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Newsletter VP-5 Memorial Current Recovery Attempt Newsletter


Killed In Action        January 12th, 1962        Killed In Action

CURRENT RECOVERY ATTEMPT


UPDATE
"...All remaining crewmembers have been recovered!..."

Navy Video Relating To Recovery   [Updated 28AUG2004]
Newspaper Articles Relating To Recovery   [Updated 22AUG2004]
August 7th, 10th, and 11th Recovery Photographs   [13AUG2004]
August 8th Recovery Photographs   [11AUG2004]
Navy Hunting For Rest Of Crew Lost In 1962   [04AUG2004]
Recovery Effort Planned For Missing Greenland Aviators   [31JUL2004]



Killed In Action "...Navy Marine Corps News - 8/28/2004 - 1962 Plane Crash Recovery - A U.S. Navy Recovery Team Returned To Norfolk Last Week After Recovering Remains And Personal Effects From The Site Of A U.S. Navy Plane Crash On The Kronborg Glacier In Greenland In 1962..." VIDEO http://www.news.navy.mil/management/videodb/player/video.aspx?id=3218 [28AUG2004]



Finding Closure: Remains Of Kennewick Woman's Husband Found 42 Years After Crash

Tri City Herald
This story was published Saturday, August 21st, 2004
By John Trumbo, Herald staff writer

Nancy Davis lost her husband 42 years ago when a Navy Neptune bomber plowed into the snow and ice on the coast of Greenland, killing all 12 people on board.

Grover Wells, an ordnance man, was in the tail section during what was supposed to be an eight-hour mission on that blizzardlike Jan. 12, 1962, looking for Russian subs in the Denmark Strait. He was 24 and had an eight-month pregnant wife and two young daughters back in the United States.

Two weeks after the crash, his third daughter was born.

Davis, who remarried and now lives in Kennewick, said the recent recovery of Wells' remains brings closure and a unexpected reawakening of emotions.

A Navy recovery team spent several days at the crash site a week ago, gathering remains of victims who had been in the ice for more than four decades.

The Neptune battled 70-knot winds to get off the ground at the naval air station at Keflavik, Iceland, that Jan. 12. Within two hours, the airplane known as LA-9 had been blown miles off course toward Greenland's east coast.

"I think it was probably white-out conditions," said Bob Pettway, who was in the same Navy squadron as Wells and the others, but stationed in Spain at the time. Pettway, who lives in McDonald, Tenn., has spent years bird-dogging the fate of those 12 men.

Pettway believes the airplane flew between two mountain peaks before smashing into the Kronborg Glacier. A Navy rescue operation assumed wrongly that the Neptune went into the sea, never suspecting that it got as far as Greenland.

The LA-9 wreckage sat there for five years before British geologists came upon it. A second Navy search effort in September 1966 recovered bodies of seven of the crew. Wells' remains were assumed to be among those that could not be positively identified but were brought back and buried in a group grave at Arlington National Cemetery.

Davis, who had remarried by 1966, chose not to attend a memorial and funeral for her first husband and his crewmates because of the adverse effect it would have on their children.

"I thought that was the end of it. I closed that part of my life," said the now-64-year-old Kennewick resident. Wells was 24 and Davis was 20 when he died.

Davis' memories stayed buried at Arlington for 29 years, but in 1995 the tragedy came back to life when a geologist surveying the Kronborg Glacier saw the Neptune wreckage and clear evidence of more human remains.

Pettway, retired from a career with the Secret Service, got involved when he learned via the Internet about the crash involving some of his former Navy buddies.

"It didn't set right with me," said Pettway, who began the campaign to finish the recovery in 2000.

Wells' youngest daughter, Diana Lynn Early of Benton City, will attend her father's funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, hoping to bring closure.

"It's pretty emotional for me," she said. "I've spent my whole life wondering if he'd show up on my doorstep one day. I want to know what kind of father he would've been."

