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Vt. Air Guard helps with WWII plane recovery efforts in Greenlan - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. Air Guard helps with WWII plane recovery efforts in Greenland

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

The Vermont Air National Guard is assisting efforts to recover a plane that carried three service members when it went down during World War II.

The plane crashed into a Greenland glacier in 1942 and is buried under 40 feet of snow and ice.

Seven decades later, Vermonters may help bring closure to the families of the deceased and the U.S Coast Guard.

A team of military and civilian personnel are back on this Greenland glacier in what has become a summer tradition.

"We call it the 'Duck Hunt,'" said Mitchell Zuckoff, author of 'Frozen in Time.'

Their goal is to recover an amphibious plane buried below 40 feet of snow and ice.

The Duck as it's known, crashed Nov. 29, 1942 during a rescue mission for a downed B-17.

In World War II, U.S. planes flew to Newfoundland, on to Greenland, and over to Iceland en route to war-torn Europe.

"Pilots would have no idea whether they were up or down and couldn't tell how high they were over the ice cap and so almost as soon as we started flying over Greenland, planes started flying into Greenland," said Zuckoff.

Zuckoff, a Boston University journalism professor, wrote the book on the recent search efforts for the B-17 and Duck following expeditions in 2012 and 2013.

He says the Duck's crew, Lt. John Pritchard and Radioman Benjamin Bottoms, as well as rescued airman Corporal Loren Howarth are likely still onboard.

"The great hope is that this is the year that these three men are brought home for repatriation," said Zuckoff.

In 2012, Vermont civilian Robert "WeeGee" Smith manned the machine that bored into the ice, finally locating the plane, capturing this video believed to show pieces of it.

But Zukoff says in 2013, the team ran into weather and mechanical problems leaving the plane frozen in place.

This year, the Vermont Air National Guard carried over WeeGee's newest machine to melt it out.

If succesful, the estimated return time for the Duck and its crew is unclear.

"To think that this country is willing to go to great lengths to rescue and bring home, and have closure for families is absolutely fabulous," said Nancy Pritchard Morgan, Lt. Pritchard's sister.

Morgan,91, says her brother is scheduled to be honored at the Coast Guard Academy in November and she hopes to have his remains back home by then.

"It would be more than closure, it would be just beautiful. I can't think of anything that would be nicer," said Morgan.

About 83,000 American servicemen and women are unaccounted since American involvement in World War II began.

Lt. Pritchard and Radioman Benjamin Bottoms represent the only two remaining for the Coast Guard though.

Their recovery would represent a significant milestone for the military branch.

 

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