|Flight line at Whiteman Would have been similar on 15 May 1962 with 50 B-47s|
|B-47 Stratojets on a flightline.|
|Flight Crew of 53-6230 Boeing b-47E-135-BW Stratojet, 340th Bomb Wing that exploded.|
When the Air Force came to Larry's high school and told him and his friends about a new buddy program for enlistment, he knew he wanted to join. Many of his friends were also interested and together they decided to go into the new buddy program. Boot camp was at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. From there, Larry was shipped out to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, for radar training. This wasn't a good fit for him.
He was given another choice and he picked Whiteman Air Force Base in Knob Noster, Missouri, for firefighter training. Firefighter training, at that time, was almost all done on the job. The veteran firefighters would teach and test the new recruits. On May 15, 1962, the whole department was tested.
A B-47 Stratojet medium bomber was having a routine maintenance on the tarmac, when a problem developed. As they opened up the co-pilot's air refueling valve, the crew on the ground reported that fuel was spilling out from around the nose of the aircraft. The crew immediately evacuated the aircraft. A fire started and spread underneath the aircraft. The fire department was called in and responded quickly. They were able to put out the visible fire from around the exterior of the plane. The fire chief and three other firemen began the process of moving slowly around the plane to investigate any possible hot spots.
Larry Madden had seen the explosion as he was driving off of the base. He had tried to get back onto the base to help, but he had left his fire department ID on his bunk and the guards would not allow him back on the base to help. He watched helplessly from the side of the road outside a perimeter fence, praying for his co-workers and wishing he could do more to help.
Fire Chief P.E. Ralls approached the plane slowly with Airman 2nd Class Joseph Palagonia, Airman 3rd Class Jacob Lang and Wayne Hower to investigate the cause of the fire and find other hot spots. As they approached, one of the plane's engines unexpectedly blew up and all four men were killed instantly. Debris from the explosion flew everywhere, flames shot out from the plane which set off a chain reaction with other planes down the flight line. By the time the fires had been extinguished 18 other firefighters were injured. Two of those men injured, ultimately died from their injuries.
Other WAFB B-47 Accidents
Crash Story Link 1956
Crash story link 1957