Here’s a feel good human interest story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. A curious Wisconsinite follows up on family stories to track down the deep woods northern Wisconsin crash site of a Cold War era B-52 bomber.
Fifty years ago this November, a B-52 Stratofortress bomber crashed into a hill in Wisconsin’s Northwoods, killing all nine people on board.
Residents and hunters gathering for the gun-deer opener the next morning heard and felt the low rumble and crash. A forest fire watcher named Roger Langham, whose farm was just west of the site, climbed a lookout tower to help searchers locate the wreckage.
Langham’s great-nephew, Tom Sybert, wasn’t born until six years later, but he grew up hearing stories about the tragic crash when he visited family living near Hauer in Sawyer County. Sybert is still curious about the plane crash of the gigantic bomber but couldn’t find anyone who remembered exactly where the B-52 skidded into the earth.
After years of searching the internet and scouring Google Earth, Sybert, of Northbrook, Ill., filled out an online request form for a map library in Madison.
It took Jaime Martindale just two hours to do what Sybert couldn’t — find the crash site.
The Arthur H. Robinson Map Library in Science Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus has a half million items in its print collection, including maps, globes, charts and atlases. The print collection includes 250,000 aerial photographs dating to the 1930s.
When Sybert emailed a Google map with a rectangle of the general area, Martindale, a map and geospatial data librarian, requested more information. As she waited for a response, she began to do what librarians do best — dig.
“I found some newspaper articles that had been scanned online and local histories of Sawyer County that all described the event and provided details, not only the details of the location but what happened,” Martindale said in a phone interview.
Sybert was ecstatic to learn Martindale had solved the mystery. The remote spot where the plane skidded and crashed is partly owned by a friend of Sybert’s family and partly Lac Courte Oreilles tribal land.
Sybert paid for a plaque honoring the Air Force members who lost their lives: Capt. Curtis E. Robertson, pilot; 1st Lt. Darrick R. Negron, co-pilot; Capt. Edward E. Kamph, radar navigator; 1st Lt. Jerome P. Calligari, navigator; Capt. Michael J. Dunlap, electronic warfare officer; Airman 1st Class Gerald D. Turney, gunner; Lt. Col. Jack Atherton, instructor pilot; Maj. James H. Crook, instructor navigator; and Master Sgt. Lonnie Woodard, electronics and maintenance engineer.
The map library is named after a professor who taught cartography at UW-Madison from 1947 to 1980. Arthur H. Robinson was director of the map division for the Office of Strategic Services, predecessor of the CIA, during World War II, and the library has a nice collection of World War II intelligence maps.
The service Sybert used is popular among members of the public who may not be able to drive to the Robinson Map Library in Madison, said Martindale, who has been a map librarian at UW for 13 years.
But this might not be possible in five more years…why yes the technology will still be there if not even better than what we have today.
But the online archives for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and its predecessor papers the Milwaukee Journal and the Milwaukee Sentinel just went behind a pay wall…and even the Milwaukee Public Library is being asked to cough up $1+ million dollars to have access…a library who provided 30% of the source material for the Sentinel archives. So how much longer before all of the newspaper archives on the internet disappear in a similar manner…when only the wealthy can access knowledge online. How would Ms. Martindale have faired without access to those local papers. (How can a newspaper retain rights to articles that have already been in the public domain…or that are decades old?)
Then we have the Robinson Map Library…how many more budget cuts will the University of Wisconsin endure before services like these get cut or become inaccessible because of staff reductions? Will Ms. Martindale or someone like her even hold a map librarian position in 5 years? How much many more cuts can UW sustain before auxiliary sources like this begin to disappear?