1946 Antarctica PBM Mariner crash

The 1946 Antarctica PBM Mariner crash occurred on 30 December 1946, on Thurston Island, Antarctica when a United States Navy Martin PBM-5 Mariner crashed during a blizzard.[1][2] Buno 59098 was one of 4 aircraft lost during Operation Highjump.[2]

1946 Antarctica PBM Mariner crash
Crashed U.S. Navy PBM-5 Mariner on Thurston Island, 11 January 1947.jpg
Wreckage and survivors of the crash photographed on 11 January 1947
Date30 December 1946 - 12 January 1947
SummarySevere weather
SiteThurston Island, Antarctica
Aircraft typeMartin PBM Mariner
OperatorUnited States Navy

The crashEdit

The aircraft, Bureau Number 59098, callsign "George 1", hit a ridge and burned while supporting Operation Highjump.[2] The crash instantly killed Ensign Maxwell A. Lopez and Petty Officer Wendell K. Hendersin.[2] Two hours later, Petty Officer Frederick Williams also died.[2] Six surviving crewmembers, including Aviation Radioman James H. Robbins, pilot Ralph "Frenchy" LeBlanc and co-pilot William Kearns, were rescued 13 days later by an aircraft from USS Pine Island (AV-12).[2] LeBlanc was so frostbitten from the conditions that a quadruple amputation was performed on him.[1] His legs were amputated on the Philippine Sea, a ship that was part of the rescue, and his arms were amputated later in Rhode Island.[1] Hendersin, Williams, and Lopez were buried at the crash site and their remains have not been recovered.[1][2]

In 2004, during a surveying flight, a Chilean navy airplane flew over the site using ground penetrating radar to discover the exact location.[3][4] A two-expedition recovery mission was planned, but subsequently cancelled, for both November 2008 and November 2009 to recover the three fatalities of the crash from their temporary grave.[5][3] In 2012, another group announced plans to drill 100 ft (30 m) down to recover the bodies.[4] Rich Lopez, nephew of Maxwell Lopez, was part of the plan.[4] However the group struggled to raise the $1.5-3.5 million dollars they would need.[4]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d "Decade Ago Sarasotan Was Off For Antarctica". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. 30 December 1956. Archived from the original on 3 August 2021. Retrieved 3 August 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "United States aircraft losses in Antarctica". Antarctic Journal of the United States. 9: 3–4. 1974. Archived from the original on 3 August 2021. Retrieved 3 August 2021.
  3. ^ a b Tribune, STEVE CAHALAN La Crosse. "SISTERS WANT BODY RECOVERED FROM ANTARCTICA". madison.com. Archived from the original on 3 August 2021. Retrieved 3 August 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d "Airmen Lost in Antarctic Ice May Be Recovered". NBC News. Archived from the original on 3 August 2021. Retrieved 3 August 2021.
  5. ^ Hoffman, Carl (1 July 2007). "Buried at the Bottom of the World" (Magazine article). Air & Space Smithsonian. Archived from the original on 20 July 2008. Retrieved 30 October 2009.