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Exhuming the Glacier Girl

Article #186 • Written by Alan Bellows

In the early days of the Second World War, Allied forces began Operation Bolero, a daring and risky effort to bring American planes to the European theater by way of secret airbases in the far north. As part of this operation, on 15 July 1942 two Boeing B-17 bombers were being escorted by six Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighters as they flew over Greenland towards Reykjavik, Iceland.

Early in the morning, the flight group encountered syrupy clouds which forced the pilots to climb over 12,000 feet to regain visibility. As the planes gained altitude, temperatures inside fell to ten degrees below zero Fahrenheit. The men in the planes tried to improvise ways to keep warm, such as rerouting the defroster into the cabin, but it did little to help. At about 7:15am, after encountering extreme numbness due to cold and continued poor visibility, the pilots decided to return to the airport they had departed from. But the weather behind them had worsened, and the men became disoriented in the severe conditions. After ninety minutes of flying blind with only intermittent radio contact, the clouds cleared sufficiently for the flight group to ascertain its position: they were over the east coast of Greenland, about two hours from the nearest airport... and they had only twenty minutes of fuel remaining. The men had no choice but to crash-land on the icecap of Greenland.

Because their tanks were already running near empty, it was decided that the smaller P-38 fighters should land first. The B-17s would follow about thirty minutes later, once their fuel had been further depleted. Pilot Brad McManus decided to make the first attempt at landing. Uncertain whether the flat expanse of whiteness below was solid ice or yielding snow, he descended with landing gears extended. He knew that if the ground was solid enough to allow the plane to land this way, he could liftoff and fly back to base once a fuel drop could be made. The other pilots watched as McManus's plane touched down gently, rolling through the thick snow at high speeds. Everything appeared to be going smoothly for the first two hundred yards or so, but the front landing gear buckled under the pressure, immediately flipping the P-38 onto its back.

Next was Robert Wilson, who had retracted his landing gears after watching McManus's attempt go awry. His plane slid smoothly across the snow on its belly, and once it stopped he leaped from the cockpit to dash almost a half mile through knee-deep snow to the overturned plane. There, he found that McManus was unhurt, having cut himself out of his parachute harness to dig his way out onto the ice. The other planes landed one by one without further incident, and the twenty-five men gathered together to pool rations and supplies. They quickly fabricated makeshift heaters using engine parts and motor oil, and began the efforts to contact Allied forces.

After three days in the freezing temperatures, one of the radio operators finally received a Morse code message from base, confirming the squadron's position and condition. Several supply drops were made, but the first two loads disappeared on the horizon when their parachutes were ensnared by the high winds on the flat expanse. The stranded pilots acted quickly when further supplies arrived, smothering the chutes before the much-needed supplies slipped away.

A dogsled team finally appeared on the horizon on the tenth day. The airmen collected their belongings from the mostly-intact planes, some of the men riddling the electronics with bullets to foil any Nazi attempts to scavenge the aircraft. Guided by the rescue team, the group of Americans trudged through knee-deep snow for hours-- through a maze of zigzagging crevasses-- before finally reaching the ocean's edge. The rescued airmen slept as they waited for the Coast Guard cutter to arrive later that day. Once aboard, they were treated to showers, dry clothes, and a hot meal. They had survived their crash-landing and several days stranded on a desolate ice sheet, all without so much as an injury.

The Allies were forced to abandon the wounded planes, unable to retrieve them as they slowly disappeared under drifting snow. The P-38 was a fast, powerful aircraft which was one of the most valuable Allied fighter planes of the war, and the giant B-17 flying fortresses were massively useful in the war in Europe. But as valuable as the aircraft were, limited resources prevented a successful recovery. In time, the planes became known as the Lost Squadron.

In the years following World War 2, the P-38 and B-17 airframes soon became obsolete and were decommissioned, many of them being melted down for scrap metal. But the abandoned planes of the Lost Squadron were not forgotten, and between 1977 and 1990, eleven different teams tried and failed to find and recover the aircraft. It was generally believed that they would be found in a state of near-perfect preservation, most likely buried near the surface and relatively intact. But the particularly harsh environment made any search a formidable task. Magnetometers and small radar units found nothing in the search area.

