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flown by Air Weather Service 1956- 1965

Official Air Force photograph, courtesy of Air Force Weather History Office
Annotation added by author

Sometime on 30 August 1956, the 58th was tasked to fly a third operational sortie on the 31st.  This mission, designated a "Loon Special", would take off about 2:00 A.M. local time and head south over Anchorage before going out into the Gulf of Alaska. The mission would then fly west to parallel to the Aleutian Islands.  They would return at a second altitude along the same track.  As originally drawn up, the track would take almost 15 hours to complete. Coordinating with the mission customer, the 58th operations planners managed to shorten the track to a planned 12 hour mission.

The 58th WRS was working with a minimum number of crews in August 1956.  Many people had left the squadron during the summer rotation period and the newcomers required training in the WB-50.  After looking over the schedule, the squadron operations folks decided to use a crew that had previously been identified to back up the regular missions on the 31st.  This crew consisted of: 

         Capt  Leonard N. Chapman, Jr.,  Aircraft Commander

         Maj  Dale Richardson,  Co-Pilot
         Capt  Everett E. Dyson, Navigator
2Lt  William W. Faustlin, Navigator
         1Lt  William J. Wolters, Jr., Weather Observer
         MSgt  Fred T. Gregg, Jr., Flight Engineer
         TSgt  Richard K. Brown, Auxiliary Crew Member
         SSgt  Ronald R. Ragland, Dropsonde Operator
         A2C  Melvin O. Lindsey, Radio Operator
         A2C  Elijah Spencer, Radio Operator
         A3C  Douglas W. Maxon, Crew Chief

The 58th routinely carried two navigators and two radio operators on all of their missions.  The demands of arctic navigation and communication demanded the additional help. 

TSgt Brown was listed on the crew orders as an Auxiliary Crew Member.  He was a Special Equipment Operator (SEO), belonging to a unit known as Team 202, which was part of the 1009th Special Weapons Squadron.  An SEO did not go on all 58th missions, but were often along on the special taskings to help identify if the actual debris cloud was found.   In 1959 the 1009th SWS administratively
morphed into the Air Force Technical Applications Center, or AFTAC.  A generation of air sampling crews simply knew AFTAC as "the customer".

According to the 58th WRS History for July-December 1956, the "Golden Heart" took off as scheduled shortly after 2:00 A.M.  All proceeded normally for about an hour.  Regular radio calls indicated no trouble.  A radar station in Anchorage saw the aircraft until about 3:08 A.M. when it suddenly disappeared.  Shortly after this, Air Traffic Control attempted to contact the aircraft with no success.  The Alaskan Air Rescue Center was notified and a search was begun at daylight.  Shortly before 9:00 A.M., the crash site was located on a group of small islands in the Susitna River, very near where it had disappeared from radar. 

Subsequent investigation showed that the "Golden Heart" had crashed nose first, in a near vertical attitude.  Most of the plane was destroyed by the crash and subsequent fire.  All that remained intact was a section of the aft fuselage and tail that broke off on impact.  Despite a full investigation, no cause for this crash was ever determined.  It took several days to locate and identify remains of all 11 of the crewmembers.  Initially, two crewmembers were listed as missing.  This only added to the grief felt by
their families and the whole squadron. 

Because the accident happened overseas (remember Alaska wasn't even a state yet) the families were quickly processed to return to the Zone of the Interior, as the lower 48 states were known.  Three of the families elected to have their loved ones interred at Arlington National Cemetery, and their flag-draped coffins arrived together by train weeks later.

After fifty years, these three families have made contact with each other and set out to honor the service and sacrifice of the crew of the "Golden Heart"

Family photo, property of Doug Wolters
Any reproduction, or other use, is prohibited without
the express written permission of the Wolters Family
Photo property of Richardson Family
Any reproduction, or other use, is prohibited without
the express written permission of the Richardson Family

1st Lt William J. Wolters, Jr. is shown with
his very young son Doug in August
of 1956.  Doug Wolters' recent pilgrimage
to the actual crash site is documented on
the following page. 

Major Dale Richardson's official photo from
1956.  His daughter, Andrea, was only 8
years old at the time of the crash of the
Golden Heart.  She is currently writing
a book about her father's life and times.

Official Air Force photograph, courtesy of Air Force Weather History Office
Photo cropped from the original for use on this web page

A2C Melvin O. Lindsey (left) as part of 1Lt D. N. Rogers' crew receiving "Crew of the Month"
honors from Brig Gen Thomas S. Moorman, Commander, Air Weather Service (right).  In this
1955 photo Airman Lindsey was still an A3C.  Also pictured are A1C E. B. Tingle and SSgt
A. Figueroa.   Note the aircrew are wearing arctic mukluk boots with their service uniforms.

To illustrate the tight operational constraints that the 58th was experiencing during the conversion from the WB-29 to the WB-50, Air Weather Service immediately dispatched an additional aircraft and two crews to augment the squadron after the loss of 49-315.  One crew came from the 55th WRS at McClellan AFB, CA, and the second from the 57th WRS at Hickam AFB, HI.

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