by Gene Madsen, Bigfork resident
On July 14, 1945, a B-29 left Pyoote, Texas on a bombing training mission to Duluth, Minn. The crew were using cameras for the bombing mission. Before the plane left the Texas air base, another crew piloted by Captain Charles Bock refused to fly the plane because of the gas fumes. Pilot Edward Szyeher took over the command of the plane, and flew the plane on the planned mission. The B-29 was loaded with 4,000 gallons of gasoline.
After leaving Duluth a few minutes after midnight, the crew was transferring gas between tanks, soon the plane was overcome by the gas fumes. The fumes started affecting the crew, they were losing control of their arms and legs. The pilot ordered the men to put on their parachutes. They tried to open the bomb bay doors to dump some of the gas, but they wouldn’t open. On entering eastern Itasca County, the plane was at 9,500 feet. The pilot ordered the crew to bail out. None of the men had ever used a parachute.
No radio message was sent for fear of a spark to the fumes. Before the pilot left the plane, he set the plan on automatic pilot towards Montana. The B-29 was never found or any evidence of it. The first man landed on Bear Creek just west of Highway 65, another landed in Napolean Lake. He was rescued by a fisherman sleeping in his car. The men were all found in a matter of a few hours.
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