The Air Force Heritage Foundation of Utah is helping to restore a rare P-38 plane that pilot Art Kidder crashed in Alaska during World War II.

Nearly 50 years ago, Kidder was a 22-year-old lieutenant in the Army Air Corps when he was ordered to Alaska to destroy bomb-laden balloons launched by the Japanese.At 11 a.m. on Feb. 2, 1945, he took off in his P-38 for a high-altitude test flight. Four hours later, he was lost.

His radio antenna had broken off from ice buildup, knocking out his navigation and communications, and his fuel was almost gone.

Kidder desperately searched for a place to land, finally spotting a flat patch of tundra on Buldir. His plane was nearly destroyed in the crash-landing, but Kidder was not injured.

"I wasn't as calm anymore, though. I was shaking like a wet dog," the retired Air Force lieutenant colonel said during a telephone interview from his Denver home.

Minutes after the crash, five U.S. soldiers arrived to see if he was hurt. Kidder said they were Army weather observers who heard him fly over and saw him go down.

They told him that of all the islands in the Aleutians, he happened to pick one of only a few with people. Three days later Kidder was on board a naval patrol boat back to Attu, 80 miles away.

Last summer, he got a chance to return to the crash site and even touched the nose section of his abandoned aircraft.