Faces of CNM: Joseph T. Page II

Joseph is a veteran and historian and has published both non-fiction and poetry about the southwest’s military history
October 26, 2021

Back on April 11, 1950, a B-29 Superfortress took off from Kirtland Air Force Base carrying an atomic weapon. Three minutes later, the plane crashed in the Manzano Foothills, killing all 13 Roswell-based crew members. 

There was no danger of the bomb going off because it didn’t have a crucial component installed, but it was a major accident and aircraft wreckage can still be found on the mountainside.

Many years later in 2019, family members of the crew were invited to view the crash site. Joseph T. Page II, an Air Force veteran, local historian, and CNM student, was also there because he was researching Kirtland Air Force Base. 

“Meeting the family members was an honor, and I felt very privileged to be there with them,” Joseph says.

Joseph was so moved that he ended up writing a long poem from the perspective of a family member who lost a father in the crash. The poem is called “Broken Arrow” and was recently published in Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society’s literary anthology Nota Bene. One of the stanzas reads:

I remember him as he was, when he left / Strong and brave like any Air Force pilot 

His spirit still resides with me / and in the foothills around the Duke City. 

Does he walk those hills with his companions / and see the city lights at night? 

Or does his spirit sit atop crude granite chairs / and watch balloons in the autumn? 

Damn the barbed-wire fences / keeping me from visiting his final resting place.

Joseph, who’s a member of PTK, originally wrote the poem for an English class at CNM and landed on the subject of the crash because the instructor told him to draw on something that meant a lot.

“She told me to find something I was passionate about, and learning about the families was very emotional,” he says. 

Joseph says he loves military history because there’s so much to dig through and contextualize. He’s found that military history means a lot to active duty members because it helps them understand the purpose of their jobs. It means a lot to the public because there’s unlimited curiosity about what happens behind military gates.

To help people better understand the military history of the southwest, Joseph has researched and published books on Kirtland and Holloman Air Force Bases in New Mexico and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. He has a book about White Sands, as well as one about New Mexico’s involvement in the exploration of space

Currently, Joseph works full time on Kirtland Air Force base and has been taking classes in various subjects at CNM (he already has a History degree from the college). Next fall he’ll be starting a graduate degree in UNM’s History department. The plan is to dig into more of Kirtland’s history, as well as New Mexico’s larger nuclear history.

“I recently took a class about New Mexico’s nuclear legacy that really opened my eyes to all that’s gone on here,” he says. “And in terms of Kirtland, there are still a lot of nooks and crannies that can be explored. I want people to know more about all that’s gone on at the base and give them the opportunity to appreciate its history.”