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Airplane crash that was heard around the world


On June 17, 1947, General Robert Travis and I arrived from our base at Hickam Field, Hawaii, to take command of the base I would serve at for the next 19 years, Fairfield-Suisun Army Air Base, Calif.

The name of the base would change in less than two years with the start of the Korean War. I would be right in the middle of it.

On the night of August 5, 1950, General Travis got on a B-29 Superfortress Bomber as an observer on its mission to carry an atomic bomb casing to the Pacific. A propeller malfunction after liftoff, and failure of the landing gear to retract, forced the pilot to try to attempt to make a crash landing near the end of the base’s runway. He didn’t make it.

The blast dug a 6-foot deep, 30-foot wide crater, and damaged almost every building on base. It destroyed the base fire department. Nineteen bodies were found.

General Travis was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, and the base was named after him, Travis Air Force Base.

This old Jenkins, Kentucky boy would be on this base for the next 10 years.

I got calls from many states, and the world, and they wanted to know all about the crash, as I was in charge of the base’s printing department during everything that went on.

General Travis and I both were at Hickam Field when it was decided our headquarters at Hickam Field, Hawaii would move to this base in California a month before the crash.

Everything was moved in one week to this new base that I knew very little about. I would serve two terms there.

(Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Vacaville, Calif.)

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