In 1988, two explorers sponsored by the Greenland Expedition Society finally found a lead. Patrick Epps and Richard Taylor led an expedition to the the ice cap which used steam to bore a hole and locate airplane parts buried under the Greenland ice. The two men found that in the forty-six years since the planes had crash-landed, an astonishing 268 feet of ice had accumulated over them, and they had been carried three miles by the drifting glacier.

The Super Gopher
The Super Gopher

Given this extreme depth, the expedition's original plan to dig or blast the planes out of the ice was no longer feasible. However the men did not resign the effort, and in 1990 they returned with a contraption called the Super Gopher. This five-foot-tall, four-foot-diameter cylinder was suspended by a chain and hoist, and it had a cone-shaped tip which was wrapped in copper hot-water lines. The heat from these lines melted the ice at about two feet per hour as a pump pushed the resulting water up to the surface. This thermal meltdown generator slowly carved a long shaft deep into the ice, crawling deeper and deeper until it finally struck something solid: the wing of a B-17.

A worker was lowered into the hole, where he used a hot-water hose to melt a cavern around the plane's remains. Water was pumped to the surface as the ice melted, and slowly the bomber was exposed. It soon became apparent that the B-17 was very badly crushed, far beyond worthwhile salvage. Devastated, Epps and Taylor abandoned the effort and returned home.

After the initial sting of the failure wore off, the men considered the situation further. It occurred to them that the smaller, more rugged P-38s would probably be in much better condition than the B-17 had been. With renewed vigor, a follow-up expedition was planned, with the intent to locate and extract one of the intact fighter planes.

Two years later, the team was once again burrowing a shaft into the Greenland ice. It took the better part of a month for the gopher to chew its way to the bounty, after which the machine was winched from the hole and set aside. It took the hose team about twenty-five minutes to descend the long shaft, where they cut away the fifty-year-old ice with pressurized steam. The slushy runoff was pumped back to the surface as workers slogged through the ice water, and the P-38 was slowly revealed as a cavity was created around it. As had been anticipated, the plane was in much better condition than the B-17 had been.

The P-38 exposed in the ice cave
The P-38 exposed in the ice cave

A team of technicians was lowered into the ice cavern to begin the process of disassembling the aircraft so it could be shuttled to the surface piece by piece. The men found the ice cave to be uncomfortable and treacherous, with very little room to move, constant dripping water, and occasional chunks of ice falling from the ceiling. A few times, a strike of a chisel would send fractures racing across the ceiling of the cave, causing a number of tense moments for workers. But each piece was eventually detached from the plane, catalogued, and sent up the shaft.

The last piece-- the six thousand pound center section-- proved to be the most difficult, requiring that the shaft be widened and a special manually-operated hoist be used. It took almost two full days for the final section to creep its way to the top. Almost exactly fifty years after his crash-landing, at the age of seventy-four, pilot Brad McManus was there to stand amidst the disassembled wreckage of the exhumed P-38. This particular plane had been piloted by his friend, the late Harry Smith.

Once all of the parts were shipped to the United States and collected together, the restoration project began. Soon it became clear that the years spent under the ice had done more damage than had been evident inside the ice cavern, but much of the hardware was salvageable. Those parts which were too damaged acted as templates for the fabrication of replacement parts. The heap of wreckage, which was slowly beginning to resemble an airplane again, was affectionately nicknamed "Glacier Girl." Many individuals and organizations donated time and materials to the historic project, and over nine years the airframe was transformed from a wad of crushed remains into a beautiful, working airplane. She flew again on 26 October 2002, in front of a crowd of over 20,000 people.

The Glacier Girl in flight
The Glacier Girl in flight

Today, of the 10,000 or so P-38s Lightnings which were made in the 1940s, only about six working P-38s remain. As for the Glacier Girl, she currently resides at the Lost Squadron Museum in Middlesboro, KY. Although well-maintained, there are currently no plans for her to become airborne again anytime soon.

Article written by Alan Bellows, published on 21 May 2006. Alan is the founder/designer/head writer/managing editor of Damn Interesting.

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Posted 22 May 2006 at 02:51 am

When I started reading this I was expecting another story of crashed airmen slowly dying in an inhospitable environment. I'm glad I was wrong. Nice to see a happy ending to one of these tales. :-)

Posted 22 May 2006 at 02:53 am

Cool story to be sure, in terms of the landing and the pilots surviving. The 3 miles in the glacier and depth the planes got to is just unbelievable. But I can't get over how much work must have gone into restoring and recreating a plane crushed under that weight for all that time, not to mention the initial expeditions themselves-- it just doesn't seem worth it for a plane that isn't one of a kind.

