This is a true story. I changed the names. I was working a 6 month contract in Redding, CA as a Cardio-Pulmonary RN. Dr. Taylor Sr. was my patient for two and a half weeks. He was the Acting Flight Surgeon for the expedition to Greenland that brought Glacier Girl to the surface. The pictures of Glacier Girl are from Kent Budge, Ben Bloker and Combat Ace. The second picture is from Airman Online and was taken 268' below the surface.
“Did you find the Barbasol in the lavatory?’
“No Sir. The best I can do for you is one of those travel size toiletries that the hospital stocks.”
“How the Hell are you supposed to shave without Barbasol?” His eyes were drawn to the window. “Is it going to rain today?”
“Well Dr. Taylor, with a streak of 104 straight days without rain and Jerry Brown declaring a Severe Drought, my guess is no.”
“You don’t pray, do you Dan?”
He was now looking straight at me and grinning as he pointed his right index straight to the heavens.
“One thing about living as a citizen of the world. You learn that no one sees the truth exactly as you do.”
“So, are you saying that you are holding out for the possibility of a downpour?”
“No Danny Boy, I’m just not ready to exhaust my options. I been retired for 16 years now. You know what my only regret is? That I didn’t do it 20 years earlier. Just couldn’t let go of the pulpit. I'm sure you're aware we see ourselves as God. My son's that way.”
He raised his head to the door.
“Well speak of the devil.”
Dr. Charles Taylor II. The son that I had been advised, was ‘that way.’ He nodded at me as he approached his Father.
“What is your son like Dad?
I talked to Dr Singh and reviewed your chest X-ray. I’m going to have them draw an ABG in the morning sowe're going to wean you off the O2. Lean forward so I can take a listen. What did you hear this morning Dan? Any change from last night? I cut him back to 60 on the Medrol.”
“Decreased right lower, scattered rhonchi bilateral upper lobes. Pretty much the same as last night. Trace edema to ankles and feet.”
“Well he likes to dangle. You'd think he would know better, wouldn't you?
I'm going to try to get you back to Chesterfield Farms Tuesday or Wednesday.
Dan, has my Father been boring you to death with his stories? He forgets how much work you have to do. Just tell him. He won’t be offended.”
“In truth Doc, I have been cruising through my charting and kissing the old ladies goodnight at 2130 so I can get back in here for the next chapter.
A story ties the past to the present. Dr. Taylor brings a fine attention to detail. I'd be offended if he stopped.”
“Well, I’ll stop in before I leave the hospital. Be patient with those nurses Aids, Dad. See you later.”
Charles Sr. was looking out the window and chuckling.
“What was that? In and out in under three minutes. He is a model of efficiency. Do you think there is any hope for him Dan? He’s 68. He could retire today. Looks like this may be our last night . I’ll put a wrap on that story tonight. Are you going to write it up someday?”
“I put a Gold star on this one Dr. Chuck. Top of the pile.”
“Dr. Chuck. . . . Old Cluck. 96 and drooling out the side of his mouth. See you tonight Dan.”
The Lost Squadron
On July 15, 1942 a flight of 6 P-38’s and 2 B-17 bombers left Presque Isle air Base in Maine on a flight to the U.K. They were to refuel in Greenland and Iceland on their way.
They made it as far as Greenland where visibility was reduced to nothing. Flying above the clouds used up valuable fuel and was frightfully cold. The pilots could not feel their hands on the controls. They overshot their refueling station and with fuel gauges dropping to empty, they were forced to land on the ice. The first P-38 landed with wheels down. After 200 yards it flipped over when the landing gear snapped off as the wheels dipped into the snow and uneven terrain.
Miraculously, the pilot was uninjured. The remaining P-38’s came in landing gear up. They were successful. The bombers circled overhead to use up excess fuel before they followed the fighters to the snow-covered ice.
All 25 crew members survived and were rescued within 8 days. Search flights dropped heaters, gear and food and water within 24 hours.
A 30 foot launch loaded with dog sleds and ski teams found the crew members 17 miles in from the Eastern coast of Southern Greenland. The crew members made the trek through knee-deep snow over treacherous terrain. The day after they breached the coast, they were rescued by the Coast Guard cutter Northland.There was no way to retrieve the planes with landing gear raised so they were left behind.
“I was a flight Surgeon in the Army Air Corps. I met Bradley McManus in the 60’s and our military gave us common ground. He was a friend and a patient. He was the first pilot land. When his plane flipped, he had cut his way through his harness, upside down, escape the cockpit. Imagine my surprise when I got that phone call in 1992.”
