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Mendel Glacier and 1942 airplane crash

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Mendel Glacier and 1942 airplane crash

Postby Final Flight » Tue Aug 27, 2013 5:06 pm

On November 18, 1942 a Beech 18 AT-7 Navigator with a pilot and three student navigators crashed into the cliffs below Mt. Mendel. All four people were killed. The crash site was found in 1947 by some UC Berkeley students. In 1947 and 1948 the US Army mounted three expeditions to find the remains of the crew killed in 1942 but the recovery missions were all unsuccessful.

In October, 2005, two climbers on their way to climb the famous Mendel Couloirs found the remains of one of the missing men from 1942 melting out of the Mendel Glacier. In 2007, I found the remains of a second crewmember. The pilot and the remaining student navigator are still buried somewhere in or around the glacier.

I tell this story in my book, Final Flight, the Mystery of a WWII Plane Crash and the Frozen Airmen in the High Sierra. Since 2007 I have made over a dozen trips to Mendel Glacier, alone and with compatriots, and even with the nephews of the man whose remains I found in 2007. My purpose has been to locate the last two crewmembers from the crashed airplane.

However, the purpose of this post is not to flog my book but to ask a large favor of the climbing community and those people who might find themselves climbing or visiting in Mt. Mendel and Mendel Glacier area.

Being a hiker and not a climber, my search pattern has been relegated to the Mendel Glacier. There is quite a bit of airplane debris out there - mostly small pieces of metal that have been chewed up by the glacier. But the airplane's two engines are there and, as the glacier continues to melt, other components are beginning to appear.

The areas I have been unable to search are the cliffs above the glacier and the region around the bergschrund. Most likely, any airplane debris or human remains in the cliffs would have been shed onto the glacier decades ago. But the goal of any good researcher is to cover all possible leads. I simply do not have the training or ability to get everywhere in the Mendel Cirque.

I have a pretty good idea of where the airplane impacted above the glacier. I've thought long and hard over this since 2007, assisted by photos taken in 1948 by one of the US Army recovery teams. The most likely impact zone is a large buttress of rock to the right (west) of the couloirs.

If you are looking for a trip to do, I'd like to suggest that you take a peek at Mt. Mendel and the Mendel Glacier. Poke around on the buttress above the glacier and see if you can spot any wreckage and, hopefully, some sign of the missing crew. Due to many warm winters and hot summers, the Mendel Couloirs don't have enough ice for climbing anymore.

If you do find anything, please take photos but leave any airplane relicts behind. This is, after all, a national park wilderness. If you find traces of the crew, also take photos and GPS coordinates and then contact the NPS with your data. There is a ranger about 3 miles away at MCClure Meadow along the JMT or you can call park HQ when you get out of the backcountry. 559.565.3341 is the switchboard number. And, also, please, contact me at: peter[at]FinalFlightTheBook.com

Many thanks to all of you for any help you can provide in restoring the last of the airplane's crew to their families.

Sincerely,

Peter Stekel



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Re: Mendel Glacier and 1942 airplane crash

Postby kd6swa » Sat Sep 07, 2013 11:37 am

Peter - this is quite a story and thanks for your efforts in looking for remains for the crew.

73
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Re: Mendel Glacier and 1942 airplane crash

Postby Wild » Mon Sep 09, 2013 11:23 pm

Hey Final Flight,

Great post, very interesting story. I just got back from there, here are some pictures from the weekend of 8/24-8/26/2013.
ImageImage
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I was aware of the plane crash at that site but, sadly, did not know any of the details. I wish I knew this story at the time, I would have spent a lot more time searching around. The area is fascinating right now, with Mendel And Darwin constantly crumbling down...

Thanks for all the info, I will be back sooner than later and help out as much as I can.
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Re: Mendel Glacier and 1942 airplane crash

Postby kd6swa » Sun Jan 12, 2014 11:10 am

I just received my copy of "Final Flight" yesterday and have read 3/4 through it already.
Peter, you had quite a puzzle to put together especially with earlier information that was less than accurate. Nice work - Thanks!

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