Any excuse to go hunting
From Fort Wainwright’s PAO:
On June 16, 1941, Lieutenant Milton Ashkins and his crew chief Sargent R.A. Roberts took off from Ladd Army Air Field (outside of Fairbanks) in an obsolete Douglas O-38 observation plane with the intention of checking in on an old prospector friend.
Ashkins directed the plane southwest of Fairbanks and once he reached the prospector’s camp, he flew a low, slow pass-over. Seeing their friend and satisfied that all was well, Ashkins advanced the throttle and the engine responded with a cough and then quit. Unable to restart the engine, Ashkins crash landed the plane into the soft tops of some nearby fir trees and both men survived unscathed.
Once on the ground again, Ashkins radioed their location back to Fairbanks and within a few hours a Douglas B-18 Bolo bomber flew over to drop emergency supplies including a rifle, a rubber raft, ammunition, and rations. The two men then made their way overland, accompanied by their prospector friend, to a rendezvous point 20 miles outside of Fairbanks. Ashkins recalled the trip back to Ladd as taking, “10 wonderful days” that were filled with fishing and hunting, “and just plain loafing with our prospector friend.”
Ashkins, who at the time was chief of the Fighter Test Section at Ladd Field, went on to command the 54th Fighter Squadron, Adak Island, Aleutians, and served in Alaska through 1943, finishing the war as deputy group and group commander, Headquarters 1st Fighter, 15th Air Force, Italy.
He retired from the Air Force in 1965 as a Brigadier Gen as deputy commander, Mobile Air Materiel Area, Brookley Air Force, Ala. He died in 2008.
The crashed O-38 was deemed a total loss at the time and, as the Army was busy ridding themselves of the type anyway, no efforts were made to retrieve the wreckage.
The wreckage was eventually rediscovered nearly thirty years later during an aerial survey of the area, and the plane’s type was soon identified. The staff of the Air Force Museum recognized it as the last surviving example of the type, and quickly assembled a team to examine the aircraft for possible retrieval and restoration.
Upon arriving at the crash site they found the aircraft surprisingly well preserved, with only the two seats and the tailwheel curiously missing. The team was even able to light their campfires using the aircraft’s remaining fuel.
Plans were soon made to remove the aircraft by a CH-47 Chinook from Fort Greeley on 10 June 1968, and it was transported back to Dayton, Ohio. Meanwhile, the missing seats were found in the shack of a local frontiersman where they were being used as chairs. The missing tailwheel was taken because he thought he might build a wheelbarrow someday.
The restoration by the museum’s staff took several years, and many structural pieces of the wings had to be reverse engineered from original plans and damaged parts. The finished aircraft with its original engine was completed and placed on display in 1974.