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Search team finds WWII P-38 300 feet under Greenland glacier, 76 years later

A test flight of the YP-38 service test fighter aircraft. After the test phase, the P-38 was designated the Lightning. (U.S. Air Force Archive)
July 30, 2018

Arctic Hot Point Solutions recently found one of the P-38s of the 1942 “Lost Squadron” of World War II, buried under 300 feet of ice in Greenland.

While assisting the Allied war effort in the British Isles on July 15, 1942, six P-38 Lightning fighter aircrafts and two B-17 Flying Fortress bombers happened upon a dangerous blizzard.

The eight aircrafts had no choice but to land somewhere on Greenland’s glaciers.

For nine days they remained on the glaciers until the crews were finally rescued – but the aircrafts remained where they landed.

There they remained, buried under 300 feet of ice for decades, according to Popular Mechanics.

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The aircrafts were known as the Lost Squadron.

In 1992, one of the P-38s was found and removed from the glacier. Known as the infamous Glacier Girl, it was fully restored and flew again.

Now, Arctic Hot Point Solutions has recovered another P-38 after traces of it were identified in 2011.

The nonprofit returned early in 2018 with new GPRs (radars) that were mounted on drones to continue the efforts.

Once parts of the aircraft were identified, the team used a heat probe driven by a hot pressure washer system to tunnel through the ice, Popular Mechanics explained.

The team needed to make contact with the aircraft to confirm it was a plane, and it did.

The team confirmed its findings when the heat probe was covered in 5606 hydraulic fluid.

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Jim Salazar, a co-founder of Arctic Hot Point Solutions, said: “We weren’t anticipating that. We pulled the probe back up, and lo and behold it had all that hydraulic fuel all over it. We pulled it up, and boy it was pretty dense, all over the place — our jackets, on the floor, all over our hands, and it was quite a surprise,” Popular Mechanics reported.

The aircraft was identified as the P-38 “Echo” piloted by Robert Wilson.

A return trip is planned to start the process of extracting the aircraft, a combined effort from the governments of Greenland, the U.S. and the U.K.

The team will use large heat plates to tunnel down to the aircraft, then send workers down to clear out a cavern around the plane with blasts of hot water.

The P-38 will be taken apart and sent up piece by piece.

There are still four other P-38s from the Lost Squadron – and many others that went down during WWII – that are missing.

Only about 20 miles from the Lost Squadron site, in Koge Bay, the team is also searching for a Coast Guard Grumman J2F Duck that is believed to still have the remains of three airmen inside.

“It is the biggest MIA search in modern history,” Salazar says.