An American aircraft, a TBM-1C Avenger, missing since July 1944 was recently located in the waters surrounding the Pacific Island nation of Palau by Project RECOVER—a collaborative effort to combine the most advanced oceanographic technology with advanced archival research methods to locate aircraft and associated Americans missing in action (MIA) since World War II.
In the fall of 1944, an American bomber carrying eleven men vanished over the Pacific islands. According to mission reports, the plane went down in shallow water — but when investigators went to find it, the wreckage wasn’t there. Witnesses saw the crew parachute to safety, but the men were never seen again.
Every year, a team of scientists and researchers dive into the waters of the western Pacific republic of Palau, armed with underwater drones, thermal cameras, metal detectors — and the drive to solve a decades-old mystery.
The University of Delaware’s Mark Moline knew that his grandfather, O. Karl Olander, was a Navy chaplain in the Pacific during World War II. But it wasn’t until his mother shared his grandfather’s journal and scrapbook that Moline realized his grandfather had been on the USS Princeton, one of the aircraft carriers that attacked Palau in March 1944.
AIMELIIK STATE, Palau– Pat Scannon glanced down at his waterproof notebook and prepared to read. Nearby, hovered around the stern of the Kemedukl, a 40-foot aluminum catamaran, the team responsible for finding a World War II torpedo bomber lost at sea waited for Scannon to start the flag ceremony for the plane’s long-lost airmen.
On 24 March 2014, the BentProp Project, along with staff and students from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the University of Delaware (UD), located a TBM Avenger which had been shot down off the coast of Palau during a bombing raid on an island in 1944. This particular aircraft had been sought for over a decade by the Bent Prop Project, who continually searches for MIA service members in and around the islands of Palau.