COLONY GLACIER, Alaska — Scientists and volunteers tethered in safety gear and ice cleats painstakingly scoured the frozen dirt and ice to see if a glacier had given up any more of its dead before they are swept into a lake and lost to history.
Fifty-two service members died when their airplane smashed into an Alaska mountain more than 60 years ago. The wreckage was rediscovered in 2012, and the somber recovery effort resumed this month.
“It’s a patriotic duty that we’re doing up here to the family members of the service members that have paid the ultimate sacrifice for their nation,” U.S. Navy Lt. Commander Paul Cocker said.
The C-124 Globemaster was heading from McChord Air Force Base in Washington state to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage when it vanished Nov. 22, 1952, with 41 passengers and 11 crew members. The wreckage was found soon after but became buried in snow, forgotten and eventually part of the glacier at the bottom of Mount Gannett.
An Alaska Army National Guard helicopter flying over the glacier, about 50 miles northeast of Anchorage, rediscovered the wreckage in 2012. Recovery efforts have been undertaken each summer, and the remains of 17 service members have so far been identified and returned to their families for burial.