Major Payne perished when U.S. Air Force B-52D Stratofortress #55-0060 "Buzz One Four" experienced structural failure over Cumberland, Maryland, and crashed. Based at Turner Air Force Base. John C Anderson
Robert Payne, along with crew members Robert Townley, Melvin Wooten, Parker Peedin and Thomas McCormick were called in to fly the nuclear bomb laden B-52 after it had to be landed in Massachusetts. They weren't supposed to be on that plane. Not one of them. They were all off-duty when they were called to take the place of the crew that brought it in for repairs.
"The whole story of Major Payne was just awful. Our crew was asked to ferry the plane back to Turner [AFB]. Five of us flew together continually. But on this trip, our regular navigator was not available. They grabbed Major Payne. He was qualified, but he was the staff navigation officer and often worked in an office." Parker Peedin, co-pilot, is quoted from a 1998 article in the Baltimore Sun.
The plane, based at Turner Field, Albany GA had been sent on a trip beginning January 11, 1964 as part of the Chrome Dome mission (a Cold War defensive manuver requiring B-52 bombers to be in the air constantly). They flew out over the Atlantic but engine and mechanical trouble forced the crew to stop at Moron Air Base in Spain and again at Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts. The Air Force had to have the plane back in the schedule for the Chrome Dome mission so the five man crew listed below was sent to Massachusetts from Albany GA to relieve the exhausted crew and return the plane to Georgia's Turner Air Base. For three members of that crew, the final destination became Big Savage Mountain in Maryland. They discovered what the Air Force and Boeing already knew. That the vertical stabilizer bolts were weak and could not withstand severe turbulence. They flew directly into a blizzard in the early morning hours of January 13, 1964 and perished despite all attempts to locate and save them.
Major Robert L Payne was the navigator. After ejecting he fell from the sky in a horrendous blizzard. He landed in the Poplar Lick State Park, a wilderness area virtually unpopulated in the winter. It appears that after he wandered around a bit he froze to death at the edge of the Poplar Lick creekbed where he was found two days later, approximately 6 miles from the plane crash and 20 miles west of Cumberland MD and three miles from his parachute where he landed. Using his tracks, it indicated that he had lost his sense of direction after removing himself from his parachute which was found tangled in a tree. It appeared that even though he had his survival gear with him he was unable to use it due to shock and the frigid temperatures. His body had to be removed by sled. The memorial marking the site of his demise is now only reachable by foot, hiking 2.5 miles down an abandoned ORV trail in the Poplar Lick Park, just north of wilderness campsite 154. (see photo provided by Buck Shriver, August 2013).
Major Thomas W McCormick - pilot
Capt. Parker C Peedin - co-pilot
Major Robert L Townley - bombadier
Major Robert L Payne - navigator
Sgt. Melvin D Wooten - tail
-The Cumberland Times, July 9, 1965-
Area Jet Bomber Crash Recalled
GRANTSVILLE - A year ago on the Fourth of July thousands of persons gathered here for the dedication ceremonies of the monument at Little Crossings.
The monument was dedicated in honor of the three crewmen of the giant eight-engine B52 Air Force jet bomber which crashed January, 13, 1964 and to the residents of the area took participated in the search and rescue of the other two members of the plane.
The families of Major Robert Payne and Tech. Sgt. Melvin Wooten attended the dedication a year ago. However, only Donald Townley, son of Major Robert Townley, who was also killed in the crash, was able to attend.
Mrs. Gene Townley, widow of the Air Force major and another son, Reed Townley, were unable to attend the dedication at Little Crossings, however arrived at the site this year to view a memorial, which was erected on the site of where her husband's body was found.
Major Townley's brother George Townley and wife Margaret, and daughters Gina and Lisa of Orange, Texas, along with Mr. and Mrs. Donald Townley, visited friends in Cumberland, Westernport and Grantsville this Fourth of July.
Last Sunday afternoon memorial and dedication services were held at the crash site where Major Townley lost his life. Just a small group of 30 persons attended the services after walking through the woods from the highway.
Rubbles of the plane still are scattered about and the trees bear marks which were slashed by the big bomber.
