Of the many hours that I walked the ramp around the various aircraft I would notice the Crash Trucks stationed at various points of the ramp and runway thinking to my self that these guys have the ‘Life of Reilly.’ (Do you remember the old TV show “Life of Reilly”)? Little did I know that this viewpoint would change and change shortly.
One day as I was exiting the motor pool in my AP pick-up and turned toward the flight line when I noticed a B-47 taking off. As I continued to watch, the plane took an unusual turn to the right and began to loose altitude very quickly. Wow, I thought, that don’t look right. The plane disappeared behind the hangers on Hanger Road and the next thing I saw was a very large ball of flame and black smoke.
I immediately called Base Patrol Headquarters and informed them of an aircraft crash and told them I was heading to the area.
I entered the flight line via a gate at the end of Hanger Road and near the nose docks for the 52’s. There it was in front of me. The B-47 had just flown over many 52’s sitting on the ground and into the corner of a nose dock, one of which had a tail of a B-52 sticking out of. None of the other 52’s had been touched, thank goodness, but the one in the nose dock was in question at this time.
Flames and black smoke billowed up from the crash and I was in awe at the scene taking it all in. What a horrible scene it was. Airman, vehicles and Crash Trucks were screaming to then scene from all directions. I never knew Westover had so many fire rescue vehicles until that day.
The first Crash Truck on scene set its foam guns, located on top the cab, forward to the crash scene and the foam guns under the front bumper along with then top guns started to emit foam in a pattern directly in front of the truck and started toward the plane inching closer to the plane. The driver took the truck almost right up to the plane in a vain attempt to extricate the crew if possible. After seeing the damage that was done the truck backed off and proceeded with an extinguish and recovery action.
Meanwhile the ground crews began to tow the B-52’s that were in harms way and clear the area. I took it upon myself to begin establishing a safe perimeter and to keep the taxi ways clear for the removal of the B-52’s.
As the higher brass began to show up in their little private runabout vehicles (Junkers) they liked to park them just about everywhere. I looked up the ramp only to see one of those little runabouts parked just off the centerline of the ramp. I yelled to the Airman, “Get that car the hell out of there”. As the Airman turned to go back to his little Junker I noticed a star of two on the shoulder. “Oh sh__, I said to myself, you did it this time”. I guess the General realized that he was wrong and said nothing to me or anybody else.
That was the day my opinion of the firefighters on the Crash Truck’s totally changed. I have, since that time, given, to all firefighters, the respect that they deserve. I would not want to be in their shoes or boots as the case may be. (Later in life, I did join my local volunteer fire company and served as a Fire Policeman still giving firefighters my respect. That will not change.)
Never did hear any reason for the crash. But it was one of the more memorable days for me while serving at Westover.
Member 4050 APS & 814th APS 1955 - 1958.
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