In January 1963, a Boeing B-52 on a training mission crashed on Elephant Mountain, killing seven crew members. The wreckage covers several acres of the forest near Greenville and has been preserved as a B-52 Crash Site Memorial.
Moosehead Lake is home to a great many things to see and do but the B-52 crash site is one of the most unique and sobering. The town of Greenville has preserved the site of the wreckage as a memorial to the servicemen who lost their lives in the crash.
While most of the wreckage was initially removed from the site, it was later returned for the memorial. The site is designated off limits to all future salvage operations and the surrounding area is a no harvest zone.
Every January, a group snowmobile trip holds a memorial service at the site. In summer, people come from all around to view the memorial and pay their respects to the fallen.
On January 24th, 1963 a United States Air Force Boeing B-52C Stratofortress took off from Westover AFB in Massachusetts for a low altitude training mission. Stratofortresses are huge; 160 feet long, from head to tail, with a 185 foot wingspan. On board were nine crew members with the 99th Bombardment Wing, Strategic Air Command.
As the plane neared the mountains of western Maine at low altitude, it encountered unexpectedly strong wind turbulence. Turbulence so strong it tore the vertical stabilizer from the bomber’s tail, causing the plane to lose control.
Three of the nine crew members, those on the top flight deck, were able to eject before the plane crashed into Elephant Mountain.
Co-pilot, Maj. Robert J. Morrison ejected safely but perished when he hit a tree. Pilot, Lt. Col. Dante E. Bulli, also got hung up in a tree but survived, spending the next 20 hours dangling above the ground in freezing temperatures. Navigator Capt. Gerald J. Adler also ejected but his parachute did not open. Instead, he landed upright in his ejection seat, in deep snow, then rebounded forward, suffering three broken ribs and a concussion. He is the only person known to have survived being ejected from an aircraft without a functioning parachute. The other six crew members perished in the crash.
The rescue effort took most of the next day, as snowshoes, dog sleds, and snowmobiles were required to reach the wreckage.
Visiting the B-52 Crash Site Memorial
The crash site is easy to find and just 20 minutes from Lodge at Moosehead Lake.
To get there, turn left on Lily Bay Road from the inn and head north. Stay on Lily Bay Road for around 4.5 miles (7.25 km), then take a right on Prong Pond Road. Stay on Prong Pond Road, which turns to Scammon Road, for around 8 miles, following the “B52 Memorial” signs.
Much of your journey will be on hard packed gravel and rough logging roads, so be prepared for a bit of a bumpy time. You’ll know you’ve reached the trailhead to the memorial when you see the small, signed parking area .
The hike is an easy one and you’ll begin to see plane debris everywhere once you start following the trail. There is wreckage everywhere. Chunks of battered fuselage, wires, panels, rusted components, and other debris are up in the trees and scattered across acres of forest floor.
A large, black memorial of slate honors both the survivors and those who lost their lives at the site. Visitors are asked to treat the area with respect and leave it as you’ve found it.
Those looking for more information on the crash should visit The Center for Moosehead History at 6 Lakeville Street, Greenville. The museum has a permanent B-52 Tragedy and Crew Members exhibit on display that includes two of the recovered ejection seats.
There are so many things to see and do at Moosehead Lake! What’s on your list? Let us know and we can help get you going. Lodge at Moosehead Lake loves sharing the area with our guests!