On Walkabout At: The Franklin Mountains B-36 Crash Site

A few months ago I became aware of a crash of a B-36 bomber in El Paso’s Franklin Mountains when doing some research on local air crashes for a class I was taking for my Masters Degree in Aeronautical Science.  In the 1950′s the B-36 was the key strategic long range bomber for the US Air Force.  During its time in service the B-36 was the largest piston engine aircraft in the world and the bomber is still recognized for having the longest wingspan of any combat aircraft ever built.  So this is obviously quite a big plane that went down in the Franklins.

The crash in the Franklin Mountains happened on December 11, 1953 when the B-36 was flying from Carswell Air Force Base outside of Fort Worth, Texas to Biggs Air Force Base (Now Biggs Army Airfield) outside of El Paso, Texas.  Due to poor weather conditions the B-36 was kept in a holding pattern over Salt Flat, Texas near the Guadalupe Mountains before finally be given permission to proceed towards Biggs.  It was during the landing attempt towards Biggs that the aircraft crashed due to a combination of winter weather and poor radio commands from the air traffic controllers on the ground.  Here is a great posting from an El Paso Times archivist that shows local reactions to the crash.

Last known picture of the plane taken from an observer on the ground shortly before the crash.

Here are the names of the nine crew members who died in the crash, there was no survivors:

Lt. Col. Hermen Gerick            Aircraft  Commander
Major George C. Morford       Pilot
Major Douglas A. Miner          Navigator
1st Lt. Gary B. Fent                  Flight Engineer
M Sgt Royal Freeman               Radio Operator
A/1c Edwin D. Howe                 Gunner
A/2c Frank Silvestri                  Gunner
1st Lt James M. Harvey            492nd Bomb Squadron Staff Flight Engineer
1st Sgt Dewey Taliaferro           Passenger

For those interested you can read the complete military report on this accident here.

b-36 crash site

Using Google Earth and searching the Internet I was able to pin point where the crash occurred in the Franklins. This location is little known and there is no trail to the crash site.  However, armed with my print outs from Google Earth I decided to go ahead and find this crash site on a recent weekend when the weather was cooperative.  Though there is no trail to reach the crash site there is at least a trail that accesses the lower slopes of the mountains before having to scale up the side of the mountain.  This trail begins at the very end of Stanton Street that begins in downtown El Paso and travels northeast and ends at this trailhead:


The trail is easy to spot because you can’t miss seeing this water tower:


In this picture I am standing next to the water tower and looking towards the parking area where I could see my Ford parked below:


Here is the trail that leads to the base of the mountains with the antennas from the Wyler Aerial Tramway visible:


As I followed the trail I could see that it turned towards the south and followed the base of the mountain in that direction:


I stopped at this point on the trail where this pointed rock is located:


Here is the view from the trail looking south with the pointed rock on the left:


Here is the view from the trail up the steep side of the mountains where the crash site is located:


However, this is the type of terrain I had to climb through in order to reach the crash site since there was no trail from this point on:


The best way to reach the crash site is by climbing up the ravine pictured above.  As I climbed up the side of the mountain I took a look behind me and could see UTEP’s Sun Bowl Stadium back dropped by the slums of Juarez, Mexico:


As I got to the higher reaches of the mountain I began to escape from the thick desert foliage that flourished in the ravine, but there was still plenty of cactus and yucca plants to be careful of:


Something I wasn’t expecting to see on this hike though was wildlife:


If you look closely at the center of the picture of above you can see the mule deer that I saw running up the side of the mountain.  The deer moved very fast and was soon out of sight before I could snap another picture.  Anyway I continued to climb up the mountain and towards the rock pillar pictured below:


That is when I began to see the first signs of debris from the B-36 crash:



Eventually I came upon a very large piece of debris which may have been part of one of the landing gears:


This debris can be found by walking parallel to the large rock wall pictured below:


If you look closely at the photograph above you actually can see the large piece of crash debris.  Here was the view from the upper reaches of the mountain looking once again towards Juarez:


Here is a closer look of the Sun Bowl from this viewpoint:


From this viewpoint I then began to walk parallel across the mountain to look for more debris:


I was just above a prominent rock pillar on the side of the mountain when I noticed something peculiar on the rock:


It looked like some kind of memorial on the rock:


So I walked down to the rock pillar and took a closer look at the torch memorial:


From the base of the rock I noticed a whole lot more of debris from the crash:


Then I could make out even larger debris right below the rock:


This had to be the epicenter of the crash because I could see areas where the fire from the crash was so hot that it melted and burned the rocks:



Here was the B-36′s landing gear:



Here is the view towards western El Paso from the crash site:


Here is a zoomed in view from the crash site towards the trail head about 1,000 feet below:


As I headed further down the mountain I came upon this propeller:



The B-36 had six rear mounted propellers and this propeller was the only one I found.  Some prior visitor to the crash site was nice enough to leave this American flag patch on the propeller:

