Mac’s Facts no. 46 (B52 Combat Losses/Operational Losses in Vietnam)
November 12, 2010
B-52Ds, B-52Fs, and B-52Gs flew combat missions in South East Asia. B-52Ds and B-52Gs flew the Linebacker II missions into Route Pack Five and Six, December 1972.
This document was done to clear up some confusion as to the names of crewmembers of ten B52s lost over North Vietnam and sixteen B52s lost in other locations. I have not had the opportunity to read other excellent source books, Linebacker II: A View From the Rock by McCarthy. The internet address to read this book on line is:
Linebacker -The Untold Story of the Air Raids Over North Vietnam by Karl J. Eschmann. 11 Days of Christmas by Marshall L. Mitchel, III, published 2002, B-52s Over Hanoi by James McCarthy, and Boeing’s Cold War Warrior: B-52 Stratofortress by Robt. F. Dorr & Lindsay Peacock, published 1995. Another great reference is Boeing B-52 by Walter Boyne, published in 1981, updated in 1994. Additional Linebacker books are listed on Amazon.com. This document should supplement these and future publications. This document uses the “official” shoot down dates as recorded by the U.S. Defense Department. For example, Cobalt 1 was shot down over Hanoi at 0003 local time on 12-28-72. Other researchers fix the shoot down date as 12-27-72, the date the a/c took off from its home base. (A flight could take eight hours just getting to the target). I will use 12-28-72, the official Department of Defense date. Ranks shown are the ranks at the time of shoot down. Other valuable sources of information come from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base/Air Force Museum timeline of B-52 operations and Mr. Buck Rigg at 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base.
Call sign Model Date Base Crewmember Position Status
Charcoal 1 B52G 12-18-72 Andersen LtCol Donald Rissi Pilot NR
No. 58-0201 1stLt Robert Thomas Co-Pilot NR
Linebacker II, near Maj Richard Johnson Radar/Nav RR
Yen Vien Capt Robert Certain Navigator RR
Capt Richard Simpson EWO RR
E7 Walter Ferguson Gunner NR
Rose 1 B52D 12-19-72 U-Tapao Capt Hal Wilson Pilot RR
No. 56-0608 Capt Charles Brown Co-Pilot RR
Near Hanoi Maj Fernando Alexander R/Nav RR
Capt Richard Cooper Nav NR
Capt Henry Barrows EWO RR
E6 Charlie Poole Gunner NR
Orange 3 B52D 12-20-72 U-Tapao Maj John Stuart Pilot XX
No. 56-0622 1stLt Paul Granger Co-Pilot RR
Yen Vien Maj Randolph Perry R/Nav XX
Capt Thomas Klomann Nav RR
Capt Irwin Lerner EWO XX
E7 Arthur McLaughlin Gunner XX
Quilt 3 B52G 12-20-72 Andersen Capt Terry Geloneck Pilot RR
No. 57-6496 1stLt William Arcuri Co-Pilot RR
Yen Vien Capt Warren Spencer R/Nav NR
1stLt Michael Martini Nav RR
Capt Craig Paul EWO NR
E5 Roy Madden Gunner RR
Olive 1 B52G 12-21-72 Andersen LtCol Keith Heggen Air Cdr KR
No. 58-0198 LtCol James Nagahiro Pilot RR
Kinh No Capt Donovan Walters Co-Pilot NR
Maj Edward Johnson R/Nav NR
Capt Lynn Beens Nav RR
Capt Robert Lynn EWO NR
E3 Charles Bebus Gunner NR
Blue 1 B52D 12-22-72 U-Tapao LtCol John Yuill Pilot RR
No. 55-0050 Capt Dave Drummond Co-Pilot RR
Bach Mai LtCol Lou Bernasconi R/Nav RR
1stLt William Mayall Nav RR
LtCol William Conlee EWO RR
E5 Gary Morgan Gunner RR
Tan 3 B52G 12-21-72 Andersen Capt Randall Craddock Pilot NR
No. 58-0169 Capt George Lockhart Co-Pilot NR
Kinh No Maj Bobby Kirby R/Nav NR
1stLt Charles Darr Nav NR
Capt Ronald Perry EWO NR
E5 James Lollar Gunner RR
Scarlet 1/3 B52D 12-22-72 U-Tapao Capt Peter Giroux Pilot RR
No.55-0061 Capt Thomas Bennett Co-Pilot XX
Bach Mai LtCol Gerald Alley R/Nav NR
1stLt Joseph Copack Nav NR
Capt Peter Camerota EWO RR
MSgt Louis LeBlanc Gunner RR
Ebony 2 B52D 12-26-72 U-Tapao Capt Robert Morris Pilot NR
No. 56-0674 1stLt Robert Hudson Co-Pilot RR
Giap Nhi Capt Michael LaBeau R/Nav RR
1stLt Duane Vavroch Nav RR
Capt Nutter Wimbrow EWO NR
TSgt James Cook Gunner RR
Cobalt 2/1 B52D 12-28-72 Andersen Capt Frank Lewis Pilot RR
No. 56-0605 Capt Samuel Cusimano Co-Pilot RR
Trung Quan Maj James Condon R/Nav RR
1stLt Bennie Fryer Nav NR
Maj Allen Johnson EWO NR
MSgt James Gough Gunner RR
Personnel data is from Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Office Reference Document “U.S. Personnel Missing, Southeast Asia (and Selected Foreign Nationals) (U) dated Dec 2005. Crew positions are determined from direct testimony from the returned POWs. Ranks for the Gunners are: E3=Airman 1/c; E4=Senior Airman; E5=SSgt; E6=TSgt; E7=MSgt. Air Cdr=Airborne Commander.
