Topics - RB-36 H-25 Peacemaker Crash
Nut Grove, Newfoundland, Canada
March 18, 1953

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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, Massachusetts.


[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 planned.

"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 anything changed."

To learn more about this crash in greater detail, visit

List of Fatalities (by alpha order)

  1. Beard, SSgt. Ira Vester - gunner
  2. Bransdor, Lt. Clifford W. - ECM/observer
  3. Clark, Capt. Orion F. - pilot
  4. Ellsworth, Brig. Gen. Richard E. - co-pilot & commander
  5. Fauhl, Capt. Stuart G. - navigator/observer
  6. Hoppens, A2C Keith E. - gunner
  7. Kuzik, A1C Theodore J. - gunner
  8. Maher, Capt. William P. - radar observer
  9. Maltsberger, TSgt. Jack H. - crew chief
  10. Mancos, A2c Phillip Jr. - gunner
  11. Meader, 1Lt. Edwin J. - flight engineer
  12. Murray, Maj. John F. - ECM
  13. Nall, A2cRobert H. - observer
  14. Pace, 1Lt. James E. - flight engineer
  15. Plonski, TSgt. Walter A. - radio operator
  16. Powell,1Lt. James A. Jr. - ECM/observer
  17. Pruett, Capt. Jacob H. Jr. - aircraft commander
  18. Rogers, A2c Morris H. - photographer
  19. Smith, Capt. Harold G. - photo navigator
  20. Ullom, SSgt. Robert E. - gunner
  21. Vaughn, A1c Burse J. - radio operator
  22. Winegardner, MSgt.Jack S. - photographer
  23. 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 Germany.

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

[Source: Findagrave]

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 the General.

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 Chadwick.

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, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania.

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, Virginia.

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, Utah.

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, Hazleton, Pennsylvania. 

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 County, Ohio.

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.



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