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    Posted December 17, 2013 by
    MacDill AFB, Tampa, Florida
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    Pilot made crucial choice to save Tampa residents instead of himself in 1965 crash.


    In 1965 I witnessed the crash of a jet at MacDill AFB in Tampa, FL. I believe this pilot, Major Sturgeon Armbrust, who was then attached to the Nebraska Air National Guard, made a heroic decision. You see, the jet failed to gain altitude as it was taking off. It crashed through a chain link fence at the end of the runway, and then bounced across a field until finally crashing into trees and houses just off base.


    The plane passed directly in front of our car, at about 10 - 15 ft above ground level. I witnessed the pilot working frantically inside the cockpit. He was flying an RF-84 with pylon mounted fuel tanks. He managed to jettison these tanks before crashing into the houses.


    Over almost 5 decades, I have come to believe that Maj. Armbrust instinctually chose to jettison these tanks (which bounced across the field on fire), instead of ejecting from the craft and trying to save himself.


    Maj. Armbrust died in the crash that day.  Several children suffered burns but escaped serious injury.  Several houses were destroyed, and even today one can see a scar upon the neighborhood via Google satellite images.


    I believe he should be recognized for the act I witnessed, but it don't know how to go about telling his story.


    I should note that I was only 6 at the time, but I have always had a clear vision of that incident. The only adult in the car was my mom, and she has passed away.


    Any advice you could offer on how I might pursue recognition for Maj. Armbrust would be most appreciated.


    Best regards,



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