A Lockheed P-38 Lightning named “Glacier Girl,” the subject of one of the world’s most intriguing aircraft recovery stories, will return to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh this summer to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. The 53rd annual EAA AirVenture gathering, the world’s greatest aviation celebration, is July 25-31 at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wis.
The P-38 will fly to EAA AirVenture 13 years after its first appearance at the EAA event. In 1992, the airplane was nothing more than a collection of aircraft parts that had just been rescued from under the Greenland ice cap after 50 years. The recovery team that extracted the parts from below more than 250 feet of ice and brought the parts to display at Oshkosh even before taking them home to begin the decade-long aircraft restoration.
“We are absolutely thrilled to welcome Glacier Girl back to Oshkosh as a fully airworthy P-38 this year, because the aircraft has always held a special place for EAA members,” said Tom Poberezny, EAA president and AirVenture chairman. “When the P-38 parts were first brought here in 1992, it was a high point of that year’s EAA fly-in. Since then, a recurring annual question has been, ‘Will we see it at Oshkosh this year?’ Glacier Girl’s participation, along with the other rare World War II aircraft already confirmed, will truly make EAA AirVenture 2005 an unmatched spectacle.”
Glacier Girl will be on display throughout the weeklong EAA AirVenture event and will be parked on the main showcase AeroShell Square. The aircraft will also participate in warbirds flying activities during the spectacular air shows celebrating the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.
This P-38 was originally part of “Operation Bolero,” a massive buildup of U.S. warplanes in Great Britain in 1942. Enroute to Europe, it and several other aircraft were forced to ditch on the ice. Beginning in the early 1980s, several people had considered rescuing at least one of the ditched aircraft, but simply finding the airplanes under the massive ice buildup proved daunting. After discovering this aircraft, the recovery teams drilled down more than 250 feet and created an ice cave to bring the P-38 airframe to the surface.
After several delays slowed the reconstruction process, Kentucky resident J. Roy Shoffner eventually became sole owner of the project and dedicated his effort to complete the P-38’s rebirth. After a meticulous, 10-year restoration, Glacier Girl was flown for the first time on October 26, 2002. The P-38 is currently housed at the Lost Squadron Museum in Middlesboro, Kentucky.
“For the past 13 years, we’ve been hearing from people who say, ‘We saw the airplane back in 1992 at Oshkosh when all the parts came there in a DC-3,’ so this is a very big appearance for us.” said Bob Cardin of the Lost Squadron Museum, who has been with the airplane since the recovery effort began. “This is our way of thanking everyone for their support of the project. If you’re going to go someplace with the airplane, there’s no better place than Oshkosh, because it’s the mecca for aviation.”
The Lockheed P-38 Lightning was developed in the late 1930s and first delivered to the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1941. In its time, it was the fastest aircraft in the American military, with a top speed of more than 400 miles per hour. It is also visually memorable, with its twin engines and twin tail booms earning it the nickname “Fork-tailed Devil” among enemy forces in the Pacific Theater. Of the more than 10,000 P-38s built, fewer than 10 remain airworthy today.
The EAA AirVenture Museum has featured a P-38 as part of its Eagle Hangar display for more than 15 years. That particular airplane is painted in the colors of Maj. Richard Bong, a northern Wisconsin farm boy who became America’s all-time aerial ace during World War II with 40 air victories.
June 12, 2005