Downed Plane Story One. The Tubal Cain Mine trail in the Buckhorn Wilderness on the east side of the Olympic Peninsula follows a pack trail dating from the 1890s. It’s a dog-friendly trail to the remains of the old mine site and the site of a 1952 airplane crash close to the mine. This trail is often hiked in early summer through fall and is known, not only for its history, but also for its abundant wildflower blooms. Washington Trail Association has a good explanation of the trail. And the Tubal Cain Mine History website has details, a great old photo and a map, if you are interested
The story of the World War II military airplane crash is pretty well-known around the peninsula. In winter, a B-17 with eight crew members aboard was flying in a blizzard with a radio that didn’t work. The airplane hit a ridge and slid down the mountain leaving a trail of debris. Three of the eight crew members died in the crash. The remaining five survivors were rescued the next day by helicopter from a shelter they had constructed out of parachutes and the lifeboat that had been on board the plane.
Locals and visitors have been intrigued with this story and have explored the area for many years. According to Waymarking.com, the intriguing part of the lore around this crash is that the airplane might have been “returning from a mission to spy on Russians”, which might explain why the “US Government was quickly on the scene to salvage key parts of the wreckage!” The official story is “that it was returning from a search mission to locate survivors from a Korean airlift airplane that had gone down near Sandspit, BC, Canada.” Read Waymarking.com’s description of the event here.
If you hike to the wreckage, please remember that the nearby mine is too dangerous to enter. Do not go in it. Plus, it is owned privately. Please read and follow any posted signs.
Downed Plane Story Two. On the west side of the Olympic Peninsula there is another mysterious downed airplane story. This one is on private land so there is no access to the site, but the story is interesting. An Air Force F-106, “the last breed of interceptors conceived and designed to interdict Soviet ‘heavy’ nuclear bombers, crashed in 1964. This aircraft was “considered the most powerful air-to-air weapon ever developed in the United States”. To follow this story in length, Air & Space Smithsonian has an article by Ed Darack from November 16, 2015.
The wreckage was re-discovered June 2014 by Austin Lunn-Rhue, a newly employed forester at a timber company on the Olympic Peninsula, and his forestry partner. They could tell it was part of an aircraft and one of the pieces had a paint brush X on it, which was unusual because the logging industry uses a form of spray paint. In addition to that, the wreckage was on private land where no one is allowed.
“…The mission of the plane that morning in 1964 remains a mystery.” It might have been scrambled toward a formation of Soviet bombers that had gotten too close to the USA. It’s also listed as a routine training flight. We do know that the pilot, Captain Webb H. Huss, Jr., parachuted to safety, was picked up by a boater on Lake Ozette and flown in a helicopter from Paine Air Force Base to a hospital. Which hospital? You can read more at 318 Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, Green Dragons, with photos of the plane, the wreckage and Captain Huss.
Thank you very much to Air & Space and to Mr. Darack and McChord Air Museum for giving us permission to quote some from his article and for letting us share the photographs and links to the longer story. Lets hope this part of our history does get transferred to the museum!
The Olympic Peninsula has a long military history. More blogs to come about Fort Flagler, Fort Worden and other military history.