58th Strategic Weather Squadron

58th Strategic Weather Squadron

The next SAC unit to use Eielson as a permanent base. was the 375th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, from the 308th Bombardment Group at Tinker AFB Oklahoma, arriving on 5 March 1949. The 308th flew WB-29 Superfortresses. The unit was redesignated the 58th Strategic Weather Squadron on 21 February 1951 as part of the 303d Bombardment Wing at Davis-Monthan AFB Arizona.

Notable instances at Eielson were:

* 7 September 1951 - Three people died in a C-47 crash about five miles southeast of the base. It was the first fatal accident involving an aircraft assigned to Eielson.

* 11 January 1952 – A C-47 crashed 40 miles southeast of the village of Fort Yukon. The crash site was not found until July 1952. Evidence indicated at least two of the crewmembers survived the crash, but perished in the bitter cold. Captain Ernie Walker, a Special Services officer, was on board the aircraft. In November 1953, the newly built Eielson AFB theater was dedicated in honor of Captain Walker.

* 25 January 1952 - What was believed to be the biggest single-dormitory facility in the Air Force opened. Dubbed the 750-man barracks, the building would later be known as Ptarmigan Hall and in 1970, it was renamed Amber Hall.

* 25 September 1953 – A 58 WRS WB-29 crashed just after takeoff two miles north of the base. Captain Charles F. Baker, a weather observer assigned to the unit, was the only fatality. The base gymnasium, Baker Field House, was named in his honor.

* January 1955 - During Operation Snowbird, First Lieutenant William Caffrey lost the canopy from his F-86 and his helmet at 32,000 feet. Still 100 miles from base, the 720th Fighter-Bomber Squadron pilot descended until he blacked out from lack of oxygen. After recovering consciousness, the radio-less flyer regained control of the aircraft, only to realize he didn’t know where he was. He eventually found himself near Eielson, and landed the plane uneventfully. He suffered frostbite on his ears and hands.

* 29 November 1955 - An F-84 crashed into Eielson family housing, killing fourteen. Seven of the victims were children, including the first triplets known to be born in the Fairbanks area. Forty years later, the base dedicated its new Child Development Center to the children.

* December 1955 -January 1956 - An F-100 and B-52 arrived for cold weather testing. In September 1956, an RB-47 arrived for a 190-day cold weather test. As the Air Force's northernmost base (except for Ladd), Eielson would host a number of tests over the coming years, most recently the C-17 in 1994 and B-2 in 1996.

* 31 August 1956 - A 58th Reconnaissance Squadron WB-50, recently dubbed the "Golden Heart" in honor of the city of Fairbanks, crashed into the Susitna River near Willow. All eleven aboard died.

* 29 June 1956 - General Curtis LeMay toured Eielson.

* 17 January 1957 - A WB-50 assigned to the 58th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron crashed shortly after takeoff approximately three miles north of Eielson. All 12 crewmembers were killed.

* 20 July 1957 - Sixty years after his birth, Air Force officials, community and state dignitaries, and members of Carl Ben Eielson’s family gathered at the base to dedicate a memorial to the fallen pilot. Originally located just outside the main gate, the memorial’s present location is at Heritage Park.

* 9 September 1958 - While flying as a relief navigator aboard an SC-47, Major Charles Pennell of Eielson’s 11th Aviation Depot Squadron died in a crash at Elmendorf. Pennell Elementary School would later be named after him.

The 58th Weather Squadron remained at Eielson until August 8, 1958.

External links

* [http://www.awra.us/ Air Weather Reconnaissance Association]
* [http://www.awra.us/gallery-aug06.html The Golden Heart Accident]
* [http://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/systems/rb-29.htm RB-29 Superfortress]

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