Status codes: KR…Died in Captivity, negotiated remains returned, 3-13-74.
XX…Presumptive finding of death. Remains still unaccounted for.
NR…Negotiated remains returned. Dates of return in our records.
RR…Returnee (POWs). Dates of return in our records.
A total of 10 B-52s went down inside the borders of North Vietnam. 61 total crewmembers. 33 survivors became POWs and were released at the end of the war. 28 of the downed 61 warriors perished. (Information is listed above).
Sixteen other B52s went down outside of North Vietnam. Nine were due to combat. Seven were “operational losses,” which occurred while B52s were enroute to combat areas in Vietnam. (Information listed below).
Olive 2 B52D 11-22-72 U-Tapao SA2 damage at Vinh. Crashed near NKP. Lost 4 engines on one side. 6 crewmen bailed out/recovered. No. 55-0110.
P- N.J. Ostozny; C/P- Tony Foley; RN- Bud Rech; N- Bob Estes; EWO- Larry Stephens; G- Ronald W. Sellers. (1st combat loss of a B52 due to enemy action)
Peach 2 B52G 12-18-72 Andersen Crew bailed out/rescued over Thailand. Hit near Kinh No. Some records say 12-19. No. 58-0246. (Combat loss, 2).
Brass 2 B52G 12-20-72 Andersen Crew bailed out/rescued over Thailand. Hit near Yen Vien. No. 57-6481. (Combat loss, 3).
Straw 2 B52D 12-21-72 Andersen Crew bailed out over Laos. R/N Maj Frank Gould not recovered. Status XX. Other crewmembers recovered.
No. 56-0669. (Combat loss, 4).
Ash 1 B52D 12-26-72 U-Tapao Hit at Kinh No. Crashed at U-Tapao. Attempted go-around with 4 engines out on same side. 4 KIA. CP, 1st Lt Bob Hymel & Gunner, TSgt Spencer Grippen were rescued. No. 56-0584. The A/C made a determination that they should bailout before the crash, but since the gunner was wounded and they felt he might not be able to physically execute the bailout, they decided as a crew to try and bring the plane in. Ironically, the only survivors of the crash were the C/P and the wounded gunner. In addition, the C/P would not have survived had he not been rescued by a crewmember from another BUF who watched the crash, and rushed into the wreck to pull the C/P out before the plane burned up. Lord, that we could have more men like these. September 11, 2001, Lt Col Hymel, Retired, was sitting at his desk as a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst in the Pentagon. He was one of the thousands of Americans killed that day. (Combat loss, 5).
Ash 2 B52D 12-27-72 U-Tapao No. 56-0599. Bailed out over Laos/Thailand. Crew was from 28th BW, Ellsworth AFB, SD. P- Capt John Mize; CP-Terrence Gruters; RN- Capt Bill North; NAV- Bill Robinson; EWO- Capt Dennis Andersen; G- TSgt Peter Whalen. Target was SAM site VN-243, near Hanoi. After bomb release, hit by SAM. Lost all 4 engines on left wing. All crew members were picked up by rescue helicopters. (Combat loss, 6).
Ruby 2 B52D 1-4-73, Anderson AFB, No. 55-0056. SA2 hit over Vinh. Went feet
wet, crew bailed out in South China Sea, all rescued by helos from USS
Saratoga. P-LtCol Gerald Wickline; Co-P Capt Bill Milcarek; Tail gunner T/Sgt
Carlos S. Killgore; NAV Capt Myles McTernan; R/Nav Maj. Robt. A Klingheil;
EWO Capt. Wm. E. Ferg. (Combat loss, 7).
(Unknown) B-52D July 8, 1967 no. 56-0601 was hit over Vinh and suffered a complete hydraulic failure. The pilot elected to go into Danang rather than bail the crew out. After touchdown, the A/C was unable to stop or negotiate a go-around. They ran off the end of the runway into a mine field. All forward crewmembers perished. The Gunner, Albert Whatley survived with the help of a Marine fire truck crew. Crew was from Columbus AFB, MS. Whatley cannot remember the call sign. (Combat loss, 8).
(Unknown) B52D 1-13-73 (Unknown), no. 55-0116 scrapped at Da Nang, South Vietnam, after landing there with battle damage. (Combat loss, 9).
