Memorial for Robert Sieker, January 8, 2015
by Jeremy Krans

On 7 Jan 2015 we met up with Joerg Arnu in Rachel, NV. He met us at the A Le Inn and we followed him to his place. As good little Beer Commandos, we brought him some local brews to try and some of the best Wisconsin cheese curds. We went to work on the beer and BSing. After a bit Robin pulled out the cast iron and the oil and started deep frying the cheese curds. It was a good night and good company, and we were getting ready for the job ahead.

The next morning, we got up and started getting ready. Filled water jugs for the concrete, reorganized the truck, and made one last stop in town to drop some things off. We headed off toward the site where Robert Sieker and his U-2, Article 341 were lost on 4 April 1957. It is a desolate place in the desert, with only an intermitant stream and cattle to keep it company. After all these years, it is seldom visited by anyone else and has long been forgotten. In the Command, we made a pact to set the wrong things right, and this day, we were going to get one step closer.

We arrived near the site after about an hours drive or so. Again we drove past the road to gain some elevation and perspective, as we did five years previous, but this time, it actually helped to get us in the right place right off. I handed Joerg a copy of the picture to match up the mountains and we drove into the river bed. I had picked out an area from our vantage point that was pretty approximate from what I remembered from the last trip. I found the hill that I went to that time and was too far, and split the difference between there and the main road. I got to a point in the wash that seemed like a good place to start (I had lost the actual coordinates when my old GPS quit working) Luckily for us, we also just happened to be right on target. We walked into the brush for a very short bit and found the site.

Joerg and I decided to bring the trucks to the work site and did not want to disturb the site or the brush near it. We headed out toward the main road and found our way to the original road. We both figured it would be fitting to take that road again, for history's sake and just the coolness of it. We also left the site intact, as it should be out of respect. The road wasn't any easier to follow than it was 5 years ago, but we managed. We could see Robin up ahead sifting through the wreckage, which is fairly thin. We parked the trucks and found the place we marked where there was still evidence of the worksite from 57.

We unloaded the trucks and quickly noticed the wire mesh for adding strength to the concrete was gone. It bounced out of my truck on the way in. Joerg and I started to nail together the form for the concrete and then decided how to position it. I kind of liked the idea of parallel to the road, but he suggested turning it slightly and pointing it toward the crash site, and that's the way it faces today. None of these are all that well thought out, mind you. We come up with a basic idea, fabricate that, and punt on the rest out in the field. I believe they turn out much better in this fashion. We started digging out the ground to accept all the concrete that Joerg brought. It really is a tough job, and we probably were a bag short from digging just a bit too much. Too bad, better than wasting a bag I guess.

Joerg decided to walk back and look for the wire as Robin and I started mixing concrete. We had a few bags in and some hot water from our water heater on the truck to help get the reaction going quicker in the cooler temp of the desert in January. Then we spotted Joerg on his way back, we couldn't tell if he had it or not until he got really close. He found it, and the timing couldn't be more perfect. We were ready to throw it in the mix. We folded it a few times and made it fit inside the form and pushed it in. Joerg got in on mixing the concrete, and picked it up expertly, hard work as it was. I offered him a beer to help out, and he said "We Germans don't drink beer until the job is done", good advice. I was on vacation and prefer a brew or two when doing less than 10 yards of concrete. We were all happy to be doing the work, it needed to be done, but were not exactly liking the circumstances for why it had to be done. That takes a few sometimes.

The concrete was finished and smoothed out to a very rough finish. We took the plane that was perviously drying from a touch-up job (they sometimes get a bit beat up on the 1500 mile trip, no matter how well you package them) and placed it in the concrete along with the flat piece with the wording. We took the screed and placed it on top of the plane and stood on it and pushed it into the concrete. Joerg said the plane should be in the air, so we stopped before it was flush like the other piece, and now it sits maybe an inch proud of the 500# slab. Robin suggested that we collect a few parts from the site and embed them in the slab. So Joerg and I grabbed a few and Robin had a few she found and we put them in the slab as Robin started getting lunch / dinner ready on the fire.

The sun was setting as we cleaned up our tools and Joerg was finally enjoying his second, and hard earned beer. They always taste better when you earn them. Robin was just getting done with the first round of pudgie pies, grilled sandwhiches with everything imaginable in them. It was Joerg's first introduction, and as usual, they were good, and there were seconds. We got a few last minute pictures, nothing spectacular, like my photographer friends would take, and Joerg left his equipment behind. We had one last brew with Mr. Sieker and Joerg commented "He's smiling down on us today." I hope so.

We finished loading the truck and headed out the way we came, almost in the dark. The few hours we spent 100 miles East of nowhere finally sunk in, now that the work was done. There was just as much work leading up to this, as the job we have done today. But nothing can compare to the sacrifice of such great men as Robert Sieker, who gave all for their country. I can only hope, that after all these years, that in his eyes, this is enough.


Update 2019: In July of 2019 the Bureau of Land Management in cooperation with Dreamland Resort webmaster Joerg Arnu installed a historic marker near the crash site. The sign is located on a small hill near a well maintained dirt road overlooking the crash site. The approximate GPS coordinates are 3812.9'N / 1159.8'W. The sign is easy to see from both directions on the south side of the road.

The sign reads:

This marker is dedicated to the memory of Lockheed test pilot Robert Sieker who lost his life when his U-2 test aircraft crashed near this site on April 4, 1957.

The U-2 was developed in total secrecy in the mid 1950's by Lockheed's "Skunkworks" division under Clarence "Kelly" Johnson as a high flying reconnaissance plane at the height of the Cold War. It flew out of a remote air base specifically built for this purpose, which today is known as AREA 51. Upgraded models of the U-2 continue to fly to this day. Most of them are based at Beale AFB, CA.

Although the U-2 was designed to fly above the range of existing enemy radar at the time it was determined that eventually newer systems would be able to pick it up. Under the code name "Project Rainbow" tests were conducted to reduce the radar cross-section of the aircraft by coating the underside of some U-2 airframes in radar-absorbent material, making them the first "stealth" aircraft. Unfortunately the coating added drag and prevented engine heat from dissipating through the aircraft's skin.

On April 4, 1957, test pilot Robert Sieker took "Article 341", one of the "Project Rainbow" airframes, on a routine test flight against radar sites near Indian Springs. At an altitude of 72,000 feet heat build-up caused the single engine to flame out, causing a loss of cabin pressure. Sieker's pressure suit automatically inflated but a seal on his helmet failed and he lost consciousness due to lack of oxygen. The aircraft descended in an uncontrolled flat spin. When Sieker regained consciousness at a lower altitude he attempted to bail out but unfortunately was struck by the tail section when he exited the aircraft.

The U-2 impacted the ground flat on its belly causing a small fire. Due to the remoteness of the area it took search and rescue teams several days to locate the crash site.


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