ALASKA - The icy blue columns of Colony Glacier stretch for miles. Deep in the arctic wonderland 50 miles east of Anchorage, soldiers are on a recovery mission.
“When we initially found this thing it was a routine training flight. We noticed there was something on the glacier and went back and looked at it. We could tell it was an aircraft wreck of some kind. Then we saw the tire, and it was a pretty big tire, so we thought it was a pretty big plane,” said Bryan Keese with the Army National Guard.
It turns out what they found was the wreckage from an Air Force C-124 that made headlines when it crashed on November 22, 1952, killing all 52 people on board. In the past 60 years the wreckage has traveled 14 miles with the glacier, which moves about a meter a day. Crews have to work quickly to stay ahead of Mother Nature.
“It's already fallen into Lake George. Big pieces of the glacier have fallen off. Day three up there about a 10-acre section of the glacier fell off and there was a bunch of wreckage on that,” said Keese.
Each day they’re clearing one to two thousand pounds of debris, and in the past several days they’ve removed a few tons.
“We're not going to do any type of digging for debris. We don't want to disturb the glacier or anything like that. Safety-wise we won't have any of our guys go into any crevasses to pull up wreckage,” said Lieutenant Colonel Chris Nall.
Military officials say recovering the wreckage is a big undertaking. The army’s partnered with the Joint MIA/POW Accounting Command (JPAC), which aims to find missing soldiers.
“This is something I've never done before, and honestly I never thought in my military career I might do something like this. But it is very interesting working with the JPAC team, I've never worked with them before,” said Nall.
In addition to the debris, any human remains found were given a dignified transfer to the JPAC base in Hawaii. Soldiers say they hope with will give closure to family members who lost their loved ones so many years ago.