Long-lost US WWII 'Dakota' plane found in melting Swiss glacier

The hidden wreckage of a U.S. World War II plane that crashed into a Swiss glacier 72 years ago has been revealed, thanks to a heat wave sweeping parts of Europe.

The American C-53 Skytrooper plowed into the Gauli Glacier in the Bernese Alps on Nov. 19, 1946.

All eight passengers and four crew members were rescued four days after the plane landed. At the time, it was the largest alpine rescue operation and was considered the birth of the Swiss air rescue team.

The military transport airplane, known as the "Dakota," had been buried by ice until the summer's heat wave began melting the aircraft's snowy coffin.

7 PHOTOS
Wreckage of WWII-era plane unearthed as glacier melts
See Gallery
Wreckage of WWII-era plane unearthed as glacier melts
The wreckage debris of a US-WWII warplane C-53 Skytrooper Dakota that crashed in 1946, pictured on the Gauli Glacier in the Bernese Alps, Switzerland, Wednesday, August 15, 2018. The Dakota crash on the Gauli Glacier on 19 November 1946 was a turning point in alpine rescue and an international media event. The aircraft, coming from Austria bound for Italy, collided with the Gauli glacier in poor visibility. On board were four crewmembers and eight passengers; among the eight passengers were high-ranking officers of the U.S. armed forces with some of their relatives. Several people were injured, but there were no fatalities. Already in summer 2012, three young people had found the propeller of the Dakota on the Gauli Glacier. The hot temperatures of the last few weeks have made large parts of the machine visible. (Anthony Anex/keystone via AP)
The wreckage debris of a US-WWII warplane C-53 Skytrooper Dakota that crashed in 1946, pictured on the Gauli Glacier in the Bernese Alps, Switzerland, Wednesday, August 15, 2018. The Dakota crash on the Gauli Glacier on 19 November 1946 was a turning point in alpine rescue and an international media event. The aircraft, coming from Austria bound for Italy, collided with the Gauli glacier in poor visibility. On board were four crewmembers and eight passengers; among the eight passengers were high-ranking officers of the U.S. armed forces with some of their relatives. Several people were injured, but there were no fatalities. Already in summer 2012, three young people had found the propeller of the Dakota on the Gauli Glacier. The hot temperatures of the last few weeks have made large parts of the machine visible. (Anthony Anex/keystone via AP)
The wreckage debris of a US-WWII warplane C-53 Skytrooper Dakota that crashed in 1946, pictured on the Gauli Glacier in the Bernese Alps, Switzerland, Wednesday, August 15, 2018. The Dakota crash on the Gauli Glacier on 19 November 1946 was a turning point in alpine rescue and an international media event. The aircraft, coming from Austria bound for Italy, collided with the Gauli glacier in poor visibility. On board were four crewmembers and eight passengers; among the eight passengers were high-ranking officers of the U.S. armed forces with some of their relatives. Several people were injured, but there were no fatalities. Already in summer 2012, three young people had found the propeller of the Dakota on the Gauli Glacier. The hot temperatures of the last few weeks have made large parts of the machine visible. (Anthony Anex/keystone via AP)
