Oregon Trails: Bomber Crash Site

video preview image

NEAR DENIO, Nev. — It’s more than sixty years since the end of World War Two, and for many Americans, the memories of that war are fading away; so are many of the relics and sites rusting and becoming overgrown as the decades pass.

A wind-swept meadow high in the Pueblo Mountains, just north of the Nevada border, could be considered sacred ground by the families of 11 American fliers who died there in a fiery plane crash on February 9th, 1945.

One local newspaper account says the crew was dropping flares to light up the ground below. Regardless, the next thing anybody saw was a fireball lighting up the chilly night sky, and the sound of a huge explosion. It took two days for local ranchers and authorities to reach the scene on horseback, here at the 7,500 foot elevation. Most of the plane was burned and it took days to recover what remains could be found in the s now-covered meadow. It’s now known as “propeller flats”, or “propeller meadows.”

The BLM contacted army forensics specialists in Hawaii, and within days they had a crew here. For two weeks they dug around the site looking for more human remains and other identifying artifacts; that was in 1996. After making DNA tests, the remains were interred at Arlington National Cemetery and the site put back the way it was before excavation. Sage and grass, and pieces of a burned B-24 bomber littered about.

The plane was on a training mission from Gowan field in Boise, down to California and back when it went down. After 66 years, pieces of the plane can still be found, such as a piece of aluminum from the plane, partly melted by the fire and a piece of plexiglass, still almost clear after all these years. BLM Archeologist Scott Thomas says that although no one is buried here, it still seems like sacred ground.

Thomas is concerned that there’s now a Jeep trail to the site, which is in a wilderness study area. He only hopes others will respect the site for it’s historic value and not remove artifacts that have weathered 66 summers and winters along the Oregon-Nevada border. Some parts of the old bomber have been loaned by the BLM to a Warbird Museum in Nampa, Idaho, not far from where the lost plane started it’s final mission almost 70 years ago.