Davis keeps an album of old black and white photos showing life when she was a new mom and her husband was a Navy boy everybody liked to call Rusty because of his red hair.

"You think it is in the past. And then all of a sudden this happens, and all the emotions come back," Davis said. "Even now it is very hard. It's a real hard thing."

Her husband, Jim Davis, stood nearby, offering support. Color portraits of the three daughters, the two sons who came later and grandchildren hang on the living room walls.

Davis gently closed the old family album, its photos fading into soft brown tones, like memories slowly dimming.

"I have more satisfaction from doing this than from anything else I've ever done," Pettway said. "I think the Navy has got them all this time."

Remains Recovered From Glacier Crash

The Source for Navy News
Thursday, August 19, 2004
CNAL News
040807-N-0331L-006 Greenland (Aug. 7, 2004) - Recovery personnel examine the wreckage of a Navy P-2V Neptune aircraft that crashed in Greenland in 1962. The Navy is currently conducting recovery operations in Greenland to bring back any human remains.
Story Number: NNS040819-11
Release Date: 8/19/2004 6:19:00 PM

By Journalist 2nd Class Jennifer Crenshaw, Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The remains of U.S. naval aviators, who were lost after their P-2V Neptune patrol craft crashed in Greenland more than 40 years ago, were finally returned home Aug. 17.

A 16-member recovery team headed by Naval Air Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet (CNAL), departed Norfolk, Va., Aug. 2 to recover the remains of aviators lost in the crash on the Kronborg Glacier in Greenland.

Capt. Tom Sparks, CNAL safety officer, led the recovery mission. Bringing the fallen service members home and closure to those families were key goals.

"I looked at it as an opportunity to do something for the family and friends," said Sparks, a 25-year career Navy aviator. "I also looked at it as an opportunity to provide closure to a Navy investigation. From a personal satisfaction standpoint, it just felt like the right thing to go back there, as an aviator, and to help a fellow shipmate and recover the known remains that are out there."

The P-2V Neptune patrol aircraft disappeared over the North Atlantic during a routine reconnaissance mission Jan. 12, 1962. The Navy initially believed the aircraft crashed at sea until August 1966, when a British geologic survey team discovered the wreckage on the glacier. One month later, the Navy sent a recovery unit to bring home the remains and destroy sensitive onboard equipment, but a two-to-three foot snow blizzard during the recovery operation limited the recovery effort. After forensic analysis of the recovered remains, the Navy determined that only 7 of the 12 air crew were recovered.

In 1995, the Navy received photographs from a helicopter pilot from Greenland Air indicating that remains were still present. In June and July 2004, after thorough planning and monitoring of the wreckage site through satellite photography, the recovery team found a three-week window of ideal weather conditions to conduct a second, more thorough search of the site. Cadaver dogs, MK-26 ground penetrating radar and Arctic guides were instrumental in the success of this mission.

Unusual warm weather in Greenland and Iceland this year was a key factor in the success of this mission, said Sparks. While searching the glacier, the warmth sometimes melted one to two feet of snow and ice a day, exposing wreckage that had never been exposed before.

The recovered remains are currently being transported to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, for a full military honors repatriation ceremony to acknowledge the ultimate sacrifice made by these Sailors. Following initial analysis at Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, Hawaii, the remains will be turned over to the Armed Forces DNA Lab for identification and then turned over to their families for proper burial.

Killed In Action "...Newspaper Articles Relating To Recovery ..." [19AUG2004]
  • Tri City Herald
  • San Diego Union-Tribune
  • Newport NewsDaily Press
  • Fox News
  • Navy NewsStand
  • Associated Press
  • FresnoBee
  • HamptonRoads
  • Newsday

    Finding Closure: Remains Of Kennewick Woman's Husband Found 42 Years After Crash

    Tri City Herald
    This story was published Saturday, August 21st, 2004
    By John Trumbo, Herald staff writer

    Nancy Davis lost her husband 42 years ago when a Navy Neptune bomber plowed into the snow and ice on the coast of Greenland, killing all 12 people on board.

