Deadly Air Force crash in SW Minnesota remembered



On-lookers examine engine parts from the B-47 crash in 1963. (Photo courtesy of The Free Press, Mankato)

A memorial will be dedicated Sunday to crew members killed in an Air Force bomber crash in southwest Minnesota 50 years ago. The ceremony is in Comfrey, a few miles from the crash site.

The B-47 'Stratojet' was on a training mission out of Lincoln, Nebraska on Feb. 20, 1963, when a motor mount failure lead to the loss of one of the plane's six engines. The B-47 crashed in a farm field about three miles north and a little west of Comfrey.

The crash rattled school windows and students saw a "mushroom like cloud" when they looked north, recalls Marianne Schotzko, a high school student in Comfrey when the accident happened. The plane dug a 25-foot crater in the farm field where it crashed. All four crew members were killed: Captain Donald Livingston, First Lieutenant Michael Rebmann, First Lt. Thomas Hallgarth and Lt. Colonel Lamar Ledbetter.

The plans for the memorial started two years ago when Hallgarth's daughter, Tammy Maher, visited the southwest Minnesota community and met with residents. Marianne Schotzko ended up taking her to the crash site. Maher expressed a wish that some sort of memorial to the crew could be put up. Schotzko said she responded "we'll go for it", and a fund raising effort was launched.

To date about $22,000 has come in. The money was used to buy memorial markers for the crew members, each etched with a portrait, along with an informational sign about the crash. The actual crash scene, several miles away from the new memorial, is marked by a flagpole and a piece of the plane's wing. The person who owns the land where the B-47 crashed allows the public year round access to the location, according to Schotzko.

Family members of several crew members plan to be at Sunday's ceremony.

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