Photo: Wikipedia Commons
Thanksgiving was just five days away on November 22, 1952 when a huge Air Force plane nicknamed “Old Shaky” went down East of Anchorage, AK killing all 52 servicemembers on board.The U.S. was in the thick of the Korean War at the time and the plane was filled with troops from the Air Force, Army, the Navy, and Marines — all of whom were likely eager to enjoy the holiday with family and friends.
As they flew above the Chugach Mountains, only minutes away from landing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, the massive C-124 Globemaster suffered a malfunction and began losing altitude.
The reason even this is known, explains Casey Grove and Mike Dunham at Stars & Stripes, is because a nearby Northwest pilot deciphered a scratchy radio signal over his headset that said, “As long as we have to land, we might as well land here.”
Aside from a splash of debris spotted by a squadron of searchers that was lost to the elements within days, nothing was heard from Old Shaky’s crew or passengers ever again — until now.
The Joint Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command (JPAC) announced yesterday they’d finally found the plane, along with its missing passengers and crew.
For 60 years the debris was etched into Colony Glacier, moving with the ice through time as family members held on and refused to let their loss be forgotten.
Alaskan historian Doug Beckstead told Stars & Stripes that when the plane went down, the weather was brutal and the crew were flying blind, using their altimeter, a stopwatch, and a radio signal to find their way home.
They plowed into the mountain at full speed and the bits of debris were re-covered by snow before an Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter found them again only days ago.
It’s welcome news to families left behind who maintain a Facebook page, and have been waiting for this news for six decades.
Tonja-Anderson Dell posted to the page Wednesday night: “Families and Friends, what we all have been waiting for has come true. It would have been 60 years this November. There are no words I can state on this page or any other page that explains how I am feeling right now…I pray and ask for JPAC to bring our Airmen home to us; one airman at a time or all at once just home to the families member waiting.”
The Facebook page is powerful and scrolling the comments through the years it’s impossible to miss the loss and lack of closure that all family members who lose loved ones in accidents that go un-found must suffer.
On November 22, 2011, the anniversary of the crash, another member posted: “Today has been 59 Years since this crash. In Remembrance of everyone that died … You all are truly missed. “
The remains will be brought home in an official arrival ceremony and reunited with those who will finally say their goodbyes.
Photo: DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Frezzell Brewer U.S. Army
Photo: DoD photo by Cpt. Jamie D. Dobson, U.S. Army
Photo: Wikipedia Commons
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