborne quicker.

At around 11:44 a.m., the flight was cleared for takeoff and rolled on to runway 35.  That was the last transmission between the tower and the B-47 crews.  After advancing the throttles and igniting the JATO, the plane roared down the runway and began to lift off.

About 100 feet off the ground and 8,000 feet down the 12,900-foot runway, something went wrong. The airplane plummeted to earth, exploding into flames as it hit the runway, just to the right of the runway centerline, scattering the wreckage over an area approximately 2000 feet long and 50 feet wide.

1st Lt. Joseph R. Morrissey Jr., 27, the aircraft commander was at the controls of the plane when it crashed.  He was killed along with Major Paul R. Ecelbarger, 39, commander of the 371st Bomb Squadron at the air base, who was along as an instructor pilot.  Captain Theodore Tallmadge, 27, navigator, and Captain Lucian W. Nowlin, 41, instructor-navigator.

Northwest winds drifted the billowing black smoke from the crash over west Lincoln and was seen for miles around.  Fourteen crash rigs and fire trucks fought the stubborn blaze with foam.  The plane was a total loss. The runway was closed until around 3 p.m. while debris was removed.  The bodies of the four airmen were located and recovered from the wreckage.

Found amongst the twisted metal were several strands of chaff, which the B-47 carried to foil enemy radar.

October 1959 Crash site.jpg

Figure 6  Remains of 15248 shortly after the crash


 

April 15, 1960

52-0919

24 airmen escaped with their lives when a KC-97 air refueling tanker crashed and burned on take-off at the base.  The only casualties were two airmen who suffered leg fractures and 5 others who suffered minor cuts and burns.

Crash Investigation Report:  On a northbound takeoff, the KC-97G lost directional control. The nose gear collapsed as the plane skidded off the runway into a refueling pit, where it was destroyed by fire.  The aircraft was headed to March AFB, California.

The crash occurred at 9:51 a.m. as the gear of the plane reportedly collapsed while taking off on a training flight, heading to March AFB, Riverside, CA.  The big tanker was a total loss, destroyed by the ensuing fire.

52-0919 crash.jpg

Figure 7  The remains of the tanker still burning.

Those requiring hospitalization were:

Staff Sgt. Annas S. Thompson, 26

A1C Edward M. Sennett, 23

The five who were injured :

Major Walter A. Arrington, M. Sgt. Robert L. Chapin, 38, T. Sgt. Robert W.  Watson, 37 A2C Lawrence E. Newton, 424 No. 25th

1st Lt. Ronald L. Munn, 24

 

Others on board besides the crew were:

1st Lt. Berthold Muecke, 24

A2C Eugene C. Shelton

A1C Melvin R. Furgeson, 21

A2C Charles W. Samples, 21

A2C Lloyd C. Bray, 20

A1C Darr E. Martner, 24

A2C Clyde E. Rufener, 26

A3C Nroman S. Rydwell, 19

A2C Howard A Betts, 20

A2C Ronald H Ragland, 20

Staff Sgt. James E. Briggs, 30

A2C Walt Coburn, 21

A2C Raymond A. Nelson, 19

 

The crew was:

1st Lt. William E. Novetzke, pilot,

Capt. Thomas L. Hedge of 1825 Connie Rod, aircraft commander

1st Lt. Thomas G. Artman, navigator

A2C Wilbert T. Heath, the boom operator

 52-0919 crash 2.jpg

Figure 8  The KC-97 still smoldering after the crash.  Tail number is 52-0919.


 

August 24, 1960

A Strategic Air Command Aero Club airplane crashed.

aeroplane club crash.jpg

Figure 9  Crash scene of the SAC Aero Club airplane.


 

September ??, 1960

Aircraft 53-2139 caught fire…..that’s all I have on this one.


 

June 18, 1961

The Lincoln star reported that three air force crewmen were killed and one survived when a B-47 from the Lincoln air force base exploded on takeoff.  The jet bomber burst into flames at around 9:30 p.m., a witness said.

 

Base officials said the one survivor of the round robin training mission escaped injury and was under observation at a local hospital.

 

The airmen were from the 424th Bomb squadron of the 307th Bomb wing.  Officials said the crash occurred at the south end of the north-south runway, and it was reported that the plane struck about 150 yards south of the south end of the runway, just south of Oak Creek.  The crash site was just off air force property.   Most witnesses said the plane was off the ground when it exploded.  A middle-aged couple attending the local drive in theater claimed that a mellow thud could be heard at the time of the crash.  Flames were spotted as far south at Bennet and as far north as Ceresco.  No comment of the type of weapons it was carrying was made.

June 18 1960 crash.jpg

Figure 10  Base personnel looking over the wreckage.

