Ralph also tells us that he lived only a few houses down on North Carolina Avenue from the tail gunner of Buzz One Four and the bombardier was his Little League Team coach. Ralph also knew Francis Gary Powers of U-2 fame and Thomas W. Ferebee, the bombardier on the Enola Gay’s Hiroshima mission.
Planned in 1945, the B-52 was designed for a range of 10,000 miles with enough internal capacity to contain a nuclear bomb measuring 8 feet in diameter and stretching 25 feet from nose cone to tail. In November of 1951, Boeing rolled the first production prototype of this airplane out of the factor doors.
Nearly 160 feet long and supported by swept wings spanning 185 feet, the plane weighted nearly a half million pounds loaded. Its fuselage was supported by four twin-wheel landing trucks and outriggers supported its drooping wings in which fuel was stores. There were eight Pratt & Whitney J57 turbo jets under the wings. The plan could fly at 595 mph and cost $8 million each.
Officially the B-52 was named the Stratofortress. This was soon shortened to "Buff" standing for Big, Ugly, Fat, Fellow - or something to that effect.
It is anticipated that the B-52 will be in service for over a century. Of the 744 B52s built by Boeing, at the start of 1999, 94 remained in active service with the Air Force.
Those remaining on active duty are all TF33 – powered H models, built between 1960 and 1962. Changes over the years have included the installation of underwing pylons for bombs and missiles, the addition of forward-looking infrared radar and low-light television. They also have stronger wings and tails and reinforce fuselages allowing them to fly at lower altitudes than originally planned.
B-52s are reputed to be the airplane that turned out most of the lights in Baghdad during Operation Desert Storm. And the B-52 was responsible for dropping more than 90 cruise missiles in Iraq during the four nights of Operation Desert Fox.
The standard crew complement of the B-52 includes a pilot, copilot, radar navigator responsible for missile guidance and bombing, navigator and electronic warfare officer to operate electronic countermeasures to keep the bomber out of harm’s way.
The pilots and electronic warfare officer are seated in the cockpit while the nav officers are seated below. Originally, there was a gunner, but that position and the gun were eliminated.
It was in this section of the plane that the trouble probably came which caused the crash of Buzz One Four (also see In Memory, Bomber Down, B-52 Crash article).
Lt. Col. Monahan was visiting his son-in-law, Lt. Col. Brian McLean (now stationed at Maxwell Air Force Base), and saw this airplane and recognized it by its numbers as the one flown from Turner Field by Col. Monahan.
Col. Monahan was stationed at Turner from September 10, 1959 until April 1, 1967 at which time he retired. His tour of duty was during the Vietnam War (for more information on this era, visit the History section for these dates). Pilots from Turner were sent to Guam in 6 months TDY to fly Vietnam. It was six months on and six months at home. Mrs. Monahan is still in Albany. As she says, "We were well accepted by the community and made to feel welcome – a real treat to us."
Note: The information about the plane was provided by Lt. Col. Tom Monahan or was gleaned from an article appearing in Popular Mechanics March 1999. We are thankful to Internet Friend and former Turner Field resident, Ralph Hawes, Jr. for sending us to these web sites. Ralph’s father was stationed at Turner from 1949-1954 (31st Fighter Wing), from 1959-1964 and finally from 1965-1967 (48th Bombardment Wing – Heavy). Ralph was born at the base hospital during his father’s first tour of duty at Turner.