Two World War II bombers have been discovered in the waters off Papua New Guinea as part of a huge project that’s dedicated to finding the final resting place of US soldiers who went missing in action during the war.
Project Recover is a collaboration between marine scientists and archaeologists aiming to search the sea floor for missing WWII aircraft, using a mix of historical evidence, archive data, scanning sonars, high definition imaging, diving, drones, and underwater robots.
Even with all this scientific gadgetry in their hands, one of the main leads on this latest discovery was simply talking to elders and divers from a nearby coastal village. Their tip-offs eventually led to the site of two B-25 Mitchell bomber aircraft that were subsequently extensively documented and surveyed by the team.
“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. And, after soaking in the sea for decades, they are often unrecognizable to the untrained eye, often covered in corals and other sea-life,” Katy O’Connell, Project Recover’s Executive Director, said in a statement. “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.”
Military records showed that one of the bombers had six crew members. One of them is thought to have died in the crash but the remaining five were taken prisoner by the Japanese.
The sky above this crash site was a battleground for huge US military campaigns in the Pacific between January 1942 to the end of the war in August 1945. During this time, the B-25 Bomber was the most heavily armed airplane in the world, equipped with a 2,268-kilogram (5,000 pounds) bomb capacity and often 75mm cannons and machine guns.
Project Recover plans to return to Papua New Guinea later on this year to build on these discoveries. With more of their hard work, this incredible use of 21st-century technology could help answer some very personal questions for families across the US and the wider world.
“Any find in the field is treated with the utmost care, respect, and solemnity,” added O’Connell. “There are still over 73,000 US service members unaccounted for from World War II, leaving families with unanswered questions about their loved ones. We hope that our global efforts can help to bring closure and honor the service of the fallen.”