A U.S. World War II fighter plane that crashed off the coast of North Wales and occasionally appears from the sands has received protected status, officials announced Monday.
The Lockheed P-38 Lightning Fighter crashed in September 1942 and is buried beneath 6.6 feet of sand. The ghostly remains of the plane, however, sometimes appear from the sands – the first sighting was in the 1970s, according to Cadw, the Welsh government’s historic environment service. The plane was also uncovered in 2007 and, most recently, in 2014.
With its scheduled, or protected, status, the fighter is the first legally designated military aircraft crash site protected for its historic and archaeological interest in the U.K.
The fighter, which was piloted by 24-year-old Second Lt. Robert F. Elliott, crash-landed after running into difficulties during a gunnery practice mission. Elliott walked away from the crash but was reported missing in action just a few months later.
Elliott’s nephew, Robert Elliott, a resident of Kingsport, Tenn. and a U.S. Navy veteran, said that he is thrilled with the aircraft’s protected status.
“I am honored and delighted that Cadw has given official recognition of my uncle's P38F as a scheduled Ancient Monument,” he said in a statement. “My uncle was among those brave and expert fighter pilots who served with distinction during WWII. My visit to the site with my wife