‘‘This is still the last frontier east of the Mississippi. There are fewer people living in Piscataquis County per square mile than anywhere east of the Mississippi,’’ said Greenville police Chief Jeff Pomerleau.
Eventually, the survivors were found. Adler had severe frostbite. He was unconscious for five days and eventually his leg was amputated because of gangrene. All told, he spent 14 months in a hospital.
Later, he left the Air Force as a captain to start a new life as lawyer and a city councilman in California.
After recovering, Bulli continued to fly B-52s. At one point, he returned to Maine to serve at Loring Air Force Base. He retired as a colonel from the Air Force in Nebraska, where he lives.
Coming at the height of the Cold War, the flight showed that risks and sacrifices even outside of combat were significant. The crash left nine children without fathers and six women without husbands, Adler said.
‘‘People who’re killed in peacetime are often forgotten. Memorial Day events often forget them. Veterans Day events often forget them,’’ said Adler, 81, who lives outside Davis, Calif.
But the crashes in Maine and New Mexico helped to make the B-52 the reliable aircraft it is today by revealing a fatal weakness in an aircraft that wasn’t designed for low-level flying: The vertical stabilizer snapped off under certain conditions.
Fifty years after the crash, much of the debris remains on Elephant Mountain. Torn pieces of riveted metal. Wing chunks with hydraulic tubes dangling. Parts of the fuselage. Bundles of wire. Wheels and strut assemblies. The 40-foot-tall vertical stabilizer remains where it landed, 1½ miles from the other wreckage.
About 10 miles away, at the clubhouse for the Moosehead Riders snowmobile club, newspaper clippings, Bulli’s parachute and Adler’s ejection seat are on display. The club has held ceremonies for 20 years at the site and will hold this year’s on Saturday, ahead of the anniversary. Pomerleau has taken over organizing the remembrances from another club member, Pete Pratt, who helped keep memory of the flight alive for years.
Pratt has been to the crash site a hundred times, but it’s still an emotional experience. Tears welled in his eyes on a recent visit.
‘‘It’s a very solemn place,’’ said Pomerleau, who joined Pratt at the site. ‘‘You think of the families, the wives who lost their husbands, the kids who lost their fathers, the grandchildren who heard the stories. There’s so much to absorb.’’
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