During a low-altitude flight over the Atlantic Ocean, RB-36
(#51-13721), an all-weather bomber, struck an 896-foot tall ridge
near Nut Grove (Burgoyne's Cove), Newfoundland, Canada, on March 18,
1953 at an altitude of 800 feet. The pilots were off-course and had
misjudged speed, arriving at the coast of Newfoundland 1.5 hrs.
early. The plane exploded on impact, killing all 23 aboard.
That same night, a SAR aircraft (Boeing SB-29-70-BW Superfortress,
#44-69982) of the 52d ARS, 6th ARG, based at Harmon AFB,
Newfoundland, was sent out to assist the search for the crashed
RB-36 and went missing shortly before landing, apparently crashing
into St. Georges Bay and killing the crew of 11. The victims were:
Capt. Francis Xavier Quinn, Dorchester, Massachusetts; Capt. William
A. Roy, San Antonio, Texas; First Lt. Rodger D. Null, Venice,
California; First Lt. Robert W. Errico, Bronx, New York; S/Sgt.
David E. Kimbrough, Roswell, New Mexico; Cpl. David E. Rash,
Beaverton, Oregon; A/1c Robert J. Montgomery, Mountain Grove,
Missouri; A/3c Michael Kerr, Jr., Chisholm, Minnesota; A/3c Sammy O.
Jones, Akron, Ohio; and A/3c James E. Coggins, Allston,
[KWE Note: Source of the next two paragraphs:
"Brig. Gen. Richard E. Ellsworth, commander of the 28th Strategic
Reconnaissance Wing was co-piloting on a 25-hour journey as part of
a simulated combat mission flying from Lajes Airdrome in the Azores
back to Rapid City Air Force Base, South Dakota. As part of the
exercise, the bomber was observing radio silence and had switched
off their radar guidance, flying via celestial navigation. They had
planned to fly low over the ocean, steadily increasing to higher
altitudes before reaching the mountainous countryside of
Newfoundland. Late into the night, the aircraft struck bad weather
and went off course, reaching Newfoundland 90 minutes earlier than
"At 0410 hrs. at a hill near Burgoyne's Cove, inland from Nut Cove,
Trinity Bay, Newfoundland, with sleet, fog, freezing drizzle, and
visibility estimated at less than 1⁄8-mile (0.20 km), the plane
struck an 896-foot (273 m) hill at 800 feet (240 m) with a ground
speed of 202 knots (374 km/h). The aircraft's propellers severed the
tops of pine trees while the plane's left wing hit the ground, tore
off, and spilled fuel. The rest of the plane impacted some thousand
feet further. The impact and subsequent fire from the plane's fuel
tanks scorched an 8-foot-deep (2.4 m) trench in the countryside.
Loggers on a nearby hill spotted the fireball and alerted rescuers,
but all 23 on board were killed on impact. Much of the wreckage
remains at the crash site."
[KWE Note: The following information was found on
the "Hidden Newfoundland" website.]
"In order to test North America's defense systems,
multiple RB-36H Peacemaker reconnaissance aircraft from the 28th
Reconnaissance Wing out of Rapid City Air Force Base in South Dakota
took off from the Canary Islands and attempt to enter the continent
undetected. The planes were set to maintain a 500 foot altitude to
avoid detection and once they entered the continental US they would
climb to 40,000 feet and proceed to designated targets. On the night
of March 17, 1953, these aircraft took off in 15 minute intervals en
route to North America. The mission commander, General Richard E.