The wreckage debris of a US-WWII warplane C-53 Skytrooper Dakota that crashed in 1946, pictured on the Gauli Glacier in the Bernese Alps, Switzerland, Wednesday, August 15, 2018. The Dakota crash on the Gauli Glacier on 19 November 1946 was a turning point in alpine rescue and an international media event. The aircraft, coming from Austria bound for Italy, collided with the Gauli glacier in poor visibility. On board were four crewmembers and eight passengers; among the eight passengers were high-ranking officers of the U.S. armed forces with some of their relatives. Several people were injured, but there were no fatalities. Already in summer 2012, three young people had found the propeller of the Dakota on the Gauli Glacier. The hot temperatures of the last few weeks have made large parts of the machine visible. (Anthony Anex/keystone via AP)
The wreckage debris of a US-WWII warplane C-53 Skytrooper Dakota that crashed in 1946, pictured on the Gauli Glacier in the Bernese Alps, Switzerland, Wednesday, August 15, 2018. The Dakota crash on the Gauli Glacier on 19 November 1946 was a turning point in alpine rescue and an international media event. The aircraft, coming from Austria bound for Italy, collided with the Gauli glacier in poor visibility. On board were four crewmembers and eight passengers; among the eight passengers were high-ranking officers of the U.S. armed forces with some of their relatives. Several people were injured, but there were no fatalities. Already in summer 2012, three young people had found the propeller of the Dakota on the Gauli Glacier. The hot temperatures of the last few weeks have made large parts of the machine visible. (Anthony Anex/keystone via AP)
The wreckage debris of a US-WWII warplane C-53 Skytrooper Dakota that crashed in 1946, pictured on the Gauli Glacier in the Bernese Alps, Switzerland, Wednesday, August 15, 2018. The Dakota crash on the Gauli Glacier on 19 November 1946 was a turning point in alpine rescue and an international media event. The aircraft, coming from Austria bound for Italy, collided with the Gauli glacier in poor visibility. On board were four crewmembers and eight passengers; among the eight passengers were high-ranking officers of the U.S. armed forces with some of their relatives. Several people were injured, but there were no fatalities. Already in summer 2012, three young people had found the propeller of the Dakota on the Gauli Glacier. The hot temperatures of the last few weeks have made large parts of the machine visible. (Anthony Anex/keystone via AP)
The wreckage debris of a US-WWII warplane C-53 Skytrooper Dakota that crashed in 1946, pictured on the Gauli Glacier in the Bernese Alps, Switzerland, Wednesday, August 15, 2018. The Dakota crash on the Gauli Glacier on 19 November 1946 was a turning point in alpine rescue and an international media event. The aircraft, coming from Austria bound for Italy, collided with the Gauli glacier in poor visibility. On board were four crewmembers and eight passengers; among the eight passengers were high-ranking officers of the U.S. armed forces with some of their relatives. Several people were injured, but there were no fatalities. Already in summer 2012, three young people had found the propeller of the Dakota on the Gauli Glacier. The hot temperatures of the last few weeks have made large parts of the machine visible. (Anthony Anex/keystone via AP)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

