During Operation Highjump in 1946-47, a plane went down on Antarctica’s Phantom Coast and three men died. Their crewmates hastily buried them under the wing of the plane, a memorable spot so as to potentially recover their bodies later. Weather that season made the recovery improbable, so the task was delayed, and then forgotten. Now, due to technological breakthroughs that would allow the plane to be detected beneath over 100 feet of glacial ice, there is a resurgence of interest in recovering the deceased crew of the George One.
What interests me most about this blog is that, because the political goal is an expensive operation that affects only a handful of people, the author expertly consolidates nationalist phrasing and emotional pleas to create a spellbinding effect of concern that makes me want to write checks and call my Congressmen.
In the course of persuasion, he uses these phrases: “US soil”, “the remains of these heroic men”, “deep obligation”, “for their family and for their nation”, “Antarctica Heroes”, “spearhead an effort”, “we will prevail”, “our country’s spirit” and “a feel good endeavor for the nation”.
As needy as the tone of the blog is, it is nonetheless informative on how the military processes corpses, culturally and logistically. The blog instructs on subjects such as “Deep Water Losses”, “Cold War Non-Hostile Loss Incidents”, the U.S. government’s “Full Accounting Effort”, “Missing Service Personnel Act”, and “Service Secretary’s Current Death Programs”, in the end illustrating that Antarctica is a difficult place, politically, from which to retrieve corpses after the immediate mission has been fulfilled and the dead crew thereby irrelevant to authorities. It is also an interesting blog in that it uses major current catchphrases such as the War on Terror, Natural Disasters, and Global Warming to recruit public support and military funding: all for the niche interest of a small devoted community.
Here is an excerpt from a letter from the niece of one of the deceased to the Secretary of the Navy:
Secretary Winter, the families of the George One recognize the global war on terror continues as well as the Navy’s need to respond to natural disasters around the world. Thus, we believe this mission to bring home these three Sailors who died at the close of WWII while supporting our Nation’s Cold War efforts would pay significant dividends to the Navy, as well as uplift the spirit of our nation.
Please bring our sailors home.
Here is an excerpt from the George One blog:
About two weeks ago I read about the plight of the George One/Admiral Byrd Operation Highjump and the U.S. Navy aviators that crashed on Antarctica’s Phantom Coast. While survivors of the crash were able to make it to the coast for pick up by a sea plane, those three men killed in the crash were left behind, their bodies buried under the wing by fellow crewman Robbie Robbins. Weather precluded the Navy from recovering their bodies at the tail end of Operation Highjump. Its always been the wish of fellow crewmen, the Navy rescuers and of course, the families to have their loved ones returned to US soil. In current times, the Navy, wanting to recover the remains of these heroic men, lacked the technology to retrieve the men now some 100 to 150 feet below the glacier surface and subsequently abandoned the mission.
I had one of those “Aha!” moments in the midst of reading the articles in Air & Space magazine. It’s amazing that all that glacier penetration equipment was developed and never had another use – until now!
If you’d like to help please contact me and I’ll send you a word document letter that you can personalize send to the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates and the Secretary of Navy, the Honorable Donald Winters as well as your Senators and District Congressional Representatives.
We’ll soon be offering George One Mission Patches, shirts, caps etc to help fund the domestic efforts.