The B-23 "Dragon Bomber"
Crash Site and Wreck

From the Payette National Forest

Thanks to Dustyn Putzier for the pictures

B-23

On January 29, 1943, the B-23 "Dragon Bomber" went down at Loon Lake (elevation 5,280') with eight men aboard. The plane was returning to McChord Field in Tacoma, Washington from a training mission in Nevada when it flew into a heavy snow storm near Pendleton, Oregon. Unable to maintain altitude, the pilot decided to attempt a landing in Boise. The approach was hampered by heavy icing and a failed radio. An order to prepare to parachute was given at 13,000'. Just then a hole developed in the cloud cover. A frozen lake was spotted and a landing was attempted.

Frozen flaps caused the first approach to be abandoned. In a successful second approach, the plane touched down on the frozen lake, sliding across the ice and through the trees. With both wings sheared off, the plane came to rest 150 feet from the shore of Loon Lake in the timber.

All eight men survived. A broken kneecap was the only injury.

After waiting five days for rescue, the crew selected three men to go for help. On February 3rd, the three left Loon Lake with a shotgun and chocolate rations. They followed the Secesh River downstream. Then, hiking over Lick Creek Summit, elevation 6,700', they reached the Lake Fork Guard Station. Once inside, an exhausted crew member picked up the telephone and spoke to the operator in McCall. The three men had hiked for fourteen days and approximately 42 miles through waist deep snow.

On February 18th, the wreckage was spotted by bush pilot, Penn Stohr, of Cascade, Idaho. He returned and notified authorities. Stohr made two more flights, landing on the frozen lake to fly the crew out. After some 21 days in the harsh winter climate of Idaho's primitive area, all eight men were rescued.

The B-23, "Dragon Bomber", a 1939 twin engine aircraft, was developed from the Douglas B-18 and the DC-3. It was the first United States airplane equipped with tail gunners. Only 28 B-23's were manufactured. Most were assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron at McChord Field in Washington state. By the time of the bombing on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, more advanced aircraft such as the B-17 and B-24 made the B-23 obsolete. It never saw combat use. B-23's were used instead for training purposes.

Directions to Loon Lake and the Dragon Bomber Wreckage. The hike is approximately 10 miles round-trip.

From Chinook Campground take trail #080. Trail #080 follows the Secesh River south towards Loon Creek. Just above Loon Creek take trail #084 west. Trail #084 becomes rocky and steep with many switch-backs, rising 800 feet in elevation in 1.3 miles. Trail #084 intersects with trail #081. Continue south along #081 to the junction of trail #-84. Head west again on #084. This trail runs 1.75 miles south along the west side of Loon Lake. Where the trail meets Loon Creek, leave the trail to follow the creek north to Loon Lake.

The wreckage is on the south side of Loon Lake, approximately 150 feet into the trees.

You can return the way you came or you may follow trail #081 back north to Chinook Campground. The Secesh River may be high during late spring or early summer. Use caution when crossing the River.

Loon Lake

If your pictures are better than mine on other pages, please feel free to send them to me for inclusion on our web page. Make sure you give me your name so I can give you credit for your contribution. Photos on this page are from Dustyn Putzier taken August 2011. With so much to do in the area, I'm sure I've left something out. If you don't see your favorite activity listed or your favorite place to visit, please let me know. Send your ideas, pictures and comments to Becky@secesh.net.