More than 70 years after a World War 2 American B-25 bomber went down in the Adriatic Sea, underwater archaeologists may have found human remains in the wreckage. Dubbed the Tulsamerican, the bomber fell into the sea with all 10 crewmembers onboard in 1944.
Of the crew, local fishermen were able to save seven airmen from the site of the crash. However, pilots Lt. Eugene Ford and, 1st Lt. Russell Landry, were missing, along with Sg.t Charles Priest.
The team of archaeologists recovered anything that resembled human bone. They may have found parts of the clothing and equipment of some of the crewmembers, including a boot and a life vest. The divers also brought up tons of dirt from the sea bottom that can be gleaned for remains and any other relevant clues.
According to Live Science, a DNA analysis will be conducted to link remains with the missing airmen so as to receive proper military burial. possible human remains aboard a World War II U.S. bomber that had crashed into the Adriatic Sea in 1944, according to Live Science.
Nicknamed the TulsAmerican, the B-24 bomber had crashed into the sea with 10 members on board. While seven of them had been saved by local fishermen and rescuers, three airmen — Lt. Eugene Ford, Sgt. Charles Priest, and 1st Lt. Russell Landry — could not be found. More than 70 years after the incident, the archaeologists embarked on a mission to bring home the remains of the airmen and discovered what might possibly be other items like a life vest and flight boot, apart from the remains.
The month-long project near the shore of Croatia has not yet yielded the identities of the missing. According to Live Science, underwater archaeologist Brendan Foley said of the mission: “It was incredibly emotional for all of us. We’re all still trying to get our heads around what we just experienced. This is the most worthwhile thing we've ever done underwater.”
The mission was coordinated by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) of the Department of Defense. The agency seeks to recover missing personnel who are listed as Prisoners of War or Missing in Action from all past wars and conflicts. A total of 73,048 personnel from World War 2 alone are missing. A majority of them (48,027) are from the Asia-Pacific theater of action. Over 41,000 of the missing are presumed lost at sea.
The DPAA conducts regular operations to find and bring back the remains of military missing in action or known to have been killed.
The TulsAmerican was well known in Oklahoma during the Second World War because it was the last B-24 to roll off the production line in Tulsa. Workers at the plant in Tulsa contributed their own money to raise the funds necessary to build it.
The plane flew only just 19 missions before it was lost in December 1944 after being shot down by German fighter planes. It was returning from a bombing run in Germany at the time. It went down just a mile off Vis Island, just miles away from a landing field. It crashed in a part of the sea that is about 175 feet deep.
Over 18,000 B-24s were built, while 952 copies were completed at Tulsa's Douglas Plant. It was a big event - and plant employees helped raise the money to pay for it.
After decades on the bottom of the sea, the TulsAmerican is covered with coral. It is upside down, and the landing gear is extended.
Divers found the wreck in December 2009, and another dive in 2010 identified it as the TulsAmerican.
First Lieutenant Val Miller was a bombardier on the plane. He survived the crash; in 2010 he was living in Oklahoma City and still a practicing law at the age of 86 years. "The plane just dropped over and plunged into the Adriatic Sea, and the plane broke up into pieces, and somehow I was able to get out of the wreckage," said Miller to NewsOne6 of Oklahoma. "That last mission, it got hit by fighters; it got hit by flack; it staggered back on just a couple of engines and still managed to get seven of its guys home," Miller said.
According to the Institute for Nautical Archaeology, Megan Lickliter-Mundon went to Croatia in 2014. After meeting two representatives from the Croatian Conservation Institute at their warehouse for artifacts, she examined and documented the artifacts brought up in 2010. There were as follows:
1x flak jacket remains, unknown ownership
1x wallet remains, unknown ownership
2x radio boxes 1x plug head and ceramic plug socket
1x signal torch,
1x Perspex lens for it 1x data plate from cockpit
1x browning 50 cal machine gun remains loose bullets,
bullets in clip from 50 cal
Various small metal pieces