Offutt AFB memorializes Rivet Amber crew

  • Published
  • By Kristen Allen, 55th Wing Public Affairs

The 45th Reconnaissance Squadron unveiled a new memorial for the crew of Rivet Amber call sign Irene 92 during a ceremony at Offutt Air Force Base Sept. 15, 2023.

The one-of-a-kind RC-135E Rivet Amber took off from Shemya AFB, Alaska, June 5, 1969, enroute to Eielson AFB, Alaska, and disappeared over the Bering Sea with 19 crewmembers aboard. Six of the crew were maintainers on temporary duty from the 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Offutt. Search and rescue crews conducted a two-week search, but never found any remains or aircraft debris.

Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kingdon Hawes, acting commander of the 24th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron the day “Irene 92” disappeared and guest speaker for the unveiling, has made it his mission to make sure the crew is never forgotten.

“This is a very important day, and I hope this gives some sense of closure to those who lost loved ones on Rivet Amber on the 5th of June 1969,” said Hawes.

After recounting the exact events of Rivet Amber’s disappearance that day, he talked about the other memorials for the crew at Eielson AFB, Alaska, at the Big Safari program, and at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

“This monument [at Offutt] has been in the works for quite some time,” Hawes said. “I give most of the credit to Lt. Col. C. W. Roberts. He and I worked together making sure the names and airplane on there were right, but he chose to make this design and put it here like this.”

Following Hawes’ comments, Airmen revealed the new monument as “Taps” was played, and Col. Derek Rachel, 55th Operations Group commander, placed a remembrance wreath behind it. 1st Lt. Christopher Leehan, event emcee, read each crewmember’s name and their job title and called for a moment of silence before introducing the next speaker.

“It is a beautiful day to have a beautiful ceremony to honor that generation that came before us,” said Lt. Col. Maria Methe, 45th Reconnaissance Squadron commander. “Fifty-four years ago, the mission Irene 92, it just never finished. I know some don’t have closure, but I hope you know that the new generation of aviators still honors and remembers the sacrifice made by our own.”

Methe discussed the changes that have occurred over the decades and how the mission has evolved. Specifically addressing the family members and friends of those lost, she noted, “the character, the commitment and the let’s go get it attitude from our brothers in the 24th [SRW] is still very much alive. That has stayed the same. The 45th’s DNA is infused with your Airmen’s spirit. Commander after commander, we’ve been able to keep it alive.

“We celebrate our heritage because it has developed us into who we are today. We proudly display our monument in front of our squadron so we never forget that 54 years ago, a crew just like us paid the ultimate price and we are willing to do the same,” added Methe.

Invited guests took photos of the new memorial and toured an RC-135S Cobra Ball aircraft after the ceremony.