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Dover supports Operation Colony Glacier 2020

A transfer case awaits transport on a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska during Operation Colony Glacier, June 29, 2020. Operation Colony Glacier is a recovery effort of remains, personal effects, and aircraft wreckage from a C-124 Globemaster II crash in 1952 on Colony Glacier. This is the first time an Air Mobility Command aircraft has supported this mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Esteban Esquivel)

A transfer case awaits transport on a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska during Operation Colony Glacier, June 29, 2020. Operation Colony Glacier is a recovery effort of remains, personal effects, and aircraft wreckage from a C-124 Globemaster II crash in 1952 on Colony Glacier. This is the first time an Air Mobility Command aircraft has supported this mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Esteban Esquivel)

Staff Sgt. Jamal Miqbel, 3rd Airlift Squadron loadmaster, guides a K-loader carrying two empty transfer cases from Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations which will be loaded into the back of a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft during Operation Colony Glacier, June 25, 2020, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. Empty transfer cases were flown from Dover to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson where they were used in the recovery of remains from a 1952 plane crash in southern Alaska. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Esteban Esquivel)

Staff Sgt. Jamal Miqbel, 3rd Airlift Squadron loadmaster, guides a K-loader carrying two empty transfer cases from Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations which will be loaded into the back of a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft during Operation Colony Glacier, June 25, 2020, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. Empty transfer cases were flown from Dover to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson where they were used in the recovery of remains from a 1952 plane crash in southern Alaska. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Esteban Esquivel)

Staff Sgt. Jonathan Enriquez Colin secures empty transfer cases aboard a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in preparation for Operation Colony Glacier, June 25, 2020, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. As part of the recovery effort of remains from a 1952 aircraft crash in southern Alaska, transfer cases were flown to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.  Upon return to Dover, the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System begins the process of identifying any remains. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Esteban Esquivel)

Staff Sgt. Jonathan Enriquez Colin secures empty transfer cases aboard a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in preparation for Operation Colony Glacier, June 25, 2020, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. As part of the recovery effort of remains from a 1952 aircraft crash in southern Alaska, transfer cases were flown to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Upon return to Dover, the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System begins the process of identifying any remains. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Esteban Esquivel)

A 436th Airlift Wing C-17 Globemaster III aircraft waits on the flight line prior to takeoff during Operation Colony Glacier June 29, 2020, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. A crew from Dover Air Force Base flew to JBER to return remains found during Operation Colony Glacier 2020, a recovery effort of remains, personal effects and aircraft wreckage from a 1952 C-124 Globemaster II aircraft crash on Mount Gannett’s Colony Glacier, in Alaska’s Chugach Range. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Esteban Esquivel)

A 436th Airlift Wing C-17 Globemaster III aircraft waits on the flight line prior to takeoff during Operation Colony Glacier June 29, 2020, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. A crew from Dover Air Force Base flew to JBER to return remains found during Operation Colony Glacier 2020, a recovery effort of remains, personal effects and aircraft wreckage from a 1952 C-124 Globemaster II aircraft crash on Mount Gannett’s Colony Glacier, in Alaska’s Chugach Range. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Esteban Esquivel)

Capt. Josh Short, 3rd Airlift Squadron C-17 Globemaster III pilot, runs through preflight checks during Operation Colony Glacier, June 29, 2020, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. A C-17 Globemaster III and crew from Dover Air Force Base flew to JBER to return remains found during Operation Colony Glacier 2020, a recovery effort of remains, personal effects and aircraft wreckage from a C-124 Globemaster II aircraft crash in 1952 on Colony Glacier. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Esteban Esquivel)

Capt. Josh Short, 3rd Airlift Squadron C-17 Globemaster III pilot, runs through preflight checks during Operation Colony Glacier, June 29, 2020, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. A C-17 Globemaster III and crew from Dover Air Force Base flew to JBER to return remains found during Operation Colony Glacier 2020, a recovery effort of remains, personal effects and aircraft wreckage from a C-124 Globemaster II aircraft crash in 1952 on Colony Glacier. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Esteban Esquivel)

A carry team from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, transfers the remains of servicemembers recovered during Operation Colony Glacier 2020 to a Dover Air Force Base C-17 Globemaster III at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, June 29, 2020. The crew from Dover flew to JBER to bring back remains recovered during Operation Colony Glacier 2020. Operation Colony Glacier is a recovery effort of remains, personal effects, and aircraft wreckage from the crash of a C-124 Globemaster in 1952 on Colony Glacier in southern Alaska. This is the first time an Air Mobility Command aircraft has supported this mission. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Esteban Esquivel)

