TSgt Claude Marvin Bunch, CPT Ernest McFeron, TSgt Aaron Gregory Fidiam, Jr., and SSgt David Lee Hubbard, Jr. were killed on 16 May 1965. TSgt Bunch and TSgt Fidiam were assigned to the 34th Air Base Squadron, 34th Tactical Group, 13th Air Force, Bien Hoa Air Base and CPT McFeron and SSgt Hubbard were assigned to the 33rd Air Base Squadron, 33rd Tactical Group, 13th Air Force, Tan Son Nhut Air Base, and Republic of Vietnam. On Sunday, 16 May 1965, a second flight “Jade Flight” consisting of four Martin B-57B Night Intruder bombers were loaded for a 0840 hours strike mission inside of Laos against the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Flight 1 was waiting to take off on the runway and Flight 3 and 4 were on parking ramp. The bombers were sitting on the north ramp at Bien Hoa Air Base, Bien Hoa Province. The B-57s were loaded with 250-pound M57A1 general purpose bombs, 500-pound M64A1 general purpose bombs, 750-pound M117 demolition bombs, 750-pound M35 cluster incendiary bombs, and napalm. At 0815 hours the aircrews manned their aircraft. At 0824 hours a B-57B (Steel Tiger 1 parked at spot A-4, aircraft S/N 53-3904) with the 13th Bombardment Squadron (Tactical), 405th Fighter Wing, 34th Tactical Group, 13th Air Force crew hit the starter switch to function the cartridge starting system, in lieu of using a ground start cart. A black powder cartridge is used to start the aircraft; it causes a small starter turbine to spin. These turbines sometimes spin loose and fly out of the starter housing. On this day the turbine is thought to hit a fuze (possibly a M124A1 chemical long-delay anti-withdrawal tail fuze) of a 500-pound bomb, setting off a chain reaction of detonations. This aircraft carried four 750-pound bombs on its wing and nine 500-pound bombs internally. The resulting conflagration killed 27 Air Force personnel and one South Vietnamese; it also injured 76 Air Force personnel, 29 Army personnel, and seven South Vietnamese. The series of detonations destroyed ten B-57Bs, two VNAF Douglas A-1H Skyraiders, a USAF A-1E, and a U.S. Navy Vought F-8E Crusader. In addition, 31 other aircraft received damage and a JP-4 fuel dump was destroyed. The bombs were already fuzed on the aircraft and some of the 500-pound bombs were fitted with M124A1 chemical long-delay anti-withdrawal tail fuzes. Out of 85 bombs on these aircraft, 65 exploded, and that left 20 bombs that needed to be dealt with. TSgt Tolbert L. Evers, TSgt Claude Marvin Bunch, and TSgt Aaron Gregory Fidiam, Jr., were just returning to their vehicle from downloading hung ordnance on the F-8E Crusader from VF-162, CVW-16 off the aircraft carrier USS ORISKANY (CV-34) when the first of a series of explosion occurred. The first explosion occurred on the northwest corner of the B-57 parking ramp. TSgt Bunch was mortally injured from the explosion and TSgt Evers and TSgt Fidiam escaped injured. It was reported that the on-scene commander ordered the EOD team to attempt roll-out procedures on the bombs fitted with these anti-withdrawal fuze. At 1030 hours a second explosion occurred involving a bomb that was hanging from a munitions handling truck killing CPT Ernest McFeron, TSgt Aaron Gregory Fidiam, Jr., and SSgt David Lee Hubbard, Jr. This event was witness and reported by A1C Barton H. Rodgers and at the same time SSgt Dale E. Shelly saw TSgt Fidiam spraying a bomb with a C02 fire extinguisher. SSgt Daniel C. Craig had his right leg above the knee severed from the detonation and SSgt Dale E. Shelly suffered a back injury.
Additional Facts: Born: 26 February 1920; Hometown: Helena, Alabama; Vietnam Memorial: Panel 01ERow 116; Burial: Glen Haven Memorial Park and Mausoleum, Winter Park, Florida, Plot: Garden of Devotion, Lot 55, Space 4
*This bio was researched and authored by SGM Mike R.Vining, USA (Retired). Please send any additional information and/or corrections to the author of this bio by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The EOD Warrior Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of the information in the bio.