HomeNews

Marine veteran remembers Travis' famous 1950 crash

First responders arrive on scene following a B-29 Superfortress crash Aug. 5, 1950 at Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base (now Travis AFB), California. The crash took place where the modern FamCamp exists. (Courtesy photo)

First responders arrive on scene following a B-29 Superfortress crash Aug. 5, 1950 at Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base (now Travis AFB), California. The crash took place where the modern FamCamp exists. (Courtesy photo)

Brig. Gen. Robert Travis, 9th Heavy Bombardment Wing commander, rides his bike to work followed by his dog, Dan, at Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base, California. Travis was killed when his B-29 Superfortress crashed Aug. 5, 1950. The base was renamed in his honor one year later. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Brig. Gen. Robert Travis, 9th Heavy Bombardment Wing commander, rides his bike to work followed by his dog, Dan, at Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base, California. Travis was killed when his B-29 Superfortress crashed Aug. 5, 1950. The base was renamed in his honor one year later. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Sherrill family poses in the early 1950s. The Sherrills lived at Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base (now Travis AFB), California, on Aug. 5, 1950, when a B-29 Superfortress crashed, killing 19 and wounding more than 100 others. Among the injured was Frances Mae Sherrill, left, whose leg was amputated after it was hit by shrapnel. (Courtesy photo/Jerry Sherrill)

The Sherrill family poses in the early 1950s. The Sherrills lived at Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base (now Travis AFB), California, on Aug. 5, 1950, when a B-29 Superfortress crashed, killing 19 and wounding more than 100 others. Among the injured was Frances Mae Sherrill, left, whose leg was amputated after it was hit by shrapnel. (Courtesy photo/Jerry Sherrill)

Frances Mae Sherrill sits with her sons for a photo in the 1950s. Frances Mae and Jerry, left, were present at Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base (now Travis AFB) on Aug. 5, 1950, when a B-29 Superfortress crashed, killing 19 and wounding more than 100 others. Shrapnel hit Frances Mae's right leg, causing an amputation below the knee. (Courtesy photo/Jerry Sherrill)

Frances Mae Sherrill sits with her sons for a photo in the 1950s. Frances Mae and Jerry, left, were present at Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base (now Travis AFB) on Aug. 5, 1950, when a B-29 Superfortress crashed, killing 19 and wounding more than 100 others. Shrapnel hit Frances Mae's right leg, causing an amputation below the knee. (Courtesy photo/Jerry Sherrill)

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — Nearly 70 years have passed, but the night of Aug. 5, 1950, is burned in Jerry Sherrill's memory.

Sherrill, 11 at the time, was lying in bed and listening to the radio in a trailer on the west side of Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base, when he heard – and felt – a loud bang. Whatever it was nearly knocked Jerry's radio onto him from the ledge above as he listened to one of his favorite radio programs, "Lucky Lager Dance Time."

A startled Jerry got out of bed, dressed, woke his mother, Frances Mae Sherrill, and went outside to survey the damage. That's when they saw the wreckage of a B-29.

"It was like a movie set," he said. "I look up and here's this B-29 … down in the ground with the tail sticking up like you would see in a movie."

What they watched was one of the defining moments in the history of the installation, the early stages of an incident that would take 19 lives and impact many such as Jerry for decades to come.

Jerry said he was one of many onlookers viewing the aircraft, which caught fire as they watched. Many onlookers weren't concerned about safety because "so much of the plane was still there, intact," he said.

Air police arrived on the scene and encouraged people to leave, but many did not. Jerry and his mother tried to flee, securing a ride with a neighbor. However, his mom left her purse in their trailer and decided to go back for it. When she did, their neighbors panicked, leaving the scene without the Sherrills.

As Frances recovered her purse, Jerry searched for their bird and pregnant cat, but found neither. Jerry said they were back outside when he turned to say something to his mom. The highly explosive filler pit for the aircraft's Mark IV nuclear bomb detonated, resulting in a blast heard up to 30 miles away, according to the 60th Air Mobility Wing History Office.

"It blew me back," he said. "I feel like it blew me yards and yards back. I don't know if it did. It lifted me."

