With contributions from Petty Officer 2nd Class Jetta Disco.
Two years ago Compass first brought you the story of two Coast Guard aviators who died in Greenland attempting to rescue a downed B-17 crew during World War II. Their bodies were never recovered but an exhaustive search has ensued in the decades since.
Today, the Defense Department’s Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command announced that an expedition team – comprised of U.S. Coast Guard servicemembers, scientists and explorers – has produced sufficient evidence that the crash site of the Grumman Duck has been found beneath the ice near Koge Bay, Greenland.
By using historical information, ground penetrating radar, a magnetometer and metal detection equipment, the expedition team isolated the location where the aircrew crashed on Nov. 29, 1942. The team then melted five six-inch-wide holes deep into the ice and lowered a specially designed camera scope. At approximately 38 feet below the ice surface in the second hole, the team observed black cables consistent with wiring used in WWII-era J2F-4 amphibious Grumman aircraft.
Further analysis of video from the camera scope and photographs captured by a member of the expedition team revealed additional aircraft components similar to those found in the engine area of the J2F-4 Grumman Duck.
For nearly three years, crews have been working together on this project researching historical documentation about the last flight of U.S. Coast Guard Lt. John Pritchard, Petty Officer 1st Class Benjamin Bottoms and U.S. Army Air Force Cpl. Loren Howarth aboard the Duck.
“The three men aboard this aircraft were heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country,” said Cmdr. Jim Blow, from the U.S. Coast Guard Office of Aviation Forces. “The story of the Grumman Duck reflects the history and the mission of the Coast Guard, and by finding the aircraft we have begun to repay our country’s debt to them.”
Information was obtained, analyzed and cross-referenced to formulate the primary points of interest to search during the course of the Coast Guard-sponsored expedition.
Once at the remote location on Greenland’s southeast coast, the joint teams, consisting of safety personnel and scientific analysts, searched 10 points of interest, nine with negative results.
It wasn’t until the end of the seven-day expedition when the team, utilizing the ground penetrating radar, swept an additional historical position and made the strongest radar contact. This ultimately led to the location of the Duck.
The Coast Guard is coordinating efforts with the Joint POW/MIA Personnel Accounting Command on future actions and we will keep you updated here at Compass as the case continues to unfold.