Loon Lake Idaho, and the wrecked Douglas B-23 Dragon Bomber

In the late 1930s the Douglas Aircraft Company found a superior design for a sturdy long range aircraft in the civilian DC-2 and DC-3.  These were the finest passenger planes yet created, and also served as the basic form of military transport as the C-46 and C-47.

The Army also wanted a better bomber than the then current bomber, and requested a bomber with twice the range and load as the current Army bomber, which was based on the DC-2 design.  Douglas responded with a redesigned airplane with a tail gun, the first for the U.S., and more power.   In addition, the stronger wings of the DC-3 were added.  The B-23s were also fitted with the new top secret Nordon bomb sight, said to be able to place a bomb in a pickle barrel from 25,000 feet.  That particular claim proved to be hogwash.

B23

On January 29, 1943, pilot Robert Orr and a crew of 8 were returning from bombing practice in Nevada to their base in Washington.  Low on fuel and with the wings icing up in a winter storm, Lt. Orr crashed landed his B-23 on Loon Lake in the mountains near McCall, Idaho.  The lake was frozen and the plane skidded across the frozen lake and into the trees close to the lake.  The trees sheared off the wings of the plane, and the fuselage came to rest in waist deep snow, with more snow falling and one crew member injured in the landing.

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Loon Lake, (after the 2007 fire) looking across toward the bomber site

After 4 days, three of the crew decided to hike out, though they had no idea of where they were.  After six days of hiking through waist deep snow, they found a cabin with a forest service map on the wall, which told them where they were and the route to the nearest town, McCall.  At day 13 they found a CCC building, where they left an injured airman and continued toward McCall. On day 15 they had gone another 5 miles and found a Forest Service building with a phone, and called town for help .

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Meanwhile, on day 16 a local pilot spotted the wreckage of the B-23, and the next day landed at the lake and made two trips to haul the remaining 5 airmen out.  The town of McCall closed schools and stores, and greeted the rescued airmen, all of whom survived.

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In the summer of 2007, the whole area around Loon Lake for many miles was devastated with a huge forest fire.  It was with great wonder that we approached the wreckage of the B-23 near Loon lake to see if it had survived the fire.  We found that it had survived, and our crew of 3 boy scouts from Troop 100 explored the wreck.

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The perfect way to end a hike to Loon Lake and the bomber, is to visit Burgdorf Hot Springs!!  Oh yeah, Baby!




10 Responses to Loon Lake Idaho, and the wrecked Douglas B-23 Dragon Bomber
  1. aircraft parts
    July 8, 2008 | 1:36 am

    visiting Burgdorf Hot Springs….
    That’s nice.

  2. Ralph Pruitt Jr
    October 10, 2010 | 11:51 am

    My father Ralph Pruitt Sr.was on this aircraft. He was one of the three that left the crash site looking for help. He suffered frostbite and was left behind while the other two continued on. He talked about returning to see if the aircraft was still there. He retired from the air force in 1960.

  3. Ryan Loewen
    January 18, 2012 | 12:14 pm

    My Grandfather Paul Loewen Jr. was on this aircraft. He returned to the sight, I believe in 1969. I would like to hike to the aircraft in his memory. Does anyone know how much of the aircraft is currently remaining?

  4. Aaron Carlson
    February 13, 2012 | 12:48 pm

    I live in Idaho and recently visited it and actually it is still in pretty good condition suprisingly.

  5. Brian
    July 16, 2012 | 11:31 am

    I was there on July 14, 2012. There is a substantial amount of the main body of the airplane still there, it is beginning to get flattened out however. It is about a 12 mile roundtrip hike to get to the crash site. The vast majority of the hike is relatively easy but be prepared for for a waist deep creek crossing and marsh conditions at the crash site.

  6. Lois McMahan
    September 2, 2012 | 2:37 pm

    Would love to hear from Ralph Pruitt Jr. and Ryan Loewen. I am collecting information concerning the B-23 crash on Loon Lake and the survivors of that crash. It is my hope to compile the data into a comprehensive rendering of their experiences. Please contact me. Thank you!

  7. Bob
    October 17, 2012 | 9:18 am

    We (troop 100, Boise) are planning a 50 mile hike next year along the route the airmen took in their trek to McCall. There has been great interested in our troop and other troops, so it could be a big group that retraces the evacuation route. We have plaques and markers that we will place along the route to identify the trail for future hikers.

  8. Chum Sullivan
    November 14, 2012 | 6:42 pm

    Lloyd johnson mcall smokejumper pioneer said he and a native American scout went in on rescue plane and tracked the crew that hiked out to a fire lookout he lives in Fruitland Id. He says the crewman shot and ate chickadees

  9. Jeanette Beaudry/Bostwick
    January 24, 2013 | 2:09 pm

    My father was on this plane when it crashed. His name is Earl J. Beaudry and he never mentioned this incident to my mother or me. He passed away in 1967. I found out about the crash from my son who found it on the internet. A very kind gentlemen who works for the Forest Service sent me a transcript of a small book that was written about the men in the plane that is totally fascinating.
    I’m hoping to hike to the area that the plane is in but after reading Brian’s message about the water issue I will have to research hiking it further.

  10. David fahnstrom
    February 12, 2013 | 5:00 am

    a friend of mine, mike McCormack and I mountain biked into loon lake I believe in the summer of 1989, and had to abandon our bikes for the last part of the journey, but found the b23. It was in much better shape than the pictures above. Wings were sheared but the fuselage was intact. I don’t remember the tail being hanging off. All of the instruments,gauges were gone, but like said was in much better condition. It almost like some people have taken sledge hammers to it. Very sad.

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