The search continues to bring home the frozen remains of WWII soldiers

The bodies of three missing WWII soldiers have yet to be recovered 74 years after the men were stranded on a glacier in Greenland. Despite several attempts to locate their bodies, the men remain buried under 40 feet of ice.

A new mission is planned for this summer in preparation for the eventual retrieval of the bodies so the men can finally be returned home to the U.S.

It was in the winter of 1942 during a rescue mission to try and track down a missing B-17 bomber. The plane had gone down over the icy wastes of Greenland and crashed on a mountain. A three-man team was sent out to locate the missing bomber and its crew. Two of the three U.S. rescue mission, Lieutenant John Pritchard, and radioman Benjamin Bottoms, also became stranded on the same 2,000-foot high ice cap that the bomber had crash-landed on.

After they landed their plane Pritchard and Bottoms set out on foot to find survivors of the downed bomber aircraft. They discovered Corporal Loren Howarth alive and the trio headed back to the plane, but weather conditions grew treacherous due to a storm and led to all three of the men becoming stranded. They are believed to have all died on the icy peak and their bodies have never been found.

The first expedition by U.S.mountaineers from Global Exploration and Discovery to search for the frozen soldiers was in 2012. Although the mountaineers, led by Nick Bratton,did not find the soldiers, they did manage to find wreckage evidence.However, severe weather conditions meant that the crew had to quickly gather what evidence of the plane wreckage that they could and hastily evacuate by helicopter before a serious storm descended on them. A second mission took place a year later but was also unsuccessful.

The aim of this third mission is to locate the rest of the plane. If the mountaineers accomplish this task, then approval for a full recovery mission in 2017 will be granted.

Bratton is hopeful that weather conditions should be more stable when they return this summer.They will also be using ground-penetrating radars so that they can see what is deep beneath the surface. Bratton said the “improved equipment” will “make the search more efficient.There’s just rock, ice, and ocean in all directions.

“As for the men we seek, I know that if it had been us stranded out on the ice they would have come looking for us.We owe it to them to bring them home so they can be reunited with their families and be laid to rest with the honour they deserve.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE