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Recently my local newspaper caught my attention with travel coverage about the site of a Dragon crash. Dragons? Tell me more!

The XB-28 “Dragon” was an experimental high-altitude bomber briefly developed by the U. S. during World War II. The design work was done by North American Aviation. It was based on their earlier, successful design for the B-25 Mitchell bomber.

Several trial craft were flown in 1942 and ’43, and the tests were considered quite successful. However, military planners determined that high-altitude bombing would not be as useful in the Pacific arena as it had been in Europe. Weather conditions in the Pacific did not allow accurate bombing runs, and this would lead to wasted ammunition and other resources. Thus the XB-28 was never put into production.

The crash site mentioned in the travel article is a relic from one of the test runs. In January of 1943, a crew was flying from (probably) Twin Falls, ID to Tacoma, WA. They encountered a winter storm in the mountains. Ice built up on the wings and forced a controlled crash. The pilot spotted Loon Lake, north of Boise, and used its frozen surface as a runway. It was still a rough landing. All eight crewmen survived, although one was badly injured. They pulled together a shelter using wreckage and forest material, and hunkered down to await rescue.

The radio was no longer working after the crash, meaning that the Air Force didn’t know where they were. Search planes flew without success. After a few freezing-cold and hungry days, three of the strongest crewmen set off on foot to look for help. These three hiked forty miles over two weeks until they reached a ranger station and reported the situation. In the meantime, however, the five other crewmen had already been rescued. A bush pilot passing by had spotted the wreckage. The men who hiked out must have been frustrated, but they certainly were heroic and deserve to be called dragon riders.

The plane’s wreckage was left where it lay. It remains on the shores of Loon Lake, in the Payette National Forest. Today you can view it after a hike of ten miles round trip, starting at nearby Payette Lake.


Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

 

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