“Chuck, they found my plane. We’ve decided we’re going go and get it. Not my plane but one of the other 5. Anyway, we're assembling a team and in need of a Flight Surgeon. I told them that I'd speak to you about it. Just so you know, it’s under 250 feet of ice.”
“Well Brad, let me pull the tarp off the Ski Doo. 250 feet of ice you say? I thought there might be a problem retrieving it from that frigid wasteland. How do you know it’s there?”
“They got images, who knows, MRI’s or Ultrasounds. That’s why we want to take you, somebody has to read that stuff.”
“Brad, do you know I’m 74 years old? I’m not in Depends yet but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”
“Chuck, I got arthritis in my hands, knees and shoulders. My 74th birthday is in two months. I stood on that ice while they did that magnetomety and GPR. They had calculations on ice flow and snow fall that filled two notebooks. They used GPS to plot the maybes. When I watched that image of Harry's plane come into focus, the tears started flowing. They froze before they reached my chin. If I couldn’t walk, I’d have them strap me in a dogsled. I was there. Fifty years ago. I’m going back.”
“They had a device that looked like one of those simple wooden tops that you had as a child. The kind with the little dowel on top that you spun between your fingers. This thing was 4 feet across and called a Super Gopher. A thermal meltdown generator. It would go through 2 feet of ice in an hour. The resulting water was suctioned out with pumps and hoses. It took almost a month for the gopher to get through 268 feet of ice. Then workers used steam hoses to widen the shaft and then to create a cavern around the P-38.”
“Must have been an amazing sight. A cavern of ice 268 feet below the surface.”
“I never saw it. The only people below ice were those that needed to be. They were sloshing around in ice-cold water. Occasional chunks of ice would dislodge from the ceiling. A developing crack in the ice would bark like lightning.
Once they had the ice steamed away they sent a crew down that was skilled at aircraft disassembly. They took that plane apart piece by piece and then winched them to the surface.
Bradley and I stood at the edge of that shaft as the first pieces came to the surface. The cold arctic wind was whipping in my face and I couldn’t feel my fingers in my gloves. I felt more alive at that moment than I had at any time in my life.
I heard a rush of air and turned to Bradley. He was struggling for breath and his body was convulsing. I turned him to face me and was beginning the stroke checkoff in my head when his glove reached out and touched my face. His eyes were clear and focused . And then they weren’t. His glove went to his forehead and he broke out in sobs. He wasn’t stroking. He was overcome.
He was having his moment.
I wrapped my arms around him and he wrapped his around my neck. Two old men standing on an iceberg celebrating memories.”
I was nearing the end of my contract at the hospital. I had stayed 6 months and was anxious to move on. I wondered about Dr. Taylor Sr. How he was doing, how he was keeping busy at Chesterfield Farms and whether or not he had anymore good stories tucked away. I hadn’t seen his son for almost three months. He was a Pulmonologist and only showed as a consult.
I had just finished report and was gathering my bag and steth when I saw Dr. Taylor II come out of a room with Dr. Singh. I stopped and waited for him to finish his conversation. He saw me and nodded then walked my way as Dr. Singh left.
“How is your dad doing Dr. Taylor? I’ve been meaning to ask but I haven’t seen you in a while.”
He looked down at his shoes for a few seconds and then met my gaze with a sad smile.
“Dad passed away in his sleep a month ago. He was ready.”
“I am so sorry to hear that Dr. Taylor.”
“Don’t be. He lived a fine life. Lots of Memories.”
His eyes drifted down to his shoes again and then back to mine. “Lots of good stories.”
“Doesn’t get any better than that.”
“The weekend before he passed I spent all day in his room. Just listening to his stories.” He looked me right in the eye. “Trying to tie my past to the present. He hugged me when I left. He’s hasn’t hugged me since I was a kid.”
“Now that’s a good story right there Dr. Taylor.
I signed a six month contract in Grass Valley. I start in two weeks. Well in case I see you again.”
“I’m afraid this is it Dan. I’m retiring the end of the month. Maybe learn to paint pictures or the guitar. I’m taking my wife on a trip for our honeymoon.”
“Where are you going?”
There is much more to this story of ‘Glacier Girl.’ But that wasn’t really what my story was about, that was just the framework. I changed the names but Dr. Taylors tale is true. If you are interested in more. [p38assn.org]