Keebird: Rara avis Aleutiensis hallucinatus

by Sherman Clark Green, 10th ERBS

Keebirds Revealed -- The sad story of the B-29 lost for fifty years on a frozen lake of the Greenland icecap and the attempt to recover and fly it out was KEEBIRD, shown on national television recently. KEEBIRD, for that was the bomber's name, flew out of Ladd Field, Fairbanks, AK, in the late 40's. Disoriented by atmospheric clutter or Russian chicanery and out of fuel, her crew landed it on the lake, the only flat place in sight. Located a couple of days later, they were extracted in a long-range rescue mission by Col. Bernt Balchen, the famed Arctic explorer and cold weather expert for 11th AAF. But the plane sat on that frozen lake for fifty-odd years. Finally a group of adventuresome veterans attempted to restore it on site and fly it out. It would have been one of the very few B-29s airworthy, had they succeeded. A minor glitch on taxiing for takeoff -- spilled fuel on a hot on-board putt-putt generator -- and the whole plane burned on the ice. Heartbreaking.

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People keep asking what a Keebird is, so here, copied right from the book, honest, is the definition: viz: Keebird: Rara avis Aleutiensis hallucinatus -- (your high school Latin teacher might translate roughly as a rare birdlike creature indigenous to the Aleutian Island chain between the Bering Sea and the North Pacific Ocean.) Seldom, if ever, seen because of 30-knot fogs, freezing salt spray, shrieking williwaw winds, and occasional volcanic ashfalls that impair visibility, Keebirds inhabit the surging reefs and snowcapped peaks of the Alaska peninsula and Aleutian islands. Keebirds, however, have been heard by hardy WWII veterans of a nearly forgotten military struggle for control of these islands -- Army, Navy, USAAF, RCAF, and perhaps even the Empero's troops. Many of these aural witnesses attest the Keebird's mournful, distinctive, cry, "KEE--KEE--KEE--KEERIST IT'S COLD! And there you are: just the cold facts.

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New! From Anne Rothwell: "The Kee Bird - The Scourge of the North" (PDF)

 

Last Updated: 27 Feb 2013 10:39

Originally published 19 May 2001