March 1960 B-47 explosion over Little Rock topic of discussion today

Arkansas Gazette map of debris and damage

The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program will host a free talk featuring Travis Ratermann, who will present a lecture on “A Living Hell: The Story of a B-47 Crash that Devastated Little Rock Neighborhoods.”

The lecture will happen today (September 8) at the Darragh Center at the main branch of the Central Arkansas Library Systems in downtown Little Rock.  It will begin at 2pm.

Travis has presented this paper to very positive reviews as it shares the history and retelling of a B-47, assigned to the Little Rock Air Force Base, that was torn apart over Little Rock, causing a debris field that stretched from Allsopp Park, all the way to what is now Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Travis will also discuss how this accident affected the community and the Air Force personnel involved in the aftermath of the tragic accident that took the life of all but one crew member, and the lives of two civilians on the ground.

Travis Ratermann is the Survey Historian for the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, located in Little Rock, AR. He has a B.S. in Historic Preservation from Southeast Missouri State University and a M.S. in Historic Preservation from Ball State University. As the Survey Historian, Travis is involved with reviewing Residential and Commercial District Surveys throughout the state. Travis gathers information by surveying the property, completing site forms, taking photographs, and researching historical records of the property, to determine its authenticity and historical significance. His main focus is on documenting Arkansas’ current and former military installation including: Fort Chaffee, Pine Bluff Arsenal, Blytheville Air Force Base and former Shumaker Naval Ammunition Depot.

Advertisements

Little Rock Look Back: Airplane explosion shatters Hillcrest calm

An LRPD officer talks to bystanders next to a piece of debris

An LRPD officer talks to bystanders next to a piece of debris

An LRPD officer talks to bystanders next to a piece of debrisThe peaceful morning of March 31, 1960, was interrupted by a horrendous noise over Hillcrest around 6:00am.  A six-engine B47 from the Little Rock Air Force Base exploded mid-air.

Flaming debris fell from Allsopp Park all the way to the State Capitol grounds and stretched from Cantrell to 12th Street.  Other debris was found as far away as the Country Club of Little Rock.  The next day the Arkansas Gazette ran a map which showed the extent of the damage.

Three airmen died in the explosion.  The only survivor from the crew, 1st Lieutenant Thomas Smoak, was found dangling from a tree in his parachute at Kavanaugh and Martin.  He was treated by a nurse, Jimmye Lee Holeman, in whose yard he had landed.

Two civilians on the ground were killed by falling debris.  Many vehicles and homes were damaged, some were destroyed by debris.  The damage estimate was put around $4 million.

Police and fire crews were quickly on the scene to secure impacted areas, fight fires and rescue injured persons.

Those who perished were Captain Herbert Aldridge, Lieutenant Colonel Reynolds Watson, Staff-Sergeant Kenneth Brose, and civilians Alta Lois Clark and James Hollabaugh.

Today, a portion of the crash site is part of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital campus.  Other sites were removed by the I-630 construction.  Other houses were rebuilt or removed.

While there may not be visible reminders of that fateful morning, to those who lost loved ones, there is still a sense of grief over their loss.  It is a reminder that History is not just places, names, and dates: but events that happened to actual people.

B47 Wreck Map

Arkansas Gazette map of debris and damage

Little Rock Look Back: 57th Mayor Martin Borchert

On January 16, 1916, future Little Rock Mayor Martin Borchert was born in Stuttgart.  After graduating high school he moved to Little Rock.  During World War II, he served as a bomber.  He started work at ACME Brick and spent 21 years there before engaging in other business interests.  Among these businesses were Martin Borchert Co., ASCO Hardware, Detection Systems Inc. and Component Systems Inc.  In 2005 he was inducted into the Arkansas Construction Hall of Fame.

Mayor Borchert was elected to the Little Rock City Board of Directors in 1964 and served from January 1965 through December 1968. He chose not to seek a second term.  In 1967 and 1968 he served as Mayor of Little Rock. During this time, he laid out the vision for what has become Riverfront Park along the Arkansas River.

Other civic achievements included being a member of the Board of the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, being on the Governor’s Citizens Advisory Committee, a member of the Pulaski County Quorum Court, vice chairman of the Arkansas Planning Commission, and being on the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council. In 1967 he served on the President’s National Advisory Council to the Small Business Administration.

