Special Report: Mt. Rainier Plane Crash Memorial

ENUMCLAW - It’s been 53 years since a Marine Corps transport plane slammed into Mt. Rainier, killing all 32 Marines on board. Although it’s been a long time, many people want to be sure the Marines who died are not forgotten.

The plane was flying from Camp Pendleton in California, on its way to Sand Point Naval Station, when it flew straight into a blizzard. Leslie Simmons, of Kalama, was fresh out of boot camp, on his way home for Christmas. His sister, Carolyn Pope, was only a girl when her family heard the plane was missing.

“I remember the day that my father and mother first heard the news. I had never seen my father cry until then,” said Pope. “Tears streamed down his face.”

It took nearly eight months to find the plane on the South Tahoma glacier of Mount Rainier.

Conditions were so severe on the glacier, the plane and the bodies could not be retrieved.

32 grieving families needed a place to come together and remember their loved ones, so they placed a memorial on Mt. Rainier, in view of the South Tahoma glacier.

They visited the memorial every year, until 1990, when flooding washed out the roads leading to the memorial.

To get to the memorial today, you have to hike almost 4 miles each way over difficult terrain. It’s become almost impossible for families to visit.

That’s why Northwest veterans have come to the rescue. They share a bond with the men on that glacier because they, too, are Marines.

The Mount Rainier detatchment collected donations and organized volunteers to place a new memorial to the 32 Marines in an Enumclaw park.

They held a dedication ceremony to honor the fallen Marines and unveil the new memorial.

“Marines earn their title by giving blood, sweat, and life,” said a speaker at the ceremony. “It’s a title that once you earn it, you own it forever.”

The Marines who died on the mountainside 53 years ago are still honored and remembered today, thanks to local veterans who never forget a fellow Marine.

If you would like to visit the memorial, click here for a Yahoo map of the location in Enumclaw.