IceBridge Discovers Crashed Plane from Cold War

Cold War
The B-29 Keebird was also discovered abandoned on the ice.


A plane from the Cold War has been discovered thanks to IceBridge, a NASA mission which monitors arctic geography for signs of climate change and other notable data. The B-29 went down in 1947, and since then has been left unchanged. The arctic climate has preserved the aircraft precisely as it was when it crashed during a covert mission. Unchanged since the Cold War, the images stand out in a mission meant solely to document sheets of ice and glaciers.

The B-29 Superfortress went down near the North Pole. While conditions in the area are far from livable, the crew managed to survive and was eventually saved. The plane was not simply left there, despite seeming unsalvageable. After the Cold War ended, an attempt was made to bring the plane back up to standard. Unfortunately, the results were far from those desired and the project was scrapped. Since then, the bomber has been left in the arctic ice and snow, untouched by all except for the nature surrounding it.

IceBridge is made largely possible by a NASA plane called the P-3 Orion. The plane’s task is simple, as its only real function is that of photo reconnaissance. Such automated technology was not so readily available during the Cold War, and as such the crashed bomber had to carry a crew of eleven men. Of course, it cannot be too easily assumed that reconnaissance was their mission, as they maintained their secrecy even after failure, the Huff Post Tech reports.

NASA has been running this mission for around five years now, and they do not often see sites such as the wrecked B-29. The Orion generally goes over the same areas multiple times, attempting to detect subtle changes in the lay of the land. Finding a plane from the Cold War is therefore an incredibly unique occurrence. Not surprisingly, given the climate, this particular plane was forced to land after encountering harsh weather that made it too difficult to navigate the winds.

The Cold War was a time of immense secrecy, so it cannot be said for certain what such a plane would have been doing in the North Pole in the first place. The most amazing aspect of such a discovery would normally be the historical significance, but in this case the significance lies largely in the rarity of the find as well as the way in which the freezing temperatures have preserved the craft where it lies. The Cold War bomber is likely to remain there for some time, as there are no currently voiced plans to retrieve it.

Ian Harvey

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