One of the jet turbines that powered these propellers was lying near by:


There was plenty more debris that I continued to stumble upon as I proceeded down the mountain


This debris may have been part of the frame of the fuselage:


As I continued further down the mountain I was surprised to find yet even more debris:



I even came upon another set of landing gear:


As soon as I came upon this rock slab that was the point where I found no more debris and then proceeded to walk back down to the trail below:


From this rock slab here is the view back up the side of the mountain where the debris field from the B-36 crash is located:


By searching around the two rock outcroppings that is the easiest way to find the majority of the wreckage on the mountain:


From the rock slab it was actually a pretty easy hike back down the trail through the ravine I accessed the crash site from initially:


At the end of the ravine I came upon the trail again that would take me back to my truck.  Before getting back to my truck I just took one look at back at the side of the mountain where 9 Air Force veterans lost their lives in the terrible crash:


In the picture above it is easy to spot the large rock pillar where the torch memorial is located.  Something I was surprised about is that neither the Air Force or the Army at nearby Ft. Bliss have done anything to erect a memorial in memory of the nine crew members who died at this site.  It would be classy of the military to at least construct something here to remember these Air Force veterans with after the passage of all these years.  The military may have forgotten about these veterans, but you don’t have to; if you want to visit the site it only takes about 1.5 hours to reach the site from the trail head.  Make sure that if you are visiting that you have a moderate level of fitness and bring water with you because like I said before there is no trail up the side of the mountain, which makes hiking difficult.  Budget about 3 hours for a round trip and be respectful at the crash site because nine people did die at this location and please do not take souvenirs.  May the nine personnel who died in this tragic accident rest in peace.

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71 Responses to On Walkabout At: The Franklin Mountains B-36 Crash Site

  1. Pingback: B-36 Crash Site « Feather Sky

  2. Asa Porter says:

    Thanks for your efforts and story. Your expressions for those guys who in an instant were gone for ever was well done. I've been to a similiar site and you just aren't prepared for the emotion you were about to meet.

  3. H Cook says:

    March 18 1953 a B6 crashed,in Newfoundland,i was at the site a mont ago and every thing is still there as if it happened yesterday,about 900 feet up into a mountain side if you would like pictures i have them

  4. Bill Martin says:

    This is a very interisting read and some very good pictures but you made one slight mistake. The caption of the turbine remains indicated that it powered the propellers. The propellers were powered by reciprocation piston engines and not jet engines. The B-36 did have four jet engines but they were outboard of the propellers. The B-36 had a total of six piston engines and four jet engines.

  5. Dewey Taliaferro says:

    Thank you for remembering the service men who lost their lives here including my grandfather. My aunts and father have been trying to plan a trip and this really gives them a idea of what to expect.

  6. Rosemary Dantonio says:

    Very interestiing information we have long wondered about. This was a much-talked about event in the 1950's and we are so admiring of you to take the time and effort to do all this research and then to publish it. Thank you for your thoughtfulness.

  7. Jack Russell says:

    I was stationed at Fort Bliss in the 1950s and those B-36s would sometimes take off over our barraks. Sounded like a tornado and vibrated like an earthquake. I vividly remember when this crash occured and have often thought about it.

  8. Kathy Miner Peterson says:

    I am the child of Maj. Douglas Miner and I was six years old when my Dad and the others were killed in that plane. I am now nearly sixty-four and I remember clearly the news of his death and the impact it had on our family and friends. Believe me, they have not been forgotten. My younger son who serves in the U.S. Coast Guard recently visited Ft. Sam Houston and went to the grave of his Grandfather. It was a sobering moment for him and for me. He took pictures of his grave and honored my Dad. Thank you for this article and pictures…hard as it was to see and read.

    Kathy Miner Peterson

  9. Jerry Honeycutt says:

    I was born the night the B36 crashed into Franklin Mountain. My mom tells the story that my dad was scheduled to fly, but because she went into labor, he didn't fly. His best friend, Doug Evans took his spot on the flight. Doug's crew was called to fly the plane that crashed, and because Doug took my father's place, someone else took Doug's place, and died in the crash. Since my dad and his friend were navigators, and it appears that only one navigator was onboard, I now know who died instead of my dad's friend. I used to tell people that because I was born that night, my dad's best friend lived, until I realized that someone else died. Now I know the name, Maj. Douglas P. Miner. When I read the last post on Feb. 7th from Kathy Miner Peterson, I couldn't believe that I not only had just found the name of the navigator that took Doug's place, but a post from his daughter just 5 days earlier! My dad and his friend Doug remained best friends until my dad passed away in 2000 and Doug also passed away in the past 5 years. His children are still friends of my family, and I saw his oldest son, Doug Jr. who went to the B-36 reunion in Fort Worth with my mom and I just a few months ago.

    I hope that Kathy checked the box to be notified of followup comments, because I think of the sorrow she and here family endured because of her father's death, and knowing that my birth was a factor that caused him to be on the ill-fated flight, I would like her to know, for what it's worth, that the Doug that lived had many children and grandchildren. Any they probably haven't given much thought to what happened to the person that died in his place on that cold night 57 years ago! I'm sure that Doug Sr. thought about it, because he was the kindest man I've ever known. He influenced me to join the Air Force and become a navigator, and signed my letter of recommendation to become an officer.

    May god bless your family, Kathy, and the people that fly to protect us, and the families who support them and many times grieve for them!

  10. Dobbs says:

    Kathy and Jerry thanks for visiting the site and sharing your thoughts. Kathy do you know if your family has ever been approached by anyone in the military in regards to establishing a memorial on the mountain or if that is something you think should even be done?

  11. Kathy Miner Peterson says:

    Dobbs, I do not know of any efforts to establish a memorial. I read in the El Paso Times a couple of years ago about some local people who had erected a cross, but if I remember correctly, there was some controversy and a problem with land rights. Other than that, I know of nothing at all. I think it would be wonderful to have some sort of rememberance there.

    Kathy Miner Peterson

  12. Wren Rouge says:


    My family and I were out at the crash site today and there was plaque mounted on a large rock. It listed the names of the men who were killed and the date. We hiked down from the Wyler Tramway, so perhaps it is only noticeable when coming from that direction, or it is new. Just wanted you all to know that there is permanent memorial at the site.

  13. Dobbs says:

    Wren Rouge thanks for the update. When I visited the site I saw no such plaque. Did the plaque say who put it there?

  14. Andrea Kuhn Miller says:

    I have heard stories of this crash as my grandfather was 1 of the 9 Dewey Taliaferro, as I read this the story becomes so real, with no words to describe your feels, My mom has want to visit the site your a while now, I think with all this info, it is time to plan the trip. Thank you Dobbs for all your hard work and time you have put in to remember The Lost 9.

  15. Dobbs says:

    Wren Rouge thanks for the update from the crash site. Did the plaque leave any indication of who placed it there?

  16. Dobbs says:

    Andrea I am glad you found the information to be useful. If you need any help planning your trip feel free to ask.

  17. Troy Howard says:

    Troy Howard
    I would like to tell of an experience my twin brother and I had while stationed at Biggs Air Force base in 1953. Being air policemen, we were called out to the crash site of this B36. It took both of us helping each other to reach the top of this slippery, treacherous mountainside. Neither of us were prepared for the sight that awaited us. Death and destruction was all around. Our duty was to recover the bodies. Being only 17 at the time, this is an experience that will forever live in my mind.

  18. Troy Howard says:

    Dear Kathy, I was stationed at Biggs when the b 36 crashed. My twin brother and I were in the air police and we climbed up the mountain in order to reach the sight. I had just turned 17 and the memory of that day will live for ever in my mind. we had to recover the bodies the next day. I never cried so hard that day in all my life. Troy Howard 108 Shiloh Victoria, Texas 77904. tlwh@suddenlink.net. Commander Korean war cid 223.

  19. Dobbs says:

    Troy thanks for sharing your memories of the crash. I am very sorry you had to experience such a tragedy.

  20. Dobbs — your site and photos are superb in every way. Thanks for sharing. In Oct 1957 I began a long career at White Sands Proving Ground, just before the first Sputnik orbited, and the Mesilla Valley became home. While a student at NM A&MA (now NM State Univ, Las Cruces) weekend trips to Juarez were the norm. Bottles of Bacardi were about $1.50, same price as a good filet mignon dinner south-of-the-border. WSPG workers had access to the otherwise-private Ft Bliss-WSPG ‘back highway.’

    Col Bob Pate, a B-36 pilot until he retired the military to engineer rockets at Aerojet, became my rocket science mentor and life-long friend.

    The USAAF/USAF bases at nearby Alamogordo (Holloman) and Albuquerque (Kirtland) had not infrequent B-36 Peacemaker activity. The Los Alamos Natl Lab, where Gen Groves, Dr Oppenheimer, et al pioneered nuclear bombs is just north of Albuquerque.

    And Sandia Natl Lab, where nuke and thermonuke weapons are developed, is literally aside the Kirtland runways. Several not-well-hidden bunkers in the mountainside just to the east are where Sandia held nukes etc for convenient, secure loading aboard USAF bombers–including B-36s.

    Nothing I’ve known resembles the droning engines of a B-36 in flight, at any altitude. “‘Six turnin’ and four burnin’” gave 40,000-hp in thrust. As for misfortunes, this site has extensive, very detailed reports on several B-36 crashes, along with photos, survivor reports, and more:


    There’s also a B-36 audio track there, minus the four turbojets.

    Again Dobbs, your photojournalism is exemplary. Thanks!

    Dr Edw Jones

  21. Dobbs says:

    Dr. Jones thanks for sharing your memories from your time at WSPG and of the B-36. It is always interesting to hear how things were a few decades ago here in the Borderland.

  22. Anonymous says:

    My name is Stanley “Bill” Haines and my wife and I arrived at Bigg’s AFB in Sept. 1953. I was a newly assigned Navigator to the 95th Bomb Wing which was converting over to B-36 Aircraft. I currently am recording my service history for my Family and in searching for the date of this crash came upon this vivid Article. We both often recall that fateful day. The day was raining and even snowing at times and in the background you could hear the drone sound of the B-36 engines and then there was a bright flash and in a short time a news report that a plane being ferried down from Carlswell AFB, Texas had flown into the mountain side. The following day was clear and there on the mountain side was this black area where 9 men lost thier lives. A horrible tradegy that should not have happen. If able, I would follow this Trail in honor of those men. Thank you for allowing us to do so thru this web-site. Our prayers for all are once again offered.

  23. Jnlharris says:

    Having lived in El Paso between 1975 and 2007 I heard over the years several times the mention of this horrific crash. Biggs Field and the El Paso International Airport are very closely situated to the Franklin Mountains, so the weather that night as well as the poor ground commands were only part of the issues faced getting the plane on the ground safely.

    I now live in Houston and oftentimes miss the desert southwest, dry air and the beautiful mountains in El Paso. Thanks you for such thorough storytelling, not to mention beautiful photos take on what appears to be quite a nice day I’m guessing by the clear blue sky was sometime in the late fall when the air can be no clearer nor the temperature more favorable. At least the views and surrounding areas today offer beauty from an area visited by death and sorrow in the past.

  24. Dobbs says:

    Thanks for commenting. I took the pictures from this article in late December of 2009 and yes it was a beautiful day for going out and taking pictures.

  25. I have placed a link to your entry on my site so folks can follow your directions. BTW- thanks! Very helpful information. I take more of the ‘artsy’ type of photos. If it weren’t for folks like you who take the time to document the path, arty people like me couldn’t ever find anything.

  26. Dobbs says:

    Ann thanks for visiting the site and I am glad you enjoyed the posting.

  27. Pingback: B-36 Crash Site in El Paso (1953 crash) « Neat Photos, Ann!

  28. Michael Kennedy says:

    Very interesting reading and touching stories from family of crew members and recovery personnel. I have hiked to the site many times in the last thirty five years and each time have felt a great sense of respect and gratitude for the lost airmen. I am an avid airplane modeler and member of a local model club in El Paso and for some time have been planning a commorative B-36 model including a base with a placard listing the crew. My club has a Veterens Day display at a local mall and I think the B-36 model would be quite fitting.

    Along with the B-36 commorative model, I also would like to repersent other lost airmen and their planes in model form. I’ve done some research but would appreciate any help to speed the process.

    Thanks for this interesting article.

  29. Kathy Miner Peterson says:

    This is a very nice idea, and one that I would like to see. Would you consider posting pictures on this website for all of us to see?
    Kathy Miner Peterson

  30. Michael Kennedy says:

    I would be happy to, once the project is completed. At present, the B-36 model is in the concept phase of the modeling process. Although I will use a scale plastic kit, the construction process can (and in my case will) take many hours spread over several months to complete. I’d love to have it finished by this Veterans Day but it’s not always easy to dedicate the time needed.

    Thank you for taking an interest in the project. Corresponding with you has made this more personal and meaningful.

  31. Dobbs says:

    Michael that sounds like a great idea. Please let me know when you finish your project because I would love to post a picture of it here on this site.

  32. Michael Kennedy says:

    Hi Dobbs, I’d really like to share a photo of the completed B-36 model project. The model kit I’ll use is quite large and considering the degree of detail I like to put into a model, the project will take a considerable amount of time to complete. The interest shown on this site might have moved the B-36 up several notches on the build list, however. I’d like to represent the aircraft as accurately as possible and am researching but any information from readers would be helpful.

    The crew, along with many other veterans were in my thought this Memorial Day.

  33. Ashley drake says:

    Hi, my husband just got transferred to fort bliss last month and we’ve been checking out different trails. Today we hiked up to the crash site. We didn’t really know where we were going at the time so we ended up hiking all over the place until we found it. You’re site could’ve been really helpful if I would’ve known about it before we took off! Haha it was an adventure though! Yes they do have a memorial plaque there now. The stuff on top of the rock…a cross? Well that’s no longer there but there is an ammo can there with a “guest book” inside that people have signed. Also down at the bottom at the dead ended road there is a sign with the story of the crash along with the names.

  34. Dobbs says:

    Ashley, thanks for the update. It is great to see that someone has put up a plaque to remember this tragedy. Would you happen to remember who installed the plaque?

