Downed WWII Aircraft Found in Pacific After 72 Years

An American carrier-based torpedo bomber, the TBM-1C Avenger aircraft, was recently found in the waters surrounding the Pacific island nation of Palau after having been missing in action (MIA) for nearly 72 years since World War II.

The war plane, MIA since July 1944, was located through a private-public partnership effort involving donor Dan Friedkin, and a consortium of entities operating under Project RECOVER, which include the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, as well as The BentProp Project.

In coordination with the U.S. federal government, the effort is aimed at conducting searches related to MIA aircraft and associated American personnel since World War II.

Several dozen U.S. aircraft and up to 80 American airmen are believed to be scattered among the waters surrounding Palau and hidden within the island chain’s dense mangrove forests, note the entities involved in the effort.

In a statement, Eric Terrill, an oceanographer from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said:

The importance of our mission is reinforced with each new discovery of a missing aircraft. 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.

Donor Friedkin, founder and chairman of Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation, added:

This recovery is another step closer towards Project RECOVER’s goal of finding the final underwater resting places of all Americans missing in action since World War II. As someone who gained a passion for flying and admiration for our country’s brave service members as a child, I will continue to support the efforts of Project RECOVER and their partner organizations. Every family member impacted by the loss of a service member deserves this type of closure.

Friedkin is also identified as chairman of Gulf States Toyota and The Friedkin Group.

In hopes of bringing closure to the families of American service members who remain missing, Project RECOVER shares detailed information with the Pentagon’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) once it discovers MIA U.S. aircraft and potential links to associated airmen.

DPAA is charged with recovery and repatriation efforts.

The three entities operating under Project RECOVER “recently signed memorandums of understanding with DPAA to formalize their public-private partnership with the U.S. Government for conducting MIA related searches,” notes the effort’s statement announcing the recent discovery of the U.S. warplane near Palau.

CBS News acknowledges, “The [RECOVER] project uses a combination of oceanographic technology and advanced archival research methods to uncover the wrecks and possible information about the airmen linked to the downed craft. Autonomous underwater robots equipped with sonar map the ocean floor, locating sites of interest for human divers to then scour for wreckage.”


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