The next day edition of the newspaper reported the dead as:

Capt. Russell E. Holst, 33, aircraft commander;

Capt. Albert Marinich of Uniontown, PA

Capt. Allan H. Matson of Portland, OR

The lone survivor, 1st. Lt. Thomas Wesner, co-pilot, lived at 400 South 47th Street at the time with his wife, Nadine.  He survived because he ejected from the bomber.  The opened chute and ejection seat was found 250 yards from the crash.  Officials say the chute opened just before he hit the ground.  Lt. Wesner called his wife before she heard of the crash.  He reportedly walked away from the crash scene without help.

 



November 15, 1961

During the evening hours of November 15, 1961, a B-47 on a regular training flight out of the Lincoln Air Force Base during a blinding rainstorm crashed, killing all four crew members.

Killed were:

Captain Richard Davison, 33 years old, Pilot,

1st Lt. William J. Holley, 25 years old, Navigator,

Captain Lee A. Thorin, 25 years old, and instructor-navigator

Captain Dick L. Foster, 28 years old,

 

The tower reported a normal takeoff as the bomber entered the overcast skies.  A few minutes later, at 7:11 p.m., Lincoln resident Claude Haught saw the fireball.  Mr. Haught reported seeing the airplane flying low and to the north and continued to watch as the landing lights turned on.  He watched it go down in a blinding explosion from his advantage point about two miles away.

 

The crash was ½ mile east of route 79 to Malcolm, and a mile north of Route 34, or about 2 miles north of the base.  It took 5 hours to find the missing crewmen due to the weather and darkness.

 


 

July 19, 1962

  • 53-4218

B-47 lands at Des Moines in a thunderstorm.  Major Art Stokes elected to land at Des Moines, IA.  The primary runway was under construction at the time.  The overrun area had been excavated and there was a 24″ lip at the end of the paved runway.  The aft landing gear caught the lip and was torn off.  The B-47 slid about 3,000′ down the runway before coming to a stop and catching fire.  The crew escaped.  The aircraft was salvaged and trucked back to Lincoln AFB. Source is Cold War Cornhuskers by Mike Hill.


 

January 11, 1963

  • 53-2097

Capt. P.L. Pudwill, 29, of Detroit Lakes, MN, died in the crash of a B-47 near Wichita, KS after taking off from McConnell Air Force Base.  It was apparently turning back for an emergency landing when it crashed across four lanes of U.S. 54 hi way, east of town. The two other crewmen ejected and landed safely.  Capt. Pudwill was found still strapped into his ejection seat after the fire had burned out.  The crash happened during the evening hours.

The two crewmen were in good condition at the base hospital in Wichita. They were Lt. F. J. Medrick, 26, copilot of 205 So. 27th Street, Lincoln, and Capt. H.T. Jones, 34, of 6466 Walker Drive, LAFB.

The 307th Bomb Wing aircraft was diverted to McConnell because of bad weather during its training mission.  The plane apparently exploded after beginning to circle back to land.

Witnesses John and Jimmy Hulse told AFB officials they heard the plane explode directly over them.  They reported that the engines were roaring at full power at that time.  Both these individuals found the two crewmembers that parachuted to safety and delivered them to McConnell.

Near Wichita, KS according to the February 21, 1963 Journal Star article on the Feb. 21 crash.  Says one man died in this crash.

Capt. Pudwill was married and had 5 children.  Shirley, his wife and children Kathy, Denise, Anthony, Timothy, and Dominic.


 

February 3, 1963

  • 53-2134 City of Lincoln

According to the Journal star article on Feb. 21, 1963, this one occurred at Greenham Common in England and killed one person.

B-47 was landing in a snowstorm in Greenham Common. Pilot attempted a go around and #6 engine failed to accelerate. Co-Pilot Captain Richard C. West decided to eject, but his seat malfunctioned and he died later in the base hospital.  Captain Paul Canny (AC), Lt. Don Hickman (NAV), and SSgt Bobby Odom survived.


 

February 20th, 1963

Four men from the base were killed after their B-47 bomber crashed on a farm hillside in southern Minnesota around 2:15 p.m.  Two bodies were found near the aircraft with their chutes opened, indicating that they had attempted to bail out of the bomber.  A nearby resident, who saw the plane crash, raced to the aid of one of the dead airmen whose open parachute was dragging him across a frozen field. It appears there were problems before the crash as one of the crewmembers bailed out and was found 20 miles to the southeast of the crash site.  The Lt. Col. Ledbetter was located days later near the crash site.

The B-47 was conducting a low-level training mission at about 500′ to a radar bomb scoring site near Heron Lake. The impact of the bomber left a twenty foot deep, fifty foot wide crater on a nearby farm. One of the six engines from the bomber was found one and a half miles from the crash site.  Douglas Wall, an eyewitness to the crash, said the aircraft was flying at a forty five degree angle to the ground with all four engines spewing black smoke.  He estimated the airplane to be flying at 800 to 1000 feet when the nose of the bomber suddenly dropped and crashed in a straight down attitude.

