In Harms Way

This is an illustration of aircraft B-52G 0248. It’s too small to see, but the nose art shows that this aircraft had the nickname of “In Harms Way”. There is a story that goes along with the nickname. Then again, don’t most nicknames have a story?

This is the B-52G that was accidentally hit with an AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missile fired from an F-4G Wild Weasel on the first night of operation DESERT STORM. The B-52’s tail gunner mistakenly locked his anti-aircraft radar on the Wild Weasel thinking it was an Iraqi MIG. The Wild Weasel immediately detected the B-52 tail gun radar locking on to him and misidentified the radar signature as that of an Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) site. The Wild Weasel crew fired a HARM missile and watched in horror as it headed not towards the nonexistent Iraqi AAA site, but to the B-52 is was tasked with protecting.

Luckily the missile failed to hit the plane but instead detonated directly behind the bomber. These missiles are designed to hit non-moving ground targets, not moving airplanes. The resulting shrapnel and missile debris caused an excessive amount of damage to the tail section of the B-52. It ripped off everything aft of the vertical stabilizer. This included much of the tail gun system, the aft electronic warfare suite, and the drag chute. The B-52 was able to land safely on the island of Diego Garcia in Saudi Arabia.

0248
I don’t know who took this awful photo of aircraft 0248, but it wasn’t me. I’m the guy on the far right.

It was then sent to Anderson Air Force Base on Guam for repair. I was in on the repair of this aircraft shortly after is was damaged. During the first Iraqi war, I was assigned to a squadron that was responsible for repairing B-52’s being used in Iraq and being flown from Diego Garcia. I spent four months back on Guam. I had been stationed there prior for almost three years. I could have been sent to places far worse than Guam. I could have gone to Saudi. I could have spent four months on Diego Garcia. I spent two weeks there once and that was long enough for me. As it was, I loved Guam.

Update

Bob Deasy, the Radar Nav on board this aircraft the night it took a missile was kind enough to stop by and correct me on some of the things I got wrong about this story. His corrections can be found in the comment section. The main issue I got wrong was that the B-52 gunner locked onto the Wild Weasel with his radar.

He did not do that.

Author: Rick Rottman

My name is Rick Rottman and I live in Maryland. This is my blog. If you'd like to know more about me, check out my About page.

38 thoughts on “In Harms Way”

  1. I actually worked on the tailgun section at Castle AFB after they were able to cut the aft section off of a B-52G which had “broken its back”. After refitting all of the components into the newly “pasted” tail, and to get it functioning again, we were able to get it to track on the 141 radar test set, almost 30 degrees/sec. The minimum being 15 degrees/sec. Of course, that took tons of man hours to accomplish, with a team of DFC Specialists for the AGS-15. I was just glad that the wiring was flawless once we got the B-52G.

    And yes, I was mildly irked when our jobs as 321×1Gs was no longer needed.

    Inky
    320FMS
    43AMS
    93OMS

  2. I forgot to mention, that I received a call from Diego Garcia on the day 0248 was hit. Actually, the nearest DFCS Mechanic, I just happened to answer the phone. The person on the other end wanted to know how to jettison the tailgun while in the air. I guess his question was prior to the aircraft reaching DG. Not having know the current situation, I basically told him that the only way to jettison the tail gun section was to hit with a missile. The caller then explained why he needed to know, and wasn’t sure if the turret was just dangling off the end of the aircraft. After our short discussion, they decided to do a fly by to see the condition of the turret.

    After knowing what I knew then, I guess they saw that the whole aft section was completely blown off. And jettisoning the turret was not necessary.

    I had no Idea that I would actually work on the aircraft a couple months down the line and bring it back into service. That is, after they pieced together the wiring and the aft section.

    This should make for some interesting discussions.

    Inky
    320FMS
    43AMS
    93OMS

  3. I have often wondered how many people remembered this A/C. I was at Diego also, 4300 Provisional Bombardment Wing. The patches we had made were a dragon with the B-52 engines. I am “Sheet Metal” and do remember when this all happened. It was cool running across this article. Thank you for sharing.

    Ace

    42 FMS
    93 FMS

  4. Our tail numbers did’nt go that low. Usually 0492,etc. I worked @ Robins prior to being trans. to Andersen. What a pity…I always knew the gunners were to crazed. Randy.

