A Beer's a Beer




As with other C-130 units in the Air Force, the Firebirds were often called upon to haul unusual loads of cargo. At Sondrestrom AB, Greenland, in the 1960s, the 17th was called upon to carry one such load out to the ice cap. All out-of-date beer was gathered together by the various clubs on base and loaded on a C-130D for disposal. The crew flew the load out over the ice cap, slowed the aircraft down at low altitude, extended the flaps, and lowered the rear cargo ramp. Then, the loadmaster pushed cases and cases of supposedly stale beer out onto the soft snow.

Several months later, a group of the occasional Danish Arctic explorers skied into Sondrestrom from the ice cap after visiting Kulusuk and DYE III. When they were being greeted by base personnel, everyone noticed that the newcomers were three sheets to the wind, zonked, high, or just plain drunk. Since this seemed impossible with the size of their packs and the length of time that they had been enroute, someone asked just how they were able to find a drink. Well, one related, we were traveling along over the ice cap when we came across a mound in the snow. Wondering what it could be, we scraped snow off the top and could not believe that we had discovered cases and cases of ice cold beer when everyone was so thirsty. So, since all of us had a little extra time, we sat down and drank as many beers as we could hold. We had not had a beer for weeks and really enjoyed ourselves. The Danes then wanted to know who had left the beer out there for them.

All were amazed that the beer had survived the air drop, but more amused that anyone would ever discover and consume it. This was just another strange occurrence on the Greenland ice cap. Skoal anyone? (As related to Nolan Bailey, Firebird pilot, circa 1966.)


I was involved in the beer disposal project, so I can verify that it actually happened. I never heard of its being found and consumed, however. The drops I made were deliberately dumped into the heavily crevassed areas at the edge of the cap. We usually had a hard time locating the impact site following a dump. My understanding was that the beer we were disposing of had been stored in one of the tar-paper shacks at Sondy and had gone through multiple freeze/thaw cycles. The NCO Club tried selling it for a buck a case but couldn't get rid of it fast enough. I remember it was packaged for air drop by stacking cases between two 4x8 sheets of plywood and steel banding the whole thing together. (Gary Schmidt, Firebird Pilot)