Scripps Helps Find Missing World War II Aircraft in Palau

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Wreckage of a Navy TBM-1C Avenger located by Project RECOVER off Palau. Photo by Eric Terrill and Mark Moline

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography and its partners in Project RECOVER announced Wednesday they have found the wreckage of a World War II torpedo bomber off Palau.

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The TBM-1C Avenger, missing since July 1944, was located in the waters surrounding the Pacific Island nation through a combination of oceanographic technology and advanced archival research methods.

The Avenger was a torpedo bomber that entered service in 1942 and remained in use until the 1960s. President George H.W. Bush flew an Avenger in World War II.

Scattered among the lagoon waters and coral reefs surrounding Palau’s island chain, and concealed within its dense mangrove forests, are several dozen U.S. aircraft and the remains of as many as 80 U.S. airmen. The latest find adds to the growing list of wrecks discovered by Project RECOVER.

“The importance of our mission is reinforced with each new discovery of a missing aircraft,” said Eric Terrill, a Scripps oceanographer. “But this is more than reconnecting with history; it’s about locating the missing to enable the U.S. government to bring them home for a proper burial.”

“With potential recovery sites around the world, Project RECOVER and its team of researchers and volunteers are expanding to intensify its searches using modern science and technology,” he added.

The most recent find was made possible by a substantial financial commitment from Dan Friedkin, founder and chairman of Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation and chairman of Gulf States Toyota and The Friedkin Group.

Project RECOVER’s three founding entities are the University of Delaware, ScrippsOceanography and the non-profit BentProp Project.

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