The aircraft was on a mission to Guam. The bomb's highly radioactive material was flown separately.

Jerry initially took cover behind what remained of the restrooms for the trailers despite the roof being blown off of them in the blast. Then he heard his mom calling for him.

A piece of flying metal from the explosion struck his mom's leg. When Jerry found her, she was crawling through an alleyway between trailers. He saw the wound and knew she needed to get to the hospital, which she did after insisting on stopping to tell her supervisor at the Officers' Club she wouldn't be into work.

The day after the crash, Jerry returned to the site to look for his pets and any possessions, but there was nothing left. A neighbor searched for a prized coin collection, only to find them melted together. Although Jerry never found the bird, he was able to recover their cat, which took shelter in another trailer with other pets.

The crash and explosion of the B-29 killed 19 people and injured more than 100 others. Among the deceased was Brig. Gen. Robert F. Travis, 9th Bombardment Wing commander at Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base. In 1951, the installation was renamed Travis Air Force Base in his honor.

Frances' right leg was amputated. She and Hollis Duane Sherrill, her husband and an officer who ran the swimming pool and the golfing range at Travis, separated in the early 1950s. She took a settlement from the U.S. government for $40,000, according to an article in the April 30, 1953 edition of The Solano Republican, a forerunner to today's Daily Republic newspaper in Fairfield, California.

Jerry said his mom used the money to buy a house in Vacaville, California, and invest in a restaurant in the area. Later in life, she relocated to Southern California and then Oregon, where Frances died in 2011 at age 90.

Jerry, too, now lives in Oregon. His early life centered around the military, including living at Clark Air Base in the Phillippines. Later, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Most of the mementos of his early years burned that night in 1950 after the B-29 exploded. Though few material goods remain, the memories of that night have lasted a lifetime.

"Sometimes, I can't remember what I ate for dinner last night, but I have a crystal clear memory of the night of the crash," he said. "I think that's because it was such a traumatic event that I can remember every detail."

