The NOAA team hunted for the cemetery of military aircraft in the western Pacific


One of the world’s largest concentrations of sunken warplanes is hiding somewhere near the Northern Mariana Islands in the western Pacific, and a team supported by NOAA is selected this week to find him.

The cemetery contains the remains of “many” B-29 bombers and 76 US servicemen who died as part of a plan to bring World War II to the doorstep of Japan. This included flying thousands of miles to bomb military plants in Tokyo.

Among the most famous lost aircraft – “Joltin ‘Josie the Pacific Pioneer”, the first B-29 “super fortress“At the Pacific Theater to threaten Japan – and the one who died along with the entire crew, historians say.

According to the release of NOAA Ocean Exploration, the search for “Joltin ‘Josie” is a priority of the team, which from February 24 to March 11 will clean the seabed in Tinian and Saipan.

“Tinian and Saipan served as major air bases in the last year of World War II, and B-29 bombers carried out long-range missions to Japan,” NOAA Ocean Exploration said in a review of the expedition.

Joltin ‘Josie the Pacific Pioneer was the first B-29 bomber to enter the Pacific Theater of World War II. The plane was lost near Saipan on April 1, 1945. The team will search for the crash site during a deep-sea survey of U.S. World War II cultural values ​​during an expedition along the Saipan Canal. Deepwater reviews of the First World War

“Many planes were lost during takeoff and landing. The lost plane is of great significance to American history, but the last resting places of these B-29s remain largely unknown. ”

The team will compile a map of the seabed, create a list of disaster sites and provide experts with the data needed to “manage and conserve sites.”

“Finally, the expedition team hopes to document and honor the site of the last resting place of 76 U.S. servicemen who died in those waters,” the NOAA Ocean Exploration said.

The team will use a remote-controlled device that will reach a depth of nearly 2,000 feet during the expedition.

NOAA says it knows the location of only one B-29 near Saipan, and the plane was found by accident while the team was investigating “Sonar anomalies” in 2016. He found the bomber upside down, but still “in pretty good shape,” including wings with the chassis still involved.

The discovery had to be abandoned quickly due to bad weather, so a future mission will give a first chance to inspect the wreckage, NOAA says.

“Joltin ‘Josie” exploded

If the team still finds “Joltin ‘Josie”, there may not be much left.

“The crash reports were pretty clear on how most of the planes that crashed or crashed near Tinian crashed or even exploded.” NOAA reported in 2016. “Also, the wreckage that has been at the bottom for 70 years doesn’t necessarily look like pieces of an airplane in a sonar image.”

“Joltin” Josie “was loaded with bombs and headed to Japan on the evening of April 1, 1945, when it mysteriously erupted” shortly after takeoff. “

She took part in “Mission 51”, a large-scale offensive in which 121 B-29 was sent “to attack the Nakadima Aircraft Plant” in Tokyo, according to the Aviation Safety Network.

The cause of the explosion is not included in historical data, but “engine fires were not uncommon in the B-29,” according to NOAA.

All 12 passengers of “Joltin ‘Josie” were killed burned in the sea, reports the Aviation Safety Network. The 12 included 11 servicemen and one passenger, Digital archeological records say.

The network lists 11 members of the service as:

  • Campbell, John W. ~ 1st Lieutenant, Kansas
  • Canfield, Robert H. ~ 1st Lieutenant, Indiana
  • Quarry, Wilson Sea, Jr. ~ Captain, Pilot, New Mexico
  • Hansen, Warren L. ~ 2nd Lieutenant, Illinois
  • Hill, George L. Jr. ~ T / Sgt, Montana
  • O’Connor, Robert M. ~ 1st Lieutenant, Nebraska
  • Phelps, Raleigh E. ~ 1st Lieutenant, North Carolina
  • Rannells, Robert W. ~ S / Sgt, Indiana
  • Roberts, Norman T. ~ S / Sgt, Massachusetts
  • Russell, Richard W. ~ S / Sgt, Minnesota
  • Wyatt, Roger H. ~ Sergeant, New Hampshire

This story was originally published February 23, 2022, 1:57 p.m.

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Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering events including schools, crime, immigration, LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with a degree in journalism and art history and geology.

The NOAA team hunted for the cemetery of military aircraft in the western Pacific

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