01/23/11 — Reunion planned for those who saw the crash

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Reunion planned for those who saw the crash

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 23, 2011 1:50 AM

A reunion will be held Feb. 8 for many of the people who, 50 years ago Monday, were involved in the 1961 B-52 crash.

Three airmen were killed and five escaped when the aircraft fell Jan. 24, 1961, carrying two Mark 39 nuclear weapons -- each weapon was said to have contained more than 200 times the destructive power of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In 1983, former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara said the bombs "ran through six or seven steps in order to detonate," and "went through all but one."

That critical "step" was an electro-mechanical device called the arm/safe switch -- later, hydrogen bombs included modifications to significantly reduce the potential for inadvertent detonations.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the near-catastrophe, many of the individuals involved in the incident will meet Feb. 8 at the Faro Fire Station, but due to limited space inside the firehouse, the event will not be open to the general public.

Those planning to attend the reunion include:

* The only living survivor from the bomber, Adam Mattocks, of Jacksonville, who was one of the B-52 pilots. At the time of the crash, his survival was called a miracle, as he survived without an ejection seat.

* Several first responders including members of the Faro and Eureka volunteer fire departments.

* Several eyewitnesses, including Billy Reeves, who was 18 years old at the time and lived within a few hundred yards of the crash site.

* Dr. Jack B. ReVelle, the U.S. Air Force officer who successfully led the deactivation and recovery effort of virtually all the components of the two bombs.