  5. Well…Not quite right…

    I was the Radar Navigator on this aircraft on this mission. A/C was Linwood Mason, CP was Lance Press, EW was Red Urband, Nav was Joe Mitchell and the Gunner was TSGT Zack Peters, probably the finest Gunner I ever met, a pro and an instructor…and he did not lock up the weasel.

    You need to check SAC TAC Doctrine (classified) for similarities between B-52 FCS Radars and Soviet Threat Radars to find out why the weasel was so interested in us. The missile did remove everything aft of the vertical stab…all the schrapnel holes went through the top and out the bottom of the horizontal stab…the fuselage was “beer canned” on the bottom where there is a natural break in the fuselage line on the bottom. We never contemplated “jettisoning the FCS because we knew from visual inspection from our #2 that it was already gone. The drag chute did deploy in flight at 400′ and 400kts…but was instantly streamered due to high airspeed…It was drug all the way back to landing…There was no flyby at DG because the A/C was first recovered into Jedda, Saudi Arabia, where it was prepped for ferry to DG. Crew recovered to DG via KC-10 3 days later and rejoined the combat rotation. The reason the Guns came off the Buff had nothing to do with this incident…rather…it was a way to save $$$ because the threat of enemy fighters to the B-52 was no longer deemed viable given advances in C4ISR and operational tactics. Maintenace crews did do an amazing job of restoring life to this airframe…it went on to win best bomber team at “Gunsmoke” 2 years later and was flown by myself and others to Davis Monthan for final ‘disposition’…Hope this sets some things straight.

    Bob D.

    1. Bob Deasy has it right. I was a Barksdale Gunner, deployed to Diego Garcia from Mid August 90 until we left in Feb or Mar 91 (except for the few weeks our crew spent in Jeddah SA after night one). I knew the Gunner, Zack very well during that entire time. We lived together, hung out together and fished together. Zack was an instructor and a pro, in all aspects. There is no way he “locked up” the Weasel. Like Bob Deasy says, there are reasons the Weasel was interested in the B-52G FCS. In my opinion this was a case of both aircraft being in the wrong place (doing the absolute right things) at the same time. The ENTIRE crew did a hell of a job keeping that BUFF from impacting the ground and then recovering it to a safe landing after the hit.

    2. I responded to this aircraft prior to takeoff to rekey the IFF mode IV computer. Remember talking to crew, AC Mason was a super guy. I gave the AC my best wishes and we chatted for a few minutes. When I heard the plane got shot from friendly fire, I was concerned that my rekeying had somehow not worked and as a result we had a friendly fire incident. I worked on the aircraft again after it returned to base to remove any equipment we could keep at DG to use as spares, we stripped it down to what was only needed to ferry it back to Guam. The turret area was trimmed and patched to make the flight to guam.

      T.F.

  6. Bob, thanks for all the corrections. I was only going on what I was told at the time. Considering some of the other info I was given at the time by some of the same people, it stands to reason that what they did tell me about AC 0248 was bunk.

    Before working on BUFF’s on Guam, I was stationed in the Philippines where I worked on the F-4G and the Wild Weasel system. The FCS would have been identified as an Unknown AAA site unless the threat library software was updated right before the war. It very well may have, but I would have thought this whole accident wouldn’t have happened if that had been the case.

    Thanks again for the info and sorry that I passed on false information about your crew member. It was not intentional.

  7. Wow!

    I was also in the 4300 PBW on the Rock when that happened. I remembered the patch, because the “dragon” looked like an armadillo with bomber wings and we called it a “Bombadillo.” This was especially funny to some of my friends because my last anme is Badillo and is similar to Tom Bombadil from “Lord of the Rings.”

    I don’t remember where the aircraft was from.

    Thanks for the blast from the past,

    Michael Badillo
    USAF, but not anymore

  8. Michael, have you looked on eBay? I was able to get copies of all my old organizational patches that way. When I was in the Air Force, I didn’t care about keeping that stuff. It didn’t become important to me until later on.

  9. Hello all,

    I normally don’t jump into forums, but by coincidence I’m a freelance military photojournalist with a particular interest in the B-52. I’m actually co-authoring a title on the subject – actually my second. During my research I’ve read about the B-52/HARM mystery.

    I’ve had numerous B-52 acquaintances who have advised me that it wasn’t a HARM that impacted the B-52G, 58-0248. And coincidently, I had cause to interview Col. George “John Boy” Walton (Ret) for a project titled “Iron Hand” a few years back. Col. Walton was the commander of the 561st TFS(P), which provided SEAD in F-4Gs during Desert Storm. Col. Walton informed me that no HARM was launched against a B-52 on the night in question.

