Aircraft Wrecks in the Mountains and Deserts of the American West

Project Remembrance


At 7:30 PM October 13, 1955 a Boeing B-47B 51-2231 assigned to the 441st Bomb Squadron departed March Air Force Base in Riverside County, California with four USAF Officers on board. Less than two minutes later 51-2231 had crashed into rising terrain SW of base killing all on board.

Aircraft Commander: Capt. Edward A. O’Brien, Jr.
Pilot: Capt. David James Clare
Bombardier: Maj. Thomas F. Mulligan
Passenger: Capt. Chaplain Joseph M. Graeber

The weather at the time of takeoff was hazy and darkness had descended. The USAF Accident Report indicated that the pilot in command, Capt. O’Brien may have experienced vertigo, and that Capt. Clare in the back seat might have been able to save the day if they had more altitude.

In September 2008 I was contacted by the nephew of the pilot, David James Clare II. He expressed an interest in visiting March ARB and trying to locate the crash site of his uncle’s B-47B. In the meantime I also had been in contact with USAF S/Sgt. Al Meyer who had been assigned as crew chief to 51-2231. On October 13, 2010 David and Al met at my home in Mission Viejo. We proceeded first to the crash area on Sycamore Canyon Ecological Reserve where we hoped to find some trace of 51-2231. After several hours of fruitless searching we went to March Air Reserve Base where we were graciously received by the base commander and his adjutant who introduced us to the base chaplain. Chaplain (Major) Benson escorted us to the base chapel where he spent time talking with David James Clare II about his uncle’s death on 10/13/55. After a brief service of reflection and prayer we returned to Mission Viejo grateful for having spent a day together.

David and Al have long since returned to their respective homes in Long Island, NY and Westchester, CA.  All of us will remember the day we walked this hallowed ground of sacrifice and loss exactly fifty-five years after the crash of B-47B 51-2231.

Special thanks to retired Ranger Tom Maloney for his assistance in making this important mission possible.


March Air Reserve Base
MARCH IN REVIEW: 55 years after the crash


The crash site of Boeing B-47B 51-2231 in October 1955. (Photo courtesy S/Sgt. Al Meyer USAF Ret.)

The wreckage of 51-2231 was scattered over a wide area. (Photo courtesy S/Sgt. Al Meyer USAF Ret.)

Boeing B-47B on topo map of crash area. (G.P. Macha photo)

Staff Sergeant Albert Myer was assigned as crew chief to a number of B-47's during his tenure at March AFB. Here he stands on the horizontal stabilizer of B-47B 51-2241. (Photo courtesy S/Sgt. Al Meyer USAF, Ret.)

Staff Sergeant Albert Meyer stands next to 441st Bomb Squadron sign circa 1955. (Photo courtesy S/Sgt. Al Meyer, USAF, Ret.)

March Air Force Base was an important Strategic Air Command base throughout the Cold War. The 441st Boom Squadron sign in 2010. (G.P. Macha photo)

Captain David James Clare in his working "office" aboard a Boeing B-47B shortly before his death on 10/13/55. (Photo courtesy David James Clare II)

The final resting place of Capt. David James Clare and his daughter. (Photo courtesy David James Clare II)

USAF Chaplain, Major Benson with David James Clare II on October 13, 2010 (Photo G.P. Macha)

USAF Staff Sergeant, Ret. "Big Al" Meyer and David James Clare II are friends for life as they share the ideals of service and respect for those who have sacrificed for our Nation. (G.P. Macha photo)



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