Social Media

Facebook Twitter
#TeamTravis, as we enter wildfire season you may have seen news reports about PG&E Public Safety Shutoffs. Public Safety Shutoffs are preemptive/deliberate power outages during high heat, low humidity and high wind periods where the fire risk due to a downed power line is high. Currently, Travis AFB has been categorized as a Tier 1 fire risk, which is the most unlikely tier to be de-energized due to fire risk and we are currently NOT expecting to be affected by a public safety power shutoff. Should we receive a notification from PG&E of a public safety power shutoff we will provide notifications via AdHoc (PLEASE make sure you've updated your information on the new system) and Balfour Beatty's "One Call Now" service. Informally, we will also post our Facebook and Twitter (@Travis60AMW) feeds. Thank you and #NoBounds!
"It hasn’t always been this easy. I grew up in small-town east Texas and enlisted in the United States Air Force when Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) was alive and well. For many years, I experienced a great deal of societal pressure to quell a fundamental part of myself in order to succeed. As a young Airman, I never felt completely relaxed, almost as if I had to keep looking over my shoulder, and the paranoia of losing my career–my livelihood–prohibited me from fully engaging with my new Air Force family. I don’t need to tell you about how deeply loneliness and feelings of alienation can affect a person. It ultimately led me to self-report suicidal ideations because I couldn’t find a way to reconcile being a service member and being gay. If it wasn’t for the few allies who believed I belonged in the our Air Force, despite my identity, I’m not sure where I’d be. Those leaders carried me through my turbulent, formative years until I was able to finally breathe. Though throughout that time I made my fair share of mistakes, and certainly gave my supervisor some unique challenges, I was gifted with the opportunity to show the Air Force my cards as an 11-month formal investigation into my sexual identity was terminated following the complete repeal of DADT. On September 20, 2011, I skipped throughout my building high-fiving everyone I saw without saying a word as to why. I have been high-fiving as many Airmen I can every September 20th since then. It’s my own special holiday. I had won… but what was I to do with myself now? The universe had given me a chance to become a whole new Airman and I decided that I wasn’t going to waste it. Since then, I’ve strived to be the best Airman I can be. I volunteered to serve as a Military Training Instructor, I’ve helped organize several military Pride month events, and I’ve sincerely tried to live up to our Core Values. The freedom to be who I am has given me the freedom to fly, fight, and win. I will never forget, nor be able to completely thank, all of the people who helped get me here. However, more importantly, I will never stop advocating for the importance of diversity and acceptance in our Air Force because I know what both sides of that spectrum can do to a person. Pride month isn’t about celebrating individual preferences. It’s about celebrating inclusiveness and how when we practice it, it makes us all better versions of ourselves. We are a mightier Air Force when we show our Pride." —Tech. Sgt. Shannon Ouimet-Amaro, 60th Air Mobility Wing executive assistant to the command chief #HumansOfTravis #LoveIsLove #Pride2019 #🏳️‍🌈
Travis leadership: Happy #NationalDoughnutDay, #TeamTravis! Can't wait to finally have that Dunkin' on base, huh? The rest of base:
Martinez-native Jake Larson was only 21 when he stormed Omaha Beach on #DDay. Back then, his unit had a motto: “To the last man.” Now, 75 years later, Jake is the last man—the last surviving member of that unit, and if becoming so has passed to him a single nugget of wisdom, it’s this: “Freedom isn’t free.” Read more about Jake’s revisiting of Omaha Beach in the article below.
The events of #DDay were a testament to the strength and resolve of this nation. For those who survived the invasion, Omaha Beach represents both a reminder of those they’ve lost and a promise to preserve their memory. With the help of virtual reality, join them as they recount the events of that fateful day. #BecauseOfThem
75 years ago, the U.S. military, along with other Allied nations, enacted one of the most ambitious amphibian assaults in history. Today, we celebrate the courage and sacrifice of the service members who invaded Normandy on #DDay, and whose actions still stand as one of the most impressive rebukes of evil in human memory. #BecauseOfThem
Sometimes the best part of the #TravisLife is what's (literally) beneath our feet! #NorthernCalifornia has a brilliant assortment of wildlife and flora—even right in your front yard. What makes the #TravisLife sweet for you? Show us in the comments!
A lot of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) readiness exercises start with a single "what if" question. In the case of #NorthernEdge, that question was "What if the Indo-Pacific were to suffer a crisis?" The answer involves about 10 million pounds of fuel 😳 Read more about it below!
Rapid global mobility wouldn't happen without these beautiful #TTails or the maintainers and crew that keep them in the air. Happy #TTailTuesday, Team Travis. #NoBounds #ProudToBeAMC #TeamTravis #FindAWayOrMakeOne #MilitaryLife #AirForce #Maintainer
