Rediscovery of WWII bomber off Oahu raises hopes for recovery of remains

Updated: Jan. 16, 2020 at 5:44 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Crystal clear video shows new images of a World War II aircraft sitting on the ocean floor about three miles off Oahu’s Kaneohe coast.

The Grumman TBF Avenger crashed after colliding with another military plane during a training flight in 1942.

The documenting was done by Project Recover, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the University of Delaware.

"We were able to re-locate that site and document it," said Andrew Pietruszka, Project Recover's lead archaeologist.

Scientists used sonar to zero in on the torpedo bomber at a depth of 300 feet, then used a camera on a submersible to survey the site.

"Right through that camera lens, boom! Looks like you could almost take and fly it," Pietruszka said.

Even after 77 years underwater the airplane’s wings, cockpit, tail section and engine are still visible.

"This mission in particular was very special because it was on U.S. soil," Project Recover co-founder Eric Terrill said.

The video and photographs will be used to build a three-dimensional model of the aircraft.

"It's sitting upright as it would be on a carrier deck or on the runway," Pietruszka said.

The Defense Department's POW/MIA Accounting Agency will decide whether recovery of remains is possible. The Avenger's three-man crew is listed as missing in action.

“The final end goal of where we are in this program is really to bring closure to family who lost loved ones associated with foreign conflicts of wars,” Terrill said.

More than 80 MIA cases worldwide are ready for recovery thanks to Project Recover’s work.

The group hopes to find the other Grumman TBF Avenger involved in the 1942 accident. Its crew is also MIA.

“Hopefully sometime in the future we’ll be able to do some further exploration and discover that site,” Pietruszka said.

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