GREENVILLE, Maine — They want no one to forget.
For the past 17 years, the Moosehead Riders Snowmobile Club has made it its mission to commemorate the B-52 bomber crash that occurred on Jan. 24, 1963, on Elephant Mountain. That crash took the lives of seven airmen and left two survivors.
As they have in recent years, the American Legion Cecil R. Cole Post, the Maine Air National Guard and the Maine Warden Service will join club members and the public during a snowmobile ride to the crash site where a formal ceremony will be held on Saturday, Jan. 23. Participants should bring their own snowmobiles.
The event will begin at 11 a.m. with a luncheon at the clubhouse by donation. For those unable to make the snowmobile trip to the crash site, a brief service will be conducted at 1 p.m. at the B-52 engine at the clubhouse.
“It makes you realize what the military does for this country and for its citizens,” Pete Pratt, an organizer of the ride, said Wednesday. While he routinely visits the site, he said it still “makes his eye water” when he talks about the history of the crash. He said that even now, the crash site draws many people each year, which never ceases to amaze him.
Club members began the commemorative snowmobile ride to the crash site on the 30th anniversary and continued to do so every year since. Pratt said he is pleased that the Legion and the Guard have taken the lead in recent years and made it a full military service event.
The B-52 had left Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts at about noon and was on a routine training mission when a malfunction caused the unarmed plane to go down in this remote wooded area of Maine.
Killed in the crash were: Lt. Col. Joe R. Simpson Jr., Maj. William W. Gabriel, Maj. Robert J. Morrison, Maj. Robert J. Hill, Capt. Herbert L. Hansen, Capt. Charles G. Leuchter and Tech. Sgt. Michael F. O’Keefe.
Retired Capt. Gerald Adler of Davis, Calif., and the aircraft commander, retired Lt. Col. Dante E. Bulli of Nebraska, both ejected from the plane before it crashed.
Adler, who has participated in the annual event several times over the years but will not be in attendance this year, said he owed his life to game wardens because they located him and Bulli after the crash and directed helicopters to their rescue.