Mayor Borchert served on the Little Rock Water Commission, including a tenure as chairman. In 1985, he was chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Policy Board and as chairman oversaw the transfer of the Central Arkansas Transit system to the Central Arkansas Transit Authority. One of the achievements of which he was very proud of was that he was one of the very first in Arkansas to receive an Adopt the Highway road.

Mayor Borchert was married for 57 years to Rosemary “Biddy” Branch Borchert.  They had two children, a son, John “Topper” Borchert and a daughter, Leslie Borchert Wilson.  He died on May 11, 2007.

Little Rock Look Back: B-47 Explodes over Little Rock in 1960

An LRPD officer talks to bystanders next to a piece of debris
An LRPD officer talks to bystanders next to a piece of debris

The peaceful morning of March 31, 1960, was interrupted by a horrendous noise over Hillcrest around 6:00am.  A six-engine B47 from the Little Rock Air Force Base exploded mid-air.

Flaming debris fell from Allsopp Park all the way to the State Capitol grounds and stretched from Cantrell to 12th Street.  Other debris was found as far away as the Country Club of Little Rock.  The next day the Arkansas Gazette ran a map which showed the extent of the damage.

Three airmen died in the explosion and two civilians were killed when debris fell on their homes.  The only survivor from the crew, 1st Lieutenant Thomas Smoak, was found dangling from a tree in his parachute at Kavanaugh and Martin.  He was treated by a nurse, Jimmye Lee Holeman, in whose yard he had landed.

Two civilians on the ground were killed by falling debris.  Many vehicles and homes were damaged, some were destroyed by debris.  The damage estimate was put around $4 million.

Police and fire crews were quickly on the scene to secure impacted areas, fight fires and rescue injured persons.

Those who perished were Captain Herbert Aldridge, Lieutenant Colonel Reynolds Watson, Staff-Sergeant Kenneth Brose, and civilians Alta Lois Clark and James Hollabaugh.

Today, part of the crash site is part of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital campus.  Other sites were removed by the I-630 construction.  Other houses were rebuilt or removed.  Fifty-eight years on, there are no visible scars to Little Rock’s landscape caused by the damage.

B47 Wreck Map

Arkansas Gazette map of debris and damage

Little Rock Look Back: LR Mayor Martin Borchert

Mayor BorchertOn January 16, 1916, future Little Rock Mayor Martin Borchert was born in Stuttgart.  After graduating high school he moved to Little Rock.  During World War II, he served as a bomber.  He started work at ACME Brick and spent 21 years there before engaging in other business interests.  Among these businesses were Martin Borchert Co., ASCO Hardware, Dtection Systems Inc. and Component Systems Inc.  In 2005 he was inducted into the Arkansas Construction Hall of Fame.

Mayor Borchert was elected to the Little Rock City Board of Directors in 1964 and served from January 1965 through December 1968. He chose not to seek a second term.  In 1967 and 1968 he served as Mayor of Little Rock. During this time, he laid out the vision for what has become Riverfront Park along the Arkansas River.

Other civic achievements included being a member of the Board of the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, being on the Governor’s Citizens Advisory Committee, a member of the Pulaski County Quorum Court, vice chairman of the Arkansas Planning Commission, and being on the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council. In 1967 he served on the President’s National Advisory Council to the Small Business Administration. Mayor Borchert served on the Little Rock Water Commission, including a tenure as chairman. In 1985, he was chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Policy Board and as chairman oversaw the transfer of the Central Arkansas Transit system to the Central Arkansas Transit Authority. One of the achievements of which he was very proud of was that he was one of the very first in Arkansas to receive an Adopt the Highway road.

Mayor Borchert was married for 57 years to Rosemary “Biddy” Branch Borchert.  They had two children, a son, John “Topper” Borchert and a daughter, Leslie Borchert Wilson.  He died on May 11, 2007.

Grants for Rep, ASO, Oxford American announced by National Endowment for the Arts

nea-logo-960Three Little Rock based cultural institutions were among the eight Arkansas recipients of National Endowment for Arts grants recently announced.

