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“My Gal Sal”

On June 27, 1942, the pilot of a B-17E named "My Gal Sal" was forced to make a belly-landing on the Greenland icecap during a flight from the United States to England. He made an excellent landing with the only damage to the plane being bent propeller blades.

Once the downed plane had been located, Col. Bernt Balchen set out for its location in a PBY amphibian and landed on a lake about 25 miles away. He and Sgt. Healy then began walking to the B-17 across treacherous crevasses, snow bridges, drifts and ice-cold rivers and pits of slush. It took them hours to reach the airplane and its 13 crew members. After a night of rest, Col. Balchen and his companion led the 13 survivors slowly and carefully back to the lake where they boarded the Catalina and took off for Bluie West 8. The rescued men had been marooned for 10 days.

"My Gal Sal" was forgotten until October 1964 when it was rediscovered from the air. It was still in fairly good condition, although the tail had been broken off by the constant movement of ice.

With USAF cooperation, the Society of Automotive Engineers sent a representative to the isolated site by helicopter in 1965 to gather samples of hydraulic fluid, rubber, canvas and Plexiglass materials, and navigational, hydraulic and aircrew equipment items. These items were desired for laboratory evaluation as to the long-term effects from the cold, wet environment of the Arctic. Many significant facts were learned from the evaluation, facts that could be applied to such military programs as the Titan and Minuteman ballistic missiles being maintained in an operational-readiness status in underground silos.

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