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The Kee Bird

Discussion in 'WWII Today' started by Erich Hartmann, Mar 30, 2001.

  1. Erich Hartmann

    Erich Hartmann Member

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    Has anyone heard about this story?

    In the early 1990s, Thule AFB in northern Greenland would periodically scan the horizon with their radars. About 200 miles away, their radar would always pick up a "blip". It was not moving, and had been there for years. This puzzled everyone, as it was in the middle of nowhere well within the Arctic circle. Finally, a C-130 went out to check it out. Then they saw what it was.
    Well well well. There sat a a lone B-29 bomber with its landing gears down on the frozen tundra. It was about 90% intact. Apparently, it was forced to land there after mechanical failure in the late 40s while on a secret mission. But nobody bothered to destroy it, as they figured it was too far out of the way. Its nose art said "Kee Bird".
    Then in 1993-4, a group of vintage aircraft specialists flew out in an attempt to restore the B-29. They brought in 4 fully refurbished engines, and set up shop to get the Kee Bird out of there. Because the winter came in and were not quite ready, they had to put it off until the following spring. Their first efforts even took the life of a key engineer, as he collapsed from exhaustion!
    When they returned, they finally got it prepared to go. All four engines ran very smoothly, and a newly-installed GPS was set to fly back to Thule AFB. Then, the fully restored ultra-rare B-29 began to taxi for takeoff. Seconds before they would give full throttle, and fire broke out and swept through the plane. It was completely destroyed!!! What a horrible loss after coming so close. If you do a search on the net, there is all kinds of facts about the Kee Bird story. NOVA did a documentary on this and I saw it a while ago. I was shocked. Has anyone ever heard of this?
     
  2. C.Evans

    C.Evans Expert

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    I had not heard about this artic expedition. The one I heard about happened in the early to mid 1990s. Supposedly in the artic, a research team found I think 4-5 B17s or B-24 bombers that were buried with about 50-80? feet of ice.

    These had not been assembled and were all in crates. I had heard about this on the NBC Nightly News and I think on an "Assignment Discovery" Documentary. I dont remember much about it but I do know that there were 4-5 WW2 American aircraft that had been found in box-crates in the Artic. Its possible that they could have been fighters instead of bombers but I dont think so.

    [This message has been edited by C.Evans (edited 30 March 2001).]
     
  3. Erich Hartmann

    Erich Hartmann Member

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    Yeah that was a really high-profile expedition. It was interesting to find out that we knew that the aircraft were there, but nobody actually had the resources/funding to recover them until only about a decade ago. There was definitely a few P-38s in there, too. There is a few pictures on the net somewhere about their current restoration status.
    I think the Kee Bird story was much more low-key, as they were private parties doing it for a profit, and the ice buried P-38s were by a bigger organization for later display. Forget if it was the Smithsonian or not(?)

    I once threw away an application for an apprenticeship to the Smithsonian's vintage aircraft restoration facilities. Turned it down because I felt that there "was no money in that sort of thing" at the time, and went to college. Now I've secretly regretted it ever since. Smooth move........
     
  4. Ron

    Ron Member

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    yeah i heard about the Kee Bird...I was so depressed when the thing cought on fire. 2-3 years ago The Discovery Channel had a special show all about the plane...it covered the whole drama...from the beginning to the firey end [​IMG] that is where i learned about it.
     
  5. C.Evans

    C.Evans Expert

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    The only neat project I have been involved in was when I had 3-4 months where I was allowed to clean all the guns that the local museum had. I took my sweet time and could have done the job in less than half the time but I enjoyed working with real pieces of history.

    I worked on an MG-34, a .30 cal. a .50 cal. dozens of bolt action rifles, and about 200 muskets, flintlocks, firelocks, revolvers, Kentucky long rifles, a few Blunderbuss's, and a collection belonging to a retired Army General. God-I-Miss-It.

    [This message has been edited by C.Evans (edited 31 March 2001).]
     

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