The Loss and Recovery of a Warbird – Historical Background to the Lost Squadron
In 1942, a squadron of U.S. B-17 bombers and P-38 Lightning fighters , part of the 475th Fighter Group, fell prey to poor weather and navigational error, with the entire squadron crash landing onto the Greenland Ice cap. These planes were intended to be flown to bases in Great Britain and then used against Nazi Germany in World War II. The story of the recovery and restoration of “Glacier Girl,” a P-38 Lockheed Lightning fighter, is a lesson in World War II aircraft technology, arctic recovery techniques, and masterful project management in the ultimately successful warbird restoration effort.
As chronicled in David Hayes’ 1994 book “The Lost Squadron: A True Story,” an intrepid group of adventurers, arctic experts, and angel investors were able to extract a single P-38 Lightning fighter plane from its burial under 250 feet of glacial ice, in 1992. The enormity of this task only became apparent after years of prior failures in locating and retrieving the plane. Because of its 50 year entombment in ice, the recovered P-38 was dubbed “Glacier Girl.”
Online, one can find a wealth of information on “Glacier Girl.” In an excellent review of the recovery effort involved, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum covered the story of Glacier Girl in its July 2007 issue of Air and Space Magazine. In addition, a good online video review of the many problems encountered in recovering Glacier Girl can be found at http://wn.com/SAVING_THE_GLACIER_GIRL_FROM_WORLD_WAR_II.
The History Channel created an excellent video documentary on the Lost Squadron in 2002. Entitled “The Hunt for the Lost Squadron,” this 70 minute documentary, created in 2002, includes interviews with many of the people involved in the recovery effort. I highly recommend this video for Glacier Girl buffs. Included in this documentary are several interviews with David Hayes, the author of “The Lost Squadron: A True Story“.
The multi-year recovery effort for Glacier Girl
There is an excellent online P-38 fighter volunteer association at http://p38assn.org . For a detailed history of what happened to The Lost Squadron, and early attempts to recover these planes, see http://p38assn.org/glacier-girl.htm
Glacier Girl is now at the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, California.