The search has resumed for the remains of servicemen killed in a military plane crash in Alaska in 1952. Two of those still missing are from Missouri.
Last year remains recovered from wreckage embedded in the Colony Glacier were identified as belonging to 17 of the 52 men that died when a C-124 Globemaster cargo plane nicknamed “Old Shaky” crashed into Mount Gannett on November 22, 1952. Those remains were returned to those men’s families.
Two servicemen still unaccounted for are from Missouri; Army Technical Sergeant Leonard George Unger of Gerald, and Air Force Airman 3rd Class Wayne Dean Jackson of Downing, were on that plane. Their families told Missourinet last year they hoped those men’s remains will be found.
The wreckage has been carried by the glacier to a site roughly 15 miles from where the crash occurred. It was spotted in 2012 and each summer since then, a joint military team has gone to the site to recover wreckage and any human remains that can be found. Due to the terrain and weather it is only accessible about two weeks out of the year, and only by helicopter.
Air Force Tech Sergeant John Gordinier was with the team that landed at the site Monday. He says it’s a treacherous site, with crevices in the ice that stretch down “as far as the eye can see,” on a glacier that is always moving, but he says there is good reason that in spite of the danger, teams keep returning.
“We’re always taught from day one, being in boot camp, you never leave a man behind,” Gordinier told Missourinet. “Even though it’s been 60 years, to be able to provide closure to the families, to be able to give them that sense, to give them the ability to bury and do a full honors funeral that they deserve, that’s why we do it.
“[Bringing these servicemen home is] an honor to do,” Gordinier added.
He says time is of the essence, however, as the glacier empties into Lake George. Any remains and wreckage that are not recovered could be lost if they reach the lake.
“It really, ultimately is what the glacier is allowing us to see and allowing us to collect,” said Gordinier. “There’s plenty underneath the ice still, so ultimately it comes down to what we’re able to see, because it’s not like we can go out there and just dig through the ice and look for other remains or debris.”
If the team finds any human remains, the military will begin the process of attempting to identify them.
The recovery mission is a joint effort of the Alaskan Command, Alaska National Guard, active-duty military members and civilians.