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Dick Odgers
Digging up Aircraft in Cold Bay Airfield
In 1987 Odgers started digging up buried WWII aircraft in Cold Bay, Alaska area. He has chased these warbirds for 30+ years.

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P-38 center section
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Odgers seated in cockpit
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P-40K Cockpit section
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The dig unearthing metal
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P-38 Nose section
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More metal unearthed
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Buried Wreckage
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Early war US Star Marking
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P-38 Tail Boom
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P-38 tire - still inflated!
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P-38 wing with US Star
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Wing with star and U.S.

Remote villages are always filled with an odd mix of people, and Cold Bay in Alaska in the early 1960's was no different. At the local tavern, an evening could be spent listening to the "old timers' tales." One that I heard over and over was that at the end of World War II "they hauled old airplanes out and buried them." I eventually wandered around this area near Cold Bay Airfield and actually found a few pieces of sheet metal that definitely came from an old airplane. Maybe they (the old timers) weren't crazy!

Years later I decided to research these "tales" and found little supporting data, but by this point I was so intrigued with the idea of "buried treasure" that I spent the summer exploring the site. As the days passed with continuous rain and wind blowing, I managed to hand shovel mounds of dirt with little bits of WWII airplane pieces materializing.. just enough to keep me interested!

It took quite awhile to get the permission of the land owners, but once we did we went in and started digging. The first years we worked every summer and retrieved the most parts, the P-40 project just got us going. Later, we recovered others aircraft, like the P-38E 41-2027 and 41-2006 also, the B-24D. There were about 13 aircraft that were wrecked in Cold Bay's Fort Randall area.

As you can see from my pictures we did an extraordinary amount of hand shoveling! This fellow owned the lot. (We quickly learned that using heavy equipment was destructive to any potential parts we might find.) With long summer days, daylight until midnight, and a nice breeze keeping those nasty bugs away, we shoveled and shoveled until we no longer could pick up our shovels.

With the previous find of the P-40, we were sure that more parts were in the dump, so we dug the summer away. When the P-38E parts started appearing, the gold fever started, and we relentlessly kept on digging and digging. First was the tire, with the air still in it! Then the gun nose (which took days to dig out). It had been de-milled at the rudder pedals. Less than fifteen feet away we found pay dirt: the center section! It was upside down and deep in the ground and we were sure that the whole airplane must be attached! But it wasn't, it was just the center section. One engine nacelle was cut off, but it was a rare find.

P-38E 41-2027 Lightning Crash landed off the end of the east/west runway and into the bay and was retrieve in WWII. P-38E 41-2006 and some others had crashed there but haven't found much of them yet.

Then we found a tail boom, and a wing with a star and red meatball on it. The digging kept on and on with miscellaneous parts and pieces appearing. As usual, the military had de-milled these parts using a torch prior to burying them with a cat! The serial numbers on the parts were 41-2027 and 41-2006, both E model P38's, making them the earliest models used in the war against the Japanese. These parts were eventually used for the Hill Air Force Base Museum's P-38 restoration project, restored by Ed Kaleta of San Diego.

The summer ended with another pile of parts to our find, and we spent the winter scheming about what and how we would do better next year! Gold fever!

Finally, the elusive P-40 fuselage appeared, and by the end of the week I had unburied it! With this new find I worked harder searching for more parts, which eventually led to wing parts!

The locals thought I was crazy, and maybe I am because as each summer nears, once again I am looking forward to my "treasure hunt" hoping to find an intact, crated Curtiss P-40!

Aircraft Wreckage Today
I sold the salvage to Hill AFB and they put it together as a P-38J 42-67638 that they had retrieved out in the Aleutians and didn't have much to work with so between both hunks they were able to make up a static display.

I also dug up a hulk of P-40E 41-9705 and sold that to Don Brooks of Georgia. which is in flying status now after years of rebuilding.

I have the salvage of P-40K-5 42-9791 That I also dug up in this dump and have started some repairs on it, and also I just sold a big project to Pat Harker in Minnesota.

Found a P-82 that I found in another dump in Fairbanks and have 5 data plates from that pile it filled a 40' van.

Other RCAF Aircraft Wrecks
Also, I chased down five other P-40 wrecks and a RCAF wreck.

 

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Last Updated
June 30, 2013

 

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