Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bomber Mountain

Bomber Mountain is the crest of a ridge line within the Big Horn Mountains of the U.S. State of Wyoming. It rises to an elevation of 12,448 feet (3,794 meters), and borders the south side of Cloud Peak, the tallest peak in the range. Bomber Mountain get its name from an aviation accident that occurred in 1943.

On June 23, 1943, a B-17 Flying Fortress (serial number 42-3399, nicknamed "Scharazad"), departed Pendleton Army Air Base in Pendleton, Oregon destined for Grand Island, Nebraska. From there, the bomber would join the other members of the 383rd Bomb Group and continue to England to participate in the ongoing World War II bombing campaigns. Around midnight, the captain radioed that their position was near Powder River, Wyoming. They were not heard from again. After the plane failed to arrive in Grand Island, the plane was declared missing and the Army mounted a search effort with no results. A second search was conducted the following year, concentrating on the Wind River Mountains, Absaroka Mountains and Big Horn Mountains, but still no wreckage was spotted.

On August 12, 1945, two cowboys spotted something shiny on a ridge line in the Cloud Peak area of the Big Horn Mountains. They discovered the wreckage and the deceased crew, and contacted authorities, who conducted an operation to recover the bodies of the crew and return them to their families. It was believed that during earlier search efforts, the paint color of the aircraft blended in closely with the mountain side, making the wreckage difficult to spot. After a few years, the paint wore off, and the shiny aluminum underneath made the plane more visible. No official cause for the crash was ever determined, but it is presumed that malfunctioning navigational equipment, and a moonless night combined with bad weather caused the pilot to not see the ridge until it was too late.

After some petitioning by veterans groups in Wyoming, the previously unnamed ridge was christened Bomber Mountain on August 22, 1946 by the U.S. Forest Service. In honor of the crew members, a commemorative plaque was placed on the shores of Florence Lake, 1.5 miles from the crash site.

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