Operational losses (Vietnam War, South East Asia):
(Unknown) B52D 5-8-69 Andersen, no. 56-0593 was lost on takeoff from Guam. It started a right turn after t/o and crashed in the sea killing all six aboard. Pilot- Capt Larry Broadhead; CP-.Maurice Lundy; RN- Capt Russell Platt; NAV- Maj James Sipes; EWO- Lt Thomas McCormick; G- MSgt Harry Deal. (Operational loss no.1). One B52 crewmember of the 393 Bomb Squadron, 509th Bombardment Wing remembers the incident, saying: “The May 69 crash shortly after takeoff was debriefed to us as likely being the pilot following an erroneous artificial horizon display that was gradually causing him to bank the airplane while thinking he was in level flight caused by the inadvertent deactivation of the gyroscope during preflight and the incorrect display as the gyro wound down. The accident was late at night, over water, right after takeoff and at low altitude and the explanation was logical though pure speculation. I believe there was some corrective action taken to cover-guard the power switch for the instrument following that crash.”
(Unknown) B52D 7-28-69 Anderson, no. 56-0630 was lost on takeoff from Guam. It crashed into the sea killing all eight aboard. A B52 crewmember from the same outfit, the 393 Bomb Squadron, 509th Bombardment Wing knew the lost crewmembers. He reports, “Their airplane crashed because the right wing came off the plane at about unstick during the takeoff roll. Eye witness accounts reported that the plane continued momentarily in level flight after loss of the wing and then made a violent bank below sight of the cliff at the end of the runway and crashed into the ocean. The body of the Aircraft Commander (Ed Wyatt) was recovered. We were told it appeared as though he had attempted to eject, as his chute was either fully or partially deployed. I do not believe any other remains were found.”
(Op Loss no. 2).
(Unknown) B52G 7-8-72 Anderson, no. 59-2600 was over the Philippine Sea. For unknown reasons its radome separated from the airplane. The pilot/copilot reacted incorrectly and subsequently lost all airspeed. All six crewmen successfully bailed out, but one, the RN (a LtCol) got a streamer. The other five crewmen were rescued. (Op Loss no. 3)
(Unknown) B52F 6-18-65 Andersen, no. 57-0047 collided with no. 57-0179 over the South Pacific while circling awaiting KC-135As for pre-strike air refueling. 4 survivors, 8 fatalities among the 12 crewmen. (Op Loss no. 4).
(Unknown) B52F 6-18-65 Andersen, no. 57-0179 collided with no. 57-0047.
(Op Loss no. 5).
Red 1 B52D 7-6-67 no. 56-0627 had a mid-air collision with no. 56-0595 over South China Sea near Saigon while “changing formation lead.” See below, next entry. There were seven survivors, six fatalities (#) among the 13 crewmembers. Crew: E-06, 22nd BW, March AFB, CA. P- Capt John Suther; CP- Wilcox Creeden; RN- Maj Paul Avolese(#); Nav- Lt William Gabel; EWO- Capt David Bitten(#);G-SSgt Lynn Chase.; Airborne Commander- Maj Gen William Crumm, 3rd (#), Air Division Commander. (Op loss no. 6). A B52 crewman who had personal knowledge of this incident wrote the following to me: “The crash in July 1967 (which was the midair involving General Crum) I have personal knowledge concerning as I was flying in the second cell.
The airplanes were in VFC formation (a prohibited maneuver according to the B-52 Dash -1) that was regularly used for bombing in those times. The change of aircraft positions was initiated while in the VFC formation and during a major alteration of heading in a turn from the Pre-IP to IP when the MSQ beacon on the #1 airplane was declared inoperative.
This attempted change of aircraft position within the formation was a foolish move, occurring at precisely the wrong time of the flight, and was initiated by request of the MSQ controller. Later, during the post-accident corrective action phase, lectures were given on communications from MSQ being informative not "directive" in nature. In essence, the rule being refreshed was that the pilot was in charge of flying the airplane not the ground controller, no matter what might be heard on the radio.
After this crash the VFC formation abolished after Headquarters SAC suddenly became aware of the BOLD PRINT in the Dash One that said that flying the airplanes in close proximity to one another was prohibited. (I am aware of such formation flying in the Linebacker campaigns for mutual ECM support which makes sense for survival in those circumstances, but at the time of the 1967 crash the only thing the VFC formation contributed to was sexy photographs of big airplanes in tight formation dropping huge bomb loads simultaneously.”
Red 2 B52D 7-6-67 no. 56-0595 collided with no. 56-0627. See entry above. Crew: E-10, 454th BW. P- Capt George Westbrook; CP- Capt Dean Thompson; RN- 1st Lt George Jones; EWO- Toki R. Endo G- Msgt Olen McLaughlin (#). NAV- Capt Chuck Blankenship. Partial remains of Jones & Blankenship identified and returned years later. Toki, as of 5/07 can be contacted at Boeing, email@example.com. (Op loss no. 7).
Operational losses: Collisions with B52s or with tankers…other locations around world:
(Unknown) B52D 9-9-1958, no. 56-0681, crashed three miles north-east of Fairchild AFB, Wash. Mid-air collision with B52D 56-0681; 92nd Bomb Wing. (Op. Loss no. 1).
