The ocean depths continue to give up their ghosts of war-times past…
Over the six decades since the end of World War II, the discoveries of downed, sunken, buried, or otherwise “lost” warships and military aircraft have been considered some of the rarest of rare occasions. But for some reason during 2012, such findings have been occurring on an almost monthly basis. For example:
20 “lost” British Spitfires are found buried inside their original packing crates in Burma. Since that time, the number has risen to possibly as high as 100, with excavation of the first of the rare “Spits” set to begin in early 2013. More HERE.
The amazingly well-preserved wreckage of a downed RAF P-40 Kittyhawk is stumbled upon in a desolate, uninhabited part of the Saharan desert. The pilot’s remains are located a few miles away, indicating he survived and tried to walk out of the desert to the nearest town—over 200 miles away!
At almost the same time, the wreckage of a crashed, Korean War-era USAF Douglas C-124A Globemaster II was discovered high up in the rugged mountains of Alaska. For the first time in over 60 years, authorities are able to confirm that all 52 passengers aboard had perished. More HERE.
In August, we reported on the stunning discovery of a sunken WW2 German submarine, the U-550, located just off the coast of Massachusetts. The U-Boat was sunk after a fierce battle with the U.S. Navy. Quite the story! More HERE.
And just when we thought we’d seen it all, an ultra-rare Messerschmitt 323 “Gigant” is discovered resting underwater off the coast of Sardinia, Italy. The largest of the Luftwaffe’s experimental “X-planes,” the six-engined monster was quickly nicknamed by the RAF as the “Leviathan of the Skies.” Full story HERE.
Now, most recently, in the span of just one week in November, 2012, two more missing WW2 American fighter planes have been discovered. The first, a U.S. Army Air Corps P-38 Lockheed Lightning, was found half-buried and slowly emerging from beneath the sands of a beach off of Wales in the UK. The second, a U.S. Navy F6F Grumman Hellcat, was found sitting upside-down, 240 feet below the surface, off of the coast of Miami Beach, Florida.
The nearly simultaneous discovery of these two extremely rare WW2 warbirds is a thrilling coincidence for all military and history buffs. How were these planes found? As for the P-38 Lightning, according to an article in the UK Daily Mail…
“It has been hidden under the sands and waves since it crashed off the coast of Wales in 1942. But now this wreckage of a rare World War fighter plane may soon be back on dry land.
Described as ‘one of the most important WWII finds in recent history’, the location of the Lockheed P38 Lightning has been kept a secret to keep the amazing find safe.
Known as the Maid of Harlech, the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) fighter crashed on the Gwynedd coast when it was taking part in training exercises and its engines cut out.
Amazingly, pilot Lt Robert Elliott walked away from the incident without a scratch but tragically went missing in action just three months later serving in the American’s Tunisia campaign in North Africa.
A charity has announced plans to next year retrieve the wreckage. The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery are looking for support and a British museum who will accept the fascinating American machine as a gift to display at their venue.”
The Hellcat was found closer to home and likely suffered from engine failure as well. As of the date of this article, it remains unidentified and so the fate of its pilot too, is unknown. According to an article in the Miami Herald…
“The crew of a research submarine studying artificial reefs off Miami-Dade County has discovered the mostly intact wreck of a U.S. Navy World War II fighter plane lying upside down 240 feet deep off Miami Beach.
Researchers aboard the Antipodes were using three-dimensional sonar gear to investigate a blip on the sea floor last June when they found the 28-foot-long Grumman F6F Hellcat — encrusted with marine growth and dotted with exotic lionfish.
According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, 79 Hellcats were lost off Florida’s east coast between 1943 and 1952. But many of the crews survived by bailing out or ditching. They were not part of the mysterious Flight 19 “Lost Patrol” that vanished on a routine training mission off Fort Lauderdale in 1945. The “Lost Patrol” consisted of five TBM Avengers and the PBM Mariner that was sent to look for them.
According to Bob Rasmussen, director of the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, more than 12,000 Hellcats were delivered to the Navy, but only a handful are still around today. ‘The discovery of one more — even under 240 feet of Atlantic Ocean — is important to naval aviation history,’ Rasmussen said.”
Bottom Line: Even with today’s advanced sonar and satellite-based imaging systems, searching the vast ocean floor for objects such as crashed fighter planes and sunken ships is often a proverbial “needle in a haystack” scenario. Maybe if they used a Sea Wolf submarine…hmm…