Become our sponsor and display your banner here
Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 11

P-38 "Glacier Girl"...resurrected from the ice

Article about: by m3bobby Its actually a Hispano cannon in 20mm. the .5 is 12.7mm so 7.3mm diffrence. The 20mm is a little more potent! Makes for better target practice. OOPS, I certainly did make a mistak

  1. #1

    Arrow P-38 "Glacier Girl"...resurrected from the ice

    Last year, I attended the annual Wings Over Houston Airshow at Ellington Field. I was fortunate enough to get up close and personal with this historic and beautiful aircraft. It is an indescribable feeling to see and hear a time machine fly once again...I hope you enjoy the story and the photos.


    Glacier Girl - The Lost Squadron (Recovery of a P-38 from beneath a Greenland ice cap)

    Here is a fascinating story about a plane that has been fully restored to flying status.




    On July 15, 1942, a flight of six P-38s and two B-17 bombers, with a total of 25 crew members on board, took off from Presque Isle Air Base in Maine headed for the U.K. What followed was a harrowing and life-threatening landing of the entire squadron on a remote ice cap in Greenland. (See photo of downed P-38 from the "Lost Squadron.") Miraculously, none of the crew was lost and they were all rescued and returned safely home after spending several days on the desolate ice.

    Fifty years later a small group of aviation enthusiasts decided to locate that squadron, who had come to be known as "The Lost Squadron," and to recover one of the lost P-38s. It turned out to be no easy task, as the planes had been buried under 25 stories of ice and drifted over a mile from their original location.

    The story of this mission and the recovery of the P-38 (which was christened "Glacier Girl") is a fascinating bit of history, and this section is dedicated to all the people involved in the discovery, recovery and restoration of P-38F-1, SN #41-7630.


    HISTORY OF GLACIER GIRL

    As "Europe first" was the policy declared by then President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Operation Bolero began its phase in history as a massive buildup and movement of Allied aircraft into the European theatre. It was Tuesday, July 7, 1942, just seven months since the attack on Pearl Harbor that had thrust the U.S. into the war.

    The most daring aspect of Operation Bolero was the actual flight overseas in stages, refueling in Labrador, Greenland and Iceland. Only the second of many flights to come during this operation, none of the pilots of what has now become known as "The Lost Squadron" knew their flight to England would end on the ice cap in Greenland.

    By early morning on July 15, 1942, Tomcat Green and Tomcat Yellow, both squads consisting of Lockheed P-38s escorting a Boeing B-17, were airborne again, on their way to Iceland. This leg of the trip would take the squadron southeast over the ice cap and the mountains of the east coast of Greenland, then across the Denmark Strait to Reykjavik, Iceland.

    As the squadron soared across the ice cap at twelve thousand feet, a heavy blanket of clouds began to form. They rose above it where the temperature dropped to minus ten degrees Fahrenheit. Ninety minutes from Iceland, the planes hit a mass of cumulus clouds, forcing them to climb another two thousand feet. The pilots resorted to various means of trying to keep warm. R.B. Wilson had impulsively torn the defroster from its mounting and was using it to heat his gloves in an effort to keep his hands warm enough to feel the controls. Brad McManus, a surviving member of the squadron interviewed for the documentary, visualized his parents sitting in bathing suits on the beach. His feet were so cold he could barely feel the rudder pedals.

    Desperate to find better flight conditions, Spider Webb radioed he was taking Tomcat Green down to look for clear weather beneath the overcast. The clouds closed in above them as they dove through the murky skies. In a matter of minutes they were in what was described as clouds dense as cotton drenched in tar.

    With ice forming on the wings and the P-38s struggling to maintain contact with the B-17, Wilson ordered the bomber to climb out of the mess. At sixteen thousand feet, Tomcat Green broke through the clouds and rejoined Tomcat Yellow. They didn't know which was worse, flying in the snow storm or watching your own skin turn blue at higher altitudes. They were only an hour away from Reykjavik, but another massive front lay ahead.

    After flying south for another fifteen minutes trying to find a way around the front, pilot Joe Hanna of the B-17 reported his radio operator was unable to raise either Reykjavik or a weather plane supposed to be flying an hour ahead. At 7:15 a.m. it was decided the squadron should turn back and head for BW-8, the airbase on the western side of Greenland from where this leg of the flight originated.