These were Art Works and Challenge America grants. Art Works grants supports the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts and the strengthening of communities through the arts. Challenge America grants offer support primarily to small and mid-sized organizations for projects that extend the reach of the arts to underserved populations whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics or disability.

The Arkanas Repertory Theatre received $15,000 to support a production of An Iliad by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare.  The playwriting team has adapted Homer’s Trojan War epic into a compelling monologue that captures both the heroism and horror of warfare. A key theme is the personal cost of war. The theatre will continue and deepen its ongoing partnership with the Little Rock Air Force base and will engage with the service members and their families during the project. During the performance run, veterans returning from service overseas will share their personal stories as part of a post-performance community conversation. Activities will occur in the theater’s newly constructed second stage and center for community engagement on the Main Street Creative Corridor.

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra received $10,000 to support performances and educational workshops that will culminate in the world premiere performance of a composition by D.J. Sparr, featuring guitarist Ted Ludwig.  The composition is inspired by Ludwig’s flight from New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. In addition to performances, electric guitarists Ludwig and Sparr will lead workshops for student musicians and community members from central and southeastern Arkansas, including a high percentage of low-income residents.

The Oxford American received $20,000 to support the publication and promotion of the magazine.  Exploring the complexity and vitality of the American South, the magazine publishes poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and criticism by emerging and established authors. The magazine will be promoted through social media, the magazine’s website, a weekly e-newsletter, and events throughout the South.

In addition, TheatreSquared in Fayetteville received $25,000 for its Arkansas New Play Festival. This is presented in Fayetteville and Little Rock. The Little Rock performances are in conjunction with the Arkansas Rep.

Other Arkansas recipients were the Walton Arts Center, Sonny Boy Blues Society (for the King Biscuit Blues Festival), Ozarks Foothills Film Festival and John Brown University.

Little Rock Look Back: B47 Bomber explodes over Little Rock

An LRPD officer talks to bystanders next to a piece of debris

An LRPD officer talks to bystanders next to a piece of debris

The peaceful morning of March 31, 1960, was interrupted by a horrendous noise over Hillcrest around 6:00am.  A six-engine B47 from the Little Rock Air Force Base exploded mid-air.

Flaming debris fell from Allsopp Park all the way to the State Capitol grounds and stretched from Cantrell to 12th Street.  Other debris was found as far away as the Country Club of Little Rock.  The next day the Arkansas Gazette ran a map which showed the extent of the damage.

Three airmen died in the explosion and two civilians were killed when debris fell on their homes.  The only survivor from the crew, 1st Lieutenant Thomas Smoak, was found dangling from a tree in his parachute at Kavanaugh and Martin.  He was treated by a nurse, Jimmye Lee Holeman, in whose yard he had landed.

Many vehicles and homes were damaged, some were destroyed by debris.  The damage estimate was put around $4 million.

Police and fire crews were quickly on the scene to secure impacted areas, fight fires and rescue injured persons.

The Strategic Air Command’s edited account of the incident noted:

A B-47 was climbing after takeoff in day VFR weather.  At about 15,000 feet, the copilot suddenly realized that the aircraft was in a very steep left bank, that the nose was well below the horizon, and that the airspeed was excessive.  He pulled the throttles to idle, punched the interphone button and shouted at the aircraft commander.

Almost immediately, the nose came up, the wings leveled, and the aircraft disintegrated.  In the cockpit section, which had separated intact from the rest of the aircraft, the copilot tried to eject, but the clamshell initiator pin had not been removed.  The copilot then unfastened his seat belt.  The canopy blew off at about 10,000 feet.  The unconscious copilot was thrown out at 4,000 feet and his parachute opened automatically.

The aircraft commander ejected at 2,000 feet, but his parachute had been fused by fire and he died upon impact.  The fourth man was found near the wreckage and did not survive.  The navigator was killed in his position.  The falling wreckage killed two civilians and caused serious damage to property.”

Those who perished were Captain Herbert Aldridge, Lieutenant Colonel Reynolds Watson, Staff-Sergeant Kenneth Brose, and civilians Alta Lois Clark and James Hollabaugh.

Arkansas Gazette map of debris and damage

Arkansas Gazette map of debris and damage