75-year search continues for missing servicemen in Greenland
In 1942, during World War II, there was a rescue mission on the world's largest island, Greenland, that was partially successful.
A C-53 with five members of the military crashed on a Greenland ice cap in the southwestern portion of the island. The men survived and were in radio contact. Aircraft was diverted from the area that was being ferried over to Europe for the conflict.
"There was a B-17 that was searching for the crash site of the C-53," Frank Marley with Global exploration and recovery said. "It also went down in the ice caps. Now, you have five stranded in one plane and nine more from the B-17 crash."
The Coast Guard, which had a Cutter called the Northland in the area, received the call for assistance. The Cutter had a water plane called a Grumman Duck. The plane was sent out to try and help the fallen servicemen.
"So the two-person crew, pilot John Pritchard and Radioman Benjamin Bottoms, took off," Marley said. "They managed a successful landing on the Greenland ice cap and hauled back the two most injured back to the Northland. The next day, they went back to the B-17 where they picked up the corporal in an effort to go back for supplies. On the way back, the plane crashed into the ice."
After WWII, the crash site was documented for five years with the plane seen on the surface.
"The wings had sheared off forward," Marley said. "It was tail high. So, it was confirmed and documented on a couple maps. It wasn't a high priority at the time."
After five years, the aircraft disappeared.
"Likely what happened was snow covered it up," Marley said. "That snow turned to ice and the plane just kept sinking and getting deeper in the snow and ice."
Fifteen miles away there is a famous site called the lost squadron. It contains a group of bombers and P-38s that went down. A P-38 in the mid-1990s was recovered while under 268 feet of ice.
"It shows you how deep in the ice these planes can be," Marley said. "We believe the plane we are looking for is about 40 feet deep and we have it located into about a three-mile radius."
The conditions are extreme, and most areas in Greenland are hard to get to. Marley and his team are volunteering their time to find the men and the wreckage because they feel it's just the right thing to do.
"No one gets left behind," Marley said. "I serve with the Alaska National Guard, you just don't leave people behind. From what I know, a military branch tried to locate the plane in the mid-'70s via helicopter but the conditions weren't right and they didn't know where they were going."
Marley and his crew have been exploring and scanning the area for over a decade. Their motivation is fueled by the families of the fallen servicemen.
"That's our main focus," Marley said. "Nancy Pritchard is the 94-year-old sister of the pilot John Pritchard. Her dream is to have her brother brought home before she passes."
On July 5, Frank Marley will begin his journey back to Greenland. He and his crew will spend 20 days on the ice looking and searching. If they do find anything, they will alert the Department of Defense and provide proof of their findings. It'll be at that time that the search gets handed over and the Department of Defense will work on bringing the fallen soldiers home.
For more information on the search efforts and the Global Exploration and Recovery team and members, click on the links below.
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