    An hour later, they saw the east coast of Greenland and weather that would prove to be as bad or worse than they flew through earlier.

    About 130 miles from the base the B-17s apparently received a message from BW-8 that said "Ceiling twelve hundred feet. Visibility one-eighth mile". McManus and several other P-38 pilots decided to go down and take a look at the ice cap, in case they had to make an emergency landing. After rejoining the squadron between the layered clouds, it was reported the B17s had received a message from BW-1 at the southern tip of Greenland, that its runway was open. It was 10 a.m. Estimated time of arrival would be noon. Officials later compared Allied weather records to the coded messages and discovered the reported weather conditions at BW-8 and BW-1 had been switched. (Speculation of radio interference from Nazi U-boat or secret radio station was never proven.)

    After ninety minutes of flying through dense cloud cover, the coastal mountains appeared through an opening. But where on the west coast were they in relation to BW-1? They soon discovered they were back on the east coast of Greenland, two hours away from BW-1. McManus's fuel would only last another twenty minutes.

    The decision to land had been made for them. McManus decided to go in first. With R.B. Wilson and Robert H. Wilson flying along side, McManus had to decide to go in wheels up or down. He decided to go in wheels down, to enable a takeoff later, after more fuel was dropped. Things went well for the first couple of hundred yards and then the front landing gear buckled and crashed through the ice. The plane immediately flipped over and pinned the cockpit to the snow. McManus managed to cut his way out of his parachute harness and release his safety belt as smoke filled the cockpit.

    He didn't think there was a serious fire threat, as his tanks were almost empty, but he wasn't sticking around to find out. McManus managed to kick and dig his way out of the cockpit onto the ice.

    From the air, Robert Wilson viewed the scene and retracted his landing gear. He came down and slid to a smooth stop and raced the almost half-mile to McManus' plane to see if he was injured. When he reached it McManus came out from under the wing and said "Well, Egghead, didn't think I'd make it, did you?". They turned and waved to the pilots above, who responded by doing slow rolls and other acrobatics.

    One by one the other P-38 pilots brought down their planes, as the two B-17s remained aloft for another half hour, expending their remaining fuel.

    Having made successful landings, the job at hand was survival and rescue. Rations were gathered and divided to last two weeks. Warnings were issued not to eat excessive amounts of snow (to prevent sore throats) and to wear sunglasses at all times to prevent snow blindness. Space heaters were made from empty oxygen bottles with holes hack sawed in both ends and linked to an engine manifold pipe. Oil drained from the engines wicked through the device by means of parachute straps.

    After three days on the ice, a Morse code message received by one of the radio operators confirmed their condition and position. Later that day two C-47 transport planes dropped supplies by parachute only to see them carried out of sight by strong winds after they hit the ground. The stranded airmen fanned out as the planes made additional drops and managed to smother the parachutes before the wind again took their supplies to the far horizon.

    Supplies had arrived and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. They passed the time listening to music and news picked up on the radio from Iceland and England. They even had an impromptu square dance on the wing of one of the B-17s.

    Another favorite pastime was to ride the wind using parachutes to pull them along while sitting on burlap sacks. More supplies were dropped in the following days as rescue efforts had begun in earnest.

    A 30-foot wooden launch, the Uma Tauva, was dispatched from BE-2 to get the airmen off the ice. (Among those on board was Donald Kent, son of famed American painter Rockwell Kent, acting as an "arctic adviser"). After landing ashore and with assistance from aircraft flying overhead, the ski and dogsled team were guided through seventeen miles of zigzagging crevasses to reach the stranded airmen.

    At the crash site, preparations were being made to move out. The P-38 pilots returned to their planes to retrieve personal effects. Some fired .45 slugs into electronic equipment in case Nazi scavengers descended on the site. McManus removed the clock from his instrument panel as a keepsake. After all necessary gear was packed and ready for transport, the rescue team appeared and prepared the men for what would prove to be an exhausting hike out.

    Loaded down with equipment and personal effects, members of the squadron struggled through knee deep snow and ice for hours before reaching the edge of the cliff at the ocean's edge. After reaching the beach, most of the exhausted men found a suitable spot to curl up and get some well deserved sleep.

