Do you remember the crash of a B-52 bomber in 1963 on a mountain near Greenville? My wife Linda and I visited that crash site one time when we were visiting Greenville. Pieces of the plane are still scattered throughout the woods, and there’s a memorial on the mountain. It’s an amazing thing to see, but the story of that tragic crash is even more amazing.

The men on that plane were meant to defend us during the Cold War, and we should always remember and honor them. So I must thank Maine resident Joseph Wax, who has written a powerful and important book, “Final Mission – The North Woods,” about the crash of that military plane on Elephant Mountain near Greenville.

I really appreciated it that Wax started his book by telling us all about the nine men on that plane. They were all impressive guys. Then Wax tells us about the plane (including the reason the plane crashed) and takes us inside the plane as the crew struggles to keep it from going down.

You’ll feel like you are right there with them, and you will admire their bravery as they don’t panic while working to stop the plane from crashing, even as they descended to the tree tops. Wax did a lot of research and the details in the book are amazing. At the end of the book, he thanked all those who provided information.

Only two men survived the crash, and one bailed out without a parachute. Both survivors were severely injured when they hit the ground, and they suffered for several days in the woods and snow, with bitter cold temperatures, before they were found and rescued. Both spent a long time in the hospital. Wax follows them through that journey, including their suffering as they waited to be rescued.

He also tells us about all the people who searched for the plane and the men who were in it, never giving up while experiencing very cold weather. Eventually, they found the two men who survived — and the remains of the seven who didn’t.

I also appreciated that Wax told us about all the families of the men who died, including their wives and children and even their funerals.

Over the years, things found at the crash site ended up in various places, including museums and the snowmobile club in Greenville. And annual trips to the site were conducted to remember the crew members.

Wax, at the end of book, tells us what happened to the families of the deceased, and the two survivors, who despite lifelong disabilities, achieved a lot with the rest of their lives.

And Wax gave a lot of credit to all those who helped him with this story, explaining: “The purpose of this writing was to honor the lives and memories of the January 24, 1963 flyers on 0406’s final mission and to provide an appropriate remembrance for their families.”

Wax very generously donates all of his profits from the sale of the book to Maine charities. You can buy the book at several places in Greenville, including the Indian Hill Trading Post and the Moosehead Lake Historical Society, as well as at various places throughout the state, and it’s available online, including at Mooseheadmarketplace.com.

Wax served for 11 years as a physician in the U.S. Navy Medical Corps, and is an award-winning medical researcher, educator, and author. Today, he cares for women with complicated pregnancies.

The Greenville snowmobile club along with the American Legion post, Maine Air National Guard, and townspeople continue to preserve the site and its accessibility.

If you visit the site of this plane crash, you will never forget it. And if you read this book, you will also never forget this tragedy.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.


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