Paradise Valley’s Emigrant Peak ridge may carry name of Air Force B-47 crew lost in crash

by Great Falls Tribune, Kristen Inbody

Nearly 56 years have passed since a U.S. Air Force B-47 bomber left Texas and crashed into Montana’s Emigrant Peak just north of Yellowstone National Park in the Paradise Valley.

Debris remains on the ridge where the plane crashed, a ridge that Montana’s congressional delegation aims to have renamed the B-47 Ridge to honor the four-man crew that perished in the wreck.

Those who died July 23, 1962, on the southwestern slope of Emigrant Peak during a routine training mission included Capt. Bill Faulconer, Lt. Lloyd Sawyers, Lt. David Sutton and Lt. Fred Hixenbaugh.

The plane crashed into timber and set off a five-acre forest fire, which hampered the search. Only 17 hours after it disappeared did searchers find the Dyess AFB plane. Debris was scattered over a wide swath of the mountain, the AP reported at the time.

U.S. Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester and Congressman Greg Gianforte introduced the B-47 Ridge Designation Act this week.

The bill also would allow for the placement of a memorial plaque, which will be paid for by the crew’s families and by the local community.

Daines said naming the ridge will “forever remind Montanans and visitors of their sacrifice.”

Tester praised them as brave men who “paid the ultimate price for our nation’s safety” and said the name will “ensure their legacy lives on.”

The men lost were 24 to 29 years old.

Frederick Hixenbaugh, who lost his uncle, said he and his siblings have worked to ensure that their lost relative remains “a huge part of our family’s proud history and traditions.”

He told the delegation future generations also should remember the four men who “paid the ultimate sacrifice for all of us left behind” and use their lives as a benchmark to strive toward in service.

Nancy Hixenbaugh Beasley thanked Daines for his efforts and called it “our duty and obligation” to place a plaque to mark the debris field on the mountain as “the burial ground for these four officers.”

Myrna Faulconer Fair, Faulconer’s widow, said she and her husband didn’t have children, but other crew members did. She wants them to be able to point with pride to the B-47 Ridge as evidence their father’s sacrifice was honored.

Two years ago, Sharon Sawyers Wilcoxen, who lost her father, attended a memorial service at the base of Emigrant Peak. It was her first visit to the area and brought closure for her and her sister, she told the delegation.