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EAA AirVenture Today is published by the Experimental Aircraft Association for EAA AirVenture from July 27 - August 3. It is distributed free on the convention grounds as well as other locations in Oshkosh and surrounding communities. Stories and photos are copyrighted 2008 by EAA AirVenture Today and EAA. Reproduction by any means is prohibited without written consent.

  

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Volume 9, Number 6 August 1, 2008     

Glacier Girl P-38 triumph recounted
By Frederick A. Johnsen

Bob Cardin, who helped recover and restore the P-38 Glacier Girl, gestured as he talked about the warbird. Photo by Frederick A. Johnsen

Owner Rod Lewis joked with attendees at the Warbirds in Review session. Photo by Frederick A. Johnsen

The P-38E Lightning nicknamed Glacier Girl was the center of a story of determination and heroism at a Warbirds in Review presentation Thursday at AirVenture 2008.

Forced to land on the Greenland icecap in 1942 on its way to Europe as part of Operation Bolero, this P-38 and five others, in the company of two B-17 Flying Fortresses, were slowly buried under ice. Bob Cardin, who helped retrieve and restore this P-38 starting in 1992, told the audience this group of missing aircraft has been sought by warbird collectors ever since the late David Tallichet mounted an expedition looking for them in 1977. Others followed in the 1980s, but it remained to the team Cardin was on to melt a vertical shaft through more than 200 feet of glacial ice, and to use hot water to hollow out an ice room around the P-38 to begin its disassembly and removal.

Ten years later, now christened Glacier Girl, this rare early model P-38 took to the air once more with veteran warbird pilot Steve Hinton at the control yoke. Cardin said the recovery team actually fired the P-38’s guns with the wartime 1942 ammunition still in its ammo boxes when they found the airplane. Cardin told the audience that Glacier Girl has the only complete P-38 armament package, including accessory items, in the world. "When the plane was abandoned there, it became a time capsule," he explained.

Eighty percent of Glacier Girl is original, Cardin said, adding that the airframe sustained crushing damage under the ice that made it not feasible to use more. It has flown with its wartime Allison engines, he said.

The Glacier Girl team has been thwarted by mechanical gremlins in attempts to complete this P-38’s original 1942 assignment to reach the United Kingdom. "Our plans are now for ’09," said Glacier Girl owner Rod Lewis. The team pays homage to the aircraft’s wartime duty in other ways as well: Cardin said each dummy ammunition round in the fighter’s nose ammunition boxes has been signed by a World War II P-38 pilot, and these signed mementos go aloft each time Glacier Girl flies.

Lewis, recently checked out in the P-38 by Steve Hinton, says the P-38 "is a dream to fly. It’s really a beautiful, smooth airplane."

"You don’t really own an airplane like this; Bob (Cardin) and I are really the caretakers," Lewis said in reference to the long-term care and preservation of this amazing wartime relic.

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