Glacier Girl

This is a nice set of pictures I’d never seen before.

On 15 July 1942, due to poor weather and limited visibility, six P-38 fighters of 94th Fighter Squadron/1st FG and two B-17 bombers of a bombardment squadron were forced to return to Greenland en route to the British Isles during Operation Bolero, the buildup of American forces in the United Kingdom.Glacier Girl2

The aircraft were forced to make emergency landings on the ice field. All the crew members were subsequently rescued. However, Glacier Girl, along with the unit’s five other fighters and the two B-17s, were eventually buried under 268 feet of snow and ice that had built up over the ensuing decades.

Fifty years later, in 1992, the plane was brought to the surface by members of the Greenland Expedition Society after years of searching and excavation.

3 thoughts on “Glacier Girl

  1. The reason those aircraft were there was because of the Battle of the Atlantic. For the US to become engaged it had to get it’s fighting forces and their equipment to where the action was. With the German U-boats sinking so many allied ships during 1942 and early 1943 shipping, especially across the N Atlantic, was a big problem. The allies would not truly gain the upper hand in the Battle of the Atlantic until May of 1943.

    In April 1942 the US Army Air Force (AAF) began it’s initial deployments to England which was the beginning of what would be come the Eighth, Ninth, and Twelfth Air Forces. The heavy bombers, at this point all B-17s, could fly over on their own but what about fighter aircraft? At the time the Lockheed P-38F and G models were the only combat worthy US fighter aircraft ready for deployment that had the range to make it to where it was needed.

    They would be staged across starting from Goose Bay, Labrador with stops in Greenland and Iceland before landing in Scotland. Of course this had to be done over vast stretches of deadly cold water across a region of the world with some of the worst and least predictable weather on the globe during a time when the tools for weather forecasting and navigational aids were nothing like what we have today. Add to that the Germans broadcasting false navigation beacon signals.

    Because of the navigation involved and the need for long range CW communications a B-17 was assigned to be the mother ship for each flight of six P-38 fighters.
    This was a wise decision though the fact that out of the first flight of B-17s attempting the flight across the N. Atlantic three were lost (crews recovered) gave reason for some worry.

    The situation was so desperate that the AAF determined that a loss of 10% of the aircraft and pilots in transit would be an acceptable loss.

    In the end a total of 179 P-38s made it across the N. Atlantic in 1942 out of 186 that attempted and only one pilot was lost. The N. Atlantic route was considered closed during the winter months but it was a quite impressive performance for the time.

    By the summer of 1943 the Battle of the Atlantic was well on the way to being won and the miracle of production from US yards was beginning to show up. It was much cheaper to ship the aircraft and a scheme for carrying them on the decks of oil tankers worked so well that the numbers being shipped were more than adequate so there was no reason to ferry the P-38s over the great white north again.

    However if things had not gone well and the allies had not gained control of the shipping lanes the Army already had a contingency plan to ferry 4,000 aircraft across the Atlantic in 1943.

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