It all started in 1999 when the best man at my wedding (Kent) asked me what I wanted for my bachelor trip.
I said "I want 4-wheeling, backpacking, and B-17s".
Who would have guessed he'd deliver.
We set out to find the airplane we knew very little about- '746.
Photo courtesy Dr Kent
There were 5 of us the first run: (l-r) Mike (me), Tommy, Kent (sitting), Gatt, and Hansel.
We found the site. It had been devastated by years of looting, vandalism, and by thermite bombs in the 60s. Apparently that's the military way of "cleaning" a crash site- blowing it up!
As time went on, I became more and more interested (or obsessed as some would say) in the before, during, and after of the crash. To some it's a twisted hunk of metal to jump up and down on and scribe initials in. To others like myself, there's a story to be told.
The breakthrough came when I computer-enhanced the series of poorly-reproduced, hand-drawn maps in the accident report. With much squinting, photoshopping, and guesswork, I developed a revised map of how the debris field looked in 1952. With this new tool and certain assumptions (like no piece of debris would move UP the hill during the subsequent 50 years), we set out in summer of 2000 to find the original impact site and debris trail. What we found was spectacular- untouched by looters, undisturbed by the military, and remarkably similar to the debris field recorded in 1952.
(From a Boeing internal website)
'746 was visited recently by some Boeing folks who were restoring a flyable B-17F (Boeing Bee):
"The next project was the reconstruction of the area where the ball turret had been. A group of volunteers hiked into the hills near Sequim to locate a wreck of a B-17. They removed the section of the fuselage that housed the ball turret and carried it out on a pole. Parts that were needed for N17W were salvaged and repaired. Rebuilding this section also took about a year and included rebuilding the bulkhead on the aft side of the radio room."
The following deceptively simple image is one of the most important aspects of this whole project!
It is an edited GPS map of the debris field giving valuable insight into the final seconds of '746. From this never-before-seen map, we can conclude that first impact was actually the port wing. It sheared off and started the complete crash sequence. Final resting point of the main hulk is edited out of this picture for security reasons.
This map and image copyright Mike Morrow 2001.