Posted 22 May 2006 at 03:21 am

Although I'm sure the story is of a lot more importance to the people rremaining alive that actually lived it, the effort put into these expeditions seems far from being worth it, just to restore a wwII plane. In my opinion it's an example of a waste of money, that could otherwise be invested in more worthwhile expeditions, or otherwise, in providing some homes for some people, instead of recovering a heap of metal from a glacier and putting it in a museum. I understand the value of having something tangibile as a reminder of the story, but the overall effort seems way overblown just to preserve a story, that is otherwise not even of spectacular importance.

Posted 22 May 2006 at 04:47 am

Given that is was privately funded, I fail to see how people can legitimately complain. There are much worse ways to spend a large chunk of private cash than a dig for a lost airplane. Think of the huge mansions and super yachts of the rich. If I were rich, I would fund this before spending my money on a gold plated car for example. Yet no one seems to decry these wastes of resources.

Posted 22 May 2006 at 04:54 am

Totally agree with LL! If the article/Alan Bellows is correct the money was raised and spent by individuals and non governmental organizations. Now think of all the money invested and repaid by individuals in the entertainment industry! The only thing you get out of that is some incredibly poor movie production. I bet reviving that plain was cheaper than producing Mission Impossible 3. And you don’t have to pay Tom Cruise or else to do it. It was like a movie production for them aeronautic people.

I was also very glad to see the happy ending! Brave men, tough technology - would be good stuff for some movie, wouldn’t it? ;-)

Posted 22 May 2006 at 05:30 am

I've known of Glacier Girl for a couple of years now, but I never knew just how much trouble it was to exhume her. Buried so far down!

Have a look at the videos of the P-38 in flight; it's gorgeous, and I want one all to myself.

Thanks Alan

Posted 22 May 2006 at 09:13 am

The P-38 was indeed a beautiful plane; nothing quite like it. And one of the most versatile fighters of the war.

Posted 22 May 2006 at 09:27 am

Why did I expect there would be a girl in the glacier?

Posted 22 May 2006 at 10:49 am

Like Shandooga, I expected a girl in the glacier reading this story =) but it was a great one nonetheless. I find it truly amazing that they actually got the plane to fly again, after so many years. Quite a great feat among humanity to say the least. =)

Posted 22 May 2006 at 11:04 am


Few things that make life really worth living are necessary.

Posted 22 May 2006 at 11:20 am

For the record, I wasn't complaining. Just expressing an opinion that the money could have been invested in other more worthwhile things, or if you will more worthwhile treasure hunting. And yes, compared to getting gold teeth, a luxury car and a hill-side mansion, this is a better way to spend a huge chunk of money.

Posted 22 May 2006 at 11:59 am

Hmm. "Glacier Girl" was my nickname for my ex-wife. For reasons.

Similar story to the “Kee Bird” – another privately-funded expedition to rebuild a B-29 that was crash landed up in Thule. Months of effort to rebuild it, and on takeoff a heater in the rear gunner’s position set off a fire that burned the thing to bits. There’s disappointment for you.

Apology – I remember thinking that same thing when I saw the special on NOVA years ago: Can’t they find a more worthy cause? What a waste.

Still, the guy who led the expo was a pilot, an aviation historian, and I suspect you couldn’t have dragged him away from that hulk with a 20 mule team. Some things you just gotta do, I suppose. I have a record collection of 3,000 Vinyl LP’s. I don’t own a turntable. Sheesh.

As for Glacier Girl – I have to admit as a pimply-faced kid I built models like crazy. Ships, cars, and LOTS of WWII aircraft. I was enthralled by military aircraft, they were so clunky and simplistic and frequently they were just plain purposefully ugly. The P-38 was – and remains – one of my favorites: a swan amid the ducks. ‘Course, so was the Spitfire. Oh, and the P-51 (D model). And the Me109. Well, there was also the Hurricane…

I don’t look at the FA-18 the same way – war means something different to me now. I wonder if they’ll haul out a crashed F-16 from some Middle Eastern crash site one day and get the same response?