Ellsworth was in the first plane to leave and was the only person in
the air force who knew when the mission started. In order to
navigate to the United States in total secrecy, the pilots would use
sextons, a navigation instrument, and would have to rely on weather
forecasts which meant they weren’t able to be given updates if
To learn more about this crash in greater detail, visit
List of Fatalities (by alpha order)
- Beard, SSgt. Ira Vester - gunner
- Bransdor, Lt. Clifford W. - ECM/observer
- Clark, Capt. Orion F. - pilot
- Ellsworth, Brig. Gen. Richard E. - co-pilot & commander
- Fauhl, Capt. Stuart G. - navigator/observer
- Hoppens, A2C Keith E. - gunner
- Kuzik, A1C Theodore J. - gunner
- Maher, Capt. William P. - radar observer
- Maltsberger, TSgt. Jack H. - crew chief
- Mancos, A2c Phillip Jr. - gunner
- Meader, 1Lt. Edwin J. - flight engineer
- Murray, Maj. John F. - ECM
- Nall, A2cRobert H. - observer
- Pace, 1Lt. James E. - flight engineer
- Plonski, TSgt. Walter A. - radio operator
- Powell,1Lt. James A. Jr. - ECM/observer
- Pruett, Capt. Jacob H. Jr. - aircraft commander
- Rogers, A2c Morris H. - photographer
- Smith, Capt. Harold G. - photo navigator
- Ullom, SSgt. Robert E. - gunner
- Vaughn, A1c Burse J. - radio operator
- Winegardner, MSgt.Jack S. - photographer
- Wright, Maj. Frank C. - pilot
Bios of Fatalities
Beard, SSgt. Ira Vester
Sergeant Beard was born April 15, 1927 and was from Sentinel,
Oklahoma. His wife was Charlotte Grace Wood Ebeling
(1931-2007). They married in 1951. Ira is buried in
Sentinel Cemetery, Sentinel, Oklahoma.
Bransdor, Lt. Clifford Walter
Lieutenant Bransdor was born September 22, 1920 and was from
Cook County, Illinois. He was the son of Walter and Ebba
Bransdor. His one sibling was Jacquline Bransdor. [KWE
Note: Her first name might be spelled incorrectly.] Clifford was
a World War II veteran, serving with the Boucek Crew of the
753rd Squadron. He was later transferred to the 755th
Squadron. From 1944-1945 he flew 34 combat missions over
Clark, Capt. Orion F.
Orion was from Rapid City, South Dakota. His widow died
in December of 2010. They had two children, a son age 3
and a daughter age 6.
Ellsworth, Brig. Gen. Richard Elmer
B.G. Ellsworth was born July 18, 1911 in Erie, Eerie County,
Pennsylvania, the son of John Elmer Ellsworth (1872-1932) and
Edna M. Ellsworth (1872-1945). His wife was Mary Anne
Thornton Ellsworth (later Borglum) (1917-1985). Richard is
buried in Black Hills National Cemetery, Sturgis, South Dakota.
United States Army Brigadier General. His military career
began in 1929 when he joined the Pennsylvania National Guard.
Two years later he was accepted to the U.S. Military Academy and
then went on to pilot training in Texas. He received a master's
degree in meteorology from the California Institute of
Technology. In 1943 he participated in the Pacific war
offensives flying more than 400 combat missions in the
China-Burma-India Theater. He logged more than 780 hours of
flying. He received battle stars for 8 campaigns, earned the
Legion of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Air
Medals and received the Chinese Air Force Wings. After the war
he returned to the United States and took over the
responsibilities of Chief of Operations and Training for the Air
Weather Service in Washington D.C. In September 1952, he was
promoted to Brigadier General. During the early 1950's he
assisted the filming of the movie, "Battles of Chief Pontiac"
starring Lex Barker, Helen Westcott and Lon Chaney Jr. General
Ellsworth allowed military personnel from the Air Force Base to
perform as extras in the movie and he also provided water trucks
for the movie crews. In the Spring of 1953 he was co-piloting a
bomber on a 25-hour simulated combat mission flying from the
Azores to Rapid City, South Dakota. Part of the simulation
included observation of radio silence and use of no radar
guidance. Celestial navigation was part of the training. Late in
the night they encountered bad weather and went off course. At
about 4:10 AM, near Burgoyne's Cove in Newfoundland, the bomber
struck an 896 foot hill while traveling at 202 knots. At the
time, visibility was reported to be about 1/8 of a mile. General
Ellsworth and 22 of the crew were killed on impact. On June 13,
1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower went to the Rapid City Air
Force Base and re-named it Ellsworth Air Force Base in honor of
Fauhl, Capt. Stuart Gerald
Born on June 16, 1925, Stuart was from Bessemer, Michigan.
His wife was Wanda Cook Fauhl (1928-1989) and they had one son,
Alan Fauhl, who had just turned three years old. Stuart
was an only child. Wanda later married Lt. Col. Junius
Hoppens, A2C Keith Edward
Keith was born September 9, 1928, a son of Edward August
Hoppens (1903-2978) and Martha Frieda Arp Hoppens (1906-1989).