A carry team from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, transfers the remains of servicemembers recovered during Operation Colony Glacier 2020 to a Dover Air Force Base C-17 Globemaster III at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, June 29, 2020. The crew from Dover flew to JBER to bring back remains recovered during Operation Colony Glacier 2020. Operation Colony Glacier is a recovery effort of remains, personal effects, and aircraft wreckage from the crash of a C-124 Globemaster in 1952 on Colony Glacier in southern Alaska. This is the first time an Air Mobility Command aircraft has supported this mission. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Esteban Esquivel)

From the left, Tech. Sgt. William Jenkins and Staff Sgt. Jamal Miqbel, 3rd Airlift Squadron loadmasters, secure two transfer cases from Operation Colony Glacier at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, June 29, 2020. A C-17 Globemaster III crew from Dover Air Force Base flew to JBER to bring back remains recovered during Operation Colony Glacier 2020. Operation Colony Glacier is a recovery effort of remains, personal effects, and aircraft wreckage from the crash of a C-124 Globemaster in 1952 on Colony Glacier. This is the first time an Air Mobility Command aircraft has supported this mission. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Esteban Esquivel)

From the left, Tech. Sgt. William Jenkins and Staff Sgt. Jamal Miqbel, 3rd Airlift Squadron loadmasters, secure two transfer cases from Operation Colony Glacier at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, June 29, 2020. A C-17 Globemaster III crew from Dover Air Force Base flew to JBER to bring back remains recovered during Operation Colony Glacier 2020. Operation Colony Glacier is a recovery effort of remains, personal effects, and aircraft wreckage from the crash of a C-124 Globemaster in 1952 on Colony Glacier. This is the first time an Air Mobility Command aircraft has supported this mission. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Esteban Esquivel)

Airmen of the 3rd Airlift Squadron and 736th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron pose for a photo at the conclusion of Operation Colony Glacier June 29, 2020, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. The crew flew from Dover AFB to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, to return remains found during Operation Colony Glacier 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Esteban Esquivel)

Airmen of the 3rd Airlift Squadron and 736th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron pose for a photo at the conclusion of Operation Colony Glacier June 29, 2020, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. The crew flew from Dover AFB to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, to return remains found during Operation Colony Glacier 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Esteban Esquivel)

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. --

On Nov. 22, 1952, a C-124 Globemaster II departed from McChord Air Force Base, Washington, headed for Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, carrying 52 service members. That flight would never reach its destination. The aircraft crashed on Colony Glacier, on the side of Mount Gannett, east of Anchorage. Search and rescue teams discovered the crash site shortly after, but due to the location and weather, recovery efforts were not possible.

In 2012, the crash site was rediscovered, and every summer since, a joint recovery team, led by Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations at Dover Air Force Base, has ventured onto Colony Glacier to recover the remains and material exposed as the glacier naturally melts. 

For the first time since recovery operations began, an aircrew from Dover AFB flew the remains from Alaska back to the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System at Dover for identification.

“We transported two transfer cases from Dover to Alaska, where they were loaded and flown back to Dover with the Colony Glacier recovery crew,” said Capt. Kyle Evans, 3rd Airlift Squadron pilot.

The Dover crew and the crew of the C-124 shared a unique bond that made the trip even more humbling for Evans.

“The fact that we were transporting a crew from the C-124, which is named the Globemaster II, to bring a crew at Dover on the C-17 Globemaster III made it a humbling experience,” said Evans. “We brought home brothers- and sisters-in-arms and fellow aviators, which truly made this special and something I’ll never forget.”

Recovery operations remain a solemn job that are handled with extreme care by all involved. Capt. Shelby Yoakum, Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Readiness and Plans chief and ground forces commander for Operation Colony Glacier, led this year’s recovery efforts.

"This just goes to show that, as a country, we are not going to leave someone behind, regardless of how long ago they perished,” said Yoakum. “And just knowing that there are still families out there, waiting for the return of their loved ones that haven’t seen them since some day in 1952, it is important to bring that closure and do everything we can to return their loved ones.”

To date, the remains of 43 of the 52 service members have been identified. Yoakum is hopeful that the remains found in the ice will bring them one step closer to successfully identifying the remains of the final nine service members.