Posted 22 May 2006 at 12:00 pm

Posted 22 May 2006 at 12:41 pm

Just the feeling of being there when you uncovered something so old and with such a great story to it must feel good... Great story

Posted 22 May 2006 at 01:42 pm

I have to admire those workers who went 268 feet under ice in extremely dangerous conditions. I do hope they were compensated for their bravery. It would make an exciting blockbuster wouldn't it? They could have a scene where part of a cavern collapses and they have to dig around it and then one of the men gets a broken leg from a falling ice chunk and can't go on and they have to bravely hoist him to safety and then one of the men falls in love with the beautiful yet cold archaeologist assigned to the project and at first she rejects him but soon she realizes her true desires and they wed atop a glacier at sunset as the closing scene. Sigh.

Posted 22 May 2006 at 02:55 pm

I had the pleasure of seeing her up close and personal at the 2005 EAA Convention in Oshgosh, Wisconsin this year, nice plane, flew well...

If WW2 aircraft interest you, check out this is a great org that is always looking for help (muscle and monetary), and has a fantastic history.

Remember, keep your rudder steady...

Posted 22 May 2006 at 03:09 pm

I too am often puzzled by the efforts of some and the use of money by many; but I thought the idea of how they melted the ice was simple and effective.

Posted 22 May 2006 at 05:30 pm

What a terrific story, it seems the pluck and spirit of the excavators matched that of the earlier airmen.
I truly feel sorry for those here and elsewhere that cannot understand the concept of having such a fire
inside ones belly to accomplish the impossible. What a real shame it is. If mankind had the philosophy
of these sad sacks we'd all still be in caves. The thoughts and feelings of pilot McManus when he
saw his friends aircraft after so many years must have been indescribably wonderful. This is nothing less
than the unbeatable spirit of the human race and to cut it down is a quite sad.

Posted 22 May 2006 at 06:00 pm

Now I want to know how much of the current Glacier Girl is actually made from parts fabricated 60 years ago.

Posted 22 May 2006 at 06:25 pm

Cool read, must be something in the air... this was on digg Link

Posted 22 May 2006 at 06:49 pm

No money is ever wasted.. its not as if the money used for this expedition was used to burn a campfire. All of the tools and equipment used had to be bought, or custom made, providing jobs for others. The workers and technicians who help at the dig site also were paid for this. Big mansions, gold cars, all of these excesses, while they may seem ludicrous, create jobs for other people. This is far less of a waste than simply filling peoples hands with money.

It is tragic that out of so many amazing aircraft, so few examples exist today.

Posted 22 May 2006 at 07:32 pm

Hey Wingnut: Thanks! That Redtail link was very cool. I'm a P-51D fan (based entirely upon looks - especially silver with invasion stripes, all that), but the Tuskeegee Airmen STILL maintain one of the best air support records ever in their "ugly" -C models. Don't butter your rudder, airman!

And also - "No money is ever wasted." Sorry, cutterjohn, but I have to argue that: see, I waste LOTS of money!!!

Joking. Your point is all over it: these funky old airplanes, created entirely to support warfare, whether they are considered awful or wonderful, are instructive: this is where mankind went with aviation technology back in the day, and given their limitations, it was a wonder of thought, design, and engineering - and it was all developed on paer, with pencils...and in the minds of the designers. Autocad was a LONG way off.

The P-38 was supersonic in a dive, although realistically many of them shuddered themsleves to little bits trying to do it. Look close and you should see little counterweights on the elevator: when the aircraft went near-mach 1, the counterweights kept the elevator from resonating and shaking the plane apart - a fix they considered "hi-tech." Silly point? Nope. Digging up this old beauty is near-term archeology - my children could learn from this particular waste of money, specifically that technical issues are not always dealt with by logging into Google or loading up some app with data, but by thinking about them. And I'm all about the plane: the hot water excavation methodology coupled with the idea of performing that excavation 268 feet under the ice is just...plain...creepy. such an elegant idea, and so scary to think about it.

I think this article is plain old "damned interesting" to me. I hope my kids and I can wander around at Oshkosh some day and see this plane. Oh, and maybe a Strega. And maybe a Curtiss Jenny - my dad actually flew one back in the late 1930's. And maybe that Collings B-24...

Posted 22 May 2006 at 08:03 pm

I love planes, and I think it's a very nice story and all but...but...why? Why bother? Just for the story or the purpose of saying that they have this historical piece? I guess if that suits the workers...well, more power to them.

Posted 22 May 2006 at 09:31 pm

If the chisel kept making monster sized cracks, why did they keep doing it ( I know the answer, just thought I would raise a point)

Posted 22 May 2006 at 10:15 pm

It is my personal opinion that the P-38 Lightning is the most attractive aircraft ever built.

