A piece of a B-17 bomber buried for 48 years in the Greenland icecap was presented Wednesday to the woman whose name was painted on the piece of metal by her pilot husband before he flew off to fight the Nazis.
Explorers who found the bomber buried in the arctic icecap presented the keepsake to Phyllis Arlene Hanna Wednesday morning at Peachtree-DeKalb Airport north of Atlanta.In return, Phyllis Hanna, of St. Louis, gave keys to the plane Tuesday to the explorers who set out nine years ago to locate eight American warplanes that crash-landed in Greenland in July 1942 on their way to England.
The two B-17s and six P-38 Lightning fighters ran out of fuel after receiving false radio transmissions from German submarines. The crews camped for nine days until rescuers arrived on dog sled.
One of those rescued was Phyllis Hanna's husband, Joe D. Hanna Jr., who had painted her name under his cockpit window. Joe Hanna died in 1981, the year the Greenland Expedition Society was formed to find and maybe even fly the planes out.
"They've been in my basement 48 years," Phyllis Hanna said of the keys. "I'd much rather have a piece of the plane with my name on it."
The expedition, which raised donations, located the bomber with radar in 1988 and used a borer to cut a 31/2-foot-wide hole and take the piece with Phyllis Hanna's name on it. Last summer, the explorers cut a much larger cavern 20 feet long on one side.
The fuselage of the bomber was found to have collapsed under the weight of 250 feet of ice. Movement within the glacier had broken it apart.
"It was, of course, a disappointment," said Pat Epps, co-founder of the expedition. Explorers removed the top turret of the B-17 and two machine guns, ammunition, instruments and other memorabilia.