Cumberland Times-News


January 13, 2014

We remember

Garrett County B-52 crash brought some changes

Half a century has passed since the crash of a nuclear-armed B-52 bomber in Garrett County that left three of its five crew members dead, but some among us haven’t forgotten.

Maj. Robert Lee Payne and and T/Sgt. Melvin F. Wooten bailed out, but died of injuries and exposure, and Maj. Robert Townley’s remains were found in the aircraft. Maj. Thomas McCormick and Capt. Parker “Mack” Peedin ejected and survived, but have since died.

Their sacrifices helped change the way America thought about its Cold War nuclear deterrence program, which dictated that a dozen of our bombers be kept aloft for 24 hours at a time, seven days a week.

The crash on Big Savage Mountain wasn’t an isolated incident. It helped to convince officials of the risks posed by flying nuclear-armed aircraft around the country. It also contributed to changes that ultimately resulted in the B-52 bomber becoming one of the safest, most reliable and long-lasting airplanes ever made in this country or anywhere.

The B-52 is the third in a line of legendary Boeing bombers that have contributed to keeping America safe for decades. The B-17 Flying Fortress helped defeat Germany during World War II. The B-29 Stratofortress brought that war to a close by dropping atomic bombs on Japan and served with distinction early in the Cold War. The B-52 Superfortress served America with distinction during the Cold War and in Vietnam and the Gulf War. It has been a mighty symbol of our strength.

The jet-powered Superfortress was born with a fatal flaw, however: a structural weakness in the tail section of an aircraft that was designed to fly at 50,000 feet, but not at low levels.

Two B-52s had crashed almost exactly a year before the Savage Mountain tragedy, in Maine and New Mexico, killing most of the crew members. Another B-52 suffered a similar failure in Colorado only three days before the Garrett County crash, but its crew was able to land.

The B-52 was designed in 1952 and flew for the first time in 1955. The latest variant remains in active service and is expected to still be flying 30 years from now. Its crew members take pride in the fact that they are flying an airplane that in some cases is older than their parents.

 When that bomber and her crew crashed in a storm in our neck of the woods, residents of the area turned out to help rescue the survivors. A few months later, thousands of our citizens attended the dedication of a memorial.

If something similar happened today, we have no doubt that our people would react the same way.


Text Only
  • Hold on a minute ... we know these guys

    Tom Bosley says this isn’t the Garrett County revival of “Space Cowboys”. They’re just getting the band back together — Bosley, Don Stemple, Oren Yoder and Matt Redinger. They’ve been there, done that, and they’re ready, willing and able to be there and do it again.

    July 31, 2014

  • For Maryland, a better place to be

    Maryland is a Big Ten school. Has a strange feel to it, doesn’t it? A strange feel, perhaps, but a fresh feel and a good feel.

    July 31, 2014

  • Folck's Mill 3 D.jpg City threatened by hostile army during Civil War

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sleep under the stars! Be a game warden!

    July 27, 2014

  • He was here long before Duck Dynasty

    July 27, 2014

  • Very first memories of a very long life

    July 27, 2014

  • FSU Planetarium has new outreach program

    Several years ago, the FSU planetarium acquired an iPad. Months later, we purchased an iPad projector with necessary cables. I purchased a number of astronomical apps this year for the iPad. So I’m interested in visiting schools in this county to teach the stars and planets to classes. The astronomical apps allow you to survey the current evening night sky and show the planets, bright stars and star groups. One of the apps shows the planets close up with wonderful surface detail (as if you were cruising by in a spaceship). The apps I’ll be using can be purchased from the iTunes app store for a few dollars.

    July 27, 2014

  • O’s, Pirates will be buyers, but when?

    Not that we should expect any blockbuster deals to go down as Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline approaches, but the names you hear in Baltimore are catcher Kurt Suzuki and starting pitchers Ian Kennedy, A.J. Burnett and Jorge De La Rosa.

    July 27, 2014

  • Expectations too high for a rehabbing Woods

    July 27, 2014

  • Peanuts and Cracker Jack beat any foam finger

    Times have changed, and for the better, as this week marks the third year in a row NFL training camps have opened and have not taken center stage in the cities of Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Washington. That, of course, is due to the play of the three baseball teams that inhabit said cities, the Orioles, the Pirates and the Nationals — two of whom hold first place in their respective divisions, with the other one entering play on Wednesday just 2 1/2 games out of first.

    July 23, 2014