A B-52 bomber seat goes undetected in the Maine North Woods for fifty years.
The millions of acres that make up the woods in northern Maine hold a special allure that few other Maine destinations can truly claim: the potential for a new discovery behind every tree. Go hunting on the eastern side of Elephant Mountain outside of Greenville, as Maine Forest Service forest ranger Bruce Reed did, and you too may come across a piece of the state’s history missing for fifty years.
Reed discovered an impressively intact ejection seat from a cold war-era B-52 bomber sitting on a logging road that had been defunct for decades. “I was in the area hunting with a few friends, we started following this old logging road, and I noticed this seat that was upside down,” Reed says.
In 1963, nine airmen flew a B-52 over Maine to test its ability to avoid Soviet radar technology. The plane’s vertical stabilizer failed and sent the jet spiraling into the woods outside Greenville. Three men were able to eject in time. One died hitting a tree, while two others survived the night in negative twenty-eight degree weather until a group of snowmobilers rescued them.
Until Reed’s discovery, only two of the ejection seats had been found, with the third going undetected by both Soviet radar and all of Maine. One can wonder then, should Reed choose to go a little deeper into the dense woods next hunting season, what forgotten pieces of Maine’s history he’ll emerge with next time. —Will Bleakley