His wife was Shirley Ann Nuss Hoppens (1932-2009). The
couple married in 1951. They had two children, Vickie
Hoppens (vanHall) and Kenneth Hoppens. Keith's siblings
were Robert LaVerne Hoppens (1927-2013), Dean Raymond Hoppens
(1934-2004) and JoAnn Hoppens Pettyjohn. Keith is buried
in Harvard Cemetery, Harvard, Nebraska. There is a
cenotaph in his honor in Sutton Cemetery, Sutton, Nebraska.
Kuzik, A1C Theodore J.
Theodore was born in 1930, son of Peter Kuzik (1890-1964) and
Helen Kuzik (1890-1962). His siblings were Paul Kuzik
(1925-1946), William "Bill" Kuzik (1919-2008), Doris Kuzik (died
2009), Anne Kuzik Heaton, Thomas Kuzik, Xenia Olga Moran (Mrs.
Stephen J. Moran Jr. (1922-2008), John Kuzik, and Peter Kuzik.
Theodore is buried in Gate of Heaven Cemetery, East Hanover,
Morris County, New Jersey.
Maher, Capt. William Patrick "Bill"
Born on October 19, 1915, in Manchester, New Hampshire,
William was working for the Manchester City Street Railway
Company as a bus repairer in 1940. He enlisted in April 1942 and
was sent overseas. Assigned to the 303rd Bomb Group/358th Bomb
Squadron in England. Shot down over France in B-17 42-29635 'Augerhead'
on the 31 August 1943 mission to bomb the Amiens/Glisy airfield,
France. After bailing out, he landed just South of Abbeville,
France. Helped by French patriots and the Belgian Comet evasion
network, he crossed into Spain on 22 September 1943, reached
Gibraltar on 1 October and was back in England on 5 October
1943. Maher was a member of the William Monahan crew, which
usually flew B-17F #41-24577 'Hell's Angels'. After WWII,
William Maher returned to the US and stayed in the Air Force,
serving last as a Navigator/ Observer on RB-36 aircraft out of
Rapid City. He is buried in Saint Joseph Cemetery, Manchester,
Hillsborough County, New Hampshire.
Maltsberger, TSgt. Jack Highlander
Jack was born on September 17, 1928, a son of John Nelson
Maltsberger (1892-1980) and Ethel Belle Frey Maltsberger
(1891-1971). He married Marian L. Talley (1930-2016) in
1950 and they had two sons, John and Jim. John later
joined the US Navy and Jim joined the US Air Force. Jack had
three siblings: John Otho Maltsberger (1917-1983), Raynard W.
(Beanie) Maltsberger, and Marian Maltsberger (Mrs. Dale W.
Swaney 1923-2014). Jack is buried in Cypress Lawn Memorial
Park, Everett, Washington.
Mancos, A2c Phillip Jr.
Phillip was born August 17, 1931, son of Phillip T. Mancos
(1899-1975) and Lydia K. Mancos (1901-1997). He is buried
in Sunset Memorial Park and Mausoleum in Chester, Virginia.
Meader, 1Lt. Edwin James
Edwin was born January 25, 1920 in Iowa, a son of Harry
Lawrence Meader (1893-2954) and Eunice Frances Christopher
Meader (1895-1970). He married Ila Mae Meyer (1926-2017)
in 1945. They had five children, the youngest being six
months old. Edwin's siblings were Ethel Meader Smith
(1916-2009), Levi Howard Meader (1918-1967), William R. Meader
(1923-1966), and Marvin D. Meader (1935-1953). Edwin is
buried in Pine View Cemetery, Delaware, Delaware County, Iowa.
Murray, Maj. John Francis
John was born June 13, 1917 and was a World War II veteran
from Wisconsin. He was a reservist who was called back
into active duty in 1950. His widow was Marion L. Jaeger
Murray (1917-2010). John is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery
and Mausoleum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Nall, A2c Robert H. "Bobby"
Bobby Nall was born December 21, 1932, a son of John VanBuren
Nall Sr. (1896-1969) and Winnie Helveston Nall (1900-1976).
