On February 21, 1947 a US Army Air Corps arctic-modified B-29 (known as an F-13) in the 46th Reconnaissance Squadron named the "Kee Bird" became lost, ran out of fuel and was forced to crash land in the Arctic - in the middle of nowhere, very close to the North Pole. The air temperature on the ground was 55 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. They had no idea where they were: Alaska, Canada, or (God Forbid) Siberia?
February 20th, 1947 1430 hrs AST: Ladd Field AFB Point Barrows, Alaska
The Kee Bird and her eleven-man crew took to the air on another "routine" mission departing from Ladd Field Air Force Base, Alaska.
This "routine" mission was scheduled to last anywhere from 12 to 20 hours. The Kee Bird was carrying enough fuel to stay airborne for approximately 26 hours under normal conditions.
The official orders for this "routine" mission was to maintain radio silence unless there was an emergency.
February 21st, 1947 0756hrs AST - Point Barrows, Alaska
(17:26 into the mission):
CAA Radio Station picked up a radio message from the "Kee Bird" stating that they had no means of steering as the sun was too low.
February 21st, 1947 0758hrs AST- Point Barrows, Alaska
(17:28 into the mission):
CAA Radio Station picked up another radio message from the "Kee Bird" stating "over land but do not know where".
February 21st, 1947 0950hrs to 0958 AST:
(19:26 into the mission):
Various other radio messages were picked up from the "Kee Bird" stating that 4 minutes of fuel remained, and a crash landing would be made on land or ice.
No position was given.
The search for the missing Kee Bird was on.
Miraculously, they located a frozen lake in the midst of a very mountainous terrain on which to attempt a crash landing.
This was literally the only possible site to land within hundreds of miles, as was later found out.
The crash landing was perfect. No crew members were injured.
They had no clue what the odds were of being rescued. A rescue in this area had never been attempted.
The Kee Bird crew spent 3 days on that frozen lake in what turned out to be Northern Greenland - enduring temperatures of less than 50 degrees below zero.
The entire Kee Bird crew was successfully rescued on February 24th, 1947.
Of the eleven crew members aboard the last flight of the "Kee Bird", only 3 are still with us. When this web site was started, all surviving crew members (5 at that time) and their families were very
passionate and helpful in providing their accounts and documents in their possession related to the last flight of the "Kee Bird".
As well, many family members of the other Kee Bird crew members have been very kind in sharing photos, documents and memories. Our sincere thanks to everyone!
The 3 remaining crew members are:
- Lt. Howard R. Adams, Radar Observer
- S/Sgt Ernest C. Stewart, Photo-gunner
- Lt. John G. Lesman, Navigator
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