  35. Chris Vestering says:

    I arrived at Fort Bliss in October 2011. In an effort to give back to the community, I signed up to be a volunteer for the Texas Parks and Wildlife. Another Soldier and I have made several improvments to the Franklin Mountain trails over the past several months. We created 25 new signs and emplaced them on the mountain. We also recognized those that were lost in the B-36 Crash, by building an overlook to the crash site, which consists of a sign and a rock and concrete bench. You can get to the overlook by taking the Wyler Aerial Tram to the top and taking the Ranger Peak Loop Trail to the overlook site. Everything is now clearly marked. We will continue to improve the site, until we leave in June 2012. I hope many of you will take the time to visit and pay your respects to the Soldiers that gave their lives….

  36. Dobbs says:

    Chris, thank you for your volunteer efforts. I will have to hike to the site again and see the improvements when I get a chance. Do you know if there are any plans to build a legitimate trail to the site from the base of the mountains?

  37. Chris Vestering says:

    Currently there are no plans to build a trail to the actual crash site. Out of respect for the Soldiers lost during this tragic event, the actual crash site is viewed as sacred ground. Though unimaginable, park rangers have reported that hikers are taking “souvenirs’ from the crash site. After taking this into consideration, another Soldier and I built an overlook to the crash site, which preserves the actual site and the artifacts that were left behind. Though it is probably NOT illegal to go to the actual crash site, it is not encouraged by the park rangers for the reasons listed above. I am sure hikers will continue to visit the actual site, but I don’t see the state building an actual trail to the location.

  38. Jerry Honeycutt says:

    For the record, I must share what I discovered about the night of the crash. I posted a comment about a year ago, and after talking to my mother, discovered that I was wrong in my belief that my dad’s friend, Doug Evans, was suppose to be on that flight. Because it was a “ferry” flight, it had less that the full crew. Doug Evans was part of that crew, but not suppose to be on that flight.
    My mother is 83 years old, and when I told her about finding this web site, she told me all about what happened that day. She is still in contact with 3 or 4 friends who were wives of B36 crewmembers at that time. My mother remembered every name that I read her of the crew members who died that night.
    I was able to contact Kathy Miner Peterson and exchanged several emails with her about what my mom remembered.
    My mom remembered knowing her family and others (these crews and their families were usually a close-knit group). From the time I contacted Kathy, the next several hours were spent going back and forth from my mom’s stories to updating Kathy. I was an incredible experience.
    My mom, despite her age, recalled some of the events as if it were last week or last month. Remember, she was in the hospital at Carswell because I was born at 1:45am that morning. It wasn’t until later that day the B-36 crashed. My dad and his friend, Doug, had already been to the hospital and seen me (although I don’t remember – lol). They were in the air on another B-36 at the time of the crash.
    The doctor at the time, was one of the first to find out that there was a crash. My mom said they were always very careful not to spread the word about a crash until they know who was onboard, and those families were notified first. The doctor was concerned that my mom would hear about the crash and think it may be my dad’s plane, so he told her, if I can remember exactly as my mom put it, “your husbands plane is not involved, but there has been a crash”. I think she said they knew which crew it was, and the families were being notified.
    It is definately on my list of things to do soon, to go see the site myself. I look forward to seeing the lookout that Chris Vestering refered to, and maybe I can get there before he leaves in June. I would love to meet him and thank him for his efforts.
    There is so much more I’d like to ad, but I am trying my best to keep it brief. When I know the date I will be there, I’ll post another comment, and hope to see everything in the area that I’ve read about.
    Thanks to all of you, and Dobbs, for sharing your stories and pictures.
    Have you ever looked at a coin or car that was made the year you were born, thinking, wow, this has been around as long as I have? Going to see this site is like that, in a way, knowing it happened hours after I was born. It is bittersweet, knowing it’s when people ‘s lives ended or were changed because of the B-36 crash.
    A question for Dobbs…. When I know the date I’ll be visiting the site, is it best to post my email address to this site, or is there a way to contact anyone local that would be interested in talking to me?

  39. Dobbs says:

    Jerry, thanks for the update. You can post your e-mail address here if you are interested in contacting anyone locally.

  40. Dobbs says:

    Chris, I can understand about the site being viewed as sacred ground but people are going to keep hiking there and having a legitimate trail that has signs that clearly advise people to not take anything from the crash site I think will be more effective in preventing the removal of artifacts from the site.

  41. Chris Vestering says:

    I understand – I proposed the idea of building a trail to the actual site with signs leading the way! Since this is part of the Texas State Park, they must approve my plans before I can start any type of construction. I would love to make an official trail to the site.. with signs as well, but the Park Rangers will not allow it. I have to work within the limits of their guidance, however; if hikers visit the site, I don’t think there is much that can be done about it. I wanted to do something to memoralize the site; constructing something that they would approve. They approved me to build a rock bench with signs directly above the crash site. From this site, hikers can see parts of the plane with the naked eye and with binoculars can see the small pieces as well. Again, I understand your frustration, but I have to abide by Texas Parks and Wildlife guidelines. I am actually surprised that they allowed me to install this overlook at an Official State Park in the first place. Ismael and Nancy (Park Rangers) were instrumental on pushing my proposed request through to their headquarters in Austin. Reid Schulz (fellow Soldier), with the guidance of Ismael (Ranger), assisted me with this project as well. If anyone comes out to the Franklin Mountains -Wyler Tramway, I encourage you to check out the overlook and if you choose, you will find it easier to get to the actual crash site from that location.