(Unknown) B52D 9-9-1958, no. 56-0681, crashed three miles north-east of Fairchild AFB, Wash. Mid-air collision with B52D 56-0661; 92nd Bomb Wing. (Op Loss no. 2).
(Unknown) B52F 10-15-1959, no.57-0036, Hardinsberg, KY. Mid-air collision with KC-135A during airborne alert duty; 4228th Strategic Wing. (Op loss no. 3).
(Unknown) B52D 12-15-1960, no. 55-0098, Crashed at Larson AFB, Wash. Aircraft had earlier collided with tanker during air-to-air refueling. Starboard wing failed and aircraft caught fire during landing roll; 4170th Strategic Wing. (Op loss no. 4).
(Unknown) B52F 6-18-1965, no. 57-0047, Pacific Ocean. Mid-air collision with B52F 57-0179; 320th Bomb Wing. (Op loss no. 5).
(Unknown) B52F 6-18-1965, no. 57-0179, Pacific Ocean. Mid-air collision with B52F 57-0047; 7th Bomb Wing. (Op loss no. 6).
(Unknown) B52G 1-17-1966, no. 58-0256, Lost near Palomares, Spain. Collided with KC-135A during air-to-air refueling. Four nuclear leapons fell from sreckage; 68th bomb Wing. (Op loss no. 7).
(Unknown) B52D 7-7-1967, no. 56-0595, Pacific Ocean. Mid-air collision with B52D 56-0627, 22nd Bomb Wing, but with 4133rd Bomb Wing (Provisional). (Op loss no. 8).
(Unknown) B52D 7-7-1967, no. 56-0627, Pacific Ocean. Mid-air collision with B52D 56-0595, 454th Bomb Wing, but with 4133rd Bomb Wing (Provisional).(Op loss no. 9).
(unknown) B52G Approx 1991, 59-2593 lost over Indian Ocean during Operation Desert Storm, but not due to action with the enemy; the cause of the crash was determined to be an electrical/mechanical failure. (Op loss no. 10).
(Unknown) B52(?) 1994, (unknown), while practicing aerial maneuvers (airshow practice) at Fairchild AFB, Wash., attempted a steep banking turn at only a few hundred feet altitude, stalled, crashed and fireballed. All four officers aboard perished. (Op loss no. 11).
Out of 498 BUFF sorties over Hanoi/Haiphong the loss rate was 1.7% (.017). The conservative number of SAMs fired was 884, with 24 BUFFs hit. Source: Linebacker II: A View From the Rock published by the Air War College in 1979. (Note: 2001 Boeing records list 32 B52 aircraft hit by SAMs. Other sources state that there were a total of 724 B-52 sorties flown during LB II).
A plaque below B52D, serial no. 55-083, now on display at the north gate to the United States Air Force Academy says, “from June 1965 to August 1973, B52s operating from Kadina Air Base, Okinawa; Anderson AFB, Guam; and Utapao Royal Thai Navy Air Field, Thailand flew over 126,000 combat missions in Southeast Asia.”
B-52 D The B-52D has upward ejection seats for the Pilot, Copilot, and Electronic Warfare Officer and downward ejection seats for the Navigator and Radar Navigator. In the B-52D the Gunner is in the tail of the aircraft. For bailout, the gunner jettisons the gun turret and “dives out” of the hole created when the gun turret was jettisoned. Bailout order was Nav, EW Officer, CP, Extra Crewmembers, RN, and P. If any topside seats failed or any extra crewmembers were on board (up to 10 crewmembers can be carried) the crewmember came down to bail out through the hole the Nav left. The RN was there to assist. The Pilot always went last. The Gunner bailed out as soon as the bailout command was given. In an uncontrolled bail out, it was every man for himself…as quickly as possible
B-52 G The B-52G has upward ejection seats for the Pilot, Copilot, Electronic Warfare Officer and Gunner, and downward ejection seats for the Navigator and Radar Navigator. In the B-52G the Gunner sits in an ejection seat next to the EW Officer. Bailout order was Nav, Gunner, EW Officer, CP, Extra Crewmembers, RN, P. If any topside seats failed or any extra crewmembers were on board (up to 10 crewmembers can be carried), the crewmember(s) came down to bail out through the hole the Nav left. The RN was there to assist. The Pilot always went last. In an uncontrolled bail out, it was every man for himself…as quickly as possible.
Ninety-four B-52s are still actively flying with the USAF. All are B-52Hs built in 1960-62. The Vietnam and Desert Storm veteran B-52s (B-52D and B-52G) have all been retired. The B-52Hs have taken their place and took part in post Desert Storm missions over Iraq (Note: one B52G, 59-2593 crashed returning from a Desert Storm Mission). 184 Combat missions were flown during Operation Allied Force in Kosovo. Currently, all B-52Hs are based at two U.S. Bases. The 2nd Bomb Wing and 917th Wing (Air Force Reserve Command) are both at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana and the 5th Bomb Wing is at Minot AFB, North Dakota. The 917th Wing, 93rd BS flew a number of OEF and OEI missions (Iraq), being the only B-52 unit using the Litening Laser Pod to “self designate” LGB targets. The B-52Hs are scheduled to retire in 2040. (See amplifying note at end of this document).
