Glacier Girl and the Lost Squadron

Glacier Girl in Flight
Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States became involved in World War II. One of the first Operations that the U.S. participated in was named Operation Bolero. Operation Bolero was essentially the planned movement of Allied aircraft from the U.S. to the United Kingdom for use in the European theater of war. One of these aircraft movements resulted in one of the most intriguing cases of missing planes in history. Pilots had been forced to abandon eight fighter planes in Greenland and despite all efforts at relocating the planes, none were found until fifty years later. They became known as the Lost Squadron.

During the early summer of 1942, eight P-38 fighter planes and two B-17 bombers departed the U.S. en route to the United Kingdom. The flight plan for the squadron required three refuelings before the final landing in Europe. After refueling in Greenland, the squadron took to the skies to complete the leg of their journey that would take them to Iceland for refueling there. Two of the P-38s were left behind because of mechanical problems that prevented them from finishing the journey. Along the way to Iceland, the eight remaining planes’ pilots were forced to bring the aircrafts up to roughly fourteen thousand feet in order to remain above some dense storm clouds that they had encountered along the way.

The crewmembers aboard the fighter planes were now faced with -10 degree Fahrenheit temperatures. They did their best to keep their minds off of the cold and stay warm in whatever way possible. While they were up in the air in the horrible cold, they were also attempting to find a way out of the bad weather. However, this seemed impossible, as it appeared to be no better in any direction. They decided to attempt a trip back to the base that they had come from, but their situation didn’t get any better with a change of direction. At this point, fuel was running low and it became necessary to find a safe place to land the squadron.

The place chosen for the landing was an ice cap on eastern Greenland. All eight planes were able to land successfully though at least one crash landed. None of the twenty-five men that were on board the planes were injured. They were in a rather tight spot, though. It was necessary to immediately construct heating devices out of parts that were taken out of or off of the squadron’s planes. It was three days before two C-47 transport planes were able to drop off supplies for the men. It was another eight days before they were rescued from the icy wilderness. The planes were abandoned.

Several years after the rescue of the crew of the Lost Squadron, thirteen searches were conducted for the abandoned planes. The searches turned up nothing until August of 1992, when one of the P-38s was removed from beneath 268 feet of ice. That particular P-38 became known as “Glacier Girl.” Over time, the heavy snowfall in the area had trapped the squadron under the ice and the planes were engulfed in the glacier.

The only plane from the Lost Squadron that was removed from the ice was the “Glacier Girl.” The pieces of the plane were eventually moved to Middlesboro, Kentucky, where experts pieced the plane back together. Amazingly, the aircraft flew again in October of 2002. It can be viewed at the Lost Squadron Museum in Middlesboro, KY.