  42. Dobbs says:

    Chris, I am by no means criticizing you. I appreciate your efforts and the park service should have done a long time ago what you have already did. The next time I am in El Paso I will definitely take the tram up to the top of the mountain and check out what you and your friend have put in place. Thanks again.

  43. Chris Vestering says:

    No harm done; I too wish we could do more for the Soldiers that gave the ultimate sacrifice. You have spawned alot of interest for this tragic event, in an effort to keep the memories of the event alive. I thank you for that commitment.


  44. I am from El Paso. Married, Grandather of eight beautiful grandkids. When I was 7 years old (1954) I went on a hike toward Ranger Peak (Then it was the KTSM TV Tower). It was a Boy Scout badge requirement climb that my father was taking the (My brother, myself and the other boy scouts and Parents) Boy scouts through. We by passed the area the author was talking about. There is a plaque out there stating the names of the airman. It was a very somber moment for all of us, when reached the site. We said a prayer for them and their families. I was in the Army during the Vietnam era and retired with 30 years of faithful service, I’m retired, and since that climb during my childhood, I always had a high respect for the men and women that served and gave their lives for our Nation. I always had questions about the crash site, though there was little to be seen compared to the debri that was out there on the authors photos. Either the Airforce policed up the debri again afterwards or the suvineer hunters got to it unfortuately. To us El Pasoans, we treat the crash site with respect for it is Hollowed ground. May they rest in peace and sincerest sympathy to the families and relatives.

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  46. Michael Irvin says:

    My wife’s father flew on this plane we think. He told the story of being apart of a B-36 flight crew as a radar tail gunner about this time frame. He talked about being on duty in the barracks while the rest of the crew went on a training flight and crashed in the mountains. I’m almost sure this is that B-36. He also told the story of how the Captain would call for sandwiches and coffee and he would have to prepare them and slide down the man tube to the flight deck. Midway through the pilot would put the plane in a slight dive causing Dad to spill coffee all over himself. I would appreciate any confirmation you could provide us. His name was Thomas Harry Means.

    Michael Irvin

  47. Jim Oaborn says:

    I was born in El Paso and had a paper route on the east side. While delivering papers, I looked up toward the mountain and saw the smoke coming from the crash. It wasn’t until later in the day that we were told of the crash. I’ve mentioned this to others in the past, and most sort of “yeah, sure” me. I never went to the site, leaving El Paso in 1955 to go to college on the east coast. I moved my mother to Humble, TX in 2009, and I haven’t been back. El Paso may be my birth place, but it’s not where I would want to live.

  48. Kathy Miner Peterson says:

    This is the first time I’ve seen the picture of my Dad’s plane just before it crashed. I can’t begin to tell you how shocking it is…..gut wrenching, in fact.

  49. Merri Taylor says:

    Dobbs, I stumbled on this travel blog by accident and want to thank you for sharing your walkabouts with us. Your detailed descriptions and great photos, serve as a guide which will help others who may be trying to find locations that are off the beaten path. I was born in Colorado and am still here, so I know I will be checking out your links to Colorado trails before I go exploring. As for this particular post, thank you for sharing the history and the names of the crew members. And for reminding hikers to be respectful at the crash site and not take any “souvenirs.” I was looking at another page before finding yours and I don’t believe his showed a propeller or the torch memorial. His did show something that made my heart sink though. I don’t know if 60 years later it could be related to the crash, but he shows a picture of a rubber sole from Biltrite who manufactures soles for military boots. It looks like the same hike, but now that I’ve taken another look, he’s calling it a B-24 Liberator. Maybe there are two crash sites on Franklin Mountain? Here’s the page that shows the sole if you scroll down – http://smu.gs/14mdTO5

  50. Dobbs says:

    Merri, thank you for your kind words about the site. In the Franklin Mountains there is in fact another plane crash site where a B-24 Liberator went down on the east side of the range. I tried to look for it before but could not find it at the time. That crash is not very well known but it killed 8 servicemembers back in 1944. I have a pretty good idea where the site is now though since more information has been posted by others on the Internet. I will have to go check the site out the next time I am in El Paso.

  51. Kelli Collins says:

    Hello I looked at your pictures and would like to let you know that the son of one of the pilots is my neighbor and very close friend. His Father Major George C. Morford died in this crash. Thank you for posting your pictures I know he may be going to site this year. I do believe he was 3 when his father was killed.

