A military team dispatched to comb through decades-old aircraft wreckage on Alaska's Colony Glacier returned on Tuesday, believing it had found remnants from a 1950s U.S. military aircraft.
The recovery by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command moved quickly after flying in on Thursday. Alaska Air National Guard members first noticed the crash site during a June 10 training mission. They notified JPAC, which coordinates recovery efforts for military remains and wreckage.
Life-support equipment from the wreck and bone fragments were among the finds.
At first, the team planned to assess what sort of logistics would be needed. But the members decided to make it a recovery mission once reaching the glacier. The natural churning and movement of the glacier, which is near the larger Knik Glacier, made the team worried about collecting evidence, JPAC spokeswoman Capt. Jamie Dobson said.
"There was immediate concern it could disappear into a crevasse," she said.
Less than 10 percent of the wreckage recovered contains aircraft rubble, suggesting that the glacier has moved over time.
Dobson couldn't say much about when and where the wreck took place. The evidence collected will be sent to the JPAC Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii for further analysis. There, anthropologists will be able to piece together the rest of the story. That process could take six months or six years.
The team included a specialized team from JPAC, as well as assistance from the Alaska Air National Guard 212th Rescue Squadron and Fort Wainwright's Northern Warfare Training Center.
Dobson said the support in Alaska was "above and beyond" what the JPAC team could have expected.
"It ties back to the command here in Alaska," she said. "They want to pay their respect to possible service members and to get them home and give families the closure they deserve."
Contact Suzanna Caldwell at suzanna(at)alaskadispatch.com