A Boeing B-52G Stratofortress similar to this one crashed near Goldsboro, North Carolina on Jan. 23, 1961 as the crew tried to make an
emergency landing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. Three of eight crew members perished in the accident.
OPERATION CHROME DOME
The fear of nuclear war was so severe during the height of the Cold War that the United States Air Force kept some 12 SAC aircraft
in the air and on missions 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The exercise was known as Operation Chrome Dome. In the event of an
attack, the airborne fleet could fly directly to predetermined targets.
The B-52s at Seymour Johnson were a critical part of that alert force. To keep them airborne for extended flights, the planes were
fitted with integral fuel bladders installed in the wings that could be refueled in midair.
On the morning of Jan. 23, 1961, the eight airmen who crewed the B-52 named
Keep 19 were going through final flight checks before departure from Seymour Johnson
on an airborne alert mission. They climbed aboard the giant bomber and prepared for takeoff.
The flight commander and pilot was Maj. Walter S. Tulloch with pilots Capt. Richard
W. Hardin and 1st Lt. Adam C. Mattocks. Other crewmembers were Maj. Eugene
Shelton, radar navigator; Capt. Paul E. Brown, navigator; 1st Lt. William H. Wilson,
electronics warfare officer; Maj. Eugene H. Richards, electronics warfare instructor; and
Tech. Sgt. Francis R. Barnish, gunner.
Flying along the Eastern Seaboard, the flight had gone well with no complications. Later
that evening over the North Carolina coast, Keep 19 was in the process of midair refueling
with a KC-135 tanker aircraft. Then, the KC-135 pilot reported a fuel leak in the B-52’s
right wing. The added stress from the additional fuel bladder was about to cause a fatal
accident. When fuel began streaming from the wing, the refueling operation was aborted.
After dumping most of its remaining fuel the plane was directed by air controllers to return
to Seymour Johnson.
Maj. Walter S. Tulloch
U.S. AIR FORCE
MT. SOLEDAD NATIONAL VETERANS MEMORIAL