    Several hours passed before the Coast Guard cutter Northland arrived. After boarding, they were treated to showers, dry clothes and an extravagant navy meal. They were finally returned to BW-1 where they were debriefed and later sent back to the U.S. to new assignments.
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Click image for larger version. 

Name:	post-1000-1224985760.jpeg 
Views:	2401 
Size:	65.0 KB 
ID:	69824  
    [B][COLOR=Black][SIZE=3][FONT=Book Antiqua][I] Steve[/I][/FONT][/SIZE][/COLOR][/B]

    [CENTER][I][FONT=Georgia][COLOR=orange]Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?[/COLOR][/FONT]
    [/I][/CENTER]
    [B]
    [SIZE=3][COLOR=lemonchiffon][I][CENTER][FONT=Georgia]"Fly on dear boy, from this dark world of strife. On to the promised land to eternal life"[/FONT][/CENTER]
    [/I][/COLOR][/SIZE][/B]

  2. #2

    Default Re: P-38 "Glacier Girl"...resurrected from the ice

    RECOVERY OF GLACIER GIRL

    On July 15, 1992, fifty years to the day later, 74-year-old Brad McManus stood on the ice cap surrounded by the recovered pieces of his late friend Harry Smith's P-38, as chronicled in the documentary "The Lost Squadron" (see right column), and was flooded with memories of his wartime experience and the lifetime friendships that he held dear to his heart. A new mission was about to begin.

    How do you get a P-38 out of the ice? Simple...melt the ice!

    Well, maybe not as simple as that, seeing how it was 268 feet of ice. Basically, you start with a six-digit budget, followed by transporting tons of equipment that include arctic survival gear and heavy construction machinery, and top it all off with adventure-minded individuals willing to take the hardships and risks associated with one-of-a-kind expeditions to a hostile environment. That's what it took to recover a P-38 from "The Lost Squadron."

    The contraption designed to burrow through the ice looks like a technologically advanced spinning top. It's called the Super Gopher -- a thermal meltdown generator -- and melts the ice by circulating hot water from a collector and pumping it through copper tubing coiled around the outside. The four-foot-wide device is suspended over the area to be tunneled through by a hoist and chain, being lowered at a rate of about two feet per hour. The water created is pumped out through a hose coupled to a submersible pump.

    When the Gopher completed melting its 268-foot-deep shaft it was winched out of the hole and set aside. The hole took the better part of a month to complete. The descent to the bottom of the ice hole took twenty-five minutes. Men equipped with steam hoses were lowered in to carve out a cave surrounding the aircraft. Water created from this was constantly pumped out, as workers had to slog through ice water to keep the project moving along.

    alvaging the P-38 from the glacier took long hours of hard work, all of which had to be performed in cramped surroundings in a rain of melting water and chunks of ice that periodically fell from the cavern roof. There were several tense moments when the striking of a chisel sent cracks like bolts of lightning running through the roof of the ice cavern. Once the cavern was completed, the task of disassembling the plane lay ahead.

    Technicians began to take the P-38 apart piece by piece. Propellers had to be removed, the wings had to be disconnected, the fuselage disassembled; every part of the plane was scrutinized, logged and recorded and then hoisted to the surface. The last section of the aircraft, the center section, was seventeen feet by twenty-one feet and weighed seven-thousand pounds. It, too, had to travel the 268 feet to the surface. Attached to the plane were cables that ran up to several winches. The bulk of the lifting was done by one very powerful manually operated hoist. Using it required applying great pressure uniformly, and it turned out that only one member of the team had the necessary strength for the job. The crank required four turns for every quarter-inch rise.

    Several people on the surface were needed to monitor the various other winches, and someone had to ride on the plane section to make sure it came up evenly and avoid any obstacles in the shaft. The raising of this section took almost two full days.

    After reaching the surface, the crew had to be extremely careful removing the section from the hoist, as a mishap at this point would send the huge section plunging down the shaft. Due to the limited height of the hoisting frame, the crew had to dig away a ramp on one side of the shaft onto which the plane could be pulled and released. Once done and out of the hole, a bottle of champagne was opened and signed by the remaining team members and dropped down the shaft. The recovery took four months to complete.

    Arrangements were made to take their cargo back to the states. A Sikorsky S-51, a heavy-duty cargo copter, was employed to carry the center section to a sea port where two weeks later the section was loaded onto a Danish ship that carried it to Denmark, and eventually to the docks at Savannah, Georgia. From there it was delivered to project funder Roy Shoffner's hangar in Middlesboro, Kentucky, where the restoration began.