A propeller was found in 2012, but nothing else. After the ice began thawing, wings, propellers and a debris field was seen. Everyday items like tin cans and spoons were also uncovered. 

Swiss archaeologists aren't sure whether they will be able to completely recover the wreckage.

The plane had been flying from Austria to Pisa, Italy, when bad weather forced the pilots to take a long detour so they would not have to cross the Alps. They were headed toward Switzerland when gusting wind and a snowstorm forced them to set down on the glacier.

The Swiss Army sent a huge rescue team after hearing an emergency radio call from the aircraft.

24 PHOTOS
Europe sizzles as heatwave intensifies
See Gallery
Europe sizzles as heatwave intensifies
Woman whit dog cool themselves in water curtains during the heat wave in Warsaw. 02 August, 2018, Warsaw, Poland (Photo by Krystian Dobuszynski/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Residents at the Ter Biest house for elderly persons refresh their feet in a pool on a hot summer day, in Grimbergen, Belgium, August 3, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Tourists use fans as they queue to get on Santa Justa lift in downtown Lisbon on August 3, 2018. - Two men died from heatstroke in Spain as Europe sweltered in a record heatwave today, with temperatures hitting a scorching 45 degrees Celsius in some areas and meteorologists saying only scant relief is in sight in the coming days. The highest temperature ever recorded in Europe was 48 degrees in Athens in 1977, closely followed by 47.3 in Amareleja, Portugal in 2003 as well as in Montoro, Spain last year. (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP) (Photo credit should read PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP/Getty Images)
People sunbathe on a river beach at Ribeira das Naus in Lisbon on August 3, 2018. - Two men died from heatstroke in Spain as Europe sweltered in a record heatwave today, with temperatures hitting a scorching 45 degrees Celsius in some areas and meteorologists saying only scant relief is in sight in the coming days. The highest temperature ever recorded in Europe was 48 degrees in Athens in 1977, closely followed by 47.3 in Amareleja, Portugal in 2003 as well as in Montoro, Spain last year. (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP) (Photo credit should read PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman sporting a hat walks past a fountain at Rossio square in Lisbon on August 3, 2018. - Two men died from heatstroke in Spain as Europe sweltered in a record heatwave today, with temperatures hitting a scorching 45 degrees Celsius in some areas and meteorologists saying only scant relief is in sight in the coming days. The highest temperature ever recorded in Europe was 48 degrees in Athens in 1977, closely followed by 47.3 in Amareleja, Portugal in 2003 as well as in Montoro, Spain last year. (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP) (Photo credit should read PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP/Getty Images)
An elderly woman is seen in a retirement home in Nice as summer temperatures continue to rise and local French authorities launched a heat wave alert in France, July 31, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
People cool off in water fountains in Nice as hot summer temperatures continue and authorities maintain a heat wave alert in France, August 1, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
People enjoy a hot summer day on a pedalo on Lake Leman during a heat wave in Lausanne, Switzerland, July 30, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
People enjoy a hot summer day on pedalos on Lake Leman during a heat wave in Lausanne, Switzerland, July 30, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
A baby hippopotamus born less than two months ago, swims in the pond, to cool off during a heat wave, at the La Fleche zoo, northwestern France, on August 3, 2018. (Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / AFP) (Photo credit should read JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP/Getty Images)
Men relax in the hot weather by the Marmara Sea in Istanbul, Turkey August 3, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
City guard give away water to citizens during the heat wave in Warsaw. 02 August, 2018, Warsaw, Poland (Photo by Krystian Dobuszynski/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
People cool themselves in water curtains during the heat wave in Warsaw. 02 August, 2018, Warsaw, Poland (Photo by Krystian Dobuszynski/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A nun takes water from a kiosk designed in the style of the hexagonal newspaper stands in front of the Ancient Colosseum, in central Rome on August 2, 2018. - Italy is experiencing its first summer heat wave with temperatures approaching 40 degrees Celsius. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
The digital sign of a pharmacy reads 35 degrees Celsius (97 degrees Fahrenheit) on August 2, 2018 in Marseille, southern France, as a wave of heat strikes France. (Photo by Boris HORVAT / AFP) (Photo credit should read BORIS HORVAT/AFP/Getty Images)
People cool off under water sprays in Lille, northern France, on August 2, 2018, as a wave of heat strikes France. (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP) (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
A tourist uses a fan during a hot Summer day in front of the Ancient Colosseum in central Rome on August 2, 2018, as Italy is experiencing a Summer heatwave with temperatures approaching 40 degrees Celsius. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
People sit on the rocks beside the shore of the Bosphorus after bathing in its waters in the Uskudar district of Istanbul on August 3,2018. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
A lion eats a frozen treat with syrup, chicken and fruits to cool off during a heat wave, at the La Fleche zoo, northwestern France, on August 3, 2018. (Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / AFP) (Photo credit should read JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP/Getty Images)
A surfer rides on an artificial wave at the canal of the Eisbach river at the English Garden park in Munich, southern Germany, where temperatures were around 33 degrees Celsius on July 31, 2018. (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP) (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
With record temperatures with 35 degrees Celsius and more in Munich and in Germany in general many people went to the Englischer Garten and the Eisbach (Isar). (Photo by Alexander Pohl/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
The Monopteros is seen in the background. In front of it there are a lot of people at the Eisbach and sun bathing. With record temperatures with 35 degrees Celsius and more in Munich and in Germany in general many people went to the Englischer Garten and the Eisbach (Isar). (Photo by Alexander Pohl/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A woman and a child sit on a pontoon on Lac de Joux during a heat wave in Le Pont, Switzerland, July 31, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
A dog takes a swim in the public bathing pond on Hampstead Heath in London, Britain, August 3, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

RELATED STORIES:
Newly Discovered Ancient Sea Creature Named After Obama
Remains of Man Crushed by Rock Discovered at Pompeii
Ancient Treasures Discovered in 2,000-Year-Old Shipwreck

 

Read Full Story