During the period April 9, 1972 thru January 14, 1973, 16 other B-52s (one G-model and 15 D-models) received major battle damage (caused by SAMs), over North Vietnam. Following is a list of these sixteen B52s (aircraft recovered, no deaths or injuries reported):
Serial No. Date of damage Remarks (All damage noted was from SAMs)
D 56-0665 4-9-72 Landed at Danang and flown to U-Tapao, Thailand. 156 damaged areas. Repaired and placed back in service, according to Boeing maintenance records. Contradicting this information, the plane is “unaccounted for” according to authors Dorr & Peacock. Contradicting Dorr’s information, there is a B52D now on display at Wright-Patterson with the number 56-0665 painted on the side. If you’re confused, read the next two paragraphs.
D 56-0589 4-23-72 Landed at Danang and later flown to U-Tapao. Approximately 400 outer surface holes. 20,000 manhours. Placed back in commission 1-9-73. Currently located at Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, Ohio, according to Boeing. Contradicting this information, authors Dorr & Peacock, in an appendix, state that 56-0589 was “ultimately disposed to ground instruction at Sheppard, Texas.”
To complicate the issue of the two notes above, Dorr & Peacock state that the aircraft now on display at Wright-Patterson is B-52B no. 53-0394. However, to the casual observer of B-52 models, the plane on display is certainly not 53-0394 (as stated by Dorr), because it has the large wingtip fuel tanks common to the B-52 “D” model, not the small ones characteristic of a B-52 “B” model. Now that you’re really confused, the sign located at the B-52 at Wright-Patterson states words to the effect, “...suffered battle damage over Vietnam, exhibiting over 400 holes...” This description matches the Boeing Maintenance records for 56-0589...yet the number 53-0665 is currently painted on the side. I’m confused...are you? We need a volunteer B-52 history buff to visit the cockpit, look at the air worthiness certificate on the back of the door, and find out the real number.
D 56-0604 11-5-72 Landed at U-Tapao. 333 external damage areas. Using horizontal stabilizer from 55-097. Estimated time in commission (ETIC) 2-1-73.
D 55-0052 11-22-72 Landed at U-Tapao. Approx 20 holes. Repairable by T.O. 1B-52B-3. In commission 1-9-73.
D 56-0678 12-18-72 Landed at U-Tapao. No inspar damage. ETIC 7-30-73. Est. 60,000 manhours. 350 external holes; 24 areas require kits. Lilac 03.
D 56-0583 12-18-72 Landed at U-Tapao. Returned to service 12-20-72 minus three repairs 53 manhours. 10 external holes plus several dents and gouges.
D 56-0592 12-18-72 Landed at NamPhong, Thailand; one time flight to U-Tapao 12-23-72. ETIC 3-15-73. External holes estimated 2,000 manhours.
G 58-0254 12-18-72 Landed at Andersen AFB, Guam. Sheet metal damage top of fuselage 30 to 50 holes. Minus three repairs.
D 55-0067 12-22-72 Landed at U-Tapao. Minus three repairs. In commission 1-9-73. 70 manhours. Nineteen external holes. Call sign “Brick 2”.
D 55-0051 12-24-72 Landed at U-Tapao. In commission 1-9-73. 226 manhours. Eleven external holes.
D 55-0062 12-26-72 Landed at Andersen AFB, Guam. “Dash 3” repairs. Returned to service 12-27-72. Cream 1.
D 55-0090 12-26-72 Landed at Andersen AFB, Guam. “Dash 3” repairs. Returned to service 12-28-72. Cream 2.
D 56-0629 12-26-72. Landed at U-Tapao. Black 03 B-52D. TOT 1609Z Duc Noi 37,000 MSL. Returned to service 12-31-72. 63 manhours to repair fourteen external holes plus three dents.
D 55-0052 1-8-73 Second incident. Landed at U-Tapao. Approx. 45 holes.
D 55-0116 1-14-73 Landed at Danang. Over 200 holes. Left wing section 21 needs replacing. Left drop tank numerous holes. Removed both; being salvaged 4-1-73. (According to one source there was not enough time before the cease-fire to salvage the aircraft so it was scraped).
D 55-0058 1-14-73 Landed at U-Tapao. Took hits from 2 of 6 SA-2s
fired just prior to drop. More hits from 1 of 3 more SAMs on exit. Over 120 holes. Geoff Engels, a/c commander, Gunner, Jack Attebury, C/P Ernie Perrow, NAV Mike Gjede, EW "Torch" Torsiello, RN (Unknown).
