B-47E 51-2440 crash near Reddington Pass AZ on December 3 1953

Boeing B-47E 51-2440 crash near Reddington Pass (near Tucson) AZ on December 3 1953

“Breakaway!” yelled the boom operator of KC-97, S/N 51-320, after noticing fire coming from the right wing of receiver aircraft, B-47E, S/N 51-2440.  The two aircrafts were in the process of aerial refueling northeast of Tucson. Breakaway was the emergency signal in the refueling process for the two planes to immediately separate. 

The two Strategic Air Command (SAC) aircraft disconnected, and according to the Air Force mishap report,  the B-47 “was observed making a shallow banked descending turn to the right (note: this would put the B-47 on a heading of almost due west). The rate of descent increased rapidly and in the course of descent the aircraft exploded and fell to the ground in two sections. No communications were heard from the B-47. Investigation reveals that number 4 engine disintegrated inflight. It was determined that this malfunction caused the fire and subsequent crash.”

Four men lost their lives in the crash (seat position listed)

Lt. Colonel Douglas Howard Bratcher, pictured below (In observer’s seat.)

Major Hayward Walton McEver (in pilot’s seat)

Captain Jesse Grady Williams (A/C seat)

Airman 1st Class William Lloyd Child (in 4th seat/aisle)

B-47E, 51-2440, SAC, 15th Air Force, 303rd Bombardment Wing, Davis-Monthan, Arizona

USAF photo of a KC-97 and B-47 during refueling operations. This is the position the two planes were in when the boom operator called, "Breakaway!"

After the accident, the Air Force established the Douglas H. Bratcher Trophy to recognize outstanding achievement in 303rd Bombardment Wing bomber stream missions. If you are aware of the location of this trophy, please let me know and I will contact the Bratcher family. Thank you to Cary Bratcher for information and photo of Douglas Howard Bratcher.

I came across another good size piece of debris while hiking around.

Some sort of electronic piece made by Whittaker Co LTD.

One of the bigger pieces of the B-47. Debris is scattered over a two mile area.

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Many small scattered parts of the B-47 exist over a wide area in Reddington Pass.