Group of veterans who flew B-47s meets for final time
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A group of veterans who piloted nuclear-armed B-47 bombers during the 1950s recently reunited for the last time.
The B-47 Stratojet Association is comprised of Strategic Air Command veterans who braved dangerous B-47 bombers for Cold War reconnaissance missions, electronic warfare jamming and a shared belief that they were preventing World War III. But the association’s board voted this week to disband the organization, putting an end to the get-togethers that have been going on since 1998.
Almost 100 veterans gathered for the final reunion in Omaha this week, the Omaha World-Herald reported.
“We’re getting old,” said retired Col. Don Cassiday, the association’s president. “It’s heartbreaking to see it go down. But it has to go.”
The B-47 bomber was a revolutionary design when it was developed in the late 1940s. It was the first mass-produced plane to feature swept-back wings and podded engines, among other innovations.
But of the roughly 2,000 built, 203 crashed. More than 435 SAC crew members died aboard the bombers.
“It was fun to fly, but it was also a very dangerous airplane,” said Cassiday, 84. “You could get into trouble.”
The B-47′s six slow-starting engines didn’t deliver enough power during takeoff and landing, said C. Mike Habermehl, the association’s newsletter editor and chaplain. The plane was also prone to stalling or spinning during critical phases of flight.
Habermehl described the bomber as “unforgiving.”
“We took great pride in our role in America’s defense,” Cassiday added. “We thought little of the losses, unless they were our close friends. We knew that SAC relied on us, and we were ready to do what we had to.”
The association plans to donate its leftover funds to the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum in Ashland to help complete the restoration of its B-47 Stratojet.
Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com