Date sent: Thu, 25 Jan 2001 18:13:55 EST
Subject: Re: Mac's Facts no. 46
A little known fact, you might call it Mac's Facts no. 46A: The night we got bagged, as we taxied out our gunner got ill. I called for a replacement and I was told I would get one once we reached the hammerhead. At our takeoff time a truck pulled up and a guy ran to the back of the plane (B-52D-gunner sat in the rear). This "guy" comes over the intercom and says I am ready and we launched. We never got a chance to introduce ourselves nor get his name. When we got hit by the second SAM (we were hit by at least three), and after we got the bombs off--all 108 of them and on target I might add--I gave the order to bail out. The nose of the airplane pitched violently down, so I assumed our gunner had jumped. I found out two years ago, at my retirement ceremony in Germany (the wing flew Mike Labeau and my gunner to Germany to be a part of the ceremony), that the gunner got tangled up in his equipment and rode the aircraft down until a fourth SAM hit the aircraft and blew him from the "BUFF". One day at a bar a friend of mine, who was an A-6 driver and who didn't know my background, told me he was slightly behind and
below a Buff that was going down when it exploded in mid air. He said he had never seen such a violent explosion. I asked him the date and he said 26 December...our night! I found out my gunner's name after I reached Clark and was in the hospital. He had come out with the first group due to injuries to his legs. I was able to meet him at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital just after he had both legs amputated. We next were together at Strategic Air Command Headquarters for his retirement ceremony. My gunner’s name: Papa Jim Cook, one of the bravest men I have ever met. I am honored to have flown with Jim and what a thrill it was to have him at my retirement ceremony. Seeing how you were putting together some facts, I thought I would share this with you.
Another Note: The first B-52 flight occurred April 15, 1952. Fifty years later some are still bombing the enemies of democracies. The “H” models, known as “Cadillacs” by the crews, that are still in use today were built in 1960-62. There were 102 “H” models built during this time period. Ninety-four out of the 102 are still in service, eight have been attrited. According to the latest USAF information, they are scheduled to be eliminated from the inventory in 2040. By the standard of a 1952 plane being used 50 years later as a first line weapon, we would have been flying Sopwith Camels and SPADs over Vietnam, and B-17s in Desert Storm in 1991. This is simply Amazing!
Thanks to Don Logan (former Vietnam POW), Boeing flight manual editor, firstname.lastname@example.org; Bob Hudson (former Vietnam POW); Jon Taylor, email@example.com; and others for valuable inputs to this document. This document is not copyrighted. I hope it will be of assistance to future BUF researchers.
Thanks to Joe Kennedy, firstname.lastname@example.org who wrote me with the following: “ B52D 56-0601, July 8, 1967. This aircraft went off the runway and was destroyed at Danang, South Vietnam. I received a letter from the surviving Gunner, Albert Whatley. The crew was from Columbus AFB, MS. Other crew members were: Pilot, Maj. Gene Brown; Co-pilot, Capt. James Davis; RN, Capt Wm. H. Prithard; NAV, Capt. Anthony K. Johnson; and EWO, Capt Donald J. Reynolds.”
See, also….Jeff Lewis’ note about the actions of the fire crew. Jeff was one of the rescuers:
On 25 May 2007 at 14:24, Jeff Lewis wrote:
From: "Jeff Lewis" <email@example.com>
To: "Mike Mcgrath" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: B-52 Crash - Danang - 1967
Date sent: Fri, 25 May 2007 14:24:32 -0400
Sir, I noticed the report about SGT Whatley being rescued by a Marine
Fire Crew. It was actually the 1st Marine Air Wing Fire Marshall, a
mustang 2LT, and myself, Marine CPL Jeff Lewis, G-4 Night Duty, that
drove through the minefiled and cut SGT Whatley out of the tail. The
rest of the B-52 was completely destroyed, except for some of the
engines, which flew off when the body detonated.
The Fire Crews were parked on the side of the Airstrip Road, unsure
about how to approach the crash site.
We were actually relieved to find it was a B-52 rather than a 707 full
We then spent hours probing the site with fiberglass rods trying to
find the rest of the crew under all the foam and debris. A very
strange experience for all of us younger servicemen.
- - - - - - -
Joe Kennedy adds the following: “B52D 56-665 is at Wright-Patterson. I have been there and in fact have pictures of me standing next to the big bird. I had missions in the A/C.” Joe also reports that B52D no. 56-0689 now resides at the American Air Museum, Britain.
Mig Kills by B-52s:
I received this from Rob Michel email@example.com: 26 Apr 2004
First let me introduce myself. I am the historian for the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB, ND. I was browsing your website for some B-52 information, noticed you were looking for the tail numbers and call signs of the B-52s with MiG kills. Please find listed below the two confirmed B-52 MiG
Date: 18 Dec 72, Aircraft: B-52D, Tail No.: 56-0676, Call Sign: Brown III
Gunner: SSgt Samuel O. Turner. 56-0676 is on static display at the "Armed Forces & Aerospace Museum" at Fairchild AFB, Washington. Thanks to Chris DeShong (firstname.lastname@example.org) for filling in some missing information.