    And by way of FOIA, I recently acquired a volume of the SAC 1991 History which covered Desert Storm in detail – some 900 pages were declassified. And while the B-52/HARM incident is just briefly mentioned, the document attributes a SAM as the probable cause.

    Bob Deasy and I have a mutual friend who offered to introduce us sometime ago, and I may have to take my friend up on his offer!

    Anyhow, I just thought I’d add this insight to the discussion.

    Sincerely,

    Tony

  10. OK Tony, first of all this isn’t a forum. It’s a blog. Second of all, this particular aircraft was indeed damaged by a HARM missile.

  11. Hey Rick, this is Harold Dixon from Loring, you sure had alot more hair then, haha. I think 0248 was originally called Dr Feelgood but the name had to be changed due to the nature of the song by Motly Crue. After it was all said and done it was called First Strike. I was on Guam with my Supervisor TSGT Larry Shannon and my friend Brody Gould. This aircraft did wrinkle up to the production break just aft of the stabs with large pieces of schrapnel pentrating the horisontals. It was a miracle that it made it back with its crew intact and just a testiment to the skill of the crew and the ruggedness of the airframe.
    Hey Rick, remember that cut on my foot? How is your reefrash?

  12. @Harold: It’s good to hear from you Harold. Not only did I have a lot more hair then, I was younger looking too. Go figure!

    There used to be a photo of AC 0248 at the top of this blog post, but it’s since disappeared. I remember a few years ago I had a problem with images on my server. I thought that I had salvaged everything. Evidently I missed this post. Anyway, I cannot find the photo that I originally used. I was able to find this though:

    http://www.markstyling.com/b52s6.htm

    AC 0248 is second from the bottom.

    It’s been a very long time since I’ve had reef-rash. Then again, there aren’t very many coral reefs in western Maryland. 🙂

  13. @Rick: I think I have a picture of 0248 somewhere, I will have too see. It sure is nice to hear from you, we sure had a good time on Guam. I do have a picture of all of us hanging out at my room right after the reef incident and we are all bandaged up, drunk, and high on painpills, haha. I hope all is well with you. Hooter

  14. Harold and Rick,
    I went to USAFA Prep with the CP from that incident with 0248. I recently re-established contact with him after 36 yrs(geez, we’re getting old). I sent him the link to this discussion.
    Tom

  15. Harold and Rick,
    Hi nice site. My good and old old friend, Tom, pointed me in your direction. Tom’s stories are more interesting, trust me. He spent his entire 20 years career in Special Forces and retired as a Sergeant Major.

    Tom passed this link to me http://aces.safarikovi.org/victories/victories-iraq-gulf.war.pdf . I am not sure where Tom got the link; high don’t think it was from this site. You – all night be interested.

    You may want to take a look in order to understand my next comment; I would really like to talk to that pilot.

    Hi Bob, how are you doing?

    Mace:-)

  16. I was the Chief, Combat Intelligence for the 4300 PBW at Diego during Desert Shield/Desert Storm. I remember the night when the B-52 was hit by the HARM – Major “Mace” Mason was the AC on that mission. While it is true that “no HARM was launched at a B-52,” it is a fact that a HARM was launched at a target and, while it was not yet armed, it and the tail of that B-52 occupied the same airspace while the Buff was headed home to Diego and the HARM was headed to its target.

    I still have the unit patches and some bomb pins form 500 pounders that we dropped. What memories come flooding back from our days in tent city…

    Always remember our three comrades killed when their B-52 crashed in the Indian Ocean near Diego Garcia when they were returning from a bombing mission. They were Capt. Jeffry Jon Olson, 27, of Grand Forks, N.D.; 1st Lt. Eric D. Hedeen, 27, of Malaga, Wash., and 1st. Lt. Jorge I. Arteaga of Trumbull, Conn. I believe that Captain Olson is still listed as MIA.

