It was approaching noon on December 21, 1943, in the Tanana River valley of Alaska, not far from the Arctic Circle, and the five men on the Iceberg Inez were preparing to crash. Minutes before, the crew of the B-24 bomber had been testing a modified system on the plane’s four propellers when the plane seemed to stall, sending it diving into a roller-coaster plunge.
G-forces slammed pilots Leon Crane and Harold Hoskin as they lurched at the controls. Wind screamed over the cockpit glass. The airspeed gauge was redlining. The flight instruments were blinking out. Then something that sounded like a pistol shot came from the tail, followed by cracking noises.