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Wright Peak pilgrimage

Family members of Air Force pilot killed 50 years ago visit site of crash

June 5, 2012
By CHRIS KNIGHT - Senior Staff Writer (cknight@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

LAKE PLACID - Family members of one of the four U.S. Air Force servicemen who died 50 years ago this past January when a B-47 bomber crashed into Wright Peak visited the site of the tragedy on Sunday.

Cindy Bosch, daughter of the plane's pilot, 1st Lt. Rodney D. Bloomgren, and her husband Ian Bosch, of Sarasota, Fla., made the three-and-half-mile climb to the mountain's summit with Jeanne Morgenstern, Bloomgren's younger sister, and her husband Bill Morgenstern, who live in Jamestown, where Bloomgren was from and was laid to rest.

The Morgensterns had been to the site of the crash before, about 25 years ago. But it was the first visit to Wright Peak for Cindy Bosch, who was just 2 years old at the time of her father's death on Jan. 16, 1962. She has a younger brother, Steve, who was 18 months old at the time of the crash, although he didn't come on the trip.

Article Photos

Cindy Bosch, right, takes a photo Sunday of plane wreckage left on Wright Peak from crash of a B-47 bomber piloted by her father, one of four men killed in the the Jan. 16, 1962, mishap. Also pictured are her husband Ian Bosch, center, and Bill Morgenstern.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

"I wanted to come because it was the 50-year anniversary," Bosch said. "I had seen the pictures of when Jeanne did it a while back. And I really didn't know much about till I started investigating it online. So the 50th anniversary came up, and we decided it was time to do it."

The B-47 piloted by Bosch's father was on a training mission on the morning of the 16th when its crew radioed that they were over Watertown. The plane was due back at Plattsburgh Air Force Base at 7 a.m. It never made it.

Five days later, after an intense search, the wreckage of the plane was found scattered across the summit of Wright Peak. Searchers eventually found the remains of Bloomgren, co-pilot Melvin Spencer and Albert Kandetzki, the B-47's navigator. Observer Kenneth Jensen's remains were never located.

An investigation later determined the unarmed bomber had apparently veered about 30 miles east of its course due to inclement weather and high winds.

Bosch was living with her mother at Plattsburgh Air Force Base at the time of the crash. She was too young then to remember anything about it first-hand, and has only learned some of the details in recent years.

"My mother gave me basic information, but she didn't like to talk about it," Bosch said. "Most of the information I found about what happened or how it happened was from the Internet."

Numerous hikers have visited the Wright Peak plane crash site over the years. Many have carried off pieces of the wreckage as souvenirs, although some of the debris, including the mangled remains of an engine, remains on the mountain.

The Boschs, the Morgensterns and an Enterprise reporter set off for Wright's 4,580-foot-summit around 9:30 a.m. Sunday.

Although the day began with mostly sunny skies, clouds moved in and a light rain began to fall by the time the group reached treeline, about a quarter-mile from the top. It proved to be a just brief shower, however, and the skies partially cleared as the group arrived at the site of a weathered bronze plaque, just below the summit, that marks the approximate site where the plane hit the mountain.

The plaque contains the names of the four men who died in the crash "on a mission preserving the peace of our nation." Pieces of wreckage have been left on the ground below it. Others are scattered in the surrounding shrubs and small trees.

When Bosch first got there, she said she really wasn't feeling anything, in part because it took such a big effort to climb the mountain.

"Then I saw Bill (Morgenstern), and he was getting kind of emotional about it, and Jeanne was taking it pretty tough," Bosch said. "That's when it kind of hit me, 'This is why we're here.'"

"It didn't hit me right away, either," Morgenstern said. "I didn't think it was going to be bad until I started picking up little pieces (of the wreckage), and then I kind of realized that was the pieces of his life, and I got quite emotional."

Bosch, Morgenstern and their husbands spent about 45 minutes on the summit, taking pictures and looking over some of the debris from the crash. Tears were shed. Hugs were shared.

Although what happened here 50 years ago caused grief for the families of all four of the crash's victims, Bosch and Morgenstern said they took some solace in the beautiful view from the site of the memorial, which includes Heart Lake, the village of Lake Placid and the surrounding mountains.

The hike back down took the group about three-and-a-half hours, most of it in a steady rain. Despite the fact that they were soaked to the bone, Bosch and Morgenstern traded jokes about the weather and the arduous hike, and otherwise kept a positive attitude.

Many more hikers will undoubtedly visit the site and read the names on the plaque in the years to come. Both Bosch and Morgenstern said they hope people think about the fact that Bloomgren and his crew gave their lives in service to the country.

"He always wanted to fly and serve the country in the Air Force," said Morgenstern, who was 16 at the time of the crash. "I know he was doing what he loved to do. It was just time, I guess."

Bosch said that having visited the site of her father's death gave her some sense of contentment.

"There's definitely a closure for me," she said. "I won't go back up there again; it was just so challenging. But I'm glad I did it.

"I think about him all the time. It really hasn't stopped. When I look at the old pictures of him, it's like, 'Why couldn't I have had a relationship with him?' But it is what it is. It made me who I am."

 
 

 

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