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