February 20 1963 crash.jpg

Killed in the crash were:

Captain Donald L. Livingston, 31

1st  Lt. Thomas Joseph Hallgarth, 22

Lt. Col. Lamar Edward Ledbetter, 41

1st Lt. Michael Richard Rebmann, 23

 

Three Civil Air Patrol airplanes and 100 members of the Minnesota ANG Wing participated in the search and rescue operation at the crash site, four miles Northwest of Comfrey, MN, earning the wing the Unit Citation Ribbon, which the unit wears proudly today.

It was the efforts of all the Minnesota Wing HQ members at the time, who earned the unit citation award as a permanent award. Those who join Minnesota Wing after the fact are allowed to wear the ribbon as long as they are members of the Wing. If a member transfers out of Minnesota Wing – the unit citation ribbon comes off.

Anyone wing member who wears the ribbon is fair game to be questioned by the wing commander and others as to how he earned that right. It is worn to honor those who worked in the freezing temperatures back in 1963 and to remind everyone the history behind the honor.


 

March 7, 1963

  • 53-4226

Major N.V. Meeks, 40, of the 372nd Bomb Squadron, 307th Bomb Wing died in a B-47 crash after staying at the controls long enough for his crew to bail out safely.  He is credited with sacrificing himself to save the lives of his crew by staying with the aircraft long enough for his crew to bail out.  The bomber crashed into a hillside southeast of Raymond, NE.  Meeks was found still strapped in his ejection seat in a cornfield almost a mile from the main crash site.

Major Jim Meeks was killed when his lap belt failed to open because a gas port was not drilled when it was manufactured.  He experienced a fire on the aft fuselage during an “JATO”, or Jet Assist Take Off.  He was known to his squadron friends as “Soldier Meeks”(because he joined the service as an enlisted man), and to the crew chiefs as “Tiger Jim Meeks” for his salty conversation during preflight.

The three others on board parachuted to safety and taken to the base hospital.  They were:

1st Lt. Larry Talovich, 27, of 3300 No. 56th whose hometown is Thermopolis, WY.  He was the co-pilot.

Capt. Clifford Dale Cork, 29, of 4244 Hamilton, the navigator and a native of Springview, NE.

Capt. Arthur v. Ingle, 30, of 1200 Scenic Lane, a Methuen MA native.

 

Major Meeks lived at 300 Bruce Drive, and was survived by his wife Ruth and 3 daughters, Barbara Jean, who was nine at the time, Terry Leigh, who was three, Elizabeth Ann, was two.

Air Force officials said the tail of the plane was on fire as it left the runway, and that the pilot gained enough altitude to allow others to parachute.  Apparently the plane was not high enough to allow the major to bail out.  Witnesses said the pilot appeared to stay with the plane until it was clear of some houses.  Mrs. Pauline Lindholm said the burning wreckage was too close for comfort and felt he may have stayed with the plane to avoid hitting houses.  The burning plane was on the mind of the survivors too, as one of the men parachuting landed in the yard of farmer Robert Flader.  “The first thing he wanted to know was did we hit a house?”.  Clarence Jacobsen who farmed nearby said he saw the three men eject and the parachutes open, but when Maj. Meeks ejected, his chute didn’t open.  He saw the plane’s tail on fire in the air before they ejected.  Capt. Ingle’s chute became entangled in trees and a fence when he landed, but he was able to free himself and came running to Cork’s aid, who was dragged almost a half mile through a plowed field as the wind blew his parachute before Cook and Hopkins were able to reach him, Cook said.

Major Meeks entered service on July 4, 1940 as an enlisted man.  During WWII, he logged 492 hours of combat and flew 92 combat missions in the B-24.  He was commissioned in 1944.

Services were at noon the following Monday at the base chapel.

The crew said he stayed with the plane to gain enough altitude for all to bail out.   Capt. Cork said the plane was 800 feet above the ground when the jump signal was given.  Minimum safe altitude is 400 feet

Capt. Ingle who as an extra crewmember didn’t have an ejection seat, went out the entrance door near his feet.  “  I just opened the door and went out.  The ground looked close.  I didn’t know the altitude.  I pulled my chute and floated down some.”

Capt. Ingle said Maj. Meeks conduct was very professional.  “I have nothing but admiration for what he did for us.”

Major Meeks crew was a select crew, one of the top 20% of all SAC crews according to Lt. Col. Thomas H. Powell, deputy commander for operations.



