Project Recover finds missing World War II bomber off Papua New Guinea

PORT MORESBY – A San Diego oceanographer helped solve the 74-year-old mystery of a missing World War II B-24 Bomber that disappeared in the Pacific Ocean.

The crew of the plane “Heaven Can Wait” was on a mission to bomb Japanese anti-aircraft batteries in March 1944 when it was shot down by enemy fire.

For decades, the plane’s location and the remains of the 11 troops on board were unknown. Project Recover, which finds the underwater resting places of fallen Americans, worked with family members who wanted closure for their lost relative.

Eric Terrill of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California, San Diego, led the team of marine scientists, archaeologists, and volunteers. They started the project in October 2017.

The group used scanning sonars, high-definition imagers, advanced diving, and unmanned aerial and underwater robotic technologies. They also tracked data including historical eyewitness narratives from official military reports, mission documents, and diary entries from crew members on other aircraft in formation with the B-24 during its flight.

The search for “Heaven Can Wait” covered nearly 27 square kilometers of sea floor. 11 days after the search started, the group found the wreckage under 213 feet of water on the north shore of Hansa Bay, off Papua New Guinea.

“This is an important step toward our ultimate goal of identifying and returning home the crew of ‘Heaven Can Wait’ who bravely served our country during the battle at Hansa Bay,” said Dan Friedkin, team member of Project Recover and chairman and CEO of The Friedkin Group. “Our search efforts for the more than 72,000 missing American service members from World War II will continue as we seek to bring closure to the families impacted by their loss.”

Project Recover turned over the details of the crash site to the U.S. government for review and possible recovery efforts.

“The results from our efforts in Hansa Bay have stirred a mix of lasting emotions within our team and drives home the need to recognize the sacrifices that service members and their families make in protecting our freedoms,” said Terrill.

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