A team of underwater archaeologists diving near the Croatian island of Vis in the Adriatic on a month-long expedition have found the remains of US airmen in the wreckage of a WW2 Douglas B-24 Liberator bomber.
Nicknamed the Tulsamerican, the aircraft was the last B-24 to be built in Tulsa, Oklahoma by Douglas.
Flying on what had been expected to be its final mission in 1944, it ran into German planes and was severely damaged in the subsequent battle.
The pilot had tried to make an emergency landing but crashed into the sea. Seven of the 10 aircrew were rescued, and the three missing men had been believed to have been thrown clear.
The wreck was found by divers in 2010, resting in two sections in around 40m, but it is only now that it has been examined forensically as part of an expedition coordinated by the US Defence POW/MIA Accounting Agency, dedicated to bringing home remains of service personnel missing in action.
Human bones were found along with remains of a life-jacket, boot and military equipment.
The remains will undergo DNA analysis to match them to the missing airmen, and will later be returned to the USA for burial.
Diver Brendan Foley told Live Science that the violent impact of the crash had badly damaged the bomber’s nose section, which was “almost peeled open like a banana”, but that internal features including the seats remained recognisable.
“It was incredibly emotional for all of us,” said Foley, whose team usually works on ancient archaeological sites, such as the 2100-year-old Antikythera wreck in the Greek islands.
“We’re all still trying to get our heads around what we just experienced … this is the most worthwhile thing we’ve ever done under water.”
Divernet reported in May on the finding by an MIA team of a WW2 B-25 Mitchell bomber off PNG.
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