MIA team finds WW2 bomber off PNG

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MIA team finds WW2 bomber off PNG

A B-25 bomber downed more than 70 years ago during World War Two has been located off the coast of Papua New Guinea by Project Recover, a team of US marine scientists, archaeologists and volunteers.

The team was formed last year to track down US aircraft from which crew have gone missing in action (MIA) worldwide.

Twin-engined medium-bomber the North American B-25 Mitchell accounted for a high proportion of aircraft losses sustained in the region from early 1942.

The Project Recover team, consisting of scientists from the Universities of California San Diego and Delaware and members of volunteer body BentProp, combines historical research with sonar-scanning, HD imaging, scuba-diving and use of aerial and underwater drones. In February it mapped a 4sq-mile area of seabed off PNG before locating the B-25’s debris field.

“People have this mental image of an airplane resting intact on the sea floor, but the reality is that most planes were often already damaged before crashing, or broke up upon impact,” said Project Recover’s Executive Director Katy O’Connell, who is based at the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean & Environment.

“And, after soaking in the sea for decades, they are often unrecognisable to the untrained eye, often covered in corals and other sea-life.

“Our use of advanced technologies, which led to the discovery of the B-25, enables us to accelerate and enhance the discovery and eventual recovery of our missing servicemen.”

O’Connell told Divernet: “Our diving uses a strictly hands-off approach so as not to compromise the site for the potential of future recovery of remains still associated with the aircraft we locate.”

As well as searching for lost aircraft, Project Recover conducts archaeological surveys of known but undocumented sites, and while in PNG carried out one such exercise on another B-25 in Madang Harbour. The site has been regularly visited by divers since it was discovered 30 years ago. Five of the six crew were captured by the Japanese but the other man is still listed as MIA.

More than 73,000 US service personnel from WW2 remain unaccounted for. In 2016 Project Recover pursued missions in England, New Caledonia, Palau, Saipan, the Solomon Islands and Tinian as well as the USA, locating and documenting five aircraft. It plans to return to PNG later this year.


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