A painstaking search for survivors of the plane crash continues – 70 years after the crash.
On November 22, 1952, a United States Air Force C-124 Globemaster II flying from McChord Air Force Base, Washington to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, crashed into Mount Gannett at 9,629 feet . All 52 passengers and crew on board were killed.
Weather conditions at the time prevented an immediate recovery, and subsequent search attempts failed to locate the crash site.
But nearly 60 years later, in 2012, an Alaska National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk crew on a training mission spotted plane wreckage on Colony Glacier on the southwest slope of Gannett.
Recovery operations began in June and confirmed it was debris from the crash site of the missing C-124, now 14 miles from its original point of impact.
Each summer for the next decade, personnel from Alaska Command, the Alaska National Guard, U.S. Army Alaska, Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations and of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System supported Operation Colony Glacier.
So far, search efforts have identified 40 of the 52 service members who died in the crash, ending the families of service members who lost loved ones in the rugged and cold Chugach mountain range.
This year, soldiers from the newly activated 11th Airborne Division, the Arctic Angels, once again helped navigate the debris field on the ever-changing and ever-moving glacier while providing a mountaineering experience to help ensure the safety of the researcher.
The soldiers agreed that their mission on Colony Glacier was the embodiment of the Army’s “I will never leave a fallen comrade” oath in the Soldier’s Creed.
“It’s just a real testimony that the military, no matter how long or where you’ve been, like they’re going to come back and we’re going to find you and bring you back,” the staff sergeant explained. Kyle Dalman.
Staff Sgt. Ryan Carter, on his second summer searching for Colony Glacier, agreed.
“Bringing home our lost military is probably the most important thing we do,” he said. “It gives us a lot more confidence from our junior soldiers and a lot more closure to families, so it’s a great mission to be here and it’s extremely humbling.”
Dallman, like Carter and other mission soldiers, graduated from basic and advanced military mountaineering courses taught by the Northern Warfare Training Center, said the training proved invaluable on Colony Glacier.
“I would say for the skill set itself, it transfers everything I’ve learned everywhere,” he said. “I have used and applied it here and in other missions.”
With at least 100 feet of slow-flowing ice underfoot, the security team’s constant attention to the changing glacier is one of their most crucial duties.
“I would say it would be like the rapid change of the glacier itself,” Dallman explained.
“And that’s why we have to reassess everything before setting foot here. If it’s not like we can just hang out. Even the next day or even a few hours later, the glacier is changing, so we are still evaluating.