    Grover Wells, an ordnance man, was in the tail section during what was supposed to be an eight-hour mission on that blizzardlike Jan. 12, 1962, looking for Russian subs in the Denmark Strait. He was 24 and had an eight-month pregnant wife and two young daughters back in the United States.

    Two weeks after the crash, his third daughter was born.

    Davis, who remarried and now lives in Kennewick, said the recent recovery of Wells' remains brings closure and a unexpected reawakening of emotions.

    A Navy recovery team spent several days at the crash site a week ago, gathering remains of victims who had been in the ice for more than four decades.

    The Neptune battled 70-knot winds to get off the ground at the naval air station at Keflavik, Iceland, that Jan. 12. Within two hours, the airplane known as LA-9 had been blown miles off course toward Greenland's east coast.

    "I think it was probably white-out conditions," said Bob Pettway, who was in the same Navy squadron as Wells and the others, but stationed in Spain at the time. Pettway, who lives in McDonald, Tenn., has spent years bird-dogging the fate of those 12 men.

    Pettway believes the airplane flew between two mountain peaks before smashing into the Kronborg Glacier. A Navy rescue operation assumed wrongly that the Neptune went into the sea, never suspecting that it got as far as Greenland.

    The LA-9 wreckage sat there for five years before British geologists came upon it. A second Navy search effort in September 1966 recovered bodies of seven of the crew. Wells' remains were assumed to be among those that could not be positively identified but were brought back and buried in a group grave at Arlington National Cemetery.

    Davis, who had remarried by 1966, chose not to attend a memorial and funeral for her first husband and his crewmates because of the adverse effect it would have on their children.

    "I thought that was the end of it. I closed that part of my life," said the now-64-year-old Kennewick resident. Wells was 24 and Davis was 20 when he died.

    Davis' memories stayed buried at Arlington for 29 years, but in 1995 the tragedy came back to life when a geologist surveying the Kronborg Glacier saw the Neptune wreckage and clear evidence of more human remains.

    Pettway, retired from a career with the Secret Service, got involved when he learned via the Internet about the crash involving some of his former Navy buddies.

    "It didn't set right with me," said Pettway, who began the campaign to finish the recovery in 2000.

    Wells' youngest daughter, Diana Lynn Early of Benton City, will attend her father's funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, hoping to bring closure.

    "It's pretty emotional for me," she said. "I've spent my whole life wondering if he'd show up on my doorstep one day. I want to know what kind of father he would've been."

    Davis keeps an album of old black and white photos showing life when she was a new mom and her husband was a Navy boy everybody liked to call Rusty because of his red hair.

    "You think it is in the past. And then all of a sudden this happens, and all the emotions come back," Davis said. "Even now it is very hard. It's a real hard thing."

    Her husband, Jim Davis, stood nearby, offering support. Color portraits of the three daughters, the two sons who came later and grandchildren hang on the living room walls.

    Davis gently closed the old family album, its photos fading into soft brown tones, like memories slowly dimming.

    "I have more satisfaction from doing this than from anything else I've ever done," Pettway said. "I think the Navy has got them all this time."

    Remains Recovered From Glacier Crash

    The Source for Navy News
    Thursday, August 19, 2004
    CNAL News
    040807-N-0331L-006 Greenland (Aug. 7, 2004) - Recovery personnel examine the wreckage of a Navy P-2V Neptune aircraft that crashed in Greenland in 1962. The Navy is currently conducting recovery operations in Greenland to bring back any human remains.
    Story Number: NNS040819-11
    Release Date: 8/19/2004 6:19:00 PM

    By Journalist 2nd Class Jennifer Crenshaw, Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet Public Affairs

    NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The remains of U.S. naval aviators, who were lost after their P-2V Neptune patrol craft crashed in Greenland more than 40 years ago, were finally returned home Aug. 17.

