Denver, CO Bomber Crashes Into Homes, Dec 1951

Ruins of Bomber Crash


Denver, Dec. 3 -- (AP) -- The Lowry Air Force Base public information office Monday night released the names of the crew members killed in the crash of a B-23 bomber in a Denver residential area Monday.
The dead were identified as:
T/Sgt. ROBERT F. JARVIS, 29, of 269 Margaret St., Plattsburg, N.Y., gunnery instructor.
T/Sgt. HERBERT OESER, 26, 72 Palmer St., Springdale, Conn., gunnery instructor.
Cpl. RICHARD P. YUKOB, 19, 21 Shephard St., Lynn, Mass., gunnery instructor.
Pfc. JAMES E. SNYDER, 19, 400 Cambridge St., Huntsville, Ala., gunnery instructor.
Pfc. RONALD W. WIERSMA, 20, 345 Cherry St., Grand Rapids, Mich., gunnery
Pfc. WILLIAM J. ABLONDI, 2C, 11 Cypress St., Framingham, Mass., gunnery student.
Pfc. BAXTER SURBER, 20, Gold Bond, Va., gunnery student, whose parents' address was listed at Rural Route No. 3, Chestertown, Ind.
Pfc. JOHN R. SERVIC, 20, Flint, Mich.
Injured were:
Captain JAMES W. SHANKS, 33, pilot of plane, 2929 Glencoe St., Denver, condition, fair.
First Lt. ROBERT H. SNURE, 27, Spokane, Wash., temporary residence 1733 Paris Street, Aurora, Colo., condition, critical.
S/Sgt. WILLIAM A. ZIPPEL, 29, of Baudette, Minn., condition, good.
Corporal RAY E. WIDNER, 19, of R.R. 3, Westby, Wis., condition, good.
Pfc. TEDDY D. ALLEN, 18, South Gate, Cal., condition, fair.
Pfc. JOE D. WIGGINS, 20, R.F.D. 6, Williamsburg, Va., condition, good.




My daddy, Ted Allen was the

My daddy, Ted Allen was the replacement on that flight. He spent 3 years having skin graft surgeries. He married my mom in 1955 and they had 5 girls in 5 years. My daddy is 83 years old now, still in great shape and one of the nicest people ever!

My father was on this training flight

My father, Cpl. Raymond Widner, was also on this flight! He had just finished training in the back end of the plane when he reported to the pilot. The pilot had just lost the first engine and told my dad to sit down and strap in just behind the cockpit. Apparently there was a steel wall separating the cockpit from the rest of the plane? My dad survived, crawling out of the open end at the front of the plan past the pilot and co-pilot, who he thought were both dead. He was in shock and injured and all he could think of was to get away from the plane as fast as he could. He crawled into someone's back yard about 3 houses away and was missing until the homeowner came out and discovered him! My father never shared with his 7 children that he had been in this horrific crash until we were all adults. He just passed on Nov. 19, 2015 with full military honors as a CMSgt. after serving over 20 years in the US Air Force. He will always be my hero.

In 1951 I was playing in the

In 1951 I was playing in the school yard of Dora Moore School when a B29 flew over the school yard real low and making a lot of noise. We later heard that it had crashed short of the runway at Lowery Air Base. I was 9 years old at the time and interested in planes because of the conflict in Korea.
We were unable to get near the crash site but I remember the bright lights and all of the fire trucks etc that surrounded the area. Glad to find proof of a memory that I was not sure of.

One of the survivors

My uncle, Joe Wiggins, is the last person on the list of the wounded. He was a gunnery instructor and was supposed to be in the section of the plane where everyone was killed, but the radio operator, who was visiting that section complained about having to crawl through the long tunnel to get back to the radio operator's seat for the landing.

Joe volunteered to swap with him, crawled through the tunnel and had no idea that the airplane was in trouble. He was sitting in the only seat in the airplane that had no window.

The pilot knew the #4 engine was dead and feathered the prop to stop it from spinning in the wind, but didn't know that the #3 engine was also dead. It spun in the wind almost as fast as the two functional engines.

He was having problems flying straight enough to not destroy the landing gear, so he radioed ahead to warn that he intended to attempt a belly landing with gear up. It was apparently common that in belly landings, the radio operator would be crushed by the bottom, forward turret coming up through the floor.

But the pilot got more control over the airplane and decided to lower the landing gear.