  52. Kathy Miner Peterson says:

    Would you please give your neighbor, Mr. Morford my kindest regards? I am the daughter of Doug Miner, crew member and navigator on the plane that crashed in the Franklin Mountains. I was 5 years old at the time and do remember some things about my dad. Since he was just 3, his memories may be vague. In any case, I think of all the people we lost that day..it makes no difference if I knew them, their names or families…they are not forgotten.
    Kathy Miner Peterson

  53. John Moses says:

    A memorial monument to the crew of the B-36D is to be dedicated by the El Paso County Historical Commission on December 14, 2013. We are attempting to locate families of the crew to invite them to the (indoor) ceremony at the El Paso Community Foundation, followed by the plaque dedication at a location below the crash site. Please contact me for information (johnmoses@excite.com).

  54. David Pankey says:

    Oh, this makes me cry. We were an Air Force family; we lived about 1 very near E.P. Municipal (airport). B-36s were hugely impressive, and at age 9 (almost) I watched everything that flew; from our house we could easily see approaches into both Municipal and Biggs. We could hear the -36 flying around, flying around, but we couldn’t see it because of cloudiness. Suddenly we could not longer hear it. I do not remember any sounds of explosion or impact – too far away for that – but the sudden silence was so silent, so sudden, that it seemed…weird. My mother got a stricken look on her face and ran inside to call my father; she was in tears for days. Everybody soon knew what had happened. A friend of my father’s, a USAF major, was tasked to be part of the recovery and investigation efforts…a sad and ghastly mission. I have obviously not forgotten it, and on the rare occasions when I am in El Paso, I look at the Franklins and think of those guys with respect and regret. They got very little, but they gave everything. A memorial is the least we can do. Thank you; thank you.

  55. Kathy Miner Peterson says:

    Thank you David for your kind words, and for your kind heart. Everyone from the families, the rescue teams and the recovery teams were forever changed that day. For those who helped us, I am very, very grateful.

  56. Edward L (Ted) Gemoets says:

    I was born and raised in El Paso. I was 15 years old at the time of the crash. I recall the day being cloudy. The tops of Mt Franklin were in the clouds. The B-36 was on a GCA approach from the Southwest to the North East on the West side of the mountain. About 6 months after the crash my father,twin brother and I climbed up to the crash sight. I recovered several blades from the jet engines.

  57. Brenda Morrison says:

    Thank you so much. It means so much to me that someone would take the time to take photos and talk about the crash. I am the granddaughter of Lt. Col. Gerick. My mom is his daughter and she was 6 yrs old when that dreadful day happened. I would love to travel to Texans and see this site. My uncle, Garry Gerick, would of loved to have seen the dedication, as well as my mom. My uncle has passed but my mom was given this information tonight, after my aunt sent it to me. Thank you again. It means so much to me!

  58. Kathy Miner Peterson says:

    I’ve just read your comments and was glad to see them. I do very much wish you and your mom had been to the dedication this past Saturday. It was extraordinary in it’s simplicity, compassion and kindness. I met the other families who had lost their dads, sons, and husbands and each and every one of them were so sweet and generous with their words. Everyone I talked to asked how old I was when the accident happened (I was 6) and every one said, “I am so sorry’. The plaque that was erected is beautiful and I, like the others needed to touch it, run my fingers along the names and remember the loss. It was such a moving moment and to know that there were so many people who still cared about our loved ones and their families…it was truly heartwarming. Kathy Miner Peterson

  59. Barbara and Keith Erickson says:

    Our best friend, has a best friend; Donna. Donna was married to Garry Gerick your Uncle. All of this is of extraordinary interest. The small ness of our world is ever present and yet the sacrafices of our military resounds throughout the planet. Our love to you and yours. We feel as though we know you through your Aunt, Donna. I am sure you are a lovely woman.
    Keith and Barbara Erickson

  60. Ronald Freeman says:

    Thank you so much for this information. M/Sgt. Royal Freeman was my brother and I never knew until reading this what actually happened. Why the shroud of secrecy?
    Thank you again.
    Ronald Freeman

  61. Ronald Freeman says:

    Sorry, I did not check the box for followups. I will do so now.

    Ronald Freeman

  62. Karl Putnam says:

    Dobbs, you’d asked who put the granite plaque at the site up. I was responsible, am on the committee which put together the Dec. 14, 2013 dedication ceremony for the roadside metal historical marker and would be glad to take Brenda Morrison or anyone to the crash site. Contact me at kirkpul@yahoo.com if you’re interested.

  63. Dobbs says:

    Karl, great job and I appreciate your efforts for putting the plaque up. I will definitely check it out next time I am in El Paso.

