Nearly seven decades after a B-29 bomber crashed outside of Albuquerque, the U.S. Air Force is honoring the lives of the airmen killed in the crash with a new memorial marker.
The April 1950 crash happened in the Manzano Mountain foothills on what today is part of Kirtland Air Force Base. Thirteen U.S. airmen were killed in the crash, which was the first nuclear weapons accident over the continental U.S.
Despite its significance in American history, many are unfamiliar with the story. Author Joseph T. Page wrote about the crash in a book published in 2018 titled, “Kirtland Air Force Base,” which was published under the “Images of America” label.
“I thought it was important that people know the history,” said Page. In writing about the April 11, 1950 crash for his book, Page says the story resonated with him.
“I got hooked into the story of the B-29,” said Page. “That one, stuck out in my mind.”
“When aircraft do crash at these bases, people do die, and to gloss over that, it would just be a disservice to the men and women that died,” said Page of why he wrote about the 1950 B-29 crash.
As Page sought final approval from military officials to publish the book, he learned more about the Air Force and Defense Nuclear Weapons School’s plans to build a memorial marker on the B-29 crash site.
“And I had asked him because, as a historian, I like the link the past to the present, ‘Have you contacted any of the families?’” said Page. “Because even though the crewman had died, some of them had children, some of them had siblings.”
To help, Page offered his research skills to track down and contact family members of the fallen airmen. After sending dozens of letters, Page was able to track down relatives of five of the 13 fallen airmen.
“It was amazing just watching everything click and come together,” said Page.
Five families were able to attend a private ceremony in April, where Air Force officials dedicated the memorial marker.
“It gave me goosebumps when I was on the mountain and I got to see the family members watching the unveiling of the memorial,” said Page.
Photos and video of the ceremony were recently were published by the U.S. Air Force on Kirtland Air Force Base website. Page says the ceremony was powerful.
“Bringing (relatives of the fallen airmen) back into the fold and understanding what their fathers were doing was important to me,” said Page.
The new memorial marker is not open to the public, as it’s on private base property. Although, Page is working on building a public roadside memorial with the state that could go along Tramway Boulevard.