Followed closely by the Northrup P-61 Black Widow - Night Fighter/Bomber, which is really only a P-38 on a massive dose of anabolic steroids...but I digress.

I was all over this story when it hit the mainstream press.

I drew more pictures of P-38's as a kid than all other aircraft combined. Anyone else remember Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things That Go!? I'd spend HOURS poring over the WWII planes pages in that one, outlining them with tracing paper and arranging them in mock dogfights.

Definitely Damn Interesting, even if I had heard of it already.

Posted 22 May 2006 at 10:22 pm

Well, wax my whiskers!

Apologies for the double post, but no sooner do I throw "P-61" into Google than I come upon this page detailing the rescue and resuscitation of a Black Widow from the jungles of New Guinea!

Not quite the depths of a glacier, but forbidding territory and a massive technical achievement nonetheless. If they ever get this beauty airborne, I'll have to make a trip to whatever air show she flies at. Thanks DI for piquing my curiosity and leading to this neat find. I LOVE THIS SITE!

Posted 23 May 2006 at 06:14 am

This is a great story. I live near the musuem. I have heard the story before, but did not know the exact details of how the plane was rescued. Rescuing this plane and putting it on display for future generations shows how important WWII is to the history of the US and the world for that matter.

Posted 23 May 2006 at 12:04 pm

NewEvolution: Thanks! While I'm not entirely fond of the P-61, it's still got a high cool factor, and that Black Widow site is tres cool!

And your story about dogfights...I was stuffing M-80's into old Stukas and FW190's and other German air apparatus and blowing them to bits in mock strafing run recreations with a P-38 in my free hand, making "Vrooom!" noises and gunning them down on the ground... Ah, those were the days.

Posted 23 May 2006 at 07:58 pm

You wanna watch an economy take a nosedive? Just stop spending and start saving instead. Money has to move for there to be an economy and the more hands that touch it, the better. Where it goes is into pockets and then the grocery store and then for little kids to buy models of their favorite airplanes, hopefully ad infinitum. I all to often hear teeth-gnashing over one expenditure being 'better' than another, but at the level of having a robust economy, it matters not what the cash is being spent on. Now, if you want to talk 'social engineering,' it might be better for it to go into the pockets of people who believe in MY politics instead of the damned Republicans and oil barons....but I digress. As long as it is moving, our culture will perservere.

Scott Bowers
Posted 24 May 2006 at 08:50 am

Great link NewEvolution!

another viewpoint
Posted 24 May 2006 at 10:06 am

cutterjohn said: "No money is ever wasted.. its not as if the money used for this expedition was used to burn a campfire. All of the tools and equipment used had to be bought, or custom made, providing jobs for others. The workers and technicians who help at the dig site also were paid for this. Big mansions, gold cars, all of these excesses, while they may seem ludicrous, create jobs for other people. "

...I'm sorry, I thought this was all about preserving a historical artifact...and not about creating jobs. Since when is the main purpose of any initiative "to create jobs"? Jobs are a by-product of the manufacturing and service industries.

Here in the midwest, we've had several high profile politicians (not...I did not say valued politicians) for the past 15 years wanting to build a 3rd airport. Can you imagine the thousands of dollars that have been paid to consultants to study the that's a waste of money. Anyway, these politicians have tried to rationalize the NEED for the airport because of all the jobs that will be created. Bottom line, they want to spends billions of OUR tax dollars to create jobs? ...whether those be construction jobs during or service jobs after the airport is completed. don't build airports to create DO build airports to satisfy a transportation need. However...the airline industry was already suffering prior to 9/11 and not doing better now. They don't want the airport. There are already 3 airports in the area. Persons in the affected area do not want to relocate and if they have to...they will not get fair market value for their properties.

The problem is not that we need more airport gates...we need to better utilize the airport space that is currently available. Have you ever been in an airport between 8-12 at night? There's plenty of space. Optimize the available capacity before sticking your hands in my pockets and helping yourself to my hard earned dollars. It's time to spend the money smarter...which by the way, would be better utilized by expanding an existing facility (and at a fraction of the cost) instead of building and entirely new facility.

Create jobs? Not with my tax dollars. But if you still feel that people need work...then get those persons on unemployment to clean up the streets, highways and other public areas. Let them provide some service for the welfare they receive. Enough of the free lunches.

