Requiem for a B-36 -- Page 3
|After growing up in an El Paso neighborhood not far from the crash,
several members of the INHL decided in August of 2002 to see how
the site looks sixty years later. (Click on images to
enlarge them to full page size)
is not visible from the city, and requires a rigorous climb that
can leave unacclimatized travelers gasping -- especially in 100 degree
Rio Grande Valley is visible behind Christopher C. Multhauf (Left) and
David F. Etzold (right) The distant mountains lie across the
US border in Mexico. The city of Juarez and El Paso are separated
by an almost invisible thread of water -- the Rio Grande.
There are no trails to the crash site, and travelers must take care to avoid
damaging the delicate desert foliage. Dave Etzold (right) and
George Saucedo (Left) are standing on Ordovician limestone deposited
on an ocean bottom 450 million years ago. Close
inspection reveals the fossils of tiny ammonites. This
rock was thrust upward through more recent sediments in the huge tectonic
events that created the Franklin mountains -- the last southern vestages
of the Rockies.
Dave has located one of the jet engines.
The jets were only used during takeoff and landing, the intakes protected by dilated iris covers while cruising. The ground is sprinkled with titanium alloy blades from the turbine.
The aluminum shows no signs of corrosion. Perhaps the US government
will someday make this a historic site, to prevent souvenir hunters from removing what remains of one of America's historic bombers.
Close inspection reveals the intricate workmanship of this early
jet engine that would someday lead to modern jet-propelled bombers.
The B-36 was propellor-diven -- designed for long-range heavy bomb loads.
Like the flying fortresses of World War II, the B-36 had gunners assigned
to turrets built into the nose and tail of the plane. An additional
turret could be elevated from the upper portion of the fuselage.
A fighter jet escort was normally intended to help protect the bomber,
but later versions of the B36 tested "parasite fighters" that could be
deployed from the belly of the plane.
In this photo, Jim Davison (Left) and
Chris Multhauf (Right) ponder the strange circumstances that lead to
this piece of steel arriving at this remote mountain peak. There
is no evidence that Garick was carrying a nuclear bomb, but even 60 years
later, little vegetation seems to grow on this barren patch of ground.
INHL records indicate one witness -- Nelson Martin --
noticed the plane bank over his head during physical education at El
Paso High School, saw the bomber disappear into the clouds, and heard the
explosion. He states the following day he climbed to the edge of the
crash sight with a friend, and found the area cordoned off and scoured by
men in strange suits, picking up objects and putting them into bags. On
our next trip, the INHL will bring radiation detection equipment.
A total of six propellers were driven by huge
engines that were connected by complex gears to the propellor --
giving the aircraft an unmistakable growl.
Click here to hear a B-36
Perched high on a ridge is a large rusty piece
of steel that a appears to have been the landing gear for the aircraft.
Around the site, flakes of burned magnesium can occasionally be found,
in spite of the fierce winds that normally sweep the mountain.
Far below, a residential neighborhood at the foothills of Mt. Franklin.
Steep canyon walls lead on up to the summit
of Mt. Franklin, but the intense afternoon heat made the ascent impossible
that afternoon. In any case, that was not our goal. The
INHL had seen what it came to see.
High above the city, a faded cross on the rock pays tribute
to those who met their fate in in this spot 60 years ago:
- Lt. Col. Herman Gerick
- 1st Pilot Maj. George C. Morford
- 1st Navigator Major Douglas J. Miner
- 1st Flight Engineer 1st Lt. Cary B. Fant Jr.
- 1st Radio Operator M/Sgt. Royal Freeman
- Gunner A/C1 Edwin D. Howe
- Gunner: A/20 Frank Silverstri
- 492 Bomb Squadron Staff Flight Engineer 1st Lt. James M. Harvey
- Passenger 492 Bomb Squadron 1st Sgt. Dewy Taliaferro
Strategic Air Command (SAC), 8th Air Force
Bomber Wing, 492 Bomber Squadron
The International Natural History League is dedicated to
expanding the sphere of human knowledge. This project completes
the 9th year of the planned 1000 year charter. See you next year.
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