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The plane was discovered last week resting 100 feet down in the tropical waters of the Republic of Palau. The find is one of several made in recent years by a group of university-based oceanographers working with a nonprofit organization that seeks to recover lost aircraft and aviators listed as missing in action for decades.
The carrier-based dive-bomber was flying missions in support of Operation Stalemate II, a fierce battle that took place during a Marine landing on Peleliu. The dive-bomber was lost with two aviators aboard.
The location of the aircraft and a detailed site survey will be turned over to the government of Palau and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, which is responsible for recovery and identification of remains and the notification of families.
State-of-the-art undersea technologies including unmanned undersea vehicles and high-frequency sonar were used to search the seafloor after a high-probability search region was identified through months of archival research and the team’s scientific analysis of historic data that BentProp has collected in the past 20 years.
“The testbed we developed in this public-private partnership appears to be paying dividends in our ability to find crash sites associated with those missing from past conflicts,” said Scripps oceanographer Eric Terrill, a co-leader of the search mission.
The March 20 find took place during an expedition that continues through April. Five other aircraft targets are also on the team’s priority search list for this year’s expedition.
“It’s a great feeling to be involved in an effort that develops and applies new scientific and technical approaches to a problem of national interest,” said Terrill, “and that in some small way, our efforts may help bring closure to those who have lost loved ones.”
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