U-Tapao RTAFB
635th SPS,
B-52 Crash!

Flames at U-Tapao
U-Tapao B52 Crash Late 1972

by Vernon J. Anderson
© 2000

http://www.vspa.com

I was working that night as the K9 Night Supervisor when we received word to prepare for recovery of our birds (B-52) that had been sent out earlier. Some were battle damaged, one more than the others.

 

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The birds started to arrive one after the other until there was only one left to land.

"Where was he -- is he going to get here? -- There! there he is -- he is moving so slowly."

 

The first pass is made at the base, but things are not right and he has to make another pass. "Why is he trying to land such a badly damaged plane?" We are informed that the tail gunner cannot bail out -- too badly injured.

Around he goes, trying to make the second landing approach. So slowly he is moving, coming in. Again they are requested to bail out, again the gunner can't. Lower and lower he gets, but wait, it cannot seem to get any lower." He's veering left -- OH MY GOD not into the KC-135 parking area - they are all loaded with JP4 -- GET IT UP!! GET IT UP!!

Okay, he's leveled off -- not going to hit. Keep it going man, keep it going - Oh No he's going in - My God--what a fireball--it's just like daylight. Did they have time to get out?

Fire settling down now. Hopelessly we all stood watching as the flames burn down.

Slowly in my mind I am going back to another base where 8 years earlier I am standing in the rain with my dog along side of the runway watching another plane land. "Oh My God what happened - fireball - great light - Its not going to stop - got to get out of here - it's okay Boy, not going to get this far." I had watched 77 people die and could not help them. Seven AP's arriving from stateside died that night at Clark AFB 1964.

The flames at U-Tapao are almost gone.

Later we learned that two (2) crew members survived: The tail gunner who could not bail out and what I remember as the EWO officer (could very well have been co-pilot). Some time later, I went to the spot where the wreckage was stored to look at it and do a post check on a dog handler. Cockpit, tail assembly and part of the wings: Good men died in this thing -- doing what they thought was right. Twice I had watched as good men died and could not help -- never wanted to have to watch again.

Vernon J Anderson (SSgt 1972)
K-9 Night Supervisor,
U-Tapao RTNAFB

B-52 Crash!
Animated file by: Don Poss, © 2000. Click to Animate