The airplane wreckage recently found on an Alaskan glacier has been identified as likely that of a U.S. Air Force C124-A Globemaster that went down nearly six decades ago, killing all 41 passengers and 11 crew members aboard the aircraft.
While military officials are not ruling out potential alternatives, they say the evidence found on Colony Glacier matches up with the Globemaster that went missing on Nov. 22, 1952, while en route from McChord Air Force Base in Washington State to Elmendorf Air Force Base near Anchorage.
The wreckage was spotted a few weeks ago about 45 miles east of Anchorage by crewmembers on an Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, triggering the start of a military investigation of the site. Authorities have since recovered parts of the wreckage – including potential human remains – that have remained entombed beneath the surface of the glacier, slowly moving with it over time, for the past 60 years.
While the recent discovery of the crash site could lead to the first successful recovery effort of those lost in the accident, it is not the first time the wreckage has been found.
In the days immediately following the aircraft’s disappearance, bad weather thwarted initial attempts to scour the area for the missing Globemaster.
Search and rescue crewmembers eventually spotted the tail section of the aircraft and conducted a preliminary ground search of the surrounding area, which offered no signs of survivors.
Continuing heavy snowfall, however, prevented them from reaching the rest of the wreckage, which was reportedly strewn across several acres. All 52 men aboard were presumed dead and the search was officially called off.
According to reports issued in the wake of the crash, the captain of a Northwest Orient Airlines aircraft flying in the area on Nov. 22 said he heard a distress call believed to be issued by the ill-fated Globemaster crew directly before the crash.
“As long as we have to land, we might as well land here,” a crewmember said. No other transmissions were ever received from the aircraft. Weather at the time of the crash was reportedly poor.
Now, families of those lost in the crash – which included mainly members of the Air Force and Army, but also Marine Corps and Navy servicemen – are hoping the new investigation may bring some closure, as well as some potential answers as to what may have caused the crash.