    A 16-member recovery team headed by Naval Air Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet (CNAL), departed Norfolk, Va., Aug. 2 to recover the remains of aviators lost in the crash on the Kronborg Glacier in Greenland.

    Capt. Tom Sparks, CNAL safety officer, led the recovery mission. Bringing the fallen service members home and closure to those families were key goals.

    "I looked at it as an opportunity to do something for the family and friends," said Sparks, a 25-year career Navy aviator. "I also looked at it as an opportunity to provide closure to a Navy investigation. From a personal satisfaction standpoint, it just felt like the right thing to go back there, as an aviator, and to help a fellow shipmate and recover the known remains that are out there."

    The P-2V Neptune patrol aircraft disappeared over the North Atlantic during a routine reconnaissance mission Jan. 12, 1962. The Navy initially believed the aircraft crashed at sea until August 1966, when a British geologic survey team discovered the wreckage on the glacier. One month later, the Navy sent a recovery unit to bring home the remains and destroy sensitive onboard equipment, but a two-to-three foot snow blizzard during the recovery operation limited the recovery effort. After forensic analysis of the recovered remains, the Navy determined that only 7 of the 12 air crew were recovered.

    In 1995, the Navy received photographs from a helicopter pilot from Greenland Air indicating that remains were still present. In June and July 2004, after thorough planning and monitoring of the wreckage site through satellite photography, the recovery team found a three-week window of ideal weather conditions to conduct a second, more thorough search of the site. Cadaver dogs, MK-26 ground penetrating radar and Arctic guides were instrumental in the success of this mission.

    Unusual warm weather in Greenland and Iceland this year was a key factor in the success of this mission, said Sparks. While searching the glacier, the warmth sometimes melted one to two feet of snow and ice a day, exposing wreckage that had never been exposed before.

    The recovered remains are currently being transported to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, for a full military honors repatriation ceremony to acknowledge the ultimate sacrifice made by these Sailors. Following initial analysis at Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, Hawaii, the remains will be turned over to the Armed Forces DNA Lab for identification and then turned over to their families for proper burial.

    Lost Crew Heading Home After 42 Years In Icy Grave
    By KATE WILTROUT
    kate.wiltrout@pilotonline.com
    The Virginian-Pilot
    August 19, 2004

    NORFOLK It was the height of winter and the height of the Cold War when a U.S. anti-submarine patrol plane crashed into an icy expanse so desolate and distant that the wreckage lay undiscovered for years.

    But after 42 years and two recovery efforts, the remains of a P-2V Neptune crew that crashed in Greenland in 1962 are finally on their way home. Headed by a Norfolk fighter pilot, a team of 16 people and two dogs spent 10 days on the Kronborg glacier searching for the crew of the ill-fated plane known as Lima Alpha Nine.

    Local members of a diverse recovery team which included British mountaineering experts versed in Arctic trekking, a Hawaii-based forensic anthropologist, and cadaver dogs and their civilian handlers from Pennsylvania returned to Norfolk early Wednesday morning.

    The human remains are en route to a military facility in Hawaii that works to repatriate the bodies of missing service members. A limited recovery mission in 1966 during blizzard conditions brought back the bodies of seven of the 12 crewmen and the partial remains of three others.

    Capt. Tom Sparks , who led the recovery effort for the Naval Air Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet , said he could not provide specifics about human remains and personal effects the team discovered. But he described the mission as "100 percent successful " and hopes the trip will help families and friends of the missing fliers to close a chapter that has been open too long.

    Navy Recovers Remains Of Aviators Killed Decades Ago In Greenland
    By SONJA BARISIC
    Associated Press
    (Updated Thursday, August 19, 2004, 12:03 PM)

    VP-5 Memorial

    NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - Cold, windburned and on the alert for polar bears, a Navy team recovered the last remains of aviators lost on a remote glacier in Greenland when their plane crashed more than 40 years ago.

    The plane, equipped to track Soviet submarines, went down Jan. 12, 1962, during the Cold War, while on a routine reconnaissance flight. The remains of seven of the 12 crew members were recovered more than four years later.

