Earlier this month, family members of one of the four servicemen who died that day made the three-and-a-half mile hike to mark the anniversary. Chris Knight joined them for what proved to be a strenuous, and emotional, journey.
Cindy Bosch, daughter of 1st Lt. Rodney D. Bloomgren, the crashed plane's pilot, was just two years old at the time of her father's death on Jan. 16, 1962. This was her first visit to the site of the crash.
“The 50 year anniversary came up, and I hadn’t really thought about coming up here. I knew it was here. My aunt sent me pictures and, you know, it’s time to do it,” said Bosch. Standing at the Adirondack Loj trailhead just outside Lake Placid, hundreds of miles from her home in Florida, Bosch also said she came seeking closure.
“It’s going to be sad,” she said. “I’ve seen his gravesite, but this is where it really happened. So it’s going to be a little tearful, I’m sure.” Bosch and her husband, joined by Jeanne Morgenstern, Bloomgren’s sister, and her husband, set off for Wright Peak's 4,500 summit under mostly sunny skies around 9:30 a.m. The Morgensterns, who still live in Jamestown where Bloomgren was from, had been to the site of the crash before, about 25 years ago.
The B-47 was on a training mission when its crew radioed that they were over Watertown. The plane was due back at Plattsburgh Air Force Base at 7 a.m. It never made it. A search ensued, but days went by with no sign of the plane.
Jeanne Morganstern was 16 years old at the time. “I think that was the hardest part for our family, the period between we knew the plane had gone down, and nobody knew if they were dead or alive,” said Morganstern. Five days after it disappeared, the wreckage of the plane was found scattered across the summit of Wright Peak. Searchers eventually located the remains of Bloomgren, co-pilot Melvin Spencer and Albert Kandetzki, the B-47's navigator. Observer Kenneth Jensen's remains were never located.
An investigation later determined the unarmed bomber had apparently veered about 30 miles off course due to inclement weather and high winds.
Bosch said her mother, who died several years ago, never liked to talk about it. She’s only learned some of the details in recent years, mostly through online research, and said it’s something that’s always been on her mind. “I think about my father all the time, and have,” she said. “You know, crazy stories like, ‘Why did the plane go down, what really happened?’ All that kind of stuff. We’ll never know.”
Around 1 p.m., after nearly four hours of strenuous hiking, the Boschs and the Morgansterns arrived at the site of a weathered bronze plaque just below the summit that marks the approximate site where the plane hit the mountain. When Bosch first got to the site, she said she initially wasn't feeling anything.
“I guess after that big struggle to get up here, and then just realizing ‘Wow, here I am.’ It really did happen. There were times that I didn’t think it happened,” said Bosch.
“I was OK,” Morganstern said. “I was pretty good until I started picking up pieces [of wreckage] and then it hit me.”
Bosch, Morgenstern and their husbands spent about 45 minutes on the summit, taking pictures and looking over some of the debris from the crash. The hike back down took the group about 3.5 hours, most of it in a steady rain.
Many more hikers will undoubtedly visit the site and read the names on the plaque in the years to come. Both Cindy Bosch and Jeanne Morgenstern said they hope people think about the fact that Rodney Bloomgren and his crew gave their lives in service to the country.