Thursday, July 24, 2008

Farewell, Raider 21

From the Air Force Association’s Daily Report:

All Perished in Bomber Crash: The Air Force yesterday announced it had formally declared that all six airmen had died in the B-52 crash off the northwest coast of Guam on July 21. Search and rescue crews found the bodies of two airmen on July 21, and by July 23 they shifted from round-the-clock rescue operations to recovery mode. Five of the six airmen on board had deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam, from the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB, La. The sixth was a flight surgeon assigned to the 36th Medical Group at Andersen. The Barksdale airmen were: Maj. Christopher M. Cooper, 33, aircraft commander; Maj. Brent D. Williams, 37, navigator; Capt. Michael K. Dodson, 31, co-pilot; 1st Lt. Joshua D. Shepherd, 26, navigator; and 1st Lt. Robert D. Gerren, 32, electronic warfare officer. From Andersen was Col. George Martin, 36th MDG deputy commander. The massive rescue operations covered a 7,000-square mile area and included Air Force, Coast Guard, and Navy search teams and Guam emergency services personnel. "Losing this bomber crew has been a tragedy felt by everyone here and across the Air Force," said Brig. Gen. Douglas Owens, 36th Wing commander, and added, "I extend our sincerest gratitude to the men and women involved with this [rescue and recovery] effort." The 2nd Bomb Wing commander, Col. Robert Wheeler, said in a subsequent release, "We appreciate the military and civilian organizations who are continuing recovery efforts to bring our airmen home."

The downed B-52 flew using the call sign "Raider 21." You can view portraits of the airmen of Raider 21 at each individual link: Maj. Christopher M. Cooper, Maj. Brent D. Williams, Capt. Michael K. Dodson, 1st Lt. Robert D. Gerren, 1st Lt. Joshua D. Shepherd, and Col. George T. Martin. There’s more on Raider 21 at the Barksdale AFB web site.

Farewell, Gentlemen, and God Speed.


  1. This is really Sad - they were going to do a Flyby for a parade. We may never know what brought them down. Its a shame, the BUFF is one of those truly great aircraft along with the "kids" flying them.

    My squadron never lost an aircraft or crew although as an Air Wing we did loose many, I can't think right now how many. A couple of A-7's, an F-4 when we had them and then two F-14's. We had an A-6 go down with a full load of live bombs while we were at the live range in Nevada. Our Squadron did have a Pane Captain go overboard during a storm. The flight deck plat camera captured him going over while carrying an intake screen (covers the engine inlet while doing a ground turn, keeps out FOD) but no one noticed he was missing for maybe 15 or 20 minutes. One of the Small Boys that follows us found his body a day later.

    That was a hit and I am sure that is what the rest of Raider 21's squadron mates are going through.

    BT: Jimmy T sends.

  2. Jimmy: Wow. The day you lost the Plane Captain must have been pretty horrific. Aviation is a dangerous business, whether on aircraft carriers or land-based. Much more so on carriers, one would think.

    As Andersen's Wing King said: "Losing this bomber crew has been a tragedy felt by everyone here and across the Air Force..."

    Jenny: Thanks.

  3. Buck, Yeah it was pretty sad, the guy was well liked, really popular in the squadron one of the top three Plane Captains in our outfit (we had 15).

    When they returned him to the ship the entire flight deck crew lined up as what we call "side-buoys" in the Navy, a two line formation that the stokes he was in was carried between. The line went from Spot 2 on the angle deck to elevator #1, it was maybe 200 feet long. Not a word was said as he carried by fellow Brown Shirts to the Ships Medical and the morgue down on the 3rd deck (and Yes, the CV/CVN's have morgue's, they don't keep the dead in the food refer).

    There is more but it is gruesome, he was prepared for transshipment and a volunteer was picked to accompany him Home (he was from the Detroit area - and Yeah, after all these years I remember that and his name). He was flown off on a COD (a C-1A) with his personal escort and two S-3's formed up on the COD and escorted it to "feet dry" inbound Rota, Spain.

    But that Squadron would fly on and we would actually set a Navy Safety record in fact that record was still intact until about 4 years ago. They had a 50 plus year record (unheard of in Naval Aviation, especially for a carrier based squadron) until some hot-dog's put an aircraft into the runway at Tinker showing off on a take-off. You know the pull the gear handle early and make a show, but I guess they did not account for that hump in the runway and they put it back into the tarmack skidded out on the belly. The crew had to de-plane by blowing a canopy and climbing out like a fighter instead of using the Crew Door. The plane had to be scraped in place.

    What we used to call "The Breaks of Naval Air".

    BT: Jimmy T sends.

  4. Jimmy: Thanks for the rest of the story about your Plane Captain... and it's a very sad tale, indeed. One thing is VERY clear to me, though: all y'all certainly knew how to honor your fallen shipmate. I suspect that is something that will NEVER change.

    And the Tinker anecdote made me laugh, even though it sure as Hell ain't funny, especially considering at least ONE career was probably over the very moment that aircraft kissed the runway at Tinker. The military is very unforgiving about multi-million dollar mistakes, especially where potential loss of life is concerned. As they should be.

  5. I remember working security at Griffiss AFB in upstate NY, when a 52 came in belly first....lucky all got out alive. Sad part is, the same planes we were guarding back in the late 1960s and early 70s were already considered old....and those suckers are still round today, 40 years later.


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