Hurley area B-47 crash site dedication planned for June
HURLEY - More than 50 years ago, a B-47 Stratojet disappeared from radar on a low-level training mission about 10 miles south of Hurley.
Three months later, another aircraft disappeared near the same area, a densely wooded place about 3 miles east of U.S. 51.
The airplanes were part of the Air Force's 40th Bombardment Wing from Forbes Air Force Base in Topeka, Kan.
The missions were run because of the location's similarity in terrain to areas of Europe that were anticipated bombing locations during the Cold War.
Six of the eight crew members aboard perished when the planes went down in February and May of 1961. Over the years, debris from the craft became covered with leaves and hard to find, much like the location itself.
Curt Myers retired from the service about two years ago, after bouncing around in the Army, the Army Reserves and a short term with the National Guard over the course of 35 years.
Myers has been in the area for 19 years riding snowmobiles and four-wheelers as an all-terrain vehicle guide and heard of the crash site before.
"It is almost like it's a secret where this is at," he said. "For 19 years we've been stopping at that intersection and it's only been the last three, four years that we knew about it, or knew where it was at."
The site of the original memorial, where the second crash occurred, is near the intersection of Trails 13c and 13, more commonly known as the Hogsback.
Myers knew the trails, but didn't know where the crash site was, until a few years ago when he bought a golden retriever puppy.
"It was kind of a rainy, crappy fall day, and I took a little ride down the Hogsback bird hunting with her," he said. "And some guy was stuck on a hill. I pulled him off the hill and I said, 'You don't know where that crash site is,' and he says, 'Well, yeah, it's right here.'"
Not far from the intersection of trails 13 and 13c was the crash site.
"For 19 years we've been stopping about 50 yards from it," he said. "What are the odds that I decided to do that on that day, and then this guy's stuck out there - fate?"
A few years back, Myers was riding the trails with friends from The NCO Club in Rhinelander and Tomahawk. The group stopped and talked about the crashes.
"Those guys are all, probably within the last six to eight years, retired from the Guard," Myers said. "I told them kind of my plans that someday we're going to fix this up, and they said. 'Why wait? Let's do it now."
Myers and veteran buddy Doug O'Callaghan created the B-47 Crash Site Preservation Committee to create a more visible memorial for the site. The original memorial contained a B-47 model, built by Greg Landretti and Bruce Jackson, placed at the site in 2004.
Last November, Myers and his crew took the model from the site to have it repainted with original USAF markings, and the numbers of both downed aircrafts put on its tail section. In December, the group received formal approval from the Iron County Forestry Department to go ahead with the project.
"It's kind of a tribute to our fellow veterans," Myers said of the project.
He and a few other volunteers plan to cut trees for a new path into the memorial site this weekend. If the weather doesn't cooperate, they'll pre-build the pergola - an 8-foot high, 10-by-10-foot structure that will protect the model plane when it is replaced.
The group also plans to make a 2-foot high rock wall in front of the pergola to hold pieces of debris from the planes.
Myers said the committee is working on a five-year plan for the memorial, which includes seeking grants next year to fund the construction of outhouses and a 10-by-20-foot shelter, with grills for cooking.
"The year after, we're looking at enclosing the shelter and putting a fireplace in there so the snowmobilers and the cross country skiers and snowshoers can use it, too," he said.
More than 50 people have offered to help, including a few with experience in construction, Myers said.
"That's the big thing," he said, "getting the guys with the experience and the construction equipment in there to help us, because it will go 10 times faster with a bulldozer than with my little backhoe."
In material donations, such as equipment, flags, flagpoles and lumber, Myers said the project has received upward of $8,000. In monetary donations, the committee has a $10,000 goal and has already raised about $5,000.
He expects the project to be completed by the end of June, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the works for June 28.
"It allows us to do something good for these guys and their families and other veterans," Myers said. "At the same time, it's going to give our community a little something for people to come up here to, that may not have come up here before. Not everybody rides four-wheelers or snowmobiles; some people are just history buffs and just want to come up and see the tribute that we did, so hopefully that will give our area a little something more for people to come up and see."
Myers said members of the group will work on the site on weekends in May. The weekends of June 6-8 and June 15-18 (if needed) will be open for public volunteers to help with general manual labor.
For more information visit, facebook.com/groups/B47Preservation/.