Identified As Having Come From A B-52 Stratofortress Which Went Down Nearly 50 Year Ago
You never know what you might find during a walk in the woods. While not exactly Bigfoot, a Maine Forest Service forest ranger out hunting last fall came across a strange object he found right in the middle of an old, overgrown logging road on Elephant Mountain. That object has been identified as an ejection seat from the infamous B-52 Stratofortress-C crash that killed seven airmen almost 50 years ago north of Greenville.
Maine Forest Service District Ranger Bruce Reed, who found the ejection seat, will lead a recovery team on Thursday to retrieve the seat from Elephant Mountain southwest of the crash site and take it to a local snowmobile clubhouse. The ejection seat from the B-52 most likely is the seat that saved the life of either the jet’s pilot or its navigator, according to officials. “The seat was lying upside down in the middle of that road,” Reed recalled about finding the object. “I had a pretty good idea of what it was, and it was kind of eerie finding something like this in the middle of the wilderness, knowing what happened almost 50 years ago.”
Reed returned to the logging road this past Saturday, once again found the ejection seat, marked the GPS location, took photos, and took down all identification numbers. He confirmed the information with Pete Pratt of the Moosehead Rider’s Snowmobile Club, which has spearheaded the creation of a permanent memorial for the crash remains. Later this week, Reed will lead a four-person carry operation with MFS forest rangers using a cargo net to bring the seat down the mountain.
The ejection seat has held up “remarkably well for being there for 49 years,” the MFS forest ranger said. "There is some damage to the top part of the seat around the head rest," he said. “Once we get it off the mountain and in the presence of those who know its true history, it will generate significant interest,” Reed said.
The crash took place Thursday, Jan. 24, 1963, as the B-52 Stratofortress-C was practicing routine low-level navigation, part of its training to avoid Soviet radar technology, in bitter winter weather. The huge, unarmed jet left Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts and was carrying nine crew members. The jet was traveling at about 500 feet about the ground when it encountered turbulence, and pilot Lt. Col. Dante E. Buli tried to climb to avoid it. A loud noise like an explosion was heard, and the jet went into a 40-degreee right turn, its nose pointing down. Buli tried to level the plane, but when he couldn’t, he ordered the crew to eject.
Three crew members, including Buli, the navigator, Capt. Gerald J. Adler, and the co-pilot, Maj. Robert J. Morrison, had time to eject. Six crew members were killed in the accident; Morrison was killed when his parachute hit a tree.
Numerous rescuers went to the scene and saved the two survivors, Buli and Adler, who had endured serious injuries and frigid temperatures reaching minus 28 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the night. The crash later was found to be caused by a structural problem. The crash site since has been turned into a memorial, and it is undergoing improvements for the anticipated 50th anniversary of the accident. A salvaged jet engine and one ejection seat can be viewed at the Moosehead Rider’s Snowmobile Clubhouse. The tail section of the jet, which fell off the aircraft before it crashed, still can be seen at the mountain site. (B-52 file photo)