    The Navy team that returned home early Wednesday after an 11-day expedition to the site did everything possible to find the rest, said the team leader, Capt. Tom Sparks.

    "I'm reporting out that we've been 100 percent successful in that mission," Sparks told reporters at Norfolk Naval Station.

    "My hope is that our efforts and our mission success does bring some comfort and closure to the family and friends" of the crewmen, he added. The team found human remains, personal effects and military artifacts. Sparks said he could not provide details. The identities of the crewmen first must be confirmed through DNA testing by military laboratories, a process expected to take at least four months.

    In recent years, friends, relatives and fellow aviators pressed the government to bring back the last remains. The mission cost about $250,000.

    "It's a prayer that's been answered," said Bob Pettway, of McDonald, Tenn., who was in the same aircraft squadron as the crew and led a campaign to write letters to Congress to try to spur action.

    "I'm just as happy as I can be that they recovered all of them," Pettway said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

    The wrecked aircraft, a P2V Neptune aircraft out of the naval station in Keflavik, Iceland, went down during an 8 1/2-hour flight, Sparks said.

    The plane initially was thought to have gone down in the ocean, but in August 1966, British geologists found the wreckage while hiking on Greenland's remote Kronborg Glacier when some of the snow cover had melted.

    By the time a Navy team reached the site in September, it was covered again in snow. The remains of seven crew members were recovered, returned to the United States and buried with full military honors. The Navy thought all known remains had been recovered, Sparks said.

    But one of the British explorers returned to the area in the summer of 1995, during an unusual warm spell that exposed much of the glacier, and saw human remains when he flew over the crash site.

    Sparks said the weather deterred the Navy from making another search attempt until this summer, when conditions were again unusually warm.

    Aided by ground-penetrating radar and dogs trained to sniff out remains, the 16 team members searched a two-mile by three-mile area. The team endured winds gusting up to 55 mph and temperatures that dropped into the teens at night.

    "We had to really look out for each other," Sparks said. "We had to worry about things like polar bears."

    The team held a memorial service at the site on Aug. 12.


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Killed In Action "...August 7th, 10th, and 11th Recovery Photographs - The Navy is currently conducting recovery operations in Greenland to bring back any human remains. U.S. Navy photograph's by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Jeffrey Lehrberg - Forwarded by Mahlon K. Miller mkwsmiller@cox.net..." WebSite: NAVY Newstand http://www.news.navy.mil/ [11AUG2004]
History - Tap To Enlarge Thumbnail

040807-N-0331L-008 Greenland (Aug. 7, 2004) -- Lt. Cdr. Christopher Blow walks across the snow to examine the wreckage of a Navy P-2V Neptune aircraft that crashed over Greenland in 1962. The Navy is currently conducting recovery operations in Greenland to bring back any human remains. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Jeffrey Lehrberg (RELEASED)
History - Tap To Enlarge Thumbnail

040807-N-0331L-006 Greenland (Aug. 7, 2004) -- Recovery personnel examine the wreckage of a Navy P-2V Neptune aircraft that crashed over Greenland in 1962. The Navy is currently conducting recovery operations in Greenland to bring back any human remains. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Jeffrey Lehrberg (RELEASED)
History - Tap To Enlarge Thumbnail

040807-N-0331L-007 Greenland (Aug. 7, 2004) -- Recovery personnel examine the wreckage of a Navy P-2V Neptune aircraft that crashed over Greenland in 1962. The Navy is currently conducting recovery operations in Greenland to bring back any human remains. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Jeffrey Lehrberg (RELEASED)
History - Tap To Enlarge Thumbnail

040807-N-0331L-010 Greenland (Aug. 7, 2004) -- Lt. Cdr. Christopher Blow and Lt. Cdr. Steve Dial examine the wreckage of a Navy P-2V Neptune aircraft that crashed over Greenland in 1962. The Navy is currently conducting recovery operations in Greenland to bring back any human remains. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Jeffrey Lehrberg (RELEASED)
History - Tap To Enlarge Thumbnail