Posted 22 June 2006 at 10:56 am

The Glacier Girl was evacuated and rebuilt using private sponsors. No waste there.

It is located in Middlesboro, KY, which happens to be a small poor mining town. Anything that brings money into this town, which the Glacier Girl does, is a boost to their economy. Fuel is bought at their gas stations, food at their restaurants, hotel rooms, ect. This allows for more jobs, and more tax money is generated.
How can this be bad?

Posted 18 July 2006 at 09:51 am

I've read that the planes were sent off course by german submarines sending false radio signals. Sorry, I don't have reference for that...

Posted 23 July 2006 at 01:08 pm

Group needs your help!!!

Robert Grosvenor
Posted 15 November 2006 at 11:52 am

While I was working on the P-38 (nicknamed "Glacier Girl" by Roy Shoffner), (who by the way paid for the whole project out of his checking account), the thing that made standing on concrete 7 days a week, 60 to 85 hours a week worth it to me was mainly two things: I always loved airplanes, especially the WWII fighters. These were the best that technology will EVER produce, as far as piston powered prop driven airplanes with the little wheel on the correct end (we can forgive the P-38, it was so graceful, it looked good even with a nosewheel).

The other thing is hard to put into words. As the months turned into years, more and more people showed up to see our project being rebuilt. No, we didn't charge anybody to come in and see it. No, we didn't keep it in a locked hanger that only a few snobs could come and view it, like a lot of these kind of planes are. Yes, we sold a lot of overpriced books and videos and t-shirts. The profit from these wouldn't pay the phone bill, electric bill, hanger rent, or water bill. Not to mention the fact that no less than 10 mechanics and staff had a job (during the 10 year period many came and went. Several only stayed 6 months or less before deciding they didn't have the dedication).(We never had more than 2 or 3 mechanics working there at once). Nobody wanted to move there. Sorry, I am rambling off.
As time went on, we started having 1000 to 3000 people a week going through the museum. (It never started as a museum. It morphed into that by necessity). Of these 60,000 or so a year (don't believe me? go read the guestbooks that people signed by the door!), the VETERANS would come by busloads, walker, wheelchair, motorcycle, fly in, whatever it took to get them there.
And the storys they would tell. This is a part of HISTORY that is now lost completely, (in my opinion), as these old boys (and ladies) are now dying at an unbelievable rate. They are all 80 or more years old. Many of the ones I knew passed on soon after Glacier Girl flew. Kinda like they were just waiting to see her fly.
I could write a book about the stories these guys told. And they would usually cry, when they thought back, and all the friends they lost over there. More than one would look at me and say "why did He get it, and I lived to come back?"
I think it was because someone had to come back to tell the story.

Posted 22 January 2007 at 10:51 am

Marius said: "When I started reading this I was expecting another story of crashed airmen slowly dying in an inhospitable environment. I'm glad I was wrong. Nice to see a happy ending to one of these tales. :-)"

When it got to the bit where they were rescued I thought it sounded too good - I thought it would turn out it was all just a big trick and they weren't being rescued but captured!

Posted 22 January 2007 at 12:13 pm

another_viewpoint must live in my neck of the woods, i.e., Chicagoland. The original plan for that third airport was to fill in Lake Calumet and Wolf Lake; re-route the Calumet River; move a couple of huge garbage landfills; and destroy a few neighborhoods. All to keep it inside of the city limits, so as to keep political control of the clout: contracts, jobs, money, and power. Damn Chicago politics, it stinks worse than those landfills! I love my (former) home in the Calumet region. It is the most biologically diverse area in the interior North American continent, and also one of the most heavily industrialized.

I too made many aircraft models in my youth, including P-38s and B-17s. And, like schuylercat, I blew them to bits with firecrackers. Although I never wasted a precious M80 on one!

Gerry Matlack
Posted 22 January 2007 at 06:30 pm

Robert Grosvenor said: "While I was working on the P-38 (nicknamed "Glacier Girl" by Roy Shoffner), (who by the way paid for the whole project out of his checking account)

Robert, thank you for the work you did - I'm sure many thousands of people wish they could tell you the same thing.

And the storys they would tell. This is a part of HISTORY that is now lost completely, (in my opinion), as these old boys (and ladies) are now dying at an unbelievable rate. They are all 80 or more years old. Many of the ones I knew passed on soon after Glacier Girl flew. Kinda like they were just waiting to see her fly.

