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  P-38F LIGHTNING "Glacier Girl"  

ACYS1208 P-38F LIGHTNING "Glacier Girl" 1/48 $25.00
The Lost Squadron

During the summer of 1942, one of World War IIís most fascinating sagas took place on the icy slopes of Greenland. A flight of World War II airplanes were being flown to England from the United States in support of the war in Europe. In the early morning of July 15, a flight of two B-17 Bombers and six P-38Fighters departed from BW1 (today Sondre  Stromfjord) airbase on the west coast of Greenland headed for England. The planes were part of operation Bolero, code name for the growing allied force that would someday liberate occupied Europe from Hitlerís armies. As the planes streamed over the barren landscape, they flew into a massive storm system near Iceland. In an attempt to avoid the storm, they climbed higher. But the cloud cover thickened, ice formed on the wings, and the inadequately protected pilots began to suffer from the severe cold. In desperation, the flight turned back for the safety of Greenland. But, again, they ran into storms. With fuel running low, the planes broke through the heavy cloud cover. However, when the flight established its location, the crews realized they were far from their base and would not have enough fuel to return safety. Their only chance for survival was to crash land on the glacial wastes of Greenland. Since the icecap appeared to be smooth, flat and hard, the first plane to attempt landing, a P-38, came in with its wheels down. Although the plane flipped over, the pilot, 1st. Lt. Brad McManus, sustained only minor injuries. Amazingly, all remaining aircraft got down without significant injuries to any of the men. It was the largest forced landing in Air Force history -- including six P-38s, two B-17s and 25 crewmembers. They were stranded ten miles south of the Arctic Circle. Fortunately, after eleven days the men were rescued by a 5-man rescue team from a US Army weather station stationed at Angmagssalik, Greenland. The warplanes were abandoned on the glacier and after the first winter never to be seen again.

Lost & Found

During the years following the warís end, thirteen expeditions have been launched to recover The Lost Squadron. It took ten years and a number of recovery efforts to locate the site of the Lost Squadron on the mammoth Greenland Inland Ice Cap. First, the planes had moved a mile closer to the sea than their original WW II location due to cold flow on the glacier. Second, the depth that the planes were now buried came as a surprise, and required outside help from radio sounding experts to penetrate the depth of a 27-story building. A system using a steam probe with 300 feet of hose was developed to verify the locations by probing until contact with a plane was made. Next, a Gopher device was developed to melt a manhole four feet in diameter, at the rate of about two feet per hour, to the plane some 268 feet below the surface. Appropriately, in the summer of 1992, exactly 50 years after that fateful day, success was achieved. On August 1, 1992 at 2:32 p.m., after four months of laborious work, a seven-member team surfaced the first and only P-38 and christened her Glacier Girl. Upon her return to the United States, she soon found her home in Middlesboro, Kentucky. Located at the Middlesoboro-Bell County Airport, she was restored to flyable condition by a team of restoration experts.

Restoring Glacier Girl

After resurrecting a plane from 268 feet of ice, how do you begin the restoration process? Fortunately, the plane? owner, J. Roy Shoffner, found - Bob Cardin. Cardin had spearheaded the recovery of Glacier Girl in 1992. In resurrecting Glacier Girl, Cardin? goal was to keep as many parts in tact as possible. Consequently, the WWII P-38 fighter plane was removed piece-by-piece from the glacier. Due to the pressures of heavy snows, then summer melt water, and eventual encapsulation in solid ice, many parts had to be straightened, rebuilt, or replaced to restore them to flyable condition. According to Cardin, the biggest challenge in rebuilding Glacier Girl, as in any vintage airplane, is finding old parts. After conducting tireless research and hundreds of phone calls, Cardin has been able to track down many original parts for the P-38. He estimates that when Glacier Girl flies again, it will contain approximately 80 percent of her original parts. Glacier Girlís Future "Glacier Girl is one of the most perfect war bird restorations ever, "said Cardin. "Many other restored planes consist of just a few original parts, and a variety of brand-new and adapted components. Not this plane. Since it was virtually brand-new when it crash landed, it was in very good condition when it was recovered. And were rebuilt the plane with only the highest of standards. "Glacier Girl is one of only approximately twenty-five planes of its kind known to exist (more than 10,000 were produced during World War II). In addition, the plane will be one of only three that is in flying condition. On October 26, 2002, with over 20,000 people watching test pilot Steve Hinton Flew Glacier Girl for the very first time since her 1942 landing. Plans for Glacier Girl include a tour of the country, accompanied by displays and exhibits about World War II and the history of aviation. In addition, Shoffner plans on retracing Glacier Girl? flight path through the Northeastern Arctic to complete the flight from West Greenland to Iceland, and from Iceland to Scotland, as was ordered by the Bolero Command in July, 1942. Between trips, Glacier Girl will continue to be the focus of interest at the museum located in Middlesboro, KY.

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