Missing US WWII bomber found off Belgian coast
A US B-17 bomber that disappeared during World War II has been found largely intact in the North Sea off the Belgian Coast, officials said on Tuesday.
The “Flying Fortress”, the mainstay of the American bomber wartime fleet, was found when the seabed was being cleared for an electricity cable between Britain and Belgium.
The US military will now consult its archives for missing planes to identify any possible crew members whose remains have been found aboard.
Tests “show that the plane survived more or less intact”, Sven Van Haelst, a marine archeologist at the Flemish Marine Institute, which discovered the plane, told AFP.
The wreck was found a year ago but the discovery was only revealed now after the cable route had to be diverted to avoid it, Van Haelst said.
It is about 30 metres (98 feet) underwater and around 30 kilometres (18 miles) from the coastal village of Nieuport, but its exact location is being kept secret to discourage treasure hunters.
A turbocompressor from one of the engines and pieces of metal with the plane’s serial number have already been brought to the surface. These have identified it as a B-17 G model, which was in service from 1943 onwards.
Flying Fortresses, which could carry a total of two tonnes of bombs, were the most famous of the US bombers used in World War II.
The four-engined bombers flew from bases in Britain to hit sites in Nazi Germany, and the one found in the North Sea appeared to have ditched on its way back.
Belgium’s territorial waters have a reputation as a cemetery for submarines, planes and ships from the two world wars but it is rare to find such well-preserved examples, said Van Haelst.
The B-17s could carry up to 10 crew members.
“The question of possible human remains is complex. Firstly we have to precisely identify the plane, and at this stage we have four possible candidates,” Van Haelst added.
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