During the Cold War, on Feb. 20, 1963, a six engine B-47 jet bomber with a four member crew, crashed three miles north and three-quarter mile west of Comfrey.
During the Cold War, on Feb. 20, 1963, a six engine B-47 jet bomber with a four member crew, crashed three miles north and three-quarter mile west of Comfrey. The plane was on a high speed, low level simulated bombing mission from the 98th Bomber Wing at Lincoln Air Force Base, Lincoln, Nebr. The crew had finished flying the bombing route over Heron Lake, 45 miles southwest of Comfrey. The plane was climbing back to high altitude for the next portion of the mission when the right outboard engine mount failed, and the engine spun around the wing, putting the aircraft into an uncontrollable spiraling descent.
The Comfrey American Legion and Auxiliary Post #244 officially unveiled a B-47 memorial of the event listed above at North Park in Comfrey Sunday, July 14. Minnesota Patriot Guard motorcyclists and the Legion and Civil Air Patrol Color Guard units marched from the Comfrey Public School to Comfrey’s North Park at 12:45 p.m. During the ceremony, the historical marker, the black granite markers and benches were unveiled. The markers have the images of the four men killed. The airmen who were killed in the crash included Capt. Donald L. Livingston, First Lt. Michael R. Rebmann, First Lt. Thomas J. Hallgarth and Lt. Col. Lamar Ledbetter. The benches in the memorial include the U.S. Air Force insignia and a B-47 Stratojet.
Deceased airman, First Lt. Michael R. Rebmann’s daughter, Michelle Rebmann, her daughter Amy, his sister, Judy Rebmann Vann, and his aunt from St. Paul were in attendance. Representing the Lt. Col. Lamar Ledbetter family was his daughter, Pamela Ledbetter and her husband Peter Miller, both from Oregon. Attending for First Lt. Thomas J. Hallgarth were his wife, Sally Cameron, daughter, Tammy Maher and husband, John, son, Conor, and daughter, Bridget, as well as a step-sister, Trisha, all from California.
The ceremony included an invocation from Comfrey’s New Hope Church Pastor, Brian Nehring, as well as a welcome to family and friends by American Legion Commander, Stan Schotzko. Comfrey’s Mayor, Gary Richter, then welcomed all those in attendance. Greg Peterson, Brown County Veteran Service Officer, introduced the guest speakers including Brig. General Bob Cayton as well as Col. Gerald Quilling of the North Central Region, Civil Air Patrol, who was the Incident Commander in charge of the ground search operations following the crash of the B-47 on its 1963 mission called the Iron Horse.
Julia Gustafson of St. Cloud, and Doug Callanan of Comfrey, were then recognized for their artistic efforts in the design and construction of the Memorial. The Anoka Composite Squadron Honor Guard, and Civil Air Patrol placed wreaths on the Memorial. “America the Beautiful” was performed by the Comfrey Ecumenical Choir as two BT-13 Valiant planes from the Minnesota Wing of the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) flew over Comfrey in what is known as the “Gone West” formation symbolizing a deceased airman. One of the pilots included in the fly-over was Mike Schoen based out of the Twin Cities and a private pilot named Paul Ehlen.
Lt. Col Karol E. Franzyshen, USAF Retired, 60-19 Navigator Class Historian, then presented a commemorative plaque to Comfrey’s American Legion Commander, Stan Schotzko. A 21 gun salute and TAPS then followed the heartfelt responses from those family members in attendance including Tammy Maher, Michelle Rebmann and Pamela Ledbetter.
Following the ceremony, the Comfrey American Legion Auxiliary Unit #244 hosted a reception at the Comfrey Community Center. Col. Quilling had slides of the operation that was conducted after the crash and presentations were also given to the families of the deceased airmen. Comfrey Legion Auxiliary member, Marianne Schotzko commented about the memorial, “This has been a culmination of 10 months of work. The idea for this memorial was introduced to the Legion in September of 2012. We sent out 200 donation letters in October of last year and wrote a couple of grants. We’ve been able to raise over $22,000 so far.”
The American Legion and Auxilary Memorial Committee included Comfrey residents Dave Kamolz, Vernon and Virginia Pederson, Dave and Jean Schiller, and Stan and Marianne Schotzko.
Anyone wishing to visit the B-47 Memorial Marker are encouraged to visit Comfrey’s North Park or the crash site just three miles north on Co. Rd. 16 (old Hwy. 258); turn left (west) on 130th St. and proceed three-fourths of a mile.