      1. My husband was on the crew of the plane that helped (Harms way to Guam) He took photo’s and we still have the pictures and negatives. All these years later and the Military denies he even served over seas. I Had hoped maybe someone would remember him but because he was maintenance of the plane with one other guy. I can not find to many who might of remembered him and no way to get copies of the plane maintenance records to prove he moved with his plane. But at least he got these interesting pictures of this plane! Let me know if anyone needs copies of the pictures cjstiles2002@hotmail.com
        https://www.facebook.com/christina.blevinsstiles or my husbands https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=brian%20k%20stiles

  17. I was the gunner on 0248. Thanks Bob Deasy for clearing up some of the muddy water. Only myself, fellow crewmembers and the F-4 crewmembers really know what happenned that night. By the way, I personally spoke to the F-4 crew hours after we landed. They did “pickle off a harm in the blind” as they put it, in response to a SA-6 radar system that they were protecting us from. They were at 18,000 feet behind us and we were roughly 100-200′. I know Bob said we bottomed out the radar altimeter on several occasions after impact, less that 50′. Interesting night to say the least. Several hours of horror from minutes to target, to impact of the missle, until landing, with too many details to talk about here.

    1. I was wondering if any of the crew might remember the crew of the plane that carried your plane to Guam? My husband was Maintenance on the KC 135R #62-3568 THAT REFUELED HARMS WAY ALL THE WAY TO GUAM. He took picture of The Harms Way but we are trying to find proof that he served overseas since the military lost all his over seas records. He was stationed at Altus Air force Base and was taken over early so they could fuel the planes for whats now known as Secret Squirrel. He was one of a two man team that was doing maintenance on the KC 135R. But when everyone else returned he got a second set of orders and ended up STAYING threw it all returning after desert calm.
      His reward was them claiming he never even went out of the USA. He is very hurt by this right now so Im digging in hopes even one person might remember him? cjstiles2002@hotmail.com

      Anyone with tips on how we can prove he was over seas or get copies of airplane logs or maintenance records showing his name please feel free to contact me or Brian K Stiles on Facebook or by email cjstiles2002@hotmail.com
      https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=brian%20k%20stiles

    2. Zach Peters, I have pictures of the aircraft. Once you took off from Jeddah, I was part of the combat crew on the KC135R aircraft that supported you from saudi to Guam. briankstilesatgmail. Thanks!

  18. @Zach Peters: Thanks for the info and thank you for your service. Sorry I originally wrote you locked onto the F-4. It was what we were told at the time.

    If the F-4 aircrew said they pickled the HARM in response to an SA-6’s radar, they screwed up. Before working on BUFFs, I used to work on the Wild Weasel system on the F-4G’s. There’s simply no way the system would have confused a BUFF’s tailgun radar for that of an SA-6. The frequencies are vastly different. The SA-6 has a pulsed Doppler, frequency shift type of radar. The radar used on a BUFF’s tailgun system did not.

    It’s like mixing up AM and FM radio.

    I still think the F-4 crew thought they were targeting a AAA site. If they pickled the HARM at an SA-6 site, there’s no way the missile would have instead gone after a moving, non-pulse Doppler radar.

  19. Harold,
    What can you tell me about Larry Shannon? Do you have any pictures of him from Guam? I’m his son and also in the AirForce. The reason I ask is because he passed away in Nov 08 and I do not have any military type pics.

    Thanks,
    MSgt Michael Shannon

  20. Its been many years, my memory is getting a bit dim, but my dim memory tells me that B-52G 248 was on of the bombers we had at Blytheville AFB during my time there from June 66 to May 69.

  21. I was with the 4300 PBW in Diego. I remember seeing 58-0248 on the maintenance ramp with the patch on the tail. One of my counterparts has a picture of the patched rear end.

    I appreciate the aircrew (Bob Deasy and Zach Peters) comments on here. Most of the comments that I received about what happened to 58-0248 were not entirely accurate.

    As Bill Cooper mentioned, I constantly remember the three members of the aircrew aboard 59-2593 that lost their lives on February 3rd, 1991.

  22. Bob was my Radar Nav in the mid 80’s where we were both stationed at Griffiss AFB in the 668th Bomb Squadron (heavy)….

