Around 8 pm on the evening of January 14, 1942 the residents of North Woodstock New Hampshire were startled by the sound of a crash on the side of Mt. Waternomee. Being so soon after Pearl Harbor, some residents first believed they too were being attacked. Shortly after the crash calls went out to state police, forest service, and civilian volunteers. By 8:15 pm, wearing snow shoes, the first rescue squad began its 2.3 mile climb up the snowy slopes, arriving at the crash site 3 hours later. What they discovered was a crashed American B-18 Bomber.
The visibility that night was poor and the wind much stronger than the B-18 bomber’s crew was aware. Due to atmospheric conditions and lack of equipment to handle navigating them, the crew was virtually in the dark. When they crossed the shoreline they believed they were just south of Boston, so they turned north to head to Westover. Due to miss calculation and unfortunate circumstances they were actually flying over Lake Winnipisaukee in New Hampshire. They were unaware of their error until around 7:40 when the co-pilot, Lt. Woodrow Kantner saw what he thought was dark clouds. He turned on the landing lights and sudden realized it was actually a mountain. He tried to warn the pilot, but it was too late.
The B-18 Bomber hit a down draft and crashed into the deep snow on the side of Mt. Waternomee. The wings, engines and the top deck were torn off. A fire broke out in the fuel spilled all over the scene. All but two of the seven pilots were able to escape the plane before it exploded moments later.
After reaching the surviving pilots the rescue squad administered first aid, and built fires to keep the injured warm. A team of woodsmen blazed a trail to the rescue squad and brought toboggans. Three of the injured were place on the toboggans, started down the hill, and arrive at the roadside at 2am. The toboggans then return to the crash site to retrieve the last two survivors and was back to the road by 10 am. All the survivors were them brought to Lincoln Hospital.
The crash site can still be visited today. Since most of the plane was made of aluminum, the many remaining pieces still can be found in excellent condition. The trail to the plane traverses straight up the steep slope of the mountain. It has been created by those aware of plane, that have made the trek to visit its remains. Since it is not kept by anyone it would be difficult to find the plane if not for vague markers placed by previous visitors.
As we hiked up the steep side of the mountain during the summer, we realized even more how difficult it must have been for the rescue squad to accomplish. Though it is only a few miles up the sloop, the steep and rugged terrain made it much more difficult than expected. We had the luxury of a summer day and a beaten path to the bomber. The rescuers had to blindly plow through the unforgiving snow, dense forest and precipitous slopes of Mt. Waternomee.
When you first reach the site you” be greeted by the twin engines of the B18-Bomber, but the rest of the debris now spread across the Mountain side. Wings, landing gear, and even a large portion of the cockpit can still be found buried within the trees and brush. Though they have suffered many cold NH winters since the crash, the aircraft aluminum they are made of has stood strong. On one wing you can still see a large white circle which previously was adorned by a large US Air-force star.
Though the hike up the the crash site was hot and exhausting, it was well worth the trip. The site is now a memorial to not only the men who served our nation but also the brave local residents who accomplished an amazing rescue in the harsh conditions of a winter night on the slope of a steep New Hampshire Mountain.
B-18 Bomber -Mt Waternomee Gallery
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