The service was opened by Rev. S. D. Sawyers, Trinity Methodist Curch, who read a reading of the life of Major Townley, which was written by the Major's brother, Clyde Townley.
Rev. David E. Feller, pastor of Christ Lutheran Church, Grantsville, Greenville and Salisbury parish, read the 23rd Psalm.
A white marble cross was donated by Vernon Golder of the Tri State Memorial Company, Cresaptown and Piedmont. It was erected on the land of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Russell, Barton, by Herb Alexander and Dick Fazenbaker, of Westernport.
An American flag and a basket of roses presented by friends was placed by the marble stone cross.
-end Cumberland Times July, 1965-
The following links are to .pdf articles about the Crash of Air Force Buzz One Four and it's crewmen, including my Uncle Robert.
Historical Marker Database
A Night To Remember
B-52 Crash (This is five pages full of photos and newspaper articles.)
1964 Savage Mountain B-52 Crash (An easy to read (with lots of details)Wikipedia source.)
The Rush to Cover the Crash of B52
Inmates to Clear Trail to B-52
Maryland Winter Ordeal (from the National Explosive Ordnance Association.
Fliers Fall out of the Sky-Garret County History 1998(from the Baltimore Sun)
Almost 50 years later this is still in the current news
Debris from 1964 crash still litters West Maryland- VideoSept 26, 2013
Cumberland Times Letter to the EditorThis link is defunct, so with permission from the author, it is copied below in full
Tuesday, August 27, 2013 9:39 PM
Subject: B 52 crash 1964
I, recently, guided family members of one of the victims of the B 52 crash in 1964, on a tour of the monuments in memory of the servicemen who lost their lives in the crash. We were in agreement that more recognition is due for these men who gave their lives in the service of their country.
Navigator, Robert Payne, who perished on the Poplar Lick ORV Trail, is memorialized by a monument that is 2 1/2 miles down the ORV trail from New Germany Road. The closing of the road, and the consequent reduction in the number of people in that area, has left the memory of Robert Payne nearly as isolated as he was, himself, in the winter of 1964. A sign at the top of the trail, on New Germany Road, explaining the story of the crash, and informing the public of the location of Payne's memorial, is a small price to pay to preserve the memory of this fallen hero.
Bombardier, Robert Townley, whose family was in the area, recently, is memorialized by a monument that is on private ground, on Pine Swamp Road, near Barton. Again, a parking area for several cars, on public property along Westernport Road, a sign with the story of the crash, and a monument to Robert Townley, is minor compensation compared to the sacrifice that Major Townley made. Perhaps, there could even be a letter box at the monument in Grantsville, with directions to the monuments for the three servicemen who perished in the crash. Time should not diminish the appreciation for the sacrifice that these men made. They died for their country the same as if they were fighting on foreign soil.
The monument for Melvin Wooten, the tailgunner on the B 52, in West Salisbury, Pa., should be the standard for all of the monuments. It's inspiring to see the beautiful stone, the American flags, and the well kept flower bed that surrounds the monument. A sign at the site lists all of the organizations who contributed to the creation and maintenance of the site. Congratulations to all. It restores my faith. The two servicemen who perished in Garrett County deserve the same recognition.
2014 will mark the 50th anniversary of the crash. In recogniton of this milestone, let us make more effort to preserve the memory of those who made the supreme sacrifice, when they fell from the crippled plane into our area, in the snowy darkness of January 13th of 1964. This is no way to treat our veterans.
Melvin Schriver, Jr.
19806 Big Lane SW
Midland, Md. 21532
Jan 9th, 2014, 5 days prior to the 50th anniversary, John Josselyn debuted this new website to honor the crew
Buzz One Four
This is a very comprehensive website and contains not only the previously noted web pages but new information, documentation, and photos as well.
2014, Jan 19; 6 days after B-52 Crew Honored by Maryland General Assembly
Robert L Payne, Jr.
This memorial was graciously transferred by John Anderson. His initial comments were left intact, untouched, and begin this memorial page. We are grateful for the opportunity to maintain it.
Fay L Payne
Gravesite Details MAJ USAF