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Author Topic: US team to recover WWII bomber from Pacific lagoon  (Read 5980 times)


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US team to recover WWII bomber from Pacific lagoon
« on: June 13, 2009, 09:07:55 AM »
US team to recover a WWII Douglas Devastator from Pacific lagoon

MAJURO (AFP) — A team of US salvagers is preparing to recover a rare World War II US naval torpedo bomber which has lain submerged in a Marshall Islands lagoon since 1942.

The bomber is one of two TDB Devastator planes ditched in Jaluit Atoll during an attack on Japanese forces in early 1942, said Van T. Hunn, a retired US Air Force officer heading The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) team.

"There is not one of these planes above water or in a museum anywhere," said Hunn.

The two Devastators in Jaluit's lagoon -- one at a depth of about 50 feet (15 metres), the other at 130 feet -- are an important part of American naval history, said Hill Goodspeed, chief historian at the National Museum of Naval Aviation.

"We thought none existed," he said. The Marshall Islands planes "are definitely a crown jewel of naval aviation history."

TIGHAR's aim is to leave the shallower plane in place as an attraction for scuba divers, while devising a way to safely remove the deeper plane so it can be preserved and put into a US Naval museum.

Both planes are relatively undisturbed and intact because they were deliberately ditched by their pilots, who did not have the fuel to return to the aircraft carrier Yorktown.

"Of 41 Devastators that fought in the battle of Midway, only four returned," said TIGHAR official Russ Matthews.

The TBD Devastator was the US Navy's first all-metal, monoplane torpedo bomber when introduced in 1937 and the Douglas aircraft company made a total of 129 of the planes.

But its slow speed, light defensive armament and lack of manoeuvrability made it easy prey for the Japanese Zero fighter and it was taken out of active service after the Battle of Midway in 1942.

Jaluit was the Japanese headquarters when it administered the Marshall Islands from World War I to the end of World War II, but was relegated to a remote backwater when the US took control of the islands in 1944.

With a population of about 1,500 people, it has many armaments, downed planes and concrete bunkers from World War II, but remains a remote outpost, about 150 miles (240 kilometres) from the capital, Majuro.

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