Date: 24 Dec 72, Aircraft: B-52D, Tail no.: 55-0083, Call sign: Ruby III
From: "James Golston" <email@example.com>
Date sent: Thu, 23 Nov 2006 01:43:31 -0500
I just bumped into your site by searching "B52D". What a wealth of information, thank you! I served as a BUFF Crew Chief from 1967 - 1970. I was stationed at Anderson, and U-tapao AFB during that period. I would like to bring to your attention two 'oversights' I noticed on the site. Among the 'operational losses,' add one more. I witnessed a BUFF go up in flames at the end of the runway after an aborted take-off during a rainy morning sortie. I don't have the exact date but this occurred at U-tapao in late 1969, or early 1970. I saw the tail-gunner jump out moments before the plane exploded, word was he was the only survivor onboard. My hope is that with this little bit of information, an investigation would bring this loss to light, and those brave men names can be added. Second, the plaque on display at the USAFA does not mention that some of those 126,000 missions were flown out of the Philippines'. The only time I was at Clark AFB was during one of the many typhoon evacs from Anderson, or Kadina, and the sorties never stopped. I don't think they need to change the plaque, but a footnote would do.
Thank you for the info, I hope you can use mine.
James Golston (SSGT/Honorable Discharge), USAF 1966 – 1970, AF12765167
Following is from Jim Bradley, firstname.lastname@example.org. Wed, 8 Nov 2006 22:10:19 -0600
Ash 1 B52D 12-26-72. No. 56-0584. U-Tapao. Crashed at U-Tapao. Attempted go-around with 4 engines out on same side. 4 KIA. CP, 1st Lt Bob Hymel & Gunner, TSgt Spencer Grippen were rescued. The A/C made a determination that they should bailout before the crash, but since the gunner was wounded and they felt he might not be able to physically execute the bailout, they decided as a crew to try and bring the plane in. Ironically, the only survivors of the crash were the C/P and the wounded gunner. In addition, the C/ P would not have survived had he not been rescued by a crewmember from another BUFF who watched the crash, and rushed into the wreck to pull the C/P out before the plane burned up. Lord that we could have more men like these.
For a complete description of this event, see: Air Force Association, August 1983, Vol. 66, No. 8 -- By John L. Frisbee, Contributing Editor. Title: Miracle at U Tapao. Article follows:
Logic said no one could be alive in the B-52, but something drew Capt. Brent Diefenbach to the blazing bomber. Linebacker II, the 11- day bombing campaign of December 1972 that persuaded North Vietnam to sign a cease-fire, had been halted on Christmas Day. Now it was the night of Dec. 26 and the operation was on again. The B-52 with Lt. Robert Hymel as copilot was assigned a target near Hanoi. Everyone knew the North Vietnamese had used the bombing break to restock and repair their surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites. It was going to be a rough night. As Hymel's B-52 dropped its bombs and turned off target, the rear gunner called two SAMs coming up. Despite evasive action by the B-52, the missiles exploded just to the right of the bomber, wounding the gunner, knocking out two engines, and causing major fuel leaks and other undetermined damage. The aircraft commander headed for an emergency landing at Da Nang, then decided that, with several refuelings, they could make it back to their base at U Tapao, in
Thailand. The wounded gunner would have better medical treatment there. Shortly after midnight, the BUFF started a straight-in approach to the Thai base. Capt. Brent Diefenbach, a B-52 aircraft commander who had just returned from a mission in the North, sat in a crew bus, waiting to cross the end of the runway as Hymel's battle-damaged bomber neared the runway lights. The approach didn't look or sound right. Suddenly, the aircraft veered to the left and the engines roared as power was added for a go-around. Diefenbach watched, horrified, as the big bomber pitched up, plunged to earth about a mile beyond the runway, and exploded in a ball of fire.
Diefenbach later remembered the compulsive thought that he had to get to the crash site. "It appeared obvious to me that no one was alive, but something kept drawing me to go." He knew he had to get there fast. Jumping off the bus, he went out an entrance gate and climbed aboard a Thai bus that was headed in the direction of the crash. When the driver refused to go farther, Diefenbach ran down the road toward the burning B-52 until he spotted a path in the tall grass that seemed to lead to the aircraft. "For a second," Diefenbach recalled, "I thought, 'Why go on? No one is alive in that inferno."' But again he felt impelled, almost against his will. He approached the wreckage, shouting to see if anyone was alive. To his surprise, he heard a voice inside the bomber calling for help. Rolling down the sleeves of his flight suit for protection against the heat, he entered the burning plane amidst a fusillade of exploding ammunition and pressure lines. There was no way of knowing if bombs were still aboard. Diefenbach followed the cries--the only sign of life--through a pall of smoke to find copilot Hymel, badly injured, crumpled in a position that prevented him from unbuckling his seat harness, and with one fractured leg trapped in the wreckage. Diefenbach remembers accusing Hymel of not helping and of falling asleep--"anything to keep him conscious." In desperation, Hymel told his rescuer to cut off the leg if he had to. Finally, working together for what seemed an eternity, they were able to free the injured man. "By that time, the explosions [and] the heat were nearer than I care to think about.” Diefenbach dragged Hymel out of the fuselage and carried him away from the blazing wreck just as a helicopter and fire trucks arrived. The rescue crew was unable to approach the B-52, now engulfed in flames. Hymel was air-evacuated to Clark Air Base in the Philippines, then to a hospital in the States where he eventually recovered from multiple fractures and lacerations. After Diefenbach had reported details of the rescue to the wing commander, and his staff, he was taken to the base hospital "for some minor repairs and bandages." Some time later, he discovered there were "a lot of thank you’s in order for the Chief Pilot in the Sky." He had extricated the copilot from an armed ejection seat. That it had not fired in the struggle to free Hymel was a miracle within a miraculous and heroic rescue, for which the Commander in Chief of Strategic Air Command, Gen. John C. Meyer <0589valor.html>, presented Diefenbach the
Footnotes on the B-52:
The first B-52 was assembled in late 1951 and first flew in April 1952. The airplane joined the Air Force inventory in 1955. There were 744 B-52s made. There were 106 B-52 H models built. This is the final model authorized to be built. The H model is the only model still flying as of 2008. The H model is scheduled to retire in 2040.
