May 22, 1957- A B-36 aircraft (52-2816) of the 334th Bombardment Squadron, 95th Bombardment Wing, was transporting a Mark 17 ten-megaton hydrogen bomb from Biggs AFB, Texas to Kirkland AFB, New Mexico. As the aircraft was on approach to Kirkland and over Albuquerque, New Mexico, the thermonuclear device, weighing 42,000 pounds, dropped from the bomber just 4 miles south of Albuquerque.
Accounts of what caused the incident vary, but one version suggests that a crewmember in the bomb bay was jolted by sudden turbulence. He grabbed hold of the manual bomb release lever to steady himself, causing the weapon to crash through the closed bomb bay doors and plummet to earth.
Richard ″Dick″ Meyer, 62, a retired lieutenant colonel, told the El Paso (Texas) Times that a crewman between the wings and the tail of the aircraft saw what had happened.
″Simultaneously, he called, ‘Bombs away,’ and the plane lurched upward about 1,000 feet when it lost so much weight at once,″ Meyer said.
″And someone yelled, ‘Oh, SHIT.’ It might have been me,″ Meyer said.
The weapon plummeted 1700 feet to earth and exploded. The physics package which made the bomb nuclear was not installed for obvious safety reasons. However, the conventional explosives used to support the detonation of the package did explode. A crater 25 feet in diameter was formed and a cow was killed. Radioactive material remaining in the weapon showered down for a mile around the explosion. The Air Force reimbursed the farmer for his cow and the city of Albuquerque for the land and roads destroyed when the Air Force removed the contaminated soil.
The Cold War wasn’t always cold and aircraft were lost to “enemy action”.
5 November 1957 A Republic of China Air Force B-26 Invader was shot down over the People’s Republic of China and the crew of three was captured. The crew was released eight months later.
24 December 1957 A US Air Force RB-57 was shot down over the Black Sea by Soviet fighters.
27 June 1958 A US Air Force C-118, reportedly on a regular supply flight from Wiesbaden West Germany to Karachi Pakistan, via Cyprus and Iran, crossed the Soviet border near Yerevan Armenia. Soviet MiG-17P Fresco pilots G.F. Svetlichnikov and B.F. Zakharov shot the aircraft down 30 km south of Yerevan. Five crew members parachuted to safety and four other survived the crash landing on a half-finished airstrip. The crew of Dale D. Brannon, Luther W. Lyles, Robert E. Crans, Bennie A. Shupe, James T. Kane, James N. Luther, James G. Holman, Earl H. Reamer and Peter N. Sabo were captured and later released by the Soviets on July 7, 1958. This aircraft was reported to be the personal aircraft of Allen Dulles, then director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The C-118 had carried senior CIA aides to Europe on an inspection trip, and it was in Turkey when it was diverted.
2 September 1958 A US Air Force C-130A Hercules (60-528) of the 7406 CSS, flying from Adana Turkey, was shot down near Sasnashen, Soviet Armenia, about 55 kilometers northwest of the Armenian capital of Yerevan by Soviet MiG-17 Fresco pilots Gavrilov, Ivanov, Kucheryaev and Viktor Lopatkov. The C-130 was a Sun Valley SIGINT aircraft. The remains of John E. Simpson, Rudy J. Swiestra, Edward J. Jeruss and Ricardo M. Vallareal were returned to the US on September 24, 1958. The remains of the other crew members, Paul E. Duncan, George P. Petrochilos, Arthur L. Mello, Leroy Price, Robert J. Oshinskie, Archie T. Bourg Jr., James E. Fergueson, Joel H. Fields, Harold T. Kamps, Gerald C. Maggiacomo, Clement O. Mankins, Gerald H. Medeiros and Robert H. Moore were recovered in 1998.
1 July 1960 A US Air Force ERB-47H Stratojet (53-4281) of the 38th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, flying over the Barents Sea was downed by Soviet pilot Vasili Poliakov, flying a MiG-15 Fagot. Co-pilot Bruce Olmstead and navigator John McKone survived and were taken captive. The pilot, Bill Palm and ELINT operators Eugene Posa, Oscar Goforth and Dean Phillips were killed. Olmstead and McKone were released from Soviet captivity on January 25th, 1961. Bill Palm’s remains were returned to the US on July 25, 1960. Eugene Posa’s remains were recovered by the Soviets, but never returned to the US.
10 March 1964 A US Air Force RB-66 Destroyer from the 10 TRW, based at Toul-Rosieres France, was shot down over East Germany by Soviet MiGs. The aircraft was shot down near Gardelegen, after straying out of one of the Berlin air corridors. The three crew members, David Holland, Melvin Kessler and Harold Welch parachuted to safety and were released several days later.
15 April 1969 While flying a patrol mission over the Sea of Japan, a US Navy EC-121M of VQ-1 (BuNo 135749) was attacked and shot down by two North Korean MiG-17 Fresco fighters 90 miles off the coast of Korea. All 31 crew members, James H. Overstreet, James L. Roach, John Dzema, John H. Potts, Dennis B. Gleason, Louis F. Balderman, Peter P. Perrottet, Richard H. Kincaid, John H. Singer, Dennis J. Horrigan, Robert F. Taylor, Frederick A. Randall, Robert J. Sykora, Stephen J. Tesmer, Norman E. Wilkerson, Hugh M. Lynch, Marshall H. McNamara, Gene K. Graham, Laverne A. Greiner, David M. Willis, Richard E. Smith, Gary R. Ducharme, Ballard F. Connors Jr., John A. Miller Jr., Stephen C. Chartier, Philip D. Sundby, Bernie J. Colgin, Richard Prindle, Timothy H. McNeil, Richard E. Sweeney and Joseph R. Ribar, were all killed in the attack. Two bodies and some wreckage was recovered by search vessels.
Rudolf Anderson Jr. (September 15, 1927 – October 27, 1962), was a pilot and commissioned officer in the United States Air Force and the first recipient of the Air Force Cross, the U.S. Air Force’s second-highest award for heroism. The only person killed by enemy fire during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Anderson died when his U-2 spy aircraft was shot down over Cuba.