    DEASY LT. COL. ROBERT AMROSE III
    Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Robert Ambrose Deasy III, 49, of Yorktown, Va., died Aug. 23 of complications following a stem cell transplant in January to treat leukemia; beloved son of Robert A. Deasy Jr. of Hampton and the late Maxine Benson Deasy; stepson of Marie Downs Deasy of Hampton; former spouse of Jane Anne Herb Deasy of Yorktown; father of Lisa Marie Deasy Campo (David) of Centreville, Va.; U.S. Marine 2nd Lt. Robert A. Deasy IV of Camp Lejeune, N.C.; Joanna Elizabeth of Norfolk, Va.; Katerina Nicole and Andrew Joseph, both of Yorktown; soul mate of Karan J. Replogle, DDS, of Yorktown; brother of Deborah Ann Deasy of McCandless and Mark Charles Deasy (Andrea) of Shaler. He also is survived by nephews Christopher, Jonathan, Brendan and Davis Deasy, and his yellow Labrador retriever, Apollo. Mr. Deasy, a Duquesne University graduate, was a B52 radar navigator and private pilot who served 20 years in the Air Force and survived a missile attack on his crew’s plane during Operation Desert Storm. Interment was private. A memorial Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Oct. 3 in St. Mary of the Assumption Roman Catholic Church, 2510 Middle Road, Hampton. Memorial contributions may be made to the Connor’s Heroes Room / Bone Marrow Transplant Foundation, MCV/VCU North Hospital (Medical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth University) North Hospital, 10th Floor, Room 10-013, 1300 E. Marshall St., P.O. Box 980157, Richmond, VA. 23298-0157 (Attention: Patty Viscardi).
    Send condolences at post-gazette.com/gb

    Published in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on September 30, 2009

  23. Hi guys,
    I was a security policeman from Loring stationed there at Diego from Aug 17, 1990-mar 9, 1991. I have a lot of good reading about my time at Diego…I have what I believe is a complete set of the Island News we got there. I saved them all.
    I also handed all the crew members their personal weapons at security control the night the buffs went on their first bombing raid in Jan. It was very emotional for me…a lot of the crew members were visibly shaken and some even in tears. Afterwards i got a truck and drove onto the parking apron and saluted them all off. I could only hope to see them again on return, which I did. Thank you ALL for your service, and once again…I salute you ! And I still have my Diego patch…actually had a few of them as one of our cops from loring designed it. But sold them off over time except the one in my shadowbox

    1. Hopefully the Security Policeman I reference in this writing isn’t YOU and if it is I apologize in advance, no hard feelings but, I have to tell you this story. On night one, our crew departed with the revolvers I had signed for (by serial number) in August at Barksdale AFB. We landed in Jeddah SA, keeping the weapons in our possession for a couple weeks, flying missions out of there. When we returned to Diego Garcia, I turned them in, in an ammo can, to the armory. I remember one night going to get our weapons before a mission and being handed an ammo can full of revolvers that were NOT the ones I originally signed for. Some TSgt or MSgt in the armory was being a jerk when I asked for OUR weapons. He said it didn’t matter. So I didn’t take the ammo can he was trying to give me. Well, it did matter because 1) we trained with each particular weapon and 2) I was responsible for six revolvers, by serial number. I told my Aircraft Commander about this and he tagged along when I returned and asked for OUR weapons. This TSgt or MSgt acted like a huge d**k to me until my A/C stepped up and straightened his a** out. Needless to say, I got the ammo can containing OUR weapons. I remember laughing my a** off at the look on this guys face. Being a Security Policeman, this guy should have known that we each were able to shoot our assigned weapons (even though it was only on one occasion) prior to the war beginning and that YES, a Gunner SIGNED a hand receipt for each of those weapons (by serial number) and was ultimately responsible for them. Maybe since Loring was the main wing at Diego Garcia, it didn’t matter which weapons were handed out because they would ultimately end up in the same place back home. The armory guys failed to consider that several crews from other bases brought their own weapons from home bases and they were mixed in with Loring’s. At some point, serial numbers wouldn’t match and yes the only enlisted guy on the bomber (a Gunner) would be held accountable. I still can’t believe, when our crew left to go home to Barksdale, I had each of the weapons I signed for in an ammo can. We rode a KC-10 to Guam and then commercial thru Hawaii, thru San Francisco, thru Dallas and then to Shreveport. I hand carried those revolvers, in the ammo can, onto every commercial plane we rode on, through each airport and customs section without ever being asked one single question about them. No way that could be done today.

  24. 58-248 was at Barksdale in the 70’s. SSgt Herb Buegher was her crew chief. Her claim to history there was to return from a training sortie with 3 flaps!

  25. I was a drug dog handler who was tasked with clearing each B-52 that returned to Castle AFB, after Desert Storm. I remember seeing the nose art for this B-52 and seeing the patched sheet metal on the rear section. The nose art read “In Harm’s Way. Courtesy of an F4” (or something very close to that). I’m not sure who told me what happened, but they said the BUFF turned on urns radar and an F-4 locked onto the bomber. It’s neat to hear exactly what happened.

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