Westover Field – February 9, 1943

Westover Field – February 9, 1943

 

P-47 Thunderbolt – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On February 9, 1943, a P-47 fighter plane was taking off from Westover Field in Chicopee, Massachusetts, when the plane went out of control and struck three men on a snow removal detail.  Two men were killed, the third was injured.  The pilot of the aircraft was not hurt.

     The dead were identified as:

     Pvt. Jacob Adelsky, 22, of Brooklyn, New York.  He’s buried at Beth David Cemetery in Elmont, N.Y.  To see a photo of Pvt. Adelsky, go to www.findagrave.com, Memorial #26119296.

     Pvt. Dewey A. O’Neal, 44, of Blytheville, Arkansas. He’s buried in Maple Grove Cemetery in Blytheville.

     The injured man was not identified.

     Source: The Springfield Union, “Two Soldiers Killed, One Injured By Plane Taking Off At Westover Field”, February 10, 1943, page 1. 

Chicopee, MA. – June 27, 1958

Chicopee, Massachusetts – June 27, 1958

     Shortly after midnight on June 27, 1958, four U.S. Air Force KC-135 jet tankers were scheduled to make a transatlantic flight from Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee to London, England.  The purpose of the flight was to try to establish a new overseas speed record for the aircraft.   

     The first two aircraft took off without incident however, the third aircraft, (Ser. No. 56-3599), stalled just after takeoff and crashed about 1.25 miles off the end of the runway.  The tanker came down across the Massachusetts Turnpike and impacted on a farm located on Fuller Road where it exploded in a massive fireball that was seen for miles.  All fifteen men aboard were killed instantly. 

     The fourth aircraft was then ordered not to take off.

    The Turnpike was covered with debris and had to be closed to all traffic.  Electrical power was knocked out throughout the area as the aircraft had struck some power lines prior to impact.

     Of the fifteen men aboard, eight were civilian journalists.

     The dead were identified as:

     Brig. Gen. Donald W. Saunders, 45, of Athens, New York.  He was Commander of the 57th Air Division at Westover AFB.  To see a photo of Gen. Saunders, go to www.findagrave.com.   

     Lt. Col. George Broutsas, 39, of Brattleboro, Vermont.  He was the aircraft commander. He’s buried in Meeting House Hill Cemetery in Brattleboro.

     Captain James Shipman, 34, of Kansas City, Kansas.  He was the aircraft’s navigator. He’s buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  

     Captain John B. Gordon, 29, of Raleigh, North Carolina.  He’s buried in Mountain Memorial Park in Raleigh.  

     Lieutenant Joseph C. Sweet, 26, of Chandler, Arizona.  He’s buried in Resthaven Park East Cemetery in Phoenix, Arizona.  

     Master Sergeant Donald H. Gabbard, 37, of Los Gatos, California.  He’s buried in Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California.

     Technical Sergeant Joseph G. Hutter, 26, of Miami, Florida.  He’s buried in Arlington, National Cemetery.

     Civilians aboard included:

     Daniel J. Coughlin, 31, of Boston – Associated Press 

     Norman Montellier, 37, of New York City – United Press International

     Glenn A. Williams, 41, of Bethesda, Maryland – U.S. News & World Report

     Robert A. Ginsburgh, (Also spelled Ginsburg in some accounts), 63, of the U.S. News & World Report. He was also a retired brigadier general from the U.S. Air Force.

     James L. McConaughy, Jr., Time and Life Magazine.

     Robert Sibley, 57, of Belmont, Massachusetts – Aviation editor of the Boston Traveler.

     William Cochran – National Aeronautical Association

     William Enyart – National Aeronautical Association

     The aircraft involved in this accident was part of the 99th Air refueling Squadron based at Westover.   

     This was the second accident for a Westover aerial tanker since aerial tankers had been assigned to the base in the spring of 1955.  The first accident occurred on January 22, 1957, when a KC-97 tanker crashed in Rome, New York, killing all seven crewmen aboard.     

     Sources:

     Unknown newspaper, “KC135 Falls In Flames Near Base At Start Of London Record Flight”, June 27, 1958

     Springfield Union, “Residents Terrified As Disaster Strikes”, June 27, 1958

     Fitchburg Sentinel, “Air Force Jet Plane Explodes After Westover Takeoff”, June 27, 1958

     www.findagrave.com

 

Westover Air Force Base – October 9, 1953

Westover Air Force Base – October 9, 1953

 

F-86 Sabre – U.S. Air Force Photo

     At 3:15 a.m. on the morning of October 9, 1953, Captain Joseph Vitale, 35, was preparing to take off on Runway 06 at Westover AFB in an F-86D Sabre, (Ser. No. 51-5948), for a routine training flight.  After receiving instruction from the tower, Capt. Vitale began his start down the runway, but for some unknown reason was unable to become airborne.  The jet left the end of the runway and struck a mound of dirt recently excavated from a trench, and went airborne for a distance of about 200 feet before slamming into the ground.  Captain Vitale was ejected from the aircraft, but it was unclear if it was due to a malfunction, or if he had done so intentionally.   

     When rescue personnel reached his side he was found to be unconscious due to a head injury.  He was admitted to the hospital, but never regained consciousness before succumbing to his injuries on October 16th. 

     Captain Vitale was an experienced aviator who’d flown 100 combat missions during his military career.  He’d earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart, Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, and three battle stars while serving in Korea.  He was survived by his wife and four children.

     At the time of his accident Captain Vitale was assigned to the 60th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Westover AFB. 

     Sources:

     Unknown Newspaper, “Capt. Joseph Vitale and Lt. J.T. Rebo Die In Hospital”, October 10, 1053. (Lt. Rebo dies from injuries in a separate and unrelated accident.)

     usafunithistory.com, 60th F.S. – USAF Orders Of Battle    

 

Fremont, NH – August 10, 1959

Fremont, New Hampshire – August 10, 1959 

Spruce Swamp

  

     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.     

     Sources:

     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.

    

    

    

      

    

    

      

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