Oceanographers at the University of Delaware revealed that they have located two lost World War II planes, using underwater robots, near Palau,
Project Recover is a collaborative effort to enlist twenty-first-century science and technology in a quest to find the final underwater resting places of Americans missing in action since World War II.
This public-private partnership was initiated in the Republic of Palau, site of some of the fiercest fighting during the Pacific campaign of World War II. Many American aviators were lost during the battle to take Peleliu and subsequent repatriation of the neighboring islands, while many sailors, soldiers, and Marines were lost in landing craft.
It is estimated that more than 30 U.S. carrier and land-based aircraft and several sunken landing craft remain missing in the coastal waters of Palau.
During bloody battles in 1944 between American and Japanese almost two dozen aircraft had fallen into waters around Palau, leaving around 70 airmen missing in action.
The Japanese wanted to use the islands for battle preparation and refueling grounds — and so did the Allies. Numerous aircraft were lost in the waters of Palau, submerged for decades with little closure for the families of fallen airmen.
Seventy years later, a team of oceanographers discovered two of these warplanes last spring using autonomous underwater vehicles. The discovery of the two aircraft earlier this spring could lead to the recovery of many of the airmen who went missing in action.
The University of Delaware’s Mark Moline, one of the scientists who led the expedition, learned that his grandfather had been on the USS Princeton, one of the aircraft carriers that attacked Palau in March 1944. Together with Eric Terrill, a colleague at Scripps Institution of Oceanography began working with the non-profit BentProp Project in 2013 to apply underwater robotics technologies in search of lost U.S. airmen.