040811-N-0331L-004 Greenland (Aug. 11, 2004) -- Recovery personnel examine the wreckage of a Navy P-2V Neptune aircraft that crashed over Greenland in 1962. The Navy is currently conducting recovery operations in Greenland to bring back any human remains. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Jeffrey Lehrberg (RELEASED)
History - Tap To Enlarge Thumbnail

040811-N-0331L-005 Greenland (Aug. 11, 2004) -- Recovery personnel examine the wreckage of a Navy P-2V Neptune aircraft that crashed over Greenland in 1962. The Navy is currently conducting recovery operations in Greenland to bring back any human remains. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Jeffrey Lehrberg (RELEASED)
History - Tap To Enlarge Thumbnail

040811-N-0331L-006 Greenland (Aug. 11, 2004) -- Recovery personnel examine the wreckage of a Navy P-2V Neptune aircraft that crashed over Greenland in 1962. The Navy is currently conducting recovery operations in Greenland to bring back any human remains. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Jeffrey Lehrberg (RELEASED)
History - Tap To Enlarge Thumbnail

040810-N-0331L-003 Greenland (Aug. 10, 2004) -- Chief Aviation Mishap Investigator for the Naval Safety Center, Cdr. Charles Huff, inspects the wreckage of "LA-9" a Navy P-2V Neptune aircraft that crashed over Greenland in 1962. The Navy is currently conducting recovery operations in Greenland to bring back any human remains. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Jeffrey Lehrberg (RELEASED)
History - Tap To Enlarge Thumbnail

040810-N-0331L-004 Greenland (Aug. 10, 2004) -- Chief Aviation Mishap Investigator for the Naval Safety Center, Cdr. Charles Huff, inspects the wreckage of "LA-9" a Navy P-2V Neptune aircraft that crashed over Greenland in 1962. The Navy is currently conducting recovery operations in Greenland to bring back any human remains. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Jeffrey Lehrberg (RELEASED)


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Killed In Action "...August 8th Recovery Photographs - The Navy is currently conducting recovery operations in Greenland to bring back any human remains. U.S. Navy photograph's by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Jeffrey Lehrberg ..." WebSite: NAVY Newstand http://www.news.navy.mil/ [11AUG2004]
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Killed In Action "...Navy Hunting For Rest Of Crew Lost In 1962 - USA Today Nationline Page 2 August 2nd, 2004..." USA Today http://www.usatoday.com [04AUG2004]
VP-5 MishapCamera


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Killed In Action "...Recovery Effort Planned For Missing Greenland Aviators..." Forwarded by Bob Pettway rpettway@epbfi.com [31JUL2004]

Commander, Naval Air Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet
1279 Franklin Street
Norfolk, VA 23511-2494
Press Release
Commander, Naval Air Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Release No. 013-04

POC: Mike Maus July 30, 2004
757-444-8449/621-6815

RECOVERY EFFORT PLANNED FOR MISSING GREENLAND AVIATORS

A recovery team from the Naval Air Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet will depart Norfolk on Monday, August 2, and attempt to recover the remains of the aviators who perished on the Kronborg Glacier in Greenland when their P-2V Neptune patrol aircraft crashed there on January 12, 1962.

The aircraft crashed while on a routine reconnaissance patrol from Naval Station Keflavik, Iceland. A previous effort in 1966 resulted in the recovery of the remains of at least seven aircrewmen. Those remains were turned over to their respective next of kin and have been interred. The aircraft was carrying a crew of twelve at the time of the crash.

The Navy decided to make the recovery attempt following evidence that the remains may be easier to retrieve due to warmer temperatures in August on the glacier. The team -- led by Captain Tom Sparks, AIRLANT Safety Officer, includes DoD personnel, contract personnel, and canine assets -- expects to be on the glacier for about a week to attempt the recovery operation.

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