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US aircraft from World War II found in Pacific Ocean

Truk Lagoon in 1944 (U.S. Navy/WikiCommons)

A trio of U.S. planes which were shot down in the Pacific Ocean during World War II has been found after going missing for 76 years.

The planes, two SBD-5 Dauntless dive bombers and one TBM/F-1 Avenger torpedo bomber, were lost during Operation Hailstone in February 1944. While ultimately a victory for U.S. forces, 40 service members were killed and 30 aircraft were shot down off Micronesia while attacking one of Japan’s most formidable naval bases in the western Pacific.

Project Recover, a nonprofit for those missing in action, is responsible for the discovery in Truk Lagoon.

Researchers from the University of Delaware and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, part of the University of California, San Diego, partnered in the find.

“While the discovery of these sites is exhilarating and validating, these feelings are mixed with the humbling emotions of the sacrifices made by these service members and their families in protecting our freedoms,” Project Recover co-founder Mark Moline said.

The planes were found at depths between 100 and 215 feet. Project Recover is “now assembling reports for review by the U.S. government to potentially set into motion a process for recovering and identifying the remains of up to seven crew members,” Project Recover’s lead archaeologist Andrew Pietruszka said.

However, the organization will continue its efforts in the area.

“Our research indicates that there are an additional 28 aircraft from WWII still missing in Truk Lagoon, associated with 103 MIAs,” Derek Abbey, a retired U.S. Marine aviator and president and CEO of Project Recover, said. “Project Recover is honored to play our part in keeping our nation’s promise of returning our fallen service members home and we remain committed to locating more Americans missing in action in Chuuk and around the world.”

There are more than 81,000 American service members still missing from past conflicts with about half believed to be lost at sea, according to data from the Defense Department’s POW/MIA Accounting Agency.


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