I could write a book about the stories these guys told. And they would usually cry, when they thought back, and all the friends they lost over there. More than one would look at me and say "why did He get it, and I lived to come back?"

I think it would be a great project for many people to work on - to interview all of these people that still remain and get their recollections of their experiences recorded for posterity. I don't think the majority of people today really understand the depth of what went on in that period and what is being lost as these people disappear over the horizon into the next world.

another viewpoint
Posted 22 January 2007 at 07:59 pm

...still amazes me that something buried like that can be located...let alone brought to the surface.

Once again, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

For some, the price of adventure is never too high!

Posted 23 January 2007 at 06:43 am

This is an incredible story. And for people like Apology, I say this:Money is relative. The amount you spend on a computer and internet service might be consdered a small fortune to many in Africa and South America. I will always choose the path that puts money in the hands of those who work rather than to those who beg. Naturally this doesn't apply to the truly needy, which our government helps already, along with churches, friends and relatives.

Posted 23 January 2007 at 01:19 pm

apology said: " In my opinion it's an example of a waste of money, that could otherwise be invested in more worthwhile expeditions, or otherwise, in providing some homes for some people, "

Build a Man a fire and he stays warm for a day, Set a man on fire and hes warm for the rest of his life.. Anyway, you get the picture

Posted 23 January 2007 at 04:34 pm

A thought here, just considering the depth that the Glacier Girl and/or lost squadron had been entombed in the glacier. Makes you wonder what treasures (remember the ice-man) are entombed in the various ice sheets covering this mud-ball planet of ours.

That also brings up the knowledge that many of these “hidden” treasures are being exposed in remote areas and/or vanishing into the various waters at any time.

Preserved History now lost, so to speak.

Posted 23 January 2007 at 07:18 pm

Sheesh, all that wasted effort. With global warming those airplanes will be on the surface in just a couple of Sorry, couldn't resist.

Posted 24 January 2007 at 07:42 am

Rush, that was horrible.

Thank you for the laugh. :)

Posted 26 January 2007 at 12:08 am

Gerry Matlack said: "Robert, thank you for the work you did - I'm sure many thousands of people wish they could tell you the same thing."

Yes, I second this. Thank you Mr. Grosvenor for sharing your story, and working so hard to save Glacier Girl. A toast to you. :)

Posted 05 March 2007 at 08:25 pm

I have followed the Glacier Girl since they brought it up. I have met Bob Cardin, Roy Shoffner, and Steve Hinton. I'm sure, as a WWII aircraft lover, I am not alone in believing this plane could be the 8th wonder of the world!! To think that someone would say that was money wasted, is beyond comprehension! This beautiful aircraft was put together over several years, not for any kind of profit, but for future generations to see and learn from. All of the people who fly these warbirds, and the behind the scene mechanics that work on them, know there is something magic about these "girls". We, as Americans, should never forget all of the brave men and women who sacrificed much during those years, and I for one, salute them all. I was there for Glacier Girls first flight, and of the 20,000 people there, when those tires lifted off the asphalt for the first time in 60 years, there wasn't a dry eye there. Now, it's time for her to take another mission, to complete her initial orders from 1942. Good luck Bob, and we will be watching!!

Robert Grosvenor
Posted 21 March 2007 at 12:00 pm

Hi there.

The P-38F "Glacier Girl" was sold in November 2006 for $5,000,000.00 U.S. Dollars, to Provenance Fighters.
It was then sold in February, 2007 for $7.2 million dollars to someone else.(I hear it is going to live in Texas).
No Way did Shoffner ever have more than $3 mil tied up in this project.
They plan to fly it to Duxford, England this summer, then to Oshkosh this fall.
Just thought you guys who said it was wasted money would like to see what a true INVESTMENT really is.
2.2 mil in 3 months aint too shabby! Rob Grosvenor

Posted 09 June 2007 at 01:10 pm

The History Channel has a good 1-hour documentary on this project on the "Mega Movers" show. It shows a lot of the equipment they used and the difficulties that they encountered.


Posted 19 June 2007 at 08:43 am

First of all, to all of you who find this to be a waste of can't put a price on fulfilling your dreams. Roy's dream was to recover, restore, and recapture the heart of Glacier Girl and it's mission. He succeeded...with flying colors I might add.

