Coast Guard searches for missing WWII rescue crew

Washington – A Coast Guard team is scheduled to leave for the East Coast of Greenland Aug. 27 to investigate the suspected crash site of a World War II air rescue crew.

Coast Guard Lt. John Pritchard, Petty Officer 1st Class Benjamin Bottoms and Army Air Force Cpl. Loren Howarth have been missing since their plane crashed during a rescue attempt Nov. 29, 1942.

The crash site has long since been covered by snow and ice but ground-penetrating radar scans have located an anomaly entombed in the ice inside the probable area of the crash.

The Coast Guard has contracted with North South Polar, Inc., to help investigate the site. The combined team will conduct another GPR assay and, pending the results of the scan, may melt down to the anomaly to investigate its makeup.

Pritchard and Bottoms crewed a J2F-4 Grumman Duck, an amphibious rescue plane, attached to Coast Guard Cutter Northland. The day before the crash they volunteered to rescue the crew of a downed Army Air Force B-17 on the treacherous Greenland ice cap.

After making a successful landing on the ice cap Nov. 28, 1942, they safely returned to Northland with two injured survivors. They volunteered to return to the B-17 again the next day to retrieve more survivors. After bringing Howarth aboard they departed for Northland but were overtaken by a storm and crashed near Koge Bay.

The wreckage was spotted a week later but rescuers were never able to reach the site. The remaining crew of the B-17 survived the brutal Greenland winter using airdropped supplies. They were rescued the following spring.

Pritchard and Bottoms posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Army records from the time indicate they were also recommended for the Medal of Honor.

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