    The rest of the story can be found at the link in my previous post if you care to follow the entire story from beginning to end.

    Another shot of the Gal
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Click image for larger version. 

Name:	post-1000-1224986134.jpeg 
Views:	5666 
Size:	75.7 KB 
ID:	69825   Click image for larger version. 

Name:	post-1000-1224986151.jpeg 
Views:	568 
Size:	47.9 KB 
ID:	69826  

    [B][COLOR=Black][SIZE=3][FONT=Book Antiqua][I] Steve[/I][/FONT][/SIZE][/COLOR][/B]

    [CENTER][I][FONT=Georgia][COLOR=orange]Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?[/COLOR][/FONT]
    [/I][/CENTER]
    [B]
    [SIZE=3][COLOR=lemonchiffon][I][CENTER][FONT=Georgia]"Fly on dear boy, from this dark world of strife. On to the promised land to eternal life"[/FONT][/CENTER]
    [/I][/COLOR][/SIZE][/B]

  3. #3
    ?

    Default Re: P-38 "Glacier Girl"...resurrected from the ice

    WOW! Great story!
    I remember when this project began in 1992. It was quite a big media event in Denmark, but then nothing. I often wondered what happend and now I know!
    I only hope that someone, someday finds the funds to go there again and get the rest of the planes out

    Thanks for sharing

  4. #4

    Default Re: P-38 "Glacier Girl"...resurrected from the ice

    There was a very good TV documentary about the recovery of this aircraft.

    Cheers, Ade.

  5. #5
    ?

    Default Re: P-38 "Glacier Girl"...resurrected from the ice

    Quote by Adrian Stevenson View Post
    There was a very good TV documentary about the recovery of this aircraft.

    Cheers, Ade.
    Ditto, I remember that documentary Ade, it was very interesting, my favourite bit was when they strapped one of the .50 Cal BMG guns to a Skidoo and then test fired it and of course it fired first go without any problems, not bad, considering both the gun and the ammo were about 50 years old and had been under the ice for most of that period time.

    Nige.
    "Now, I've designed this like a collapsing bag ! "

  6. #6

    Default Re: P-38 "Glacier Girl"...resurrected from the ice

    I remember the documentary as well from a few years back. I didn't even know that she was going to be at this particular show. I was stunned when I got there early to get a front row position...and there she was. I think I heard angels singing...and when her engines turned over - chill bumps from head to toe...gawd it was great.
    [B][COLOR=Black][SIZE=3][FONT=Book Antiqua][I] Steve[/I][/FONT][/SIZE][/COLOR][/B]

    [CENTER][I][FONT=Georgia][COLOR=orange]Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?[/COLOR][/FONT]
    [/I][/CENTER]
    [B]
    [SIZE=3][COLOR=lemonchiffon][I][CENTER][FONT=Georgia]"Fly on dear boy, from this dark world of strife. On to the promised land to eternal life"[/FONT][/CENTER]
    [/I][/COLOR][/SIZE][/B]

  7. #7

    Default Re: P-38 "Glacier Girl"...resurrected from the ice

    I have the video that my mother bought me for christmas its great ,it wasnt one of the .50's it was the cannon blew the heck out of a 50 gal drum full of water tho.

  8. #8

    Default Re: P-38 "Glacier Girl"...resurrected from the ice

    Heres a clip of the Hispano cannon firing off the skidoo, keep watching and another clip starts.

    YouTube - P-38 Lightning Glacier Girl 60 Year old 20mm cannon

  9. #9

    Default Re: P-38 "Glacier Girl"...resurrected from the ice

    Good show. I recall the guy saying something along the lines of, "There's more out there all you gotta do is go get them." Love that .50 firing too.

    Mike

  10. #10

    Default Re: P-38 "Glacier Girl"...resurrected from the ice

    Quote by Pompa Mike View Post
    Good show. I recall the guy saying something along the lines of, "There's more out there all you gotta do is go get them." Love that .50 firing too.

    Mike
    Its actually a Hispano cannon in 20mm. the .5 is 12.7mm so 7.3mm diffrence. The 20mm is a little more potent! Makes for better target practice.

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •