Savage Mountain B-52 crash
The test of B-52H 61-0023 demonstrated the loss of vertical stabilizer in strong winds.
10 January 1964: 3 days before the Savage Mountain crash, a New Mexico B-52 test showed the vertical stabilizer could fail.
Date13 January 1964 (1964-01-13)
SummaryStructural failure
SiteSavage Mountain, Garrett County (near Frostburg, Maryland)
39°33′55″N 79°04′33″W / 39.565278°N 79.075833°W / 39.565278; -79.075833 (1964 Savage Mountain B-52 crash)Coordinates: 39°33′55″N 79°04′33″W / 39.565278°N 79.075833°W / 39.565278; -79.075833 (1964 Savage Mountain B-52 crash)
Aircraft typeBoeing B-52D Stratofortress
Operator484th Bombardment Wing, Heavy (SAC, United States Air Force)
(c/n 464012,[1] call sign "Buzz 14")
Flight originWestover Air Force Base
DestinationTurner Air Force Base
1964 Savage Mountain B-52 crash is located in Maryland
Crash site
Crash site
Barton, MD
Barton, MD
Crash site in Maryland
  • Pilot: Maj Thomas W. McCormick
  • Co-pilot: Capt Parker C. Peedin
  • Radar bombardier: Maj Robert J. Townley[2]
  • Navigator: Maj Robert Lee Payne
  • Tail gunner: TSgt Melvin F. Wooten
Survivors2 (Pilot, copilot)

The 1964 Savage Mountain B-52 crash was a U.S. military nuclear accident in which a Cold War bomber's vertical stabilizer broke off in winter storm turbulence.[3] The two nuclear bombs being ferried were found "relatively intact in the middle of the wreckage",[4] and after Fort Meade's 28th Ordnance Detachment secured them,[5] the bombs were removed two days later to the Cumberland Municipal Airport.[6]

Accident description

The B-52 D was returning to Georgia from Massachusetts after an earlier Chrome Dome airborne alert to Europe.[7] Near Meyersdale, Pennsylvania, on a path east of Salisbury, Pennsylvania;[8] and after altitude changes to evade severe turbulence;[4] the vertical stabilizer[7] broke off. The aircraft was left uncontrollable as a result; the pilot ordered the crew to bail out, and the aircraft crashed. The wreckage of the aircraft was found on the Stonewall Green farm.[8] Today, the crash site is in a private meadow of Elbow Mountain[9] within Savage River State Forest, along the public Savage Mountain Trail just north of the Pine Swamp Road crossing.[10]


As the only crew member who did not eject, the radar bombardier[2] died in the crash and was not located until more than 24 hours afterward.[11] The navigator and tail gunner died of exposure in the snow. The navigator's frozen body was found two days[2] after the accident, 6 miles (10 km) from the crash and 3 miles (5 km) away[12] from where his orange parachute was found high in a tree near Poplar Lick Run.[8]: 1  Unable to disentangle his chute he released the Koch fittings and fell over thirty feet (9.1 m) through the tree, suffering injuries from the branches; his survival tent and other gear remained in the tree. He then attempted to find shelter and "meandered", eventually falling down a steep slope in the dark into a river basin.[2] After landing in the "Dye Factory field", the tail gunner trekked in the dark with a broken leg and other injuries[2] over 100 yards (90 m) to the embankment of Casselman River – in which his legs were frozen when his body was found five days later, 800 yards (700 m) from a Salisbury street light.[8]: 2, 4 

The pilot parachuted onto Maryland's Meadow Mountain ridge near the Mason–Dixon line and, after being driven to the Tomlinson Inn on the National Road in Grantsville,[8]: 2  notified the United States Air Force of the crash. The co-pilot landed near New Germany Road, remained where he landed, and stayed "cozy warm" until rescued.[8]: 2 

See also


  1. ^ Baugher, Joseph F., "1955 USAF Serial Numbers", Encyclopedia of American Aircraft, archived from the original on 8 September 2009, retrieved 8 November 2009
  2. ^ a b c d e Johnson, Richard Riley (1995). Twenty Five Milk Runs (And a few others): To Hell's Angels and back. Victoria, Canada: Trafford Publishing. pp. 261–2. ISBN 1-4120-2501-X.
  3. ^ Sagan, Scott Douglas (1995). The Limits of Safety: Organizations, Accidents, and Nuclear Weapons. Princeton University Press. p. 202 (footnote 125). ISBN 0-691-02101-5.
  4. ^ a b "Narrative Summaries of Accidents Involving U.S. Nuclear Weapons: 1950–1980" (PDF). United States Department of Defense. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 October 2014. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  5. ^ Dearth, Dan (10 November 2010). "Soldier secured nukes at B-52 crash in 1964". Herald News. Hagerstown, Maryland. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
  6. ^ Whetzel, Dan (2002). "A Night to Remember" (PDF). Mountain Discoveries: 48–51. Retrieved 2 November 2009.
  7. ^ a b "Accident Description". Retrieved 16 November 2009.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Wood, David. "B-52 Crash". Newhouse News Service. Archived from the original on 30 November 2018. Retrieved 2 November 2009. (article + 5 pages of photos & clippings)
  9. ^ "Crew Bails Out As Jet Crashes". Playground Daily News. Vol. 17, no. 244 (Morning ed.). Fort Walton Beach, Florida. United Press International. 14 January 1964. p. 1.
  10. ^ Dreisbach, Mike (11 November 2009), "visitor information", Savage River Lodge (The "Savage River State Forest Trail Map Archived 18 December 2009 at the Wayback Machine" inaccurately names & depicts the "1962 B-52 Crash Site" as 1/6-mile on the incorrect (east) side of Westernport Road & 1/6-mile south of Swamp road.
  11. ^ "Secrecy Still Shrouds Plane Crash" (PDF). Utica Observer-Dispatch. 14 January 1964. Retrieved 26 November 2010.
  12. ^ Beitler, Stu (6 August 2009). "Cumberland, MD (near) Bomber Crash, Jan 1964". Retrieved 12 November 2009.