The heart of aviation can't be simply is what it is. Glacier Girl is, was, and always will be an example of just how deep the love can flow.

I am originally from Middlesboro, and my husband is a private pilot. We've flown in and out of 1A6 MANY times and made it a point to stop in to see Glacier Girl as often as possible. I owe a LOT to the team that oversees the airport (Glynna, John, Teresa, Jeff), the crew that helped restore the P-38 (thanks Rob--I'm glad SOMEONE came in here to defend her!), and to the men responsible for its recovery (especially Roy & Bob). In September 2006, Bob Cardin and the Brown family allowed my husband and I to experience the most wonderful and awesome day of our lives...we were married in front of Glacier Girl at 1A6. Strange? Maybe, but we love the Glacier Girl and everything for which she stands. Hope, dreams, freedom, success. THAT is what Glacier Girl is about.

To say that the expense that Roy Shoffner shelled out was a waste is to say that his dreams were trash. To say that the project was worthless is to say that reaching your goals is unimportant. The men were on a mission. That mission WILL be completed...and that is important. If you don't see the point, then move on.

Posted 01 August 2007 at 07:15 pm

When I read this article I thought of my father and how much excitement he had toward repairing a 1967 Gleaner Combine. If a person is mechanically inclined the thought of repairing an old aircraft must be a most tintilating endeavor.

Posted 03 June 2008 at 11:31 pm

By the time I was born early in 1959, the P-38 Lightning was fast becoming a distant memory. When the Discovery channel came to be, I was infatuated with a show called "Wings", telling stories of how, and why these planes were needed. For some reason the P-38 became my favorite. I loved learning about the designer, Kelly Johnson. He was a genius, mastermind at the Lockheed Aircraft Co. The old footage from the late 1930's and 1940's was cool too! I went to an air show at Grissom Air Reserve Base in Indiana once, and there was a "38" there. You should have seen the look on the pilots face when I walked up and asked him," Is this a "J" model?" Shocked he said, "yes, how old are you?" I told him and he asked me how the heck I knew that. I told him,,"well sir,,,I watch wayyy too much tv." LOL. So when I first read about Glacier Girl in Readers Digest,,I was hooked. And when I saw the program on TV,,more than once I was elated. It IS an important part of history. And the way these people came together to bring her up and restore her was nothing less than phenominal!!!

Posted 23 September 2009 at 11:38 pm

These old airplanes represent an important time in history where we could have lost our freedom. Look mow many countries did lose theirs for a while. The aircraft were a big part of how we won the war an I think it is important no one ever forgets how and why that war came about and how it ended. Many of us lost fathers, brothers and other loved ones in the time from 1941 to 1946 and those young men of an average age of 18 never got to experience what we have today. They gave their lives so we can live in freedom with all kinds of toys to play with. I think the Air Force should take care of a few of these airplanes. Think about what those people thought of back then and what technology they never got to see because of their sacrifices. No, I am glad someone took the time and money to rebuild the P-38 so we can all give some thought to those years and all of the people who gave their lives so we may live in peace. I think there was somewhere near 60 million lives lost during WW2. That is a lot of people. It is hard to even comprehend, so we need to never forget what caused that mess. No amount of money is too much if we can keep something like that from happening again. I wish the government had thought ahead to preserve some more of the great airplanes. Considering how much money the current administration is throwing away now which accounts for more than any have spent in the last 50 years I would want to see as many of these old planes taken care of and flown by our own Air Force just for the people to see. It would be nice to see one of the SR-71s fly every once in a while, but they cost a million or two just to put up in the air, but still I would like to see one fly at an airshow once ot twice a year. I love this country and all of our achievements. Is there room for improvement, yes always. We must always strive for improvement, however I cannot thing of a better place to live than right here in the good ol’ USA!

Posted 11 June 2013 at 11:48 am

If you think this project was a waste of money you don't have a clue! The effort that went into locating these planes was a great undertaking within itself. Recovery of "Glacier Girl" was nothing short of incrediable when you think about it but a great example of "Good Ole Boys" at their very best!

I visited Middlesboro many times during the restoration and met several of the guys responsible for such a great job.

She is a beauty! This is an incrediable aircraft and I hope to see at an air show in the future. Thank you Roy, Bob, Steve and everyone else for making this possible!

gene myrick
Posted 06 October 2014 at 08:59 pm

how come nobody reconiguises pizzagalli construction co. for getting the plane out of the ice ?

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