June 3, 1964

53-2363

An alert control tower officer plus a calm three man crew of a B-47 worked together to avert a tragedy at the base when the control tower officer noticed the plane was not functioning properly as it taxied down the runway on a routine training flight around 2:42 a.m.   The aircraft commander then noticed a small fire in the number 3 engine.  McMath stopped the plane after he noticed the fire, which was proceeded by a small explosion in the same engine.

 

The crewmen escaped the airplane through the belly escape hatch, but the plane and its 16,000 gallons of fuel were destroyed by the fire.

 

Crewmembers were:

Capt. Leroy McMath, 35, aircraft commander

Capt. Stanley C. Toney, 29, co-pilot

Capt. Thomas L. Package, 25, navigator

 53-2363 crash.jpg

Figure 11  Remains of 32363 smolder shortly after the crew escaped on June 3, 1964.



June 9, 1964

52-6110?

A U-6 aircraft from the base was returning from a routine flight to a missile site when its generator burned out and filled the cockpit with smoke.  The pilot, Maj. Arthur W. Rasco of the 818th CSG and his passenger, Col. Herbert Hamilton, commander of the 307th Air Force Recruiting Group, made a precautionary landing in a soggy, muddy fieldnear Burlington Ave and South St.  It traveled approximately 250 yards before coming to a complete stop.  There was no damage to the plane.

 

State game warden Joe Splichal saw the plane land and took the two officers to the Walt Meyer farm nearby.

Currently registered as N311NR.

U6A june 9 1964.jpg

Figure 12  Air Force Base personnel look over the U-6 that landed in a field south of the airbase.

 



July 27, 1964

  • 53-2366

At approximately 8:10 a.m., a B-47 crashed on takeoff at the south end of the runway.  The flight was a training flight, where Maj. Sakry was to evaluate the abilities of the navigator, Lt. Murphy. The 90,000 pounds of jet fuel on board caught fire, burning the airplane, the trapped crew inside, and the surrounding farmland.  Air Base firemen fought the fire and intense heat with water and foam.

 

July 27 1964.jpgFigure 13  The large hole dug by the bomber can be seen in this  picture, still smoldering.

Those killed were:

Capt. Thomas E. Sutton 32, of 5045 Colfax

C-Pilot 1st Lt. David C. William, 28Navigator 1st Lt. Terrance P. Murphy, 26

Navigator/Evaluator Maj. John Sakry, 33

July 27 1964 photo 2.jpg

Figure 14  Picture showing the crash site of July 27, 1964.


 

November 22, 1964

52-6108 verified by Marion Brown and the USAF

Click the date above to get the full accident report.

Six Lincoln Air Force Base Airmen were killed near Nebraska City, NE when their U-6A transport plane crashed and burned in a field.  The crash occurred 2 miles west and 1 mile south of the city.  The plane was on a routine support mission to the 551st SMS Atlas site number 4, located five miles west of town.  The crew had just completed a 24 hour tour of duty and were on their way back to the Air Base.

november 22 1964 U6A crash.png

Figure 15  Approximate site of the November 22 crash.

The plane was reported to have hit an 80’ power pole in the area, traveled another 200 to 300 yards, struck the ground and stopped.  The bodies of the crew were found six to eight feet from the wreckage, their bodies burned due to the searing fire caused by the airplane fuel.

This was the last crash associated with Lincoln Air Force Base aircraft or personnel.

The historical maker erected at the site reads:

U.S. Air Force Atlas Missile Site

The Atlas-F ICBM (operational 1961-65) was an important component of national defense during the Cold War. Twelve Atlas sites, one located half a mile west, were manned by the 551st Strategic Missile Squadron, Lincoln Air Force Base.

On November 22, 1964, a crew from this site died in a plane crash a mile south of here. The victims were Maj. Lee Craft, 1st Lt. Chester Higgenbotham, S/Sgt. Harold Hrenchir, A/1C Donald Moore, A/2C David Theriot, and pilot Maj. Robert Wilson.

S/Sgt Rudy D. Burd
Nebraska State Historical Society
Nebraska City Power Partners,   2009
225 N 56th RD, Nebraska City
Otoe County
Marker 468

Those killed from the 551st SMS:

  • Maj. Lee J. Craft, 40, of 5626 Walker Drive
  • 1st Lt. Chester E. Higgenbotham, 32, 2634 N. 63rd
  • Sgt. Harold L. Hrenchir, 33, Raymond, NE
  • A.1c Donald W. More, 23, 505 N. 24th
  • A.2c David R. Theriot, 23

 

Killed from the 818th CSG:

  • Pilot, Maj. Robert E. Wilson, 6211 Newton St.

Missile silo nebr.jpg

  • 52-6108 crash photo 1.jpg

Figure 16  What remained of the utility airplanes wings.

52-6108 crash photo 2.jpg

Figure 17  The remains of the engine and propeller.

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