The B29 has three electric generators. One in each of the two inner engines (#2 and #3) and the emergency generator in the rear. The pilot didn't think to power up the emergency generator. Lowering the landing gear put a load on the two functional generators, stopping #3 from spinning, and killing #2.

A B29 won't fly with one engine. That's why it crashed.

The nose wheel lowered far enough to save my uncle. He woke up sufficiently traumatized that he numbly shoved radio equipment off his lap, unbelted his seat belt and walked through the broken windows of the cockpit. He walked away from the plane and laid down, vaguely following his memories of what he was trained to do in case of a crash.

With three broken ribs, a gash over his eye and a cut leg, he may have been the least seriously injured man on the plane, though he was originally listed as missing.

He's still quite alive and active; the luckiest person in one of the unluckiest places.

Footage of Denver B-29 Bomber Crash

I have some amateur footage of this plane crash shot on 16mm color film immediately after the crash. In searching around online I also found a small bit of a professional black and white newsreel that also covered the crash. You can view the newsreel on this page:

B-29 crash

We lived at 511 Dexter Street, about 6 blocks from the crash. I was very young, but I remember my dad piling us in the car and driving up to where the street was blocked. He left Mom and me in the car, but the vivid memory I have is one of the engines suspended from a giant crane illuminated by spotlights which had been set up to allow work at night. The other thing I remember is the house across the street whose roof had been hit by one of the landing gear. It tore a small section out of the roof, but the rest of the house was intact. The roof was repaired, but for years you could see the scar on the roof because the shingles were a different color/age.

More On Crash

Mr. Rutledge comments are interesting. My father, Jack Stanley, was a high altitude chamber instructor. He was not part of this crew and was just along for the ride. I'm not sure why. Perhaps he took the flight because of the opening created on the plane when Mr. Rutledge and Mr. Snyder attended the class that day.

bomber crash

I was a student gunner on that crew in 1951. This was a student training flight, composed, alphbetically, of r's and s's. The names ot the students were, Snyder, Sylvia, Surber, Rutledge, Snyder, Allen, Ablondi, I can't remember all. There were two James Snyder's, one from Alabama, and one from Loveland. Ohio. Myself and James Snyder from Ohio, were removed from this flight to attend training in the altitude chamber that day. We were replaced by Allen and Ablondi. Ablondi was killed, but Allen survived. He was severly burned, and recieved treatment for years at Military burn centers. I saw him many times during the next 4 years. 1/Lt. Bob Snure was the co-pilot on the plane. He married a girl from Alpine, Tx, where I grew up, and I knew him personnsly. He was severly injured, and never got over it. His wife had to leave him because of the kids.

December 1951 B-29 Bomber Crash in Denver

My Father was stationed at Lowry AFB in 1951 and was originally scheduled as the Tailgunner for this B-29 flight in December. At the last minute, he was removed from Tailgunner duty and given a new assignment as B-29 Gunnery School Instructor. I believe he has always wondered what would have happened had this last minute assignment change not occured. The new assignment allowed him to attend school in Los Angeles, where he married his high school sweetheart on December 20, before moving on to the Atomic Bomb Wing in Mountain Home, Idaho where he instructed airmen on the plane's gun systems for the remainder of his 4 year hitch. The word he received was the surviving Tailgunner was burned over 90% of his body following the accident. Unfortunately, the Tailgunner section of the plane was also home to a large gasoline drum to be used for an emergency generator in the event of electrical power loss during bombing missions. Almost every section of this state-of-the-art bomber depended on electrical power, and without an emergency generator the plane was virtually a sitting duck if hit in the right spot. I was told he was soaked with the gasoline from this drum and was protected from the flames, while in this section of the plane. He knew he had to get out of the plane somehow, so himself and others on the ground finally managed his escape from the pod. Unfortunately, when finally got out of the plane the flames outside the pod inginited his gasoline soaked body. It is obvious my Father thinks about his replacement on that day quite a bit, especially now at the end of his life. He is 76 years old now and has been married to his sweetheart (and my Mother) ever since their marriage only days after this tragic accident occurred. It seems to me he is on a personal quest to find out as much as he can about this day in the twilight of his life. He has asked me to find a copy of the Denver Post article which includes the details of this event. But any paper would be fine, I'm sure. So if anyone out there happens to have a copy of any account of this tragic day, can you please let me know. Thank you.