In the dark days of World War II, the United States started flying B17 bombers across the Atlantic to England.
Operation Bolero was the name given to the operation that ferried the airplanes and crew on this difficult route, where original estimates was that ten percent of the flights would never arrive. But arrive they did:
By the end of August 1942, the Bolero movement had transferred 386 airplanes: 164 P-38′s of the 1st and 14th Fighter Groups; 119 B-17′s of the 97th, 301st, and 92nd Bomb Groups; and 103 C-47′s of the 60th and 64th Troop Carrier Groups. 920 airplanes had been sent from the United States to England by the end of 1942, and 882 had arrived safely,
One flight, however, did not make it to England, and that is a story of heroism and survival.
On July 15, 1942, six fighters from the 94th FS and their two B-17 escorts were forced by bad weather and low fuel to land on a glacier in Greenland. The crews were all recovered safely but the aircraft were abandoned.
The Lost Squadron became a legend and many attempts to salvage the airplanes failed, until until a Kentucky businessman, Roy Shoffner, started a group to salvage the fighters. Despite having to dig through 200 plus feet of ice, one of the P 38 fighters was rescued in 1993, and a long restoration begun. It is now one of only a few functional P 38 fighters still able to fly, and the now renamed “Glacier Girl” made her debut flying in 2002.
Another plane, the B-17 My Gal Sal, was also salvaged but is not yet able to fly.
As the sole survivor of that flight, Glacier Girl is now representing not only those lose at that time but all those pilots who flew that dangerous route to help England to fight a pernicious enemy.
She is finally scheduled to complete her long flight to England, 65 years late, and will be exhibited in England at the Imperial War Museum (Duxford) and will fly in the air show as part of the Flying Legends Air Show.
At a time when soldiers are made to seem as victims and wars are no longer politically correct, few probably realize that 30 000 American fliers died in defense of England.
Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the Philippines. Her son in law is a Navy pilot and her husband a World War II veteran.
Her webpage is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.