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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A decades-old military mystery has been solved after a glacial shift led to the discovery of the crash site of a long-lost plane.
The Joint Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command announced on June 26 a specialized team from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command had completed an investigation and recovery operation of a crash site that had been found on Colony Glacier.
The discovery was made on June 10 but was not reported until June 26. The wreckage found was roughly 14 miles from the area previously believed to be the crash site of a plane nicknamed "Old Shaky" that had gone down Nov. 22, 1952.
The plane had flown above the rugged horizon of the Chugach Mountains, en route to the Joint Base Elmendorf- Richardson, about 40 miles from Anchorage. The plane, a huge C-124 Globe- master, suffered a malfunction and began losing altitude.
It was reported in an Associated Press article that a nearby Northwest Airline pilot said he had heard a scratchy radio transmission he believed was them. He reported the cryptic words to be, "As long as we have to land, we might as well land here." Then silence.
That was the last ever heard from anyone aboard the plane or the troops. Fifty-two people, members of the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines, all vanished that day.
When the weather cleared, a squadron of searchers looked for the wreckage. Rescuers hiked into a remote area where it was believed the plane had gone down. Neither group found any evidence or wreckage. What happened to the plane was a mystery.
It was theorized that the plane could possibly have tumbled into a crevice in a nearby glacier and had literally been swallowed up. The various branches of the military notified family members but told them it was too dangerous and risky to attempt any further recovery efforts.
At the crash site discovered last month, the number on the plane was clearly visible, and the plane was positively identified. The Alaska Air National Guard's 212th Rescue Squadron and the Northern Warfare Training Center from Fort Wainwright conducted the recovery.
During the operation, remains were recovered and are now at JPAC's Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii pending a final disposition. JPAC falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Pacific Command.
Family members are rejoicing, although their joy is tempered by their loss. Facebook pages tell their stories.
Mel Borup Chandler is a former Utah resident. His Email address is email@example.com.