104 of the 744 B-52s made have been lost in war, collisions or accidents (14%). Accidents have led to the loss of 85 B-52s, with causes ranging from structural failures in flight and fires to an inadvertently fired air-to-air missile from an Air National Guard fighter and pilot error.
At least nine B-52s have been lost in collisions with other B-52s or with tankers.
The following contribution came from John Kirpatrick: Mike, Hello I'm John R Kirkpatrick, I was on Guam TDY during 67,68,&69. I was an eyewitness to some of the B-52 crashes. My e-mail address is email@example.com if you would like to contact me.
Mike, Let me introduce myself, I'm John R. Kirkpatrick. I'm a retired USAF Senior Master Sgt. E-8 . I was stationed TDY on Guam May- Jul 1967, Mar- Sep 1968, & Mar- Sep 1969. I was there during many of the B-52 crashes & mishaps. I have some info for you on two of the crashes. The crash of 5-8-69 (aircraft 56-0593) I remember vividly because the aircrew was from my home base, Fairchild AFB Washington. The crew was from the 325th Bomb Squadron. I was a B-52 Crew Chief and was working on the flightline that night. I remember the ramp controller driving up to my aircraft that night and saying "do you have an altitude card" and I replied "yes" he said "I'd tear it up if I were you, we just lost another 52" . ( An altitude card was required to fly in the B-52's for non-aircrew members ) I recall when the aircraft took off it turned to the right. This was the route an aircraft would take if it air aborted. There were no radio transmissions from the aircraft, it just flew out and you could tell by its lights that it just did a wingover into the ocean. There was no wreckage ever recovered, we were told that it went into the Mariana Trench. Sometime after the crash we were given a small icepick with about a three foot piece of nylon cord attached to it and were told to mount it on the top of the pilots side console panel. It seems they believed that there was a possibility that either the pilots or co-pilots life raft could have inflated and jammed the control column, and that there was a panic in the cockpit and that was why there was never a radio transmission from the aircraft before it crashed. The second crash on 7-28-69 (aircraft 56-0630) I was an eyewitness on the end of runway when the crash occurred. That morning we were launching six B-52's, two cells of three. My aircraft was the first aircraft in the first cell. When yours was the first aircraft, the ramp controller would pick up your two man launch and take you to standby at the end of runway just in case an aircraft would need to be chocked and the hatch opened for a maintenance problem. As fate would have it we were there to see the whole thing happen. The aircraft would take off at one minute intervals and then between cells there would be a five minute gap. The launch went without a hitch until the fifth aircraft (56-0630) The takeoff looked normal until the aircraft was a couple hundred of feet off the ground. Then there was a flash at the number 5&6 engine pod on the right wing, It turned out it was the JP-4 in the fuel cells exploding. Just in front of the rear wing spar in that area was the number three main fuel cell, after that it was just like a chain reaction of explosions as the plane was coming apart and the fuel was igniting. All that you could see was fire and smoke and pieces of aircraft falling slowly out of the sky. In just a matter of seconds there was only light smoke remaining where the aircraft once was. The number six aircraft never did take off, it sat at the end of runway for awhile and then taxied back to the parking spot that it came from. The crew was really shaken. We went into the aircraft and pinned the ejection seats and got it set up to have the tow crew push it back into it's revetment. The next morning I was flying on a combat mission, I was riding in the IP seat behind the center console just aft of the pilot and co-pilot. When we took off and were just out over the ocean we could see Navy ships all over the place picking up pieces of debree . They filled up two revetments with all the pieces. On the B-52 there were many cables running through the fuselage for the flight controls. They had picked up pieces of the fuselage and you could see where the cables had stretched and then snapped and wrapped themselves around it. Its amazing how some things get etched in your mind and you never forget them. When the accident investigation was over we heard that the right aft wing spar had a minute crack in it that went undetected, when the aircraft took off and the wing flexed upward, the crack opened up and started the chain reaction of events.
Corrections/additions/discussions are welcome. I would appreciate crewmember names and Call Signs of all B-52s listed. Contact Mike McGrath (NAM-POWs Historian) at: firstname.lastname@example.org. NAM-POWs is a 501 (c) (19) tax-exempt social and fraternal organization for the 661 returned POWs (30 escaped, 631 were repatriated) of the Vietnam War. Our Home Page is: www.nampows.org