Barre, VT. – December 9, 1960

Barre, Vermont – December 9, 1960


B-52 Stratofortress
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On December 9, 1960, a B-52 Stratofortress, (Ser. No. 55-0114), left Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee, Massachusetts, for a training flight that would take it over upstate New York.  While over the Adirondack Mountians the aircraft experienced a significant drop in altitude and the crew, believing the aircraft was going to crash, ejected.   After all eight crewmen left the aircraft, the B-52 continued on for nearly one-hundred miles before crashing on the outskirts of Barre, Vermont, near the Plainfield town line.  The plane exploded on impact and was blown to pieces.  

     The crew were identified as:

     Pilot: Captain William T. Combs, 42, of Bristol, Va.

     Co-pilot: Lieutenant James Saravo, 25, of Newport, R.I.

     Navigator: Captain Ronald D. Little, 29, of Altoona, Pa.

     Radar Observer: Major Karl E. Keyes, 43, of Hyattsville, Md.

     Electronics Warfare Officer: 1st Lieutenant George M. Davis, of Pawtucket, R.I.

     Tail Gunner: Staff Sergeant Pierre J. Maheux, of Auburn, Maine.

     Instructor Pilot: Major Henry Luscomb, 41, of Simsbury, Ct.

     Airman 1C Charles E. Morris, 32, of Clearwater, Fl.

     The aircraft was part of the 348th Bomber Squadron, 99th Bombardment Group, based at Westover AFB.       

     Most of the crew came down in the Schroon Lake region.  Some were injured, and each faced dealing with below freezing temperatures before being rescued.  All would later recover.

     After two days the only crewman unaccounted for was Staff Sergeant Maheux.  His remains were found by a fisherman several months later on July 4, 1961.  He’s buried in St. Peters Cemetery, in Lewiston, Maine.     


     Springfield Union, “B52 From Westover Crashes In Vermont”, December 10, 1960, page 1.

     Springfield Union, “6 Westover Fliers Found; Search Is On For 2 Others”, December 12, 1960  

     Springfield Union, “Seventh Man Rescued In AF Plane Crash”,  memorial #121568372

Hawks Mountain, VT – June 14, 1947

Hawks Mountain, Vermont – June 14, 1947

In the Town of Perkinsville, Vermont


B-29 Super Fortress U.S. Air Force Photo

B-29 Super Fortress
U.S. Air Force Photo

      Shortly after midnight on June 14, 1947, a U.S. Air Force B-29A bomber, (44-62228), crashed into the southeast side of Hawks Mountain and exploded.  All twelve men aboard were killed, and to this day the incident remains the worst aviation accident to ever occur in Vermont.  

     The flight had originated the previous morning when the plane took off from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, for a navigational training mission to the east coast.  The plane was scheduled to land at Andrews Field (Later known as Andrews Air Force Base) in Washington, D.C., but due to bad weather was diverted to Pittsburg Airport where it arrived at 3:07 p.m.  After refueling, the aircraft proceeded towards Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, Massachusetts, where it was to remain overnight before flying back to Arizona the following day.  However, the weather grew worse, and with poor visibility and darkness falling the crew became lost, ending up over Vermont instead of Massachusetts.   

    Just before midnight the B-29’s radio operator tried making contact with Boston, but was unsuccessful.  The transmissions were picked up by Corporal Wendell J. Adams monitoring the radio at Grenier Field in Manchester, who contacted the aircraft to ask if he could be of assistance, to which he was told that he could not.  

     Not long afterwards citizens of Perkinsville reported hearing the B-29 circle low over the town just before the engines abruptly stopped and a huge fireball erupted on Hawks Mountain.  The time was set at 12:14 a.m.

     One witness to the crash was Mrs. Neil Pike, the town telephone operator, who immediately notified authorities of the crash.  “I saw a big glow like a bonfire,” she told reporters, “The whole sky was lighted up.”

     The B-29 was part of the 64th Bomb Squadron assigned to the 43rd Bomb Group. 

      The dead were identified as:

     (Pilot) 1st Lt. Robert G. Fessler, 29, of Manchester, South Dakota.  To see a photo of him, click here:

     (Co-pilot) 2nd Lt. Wilfred E. Gassett, age 24, of Massachusetts.  

     (Observer) 2nd Lt. Ceasare P. Fontana

     (Crew Chief) Master Sgt. D. D. Jack

     T/Sgt. Paul H. Fetterhoff

     T/Sgt. Clayton K. Knight

     Staff Sgt. Oliver W. Hartwell

     Staff Sgt. Sylvester S. Machalac

     Staff Sgt. John J. O’Toole, age 23.

     Cpl. Harry C. Humphrey

     Cpl. Robert Clark

     Pfc. Robert M. Stewart

     Lieutenants Fessler, Gassett, and Fintana, as well as sergeants Fetterhoff and Macalac, are all buried together at Long Island National Cemetery in East Farmingdale, New York, plot number M-25563. (See  memorial # 59350421)

     Staff Sergeant John O’Toole is also buried in the same cemetery, but not with the others. (see  memorial  #2777950)’toole

     According to Corporal Harry C. Humphrey’s tombstone, he was born June 11, 1930, which means he had just celebrated his 17th birthday at the time of his death.  He’s buried in Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  (See memorial # 83945570)

     Pfc. Robert M. Stewart is buried in Mt. Olive Cemetery in Connellsville, Penn. (See  memorial #86342395)


     New York Times, “”12 Killed As Army B-29 Hits Vermont Mountain In Storm”, June 16, 1947

     Lowell Sun, “Plane Only 12 Feet From Clearing Peak”, June 16, 1947

     The Evening Star, “4 Agencies Probe B-29 Crash In Vermont Costing 12 Lives”, June 16, 1947, page A-6




Return to Top ▲Return to Top ▲