HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL

HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL

“HOPE IS A WALKING DREAM.”

Aristotle

 

I have written before about the Search fo Gamble Chalk One. I don’t know if this is hope or a dream. Why is it always so hard for the government to just do the right thing?

Just to bring you up to date, Gamble Chalk One was an Army C-124 transport aircraft. The mission was to have two C-124 cargo aircraft fly in a blizzard, at night on Nov. 7,1952. Call signs GAMBLE CHALK ONE & GAMBLE CHALK TWO. The conditions and night flying were not things any bush pilot would do, and the Alaskan Bush Pilot was the most intrepid fliers of that time. But someone in command decided that the Army could do it. There was no advanced navigation systems at this time. Navigation was done from the signals of two different civilian radio stations. Part of the problem was that one station went off the air at midnight.

Gamble Chalk One got off on the wrong heading to begin with. Gamble Chalk Two did the same thing but the mistake was noted and the second flight was radioed to a course correction. The mistake either was not noticed or misinterpreted and their was no radio contact with Gamble Chalk One. When the radio station went off the flight was on a wrong heading and position, and turned towards the tallest mountain range in Alaska. Mount Silverthorne is in the now Denali National Park.

Gamble Chalk One crashed on Eldridge Glacier at about 12,ooo feet elevation. There was an immediate search and the Army found the crash site, and made the determination that it was too dangerous to attempt to recover any remains. The crash site was not seen again until 2016, retired geologist Michael Rocerta found the debris field. Michael flew over this country for years as a geologist for oil companies and just wondered how he never had seen the crash site before. He took the original position of the crash on the glacier, accounted for the rate of flow during 1952 and 2016, searched for known ice knobs and topography, then flew over the site. On the flight he took two others with him. It was a clear day but as if the mountain was playing with them, the crash area was fogged in. They flew around until the fog pulled back, then made a low pass of the calculated position, and there it was. The crash site has moved down to the 5500 foot level about five miles from the original.

The impetus to find the crash site began when Lt. Daniel Blasi’s nephew used his down time as a helicopter instructor during a hitch in Bosnia. Daniel Blasi was from St. Leo, Kansas. He was one of seventeen Blasi kids raised on a farm near there. The number of men lost in the crash was 19, including the crew. There were two Jeeps and a trailer on board.

Within a three week period there were three crashes of Army transports. One was never found, one was within 10 miles of this site with 53, and Gamble Chalk One. 53 servicemen were lost on the larger aircraft and the military was very active recovering the remains of those soldiers because the wreckage was going over the edge to be lost forever. Most of the remains were brought home so their families could bury them with honors. The Army’s attitude about Gamble Chalk One? Officially the loss was not during a war time function and they did not plan on any recovery.

THE POWER OF FAITH

The families of the lost men were brought together by the efforts of Leo Blasi. Now Father Leo Blasi, there is a Facebook page and the letters, phone calls, and emails have flown ever since. Each year there is only a one month window that anybody can be on the ground, and that is August. Each year the families hopes were raised. In 2017 a helicopter landed at the site and recovered the serial number plate proving that this was Gambel Chalk One. The years checked off.

When I started writing my first book KANSAS ODDITIES, I wanted to include the story. Then in my second book ECCENTRIC KANSAS, then my third book TRUE TALES OF KANSAS, still no story. I am finishing my fourth book and the story is not complete. In the mean time a reporter in Michigan, who has two men up there, has done a long special news story on the crash and has been nominated for an Emmy for it.

Where are we now? August has come to a close, hope was up when the new officer in charge filed a notice to clear the airspace over Mt. Silverthorne in June. According to the woman that is the contact person with the military, they have had boots on the ground. They determined and marked the boundaries of the debris field, and created supply caches with the intent of doing the recovery mission in 2023.

We wait one more year. Meanwhile in St. Leo cemetery the stone over the empty grave of Lt. Daniel Blasi serves as a reminder that faith is long suffering. But look how long it took to find Chaplain Emil Kapaun/

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