Fremont, New Hampshire – August 10, 1959
On August 10, 1959, a B-52C Stratofortress bomber aircraft, (#54-2682) left Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee, Massachusetts, for a routine flight. Approximately fifteen minutes into the flight, while at 21,000 feet and climbing, crew members heard a loud “thud”. The noise was described in the Air Force investigation report as being “Like a water jug that had fallen from its rack and struck the floor”.
The aircraft commander, Captain George E. Kusch, made a check with the crew to see if anyone could identify the source of noise, but none could. The aircraft continued its climb to 34,000 feet where it leveled off. Then somewhere in the vicinity of the Boston-Concord area a series of sharp noises were heard believed to be related to the radar antenna, shortly before the radar system became inoperative.
A few minutes later there was a loud “bang”, followed by a rush of air. The gunner notified the pilot that he’d seen parts of the aircraft fly past his position. These parts were determined to be from the plane’s chin-radome. At this time the altimeter indicated a change in altitude, and the air-speed indicator read zero, and a mild vibration set into the aircraft frame.
The pilot notified Westover of the situation and was directed to land at Goose Bay, Labrador. As the plane was crossing Saddle Back Mountain, at an altitude of 29,000 feet, the vibration turned to buffeting. The crew attempted several standard measures to compensate but none were successful. The buffeting grew progressively worse while the aircraft began dropping at the rate of 1,000 to 1,500 feet per minute.
When the aircraft had dropped to 14,000 feet, the order was given for the crew to bail out, which they did. Two minutes later, Capt. Kusch, who was still with the aircraft, advised that the buffeting had suddenly ceased, and that he thought he might be able to land safely. However, less than three minutes later the buffeting suddenly returned, shaking the plane so violently that Capt. Kusch thought it was going to break apart, so he ejected.
The B-52 crashed and exploded in Spruce Swamp, in the town of Fremont, New Hampshire, at 2:50 p.m. (Some sources have placed the crash site in Epping, New Hampshire, and others in the town of Brentwood, but the site of the crash is in Fremont.)
All eight men aboard the doomed B-52 landed safely. They were identified as:
(Pilot) Capt. George E. Kusch, of Westwood, New Jersey.
(Co-pilot) 1st Lt. Joseph B. Hunt, 28, of Chicopee, Mass., and Catonsville, Maryland.
(Navigator) Capt. Thaddeus J. Choate, Jr., of Ludlow, Mass., and Odessa, Texas.
(Radar Observer) Capt. Donald C. Bell, 38, of Ludlow, Mass., and Odessa, Texas.
(3rd Pilot) Capt. Joseph Biyins, of Owensboro, Kentucky.
Capt. Wayne Vogt, 33, of Indianapolis, Ind.
T/Sgt. Merrell R. Hethorn, 34, of Indian Orchard, Mass., and Kitsap, Washington.
(Tail Gunner) T/Sgt. Arnold Newman, 27, of Holyoke, Mass. and Los Angeles.
The aircraft was assigned to the Strategic Air Command, 57th Air Division, 99th Bomb Wing.
Air Force crash investigation report, #59-8-10-1
Unknown Newspaper, “Quietest Ride Aloft: Chute 13 In A Drizzle”, (Officer of Crashed Westover B-52 Tells Of Experience; Plane Couldn’t Be Flown”) unknown Date.
Unknown Newspaper, “All Eight Parachute Into Spruce Swamp”, unknown date.