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A Tradition of Looking Behind the Curtain
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 Post subject: frozen in time
PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2017 11:37 pm 
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Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 10:48 am
Posts: 4315
Location: Broomfield, Colorado
Well written search and rescue plus aviation archaeology story. In November 1942 a C-53 went down over Greenland. Search planes were sent out; one of those, a B-17 with nine crew on board, also crashed. A Grumman Duck floatplane from the coastguard cutter Northland found the B-17, landed on the ice, picked up two crewmen, brought them back to the Northland, then set out again to pick up some more but went down on the return trip with two Coast Guardsmen and a B-17 crewman. An overland sledge party from an Army base set out, reached the B-17, and started back with some of the crewmen; one of the B-17 crew and one of the Army sledgers were lost in crevasses and the surviving sledgers set up camp and waited rather than risk more crevasses. Finally a Navy PBY landed on the ice, picked everybody up, and made it back. Final score – All five C-53 crewman lost (that crash site was never located), two Coast Guardsmen lost (the crash site was seen from the air but no attempt was made to recover anybody as it was assumed the crash was not survivable); two B-17 crew lost (one in the Duck crash and one in a crevasse) and one Army sledger lost in a crevasse. One of the B-17 survivors lost both legs at the knee from frostbite. The stories of the various survivors and rescuers are as inspiring as they come; ordinary people in extraordinary circumstance. The most surprising thing here – and author Mitchell Zuckoff doesn’t stress it – is how poorly prepared the AAF was to face Greenland conditions. The B-17 crew had no cold weather gear, no sleeping bags, no extra rations, no arctic weather training, yet were sent out on repeated search flights.

The story alternates the various Army, Coast Guard, and Navy exploits in 1942 and 1943 with the 2012 efforts of an American adventurer, Lou Sapienza, to recover the remains of the Duck. Sapienza had some previous experience in recovering aircraft lost in the Arctic; he got one of a whole flight of P-38s out from under the ice. The Coast Guard had an interest; there were three WWII Coastguardsmen missing in action; one had died in a Japanese POW camp and was deemed unrecoverable; the other two were John Pritchard Jr. and Benjamin Bottoms, the pilot and radioman of the Duck. The Coast Guard was therefore persuaded to loan Sapienza a C-130 to transport him and his crew to Greenland when he claimed he could locate and recover the Duck and the remains of the crew and passenger. Sapienza and his team (which included author Zuckoff) unfortunately come off just as poorly prepared as the WWII AAF. Their clothing was adequate, but their search and recovery equipment – or, rather, their use of it – was not. In particular, they had a set of state-of-the-art GPS receivers, but nobody knew how to use them, and a magnetometer, but nobody knew how to use that either. Their search was based on Coast Guard personal GPS equipment, a team members tentative understanding of the magnetometer, and a ground penetrating radar (at least the operator of that was familiar with the equipment). Their plan was to use 1940’s hand drawn maps of the Duck crash site (which was now assumed to be under many feet of ice), get a signal from the ground-penetrating radar and/or magnetometer, melt down to the wreck with a steam gun, confirm identification with a downhole camera, and come back next year to actually recover it. As is typical of these sorts of stories, on their last day on the ice they got a promising signal, melted down, and photographed something that they and the Coast Guard agreed was part of the Duck. That’s where this book ends in 2012.

Alas, it hasn’t come off. It’s hard to tell exactly what happened from the web, but apparently the Duck’s location was lost after the 2012 mission and another group is trying to locate the wreck again.

A quick and exciting read; the alternating time line keeps things interesting and Zuckoff manages to keep things exciting even though everybody knows what happened. Photographs of participants and scenery from both 1942 and 2012. Could use one modern map; there are historic maps but nothing that shows the 2012 expedition’s location (although perhaps that’s deliberate; Sapienza’s group might have worried about another team jumping their claim and the Coast Guard had already expressed concerns about relic hunters).

 Post subject: Re: frozen in time
PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2017 4:42 pm 
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Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 10:52 am
Posts: 1425
Location: California-prev Texas Montreal Virginia ... 7-2006.htm I recently took visiting relatives to see the Camarillo WWII planes and museum. A severely corroded P-38 engine is on display. It was found near where I currently hang out. In 1944 I was watching P38's fly at high altitudes near the Amarillo Air Force Base.

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