  64. Karl Putnam says:

    Thanks for your nice comment, Dobbs, and for setting up this very informative blog. There had been a concrete base with apparent metal plaques from decades prior at a location maybe 200 yards north of the main wreckage. I felt there should again be some kind of marker so with the help of a couple of others with a proper drill and bit (my borrowed cordless drill and bit wasn’t up to getting through the hard rock at the site), installed the granite plaque with stainless washers and lag screws a few years ago. Then the committee was formed to put up the roadside metal historical marker at the trailhead at the terminus of Stanton street. The dedication of the metal historical marker on the Saturday closest to the 60th anniversary of the December 11, 1953 crash took place on December 14, 2013. Here is a link to a video of the dedication ceremony and unveiling of the marker. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvwzxs6gauA (In addition to the link, you can get the video at youtube.com with search terms b-36 el paso.) I visit the site a few times a year and would be glad to take relatives or others to the crash site and have already done so with some relatives and others the morning after the roadside marker dedication ceremony. Contact me at kirkpul@yahoo.com if you’re interested in going to the site. It will take us about five hours and will be strenuous with a high elevation gain and be mostly off trail over firm and loose rocks and around cactus. Bring a couple of liters of water or sports drink and do not attempt this hike unless you are in good physical condition.

  65. Kelli Collins says:

    Hello, my next door neighbor is Jeff Morford. His father was Major George C Morford. He attended the dedication along with his wife,mother and sister. I wanted to say Thank you. This has made an impact on Jeff as he was such a small boy at the time. To do this for these men who served our country and died so tragically so long ago is something so wonderful it is hard for me to express it in words. It will always be remembered by Jeff and I know he now has that connection to everyone who attended, God Bless

  66. SFC Clayton Tolliver says:

    Wonderful article, about what would have been a long forgotten incident. In fact, i am sure that the Air Force HAS forgotten about it, thus no real memorial.
    The turbine engines did not power the propellers. The B-36 had six 28-cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-4360 ‘Wasp Major’ radial engines. Piston engines, similar to the B-17, B-24, and B29… Just a LOT bigger. Beginning with the B-36D, Convair added a pair of General Electric J47-19 jet engines suspended near the end of each wing; these were also retrofitted to all extant B-36Bs. So, those turbine assemblies that you saw came off of the jet engines out near the wingtips.
    I am originally from El Paso, and my grandfather was the Provost Marshall at Ft. Bliss from 1942 or so, until 1950. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  67. Tom Weirich says:

    Hi Brenda,

    I read your post of 12/16/2013 and was surprised to learn that your grandfather was Lt. Col. Gerick. I am fascinated by the history of the B-36 bomber and the role the B-36 and the air crews that manned it played during the cold war. The selfless service of these men is amazing. Furthermore, through my personal studies, I learned the history and circumstances of the El Paso flight; that fateful day in December 1953 was a day of tragic weather circumstances that were simply impossible to navigate through.

    None the less, while on business recently, I was passing through the town where your grandfather is buried and took a moment to stop and place a small flag on his final resting place. All of the men on that aircraft are remembered and through the years, their service and self sacrifice is not forgotten.

    All the best ,


  68. May I just say what a relief to find an individual who truly understands what they are talking about on the web.
    You certainly realize how to bring an issue to light and make it important.
    More people ought to look at this and understand this side
    of the story. I was surprised that you aren’t
    more popular since you certainly possess the gift.

  69. n lozano says:

    This crash happen up the mountain between Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and the area then known as Chivas Town. (Chivas Town is located one block south of Ft. Boulevard and south of Alabama Street). One comment mention was about hollowed ground and a monument, for names of who built the monument (a cross) e-mail me for an excursive interview with a person who lived the time and who still lives, She (my mom) experienced all of this as a child to see all this happen. Her parents and family are who I refer as founders of Chivas Town. Take advantage of the offer. PS there are more stories of Chivas Town you may want to write about. Thanks

  70. L B Feiner says:

    I was 14 years old in 1953 and lived on the corner of La Cruz and North Stanton Streets below the crash site. I remember the snowy and foggy conditions of the time and that we could not see Mt Franklin from our yard. It was believed that no one could have survived the violent impact.
    The lasting memory I have of the event is that for some time (I believe it was days) after the impact, there were several spots of blue light glowing through the fog which were thought to be coming from batteries or other burning debris from the mysterious secret aircraft. The site remained too hot and unapproachable for several days is my recollection. After the weather cleared, all that was visible from Stanton sreet was a large dark singed area of the mountainside.
    During the 1960s and my training in the U S Air Force, I recall a B 36 stationed at the NW end of the runway at Kelly Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. I recall that in later years it was badly weathering and being vandalized and may have since been removed.
    I am pleased to add my experience and hope it is meaningful to the families and others impacted by this event.

  71. Mike McKee says:

    Thank you for this site.

    I am the grandson of James M. Harvey and plan to visit the Historical Marker and observation outlook later this week when I am in El Paso. I knew very little of this story until recently and have learned a great deal from this site and others referenced here.


    Thank you

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