A lot of things can fit into a C-5M Super Galaxy! That's why when Los Angeles Air Force Base, Home of Space and Missile Systems Center asked us if we could load the latest Advanced Extremely High Frequency - 5 satellite, we gladly obliged and shot this cool timelapse. #NoBounds For more info on the AEHF system, visit: https://www.afspc.af.mil/About-Us/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/249024/advanced-extremely-high-frequency-system/ NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Happy Birthday to the man, the myth, the legend... Clint Eastwood turns 89 today! He served in the U.S. Army and at 21 years old he had a brush with death when the plane he was on went down off the California coast near Point Reyes National Seashore. Eastwood and the Captain made it the two to three miles to shore after the U.S. Navy AD-1 Skyraider crashed into the ocean.
#CaptionThis! From Military Fresh Network
#tbt to May 2014 when Travis got its first introduction to FRED. #DidYouKnow the cargo compartment of the C-5M is big enough to fit an eight-lane bowling alley? #TheMoreYouKnow #BougieButNotThatBougie #NoBounds
🎶 We just took a DNA test turns out we're 100%... America's finest mobility force 🎶 We can't carry as good a tune as Lizzo, but we can for sure carry whatever payload is needed at a moment's notice. #GoodAsHell #NoBounds
“Hopping.” It’s what bunnies do. Or, if you’re an enterprising DoD card-holder with aspirations of travel, it can be your way of checking out some of the world’s best vacation hotspots...for FREE! Check out the video below for some “hopping” pointers.
Exciting new changes are taking place within Phoenix Horizon, AMC's company grade officer leadership and force development program. Click on the link below to find out more. https://www.amc.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1855452/amc-expands-junior-officer-force-development-program/fbclid/IwAR3L-VFvea218JaNQRsvwyQ3SwabuUesjhCoDRLNgDoiqwqXgKAvqW7N3Ww/
"Hate to see you go, but love to watch you leave." Today's #TTailTuesday is brought to you by these couple of outbound beauties. Show us your favorite T-tail photo in the comments! #NoBounds #ProudToBeAMC #LookingGood
Are you doing the #MurphChallenge today? Named for Lt. Michael Murphy who gave his life in the performance of his duties in Afghanistan, the “Murph” stands as the definitive physical tribute to those who’ve fought and died for our freedom here and overseas. If you are, comment the name of who you’re remembering this Memorial Day. #RememberTheFallen
As Memorial Day weekend begins, enjoy the cookouts, relaxation and hanging with family and friends, but be sure to take time to remember the heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice to make the moments we enjoy this weekend possible. #WeRemember #NeverForget
When we’re foot-stomping the same stuff we were foot-stomping seven years ago, you know it’s real. Today’s #fbf reminds you to hydrate, especially during these critical days of Summer. Check out the article for more tips on staying cool ahead of this season’s rising temperatures. #HydrateOrDie #TeamTravis
The current mission at Travis AFB will continue with no additional impact to our readiness or operations. As previo… https://t.co/Csri3q1UNE
Support from Team Travis will remain limited to lodging for up to 20 people in Westwind Inn main lodging facility p… https://t.co/uvscJYYoD2
Due to Travis Air Force Base’s proximity to San Francisco International Airport, the installation met the criteria… https://t.co/eophyutGzA
At the direction of the Secretary of Defense, the Department of Health and Human Services requested assistance from… https://t.co/jN6AVf4PQl
RT @USNorthernCmd: As previously announced, these individuals will be subject to a CDC managed 14-day quarantine. DOD will work closely wit…
RT @USNorthernCmd: The initial flights have departed China for Travis Air Force Base with approximately 350 passengers on board. One of the…
RT @USNorthernCmd: In support of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department o…
Our Travis leadership’s primary responsibility is the safety of our force, our families and our base communities. T… https://t.co/j0EhJKJTRc
Travis Airmen and personnel will not be directly in contact with the evacuees and evacuees will not have access to… https://t.co/Hx7qgiGwRd
At this time, Travis Air Force Base will only provide housing support, while HHS will be responsible for all care,… https://t.co/6dXQQqcaEy
HHS officials requested DOD installations to provide several facilities capable of housing at least 250 people in i… https://t.co/LV55RkIpfW
At the direction of the Secretary of Defense, Travis Air Force Base is one of four bases that has been hand-selecte… https://t.co/VUeHH6gzY2
RT @53rdWRS: We’re spinning up now to gather data over the Pacific Ocean in a #AtmosphericRiver. ✈️⛈🌪🌊 #ReserveReady #ReserveCitizenAirme
RT @DOD_Outreach: Explosive ordnance disposal technicians assigned to @Travis60AMW Air Force Base responded to a request for assistance by…
RT @US_TRANSCOM: The joint force is always in motion. Read about @usairforce and @USArmy troops conducting joint forcible entry and airborn…
Travis' #PhoenixSpark is out here making the future happen! This week, we've teamed up with @ucberkeley for the fir… https://t.co/77yJiTC6Zl
@53rdWRS are here doing awesome things. Wave of you see them flying by. https://t.co/yPn3iXT1c0
#TeamTravis Let's mix things up this #TTailTuesday. We always show you our favorite #TTails, this Tuesday we want… https://t.co/do3I5cEopY
"What is now proved was once only imagined." - William Blake Is there something in your work center, squadron or… https://t.co/Ka2FO5Fb8b
Serving locally, engaging globally! #NoBounds https://t.co/hnamI1rXLq