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Gauli glacier The US military plane crash that led to better rescues

In November 1946 an American military airplane made an emergency landing on the Gauli glacier in the Bernese Alps. All 12 people on board were rescued in a spectacular mission that marked the birth of the Swiss air rescue service REGA. (SRF/

On its way from Munich to Marseille a Douglas DC-3 Dakota US military plane crash-landed on a glacier above Meiringen. The US military plane wasn’t allowed to enter neutral Swiss air space. This is why no one expected the Dakota to get stranded in the Bernese Alps. In their final radio message the crew said they could only survive for another 24 hours. The message got picked up at the Meiringen air base – a sign that the plane must have crashed close by.

The US army did everything to rescue their partially injured countrymen. Around 150 mountain soldiers, paratroopers, jeeps and vehicles with chains were deployed to Meiringen. But the American army lacked alpine experience. The US units stayed in the valley, while the Swiss army sent over 80 men to the Gauli glacier. In the end, the rescue came from the air. Two pilots performed a daring landing with skis. After nine flights everyone was safe.

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