Thurston Island Graves

The Chicago Tribune (25 April 2003) reports that the sister of a man killed in Antarctica 57 years ago and now buried in ice is asking for the body to be retrieved and brought home to the US.

In 1946, during Operation Highjump, three navy airmen were killed when their Martin Mariner PBM-5 seaplane George One crashed into Thurston Island after take-off from USS Pine Island. The six surviving airmen buried their dead comrades, then waited 13 days for rescue.

Betty Spencer, the sister of one of the dead men, Radioman 1st Class Wendell Hendersin, wants the bodies recovered and returned to the US for due recognition and proper burial. Estimates by the US Geological Survey suggest that the bodies are likely to be under 45-80 m of ice, but the request is being considered by the US Navy "very seriously."

In the early 1990s a private expedition salvaged a P-38 Lightning that had crashed in Greenland during World War II by using a heated drill to bore through 80 m of ice. However, the operation took years and cost millions of dollars.

Bill Kean, 79, one of the two surviving George One crew, is opposed to any effort to recover the bodies of his comrade's.

"There they are in beautiful, pristine white snow, and they'll be there forever. I would prefer that for myself rather than be stuck in a grave someplace."

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