His siblings were John VanBuren Jr. (1921-1944), William N.
"Bill" Nall (1936-2005) and Mrs. Bill (Margaret Nall)
Netterville. Bobby's brother John died in a mid-air plane
collision. Robert Nall is buried in Highland Cemetery,
Hatiesburg, Forrest County, Mississippi.
Pace, 1Lt. James E.
Born October 4, 1918. James's wife was Ethel Deming Pace
(1897-1989). They adopted a son, Charles William "Bill"
Pace (1945-1989). James is buried in Grove Hill Memorial
Park, Dallas, Dallas County, Texas.
Plonski, TSgt. Walter A.
Born December 24, 1925, Walter was the son of Wladyslaw
"Walter" Plonski (1889-1963) and Laura Hermonowski Ponski
(1905-1982). His brother was Anthony W. Plonski
(1932-2009), and his sisters were Ciel Plonski and Pearl Plonski.
Walter is buried in Saints Peter and Paul Cemetery, Taylor,
Powell,1Lt. James Alfred Jr.
James Jr. was born on August 21, 1921, the son of James
Alfred Powell Sr. and Myrtle Amy Burkett Powell (1894-1978).
He had one sister, Anita Louise Powell (1915-1998). James
Jr. is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington,
Pruett, Capt. Jacob Henry Jr.
Jacob was born on November 30, 1922. He married Helen
Olivia French (1923-2001) in 1944 in Kanawha County, West
Virginia. They had two children, Jacob Pruett III, age 9 months, and
Linda Pruett (now Bauer), who was almost two at the time of Captain Pruett's
death. In 1955, Jacob's widow married Frank Benjamin
Higginbotham. Jacob Pruett Jr. is buried in Sunset
Memorial Park, South Charleston, Kanawha County, West Virginia.
Rogers, A2c Morris Henry
Morris was born November 22, 1932, in Idaho. He is
buried in Washington Heights Memorial Park, Ogden, Weber County,
Smith, Capt. Harold George
Harold was born December 07, 1923, in Pennsylvania, son of
Harold Smith and Phyllis A. Reinhart Smith (1898-1968).
Captain Smith had one siblings, his sister Jean R. Smith Benyi
(1921-1950). He is buried in Mount Laurel Memorial Park,
Ullom, SSgt. Robert E.
Born March 23, 1932, Robert was a son of Harry Elmer Ullom
and Josephine Marie Smart Ullom (1900-1985). His siblings
were Harry Herbert Ullom (1923-2002), Martha Ullom Barnard, and
Mary Ullom Strayer. Robert's brother Harry H., was a World
War II POW whose B-17 was shot down over Germany. Robert
is buried in Glen Haven Memorial Gardens, New Carlisle, Clark
Vaughn, A1c Burse Jones Jr.
Burse Jr. was born on April 6, 1932, in Clay, Webster County,
Kentucky, son of Burse J. Vaughn Sr. (1904-1972) and Hazel M.
Vaughn (1906-2003). He was a 1950 graduate of an
Evansville (Indiana) high school. He enlisted in the Air Force
July 17, 1951 and after completion of basic training at Sampson
Air Force Base, New York, he was assigned to Keesler Air Force
Base, Mississippi. On May 14, 1952 he was assigned to Rapid City
Air Force Base, South Dakota, as a radio operator. Survivors
besides the parents are his wife, Barbara, a sister, Mrs. Ray
Cannan (1930-2003); and a brother, Billy Vaughn, Evansville; and
his grandmother, Mrs. J. T. Sights, Clay. Airman
Vaughn is buried in Locust Hill cemetery, Evansville, Indiana.
Winegardner, MSgt. Jack S.
Jack was born March 20, 1924. His wife was Katherine
Winegardner (1930-1979). He is buried in Golden Gate
National Cemetery, San Bruno, California.
Wright, Maj. Frank C.
Frank was born August 16, 1916. His widow was Evelyn
Ruth Wright (1920-2007). Major Wright received the
Distinguished Flying Cross for valor while serving with the crew
of the B-24D "Angie the Ox" during World War II. Frank and
Evelyn are buried in Black Hills National Cemetery, Sturgis,
South Dakota. His hometown was Parade, South Dakota.