B-52 Crash Site: Maine Snowmobiling Destination
B52 crash site on Elephant Mountain is a must see
By Ann Stieler
A popular Maine snowmobiling destination (50 miles by snowmobile trail from Northern Outdoors,) is the site of the B-52 airplane that crashed on Elephant Mountain more than 50 years ago. Located 15 minutes outside of Greenville, just east of the southern end of Moosehead Lake, the easily accessible memorial allows you to view and photograph large sections of the aircraft.
The plane crashed on January 24th 1963 when the plane’s vertical stabilizer stopped working while flying at low altitude. The US was in the midst of the cold war and the B-52 was flying a “terrain avoidance” training mission performing drills on how to avoid Russian radar. (The B-52 had a wingspan of 185 feet and was 160 feet long.)
The aircraft, however, ran into turbulence from high wind gusts coming off the mountains around Moosehead Lake. The savage winds triggered a structural failure when part of the bomber’s tail was torn off. The pilot and commander of the aircraft, Col. Dante E. Bulli, ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft and the plane crashed. Bulli remembers hearing the sound of the plane’s tail breaking off, ejecting from the plane, and then landing between 2 trees, 30 feet above waist deep snow. Although he had crushed his left foot and ankle, he was able to somehow get down to the ground. Gerald J Adler, the B-52’s navigator, also abandoned the plane but his parachute didn’t open and he survived the crash with only some broken ribs, a fractured skull, and severe frostbite on part of his left leg. “Adler is the only person in the world known to have survived an ejection from a Weber ejection seat without his parachute deploying!” Years later at a commemorative ceremony at Greenville High School, Capt. Adler exclaimed, “God rode my ejection seat.”
Powered by eight jet engines, the B-52 Stratofortress began its flight from Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts Sadly out of the nine man crew only 2 survived the crash, Capt. Adler and Col. Bulli.
I set out for the site on a cold Saturday morning after watching a YouTube video of snowmobilers visiting the memorial. However, it’s Saturday, December 2nd, and other than a dusting, there’s no snow on the ground. As I drive into Greenville, I marvel at the beauty of Moosehead Lake. A local man, Phil Adams, who heads up the Greenville ATV club, has graciously offered to drive me to the crash site so I can view it and take pictures.
As Phil, my son Nick, and I drive up ITS 85, heading towards Elephant Mountain, Phil shows me the snowmobile trail leading to the crash site. The site is easily accessible, whether you’re driving a truck, car or snowmobile…
Another local man, Ken Jobe, said he’s been riding his snowmobile to the crash site every winter for the last 29 years. There are also many side trails that offer views of the mountains of Piscataquis County as you approach the trailhead.
After a 15 minute drive, we arrive at the trailhead marked by a large sign reading B52 Memorial…
As we begin walking the short trail, a gust of wind has me shivering and zipping my winter jacket up. I wonder how Lt. Col. Dante Bulli and navigator Capt. Gerald Adler were able to bear temperatures reaching -28 degrees when I’m freezing at 30 degrees… The men weren’t found until the following morning. ”The rescuers had to use snowshoes, dog sleds and snowmobiles to cover the remaining mile to the crash site. At 11 a.m. the two survivors were airlifted to a hospital by a helicopter.”
I continued walking the trail up a small incline as parts of the plane came into view. Twisted metal, shredded wheels, rusted machinery components, wires and the partially intact tail cone are among the wreckage. New forest growth has wrapped itself around the pieces of wreckage and jagged metal sticks out of trees. This memorial has become a part of the forest and it is quite something to see; a somber reminder of these brave airmen.
Beside a broken off fuselage, a black slate memorializes the surviving crew and those were lost forever that cold, wintery night. I will never forget this memorial and the brave men who manned this flight. For those who wish to get more information after viewing the crash, visit the Moosehead Historical Society, where you will find much more information on the crash including original news clippings, interviews, and article about the many commemorative ceremonies held over the years that Capt. Adler and Col. Bulli attended and spoke at. The annual memorial service is held close to the date of the crash. You can also view the original jump seats there.
Directions to Greenville and the B-52 Crash Site by Snowmobile Trail
Ride the trail uphill out of the back of Northern Outdoors Adventure Resort to ITS 87. Take ITS 87 north to ITS 86. Ride ITS 86 east to ITS 85 (Trail Junction PS 11). Head north on ITS 85 into Greenville. The B-52 crash site is about 15 miles north of Greenville off of ITS 85. See our Maine Snowmobile Trail Map that covers The Forks to Greenville and the crash site.
Lunch and Gas in Greenville
Greenville has an active “downtown” right on the shore of Moosehead Lake that welcomes snowmobilers. The Stress Free Moose Pub offers an array of soups, salads, sandwiches, and burgers. I recommend the soup or chowder of the day—both served with homemade garlic baguette chips. I had the mushroom soup, the clam, and the haddock chowders, which I highly recommend. After an enjoyable meal in a friendly atmosphere, head over to the Moosehead Lake Indian Store for souvenirs. Their native Indian artifacts are exceptional!
After lunch, return on ITS 86 west all the way to the junction with ITS 87 on the Boise Road (Trail Junction ST 9). Follow ITS 87 south, then take the short connector trail back to Northern Outdoors… where your pint of Sledhead Red, Woodsman Burger, and hot tub soak await.
More on Maine Snowmobiling
Interested in snowmobiling to another cool Maine historic site?
Check out the Eagle Lake Abandoned Trains.
For trail maps, trail conditions reports and more on riding from Northern Outdoors:
See Maine Snowmobiling.
And because we love warm restaurant pit stops on our snowmobile rides:
Lunch on the Trail.