WWII B-29 Bomber
Tinian and Saipan served as major air bases during the final year of WWII with B-29 bombers flying long-range missions to Japan. Many aircraft were lost on take-off and landing. The lost aircraft have great significance to American history yet none of the B-29s that crashed in the Saipan Channel have ever been discovered. During the final dive for Leg 3 of the expedition, we explored sites that had been identified with exploration targets to search for B-29 aircraft during previous mapping. The dive provided the first information on B-29 bomber wreckage resting in the deep water of the channel and provided initial information on the state of preservation of the aircraft and the environmental conditions affecting the sites. Video courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas. Download (mp4, 134.0 MB)
Remotely operated vehicle Deep Discoverer (D2) landed near the intact wing of a B-29 Superfortress resting on the seafloor upside down with landing gear and three of the four engines still attached. This was the first B-29 crash site discovered of over a dozen American B-29s lost in the area while flying missions during World War II. Upon discovery, D2 did a perimeter survey around the wing, collected valuable data to inventory the contents of the site, and documented apparent fire damage. Some distance from the wing, we encountered wreckage from the forward section of the B-29 that contained the lower part of the forward gun turret, a cylindrical tube with the gun barrels buried in the sediment, and the flight engineer's control panel with many gauges. While searching for possible multibeam sonar targets, D2 came across several areas of debris from the crash and we discovered the nearly intact horizontal stabilizer from the B-29's tail. All of the wreckage and debris seems to represent one aircraft, although portions of the forward and aft sections of the fuselage were not found. Today's discovery represents an important symbol of America’s final push to end the war, an historically significant time in U.S. history, and is of interest to multiple management groups as well as several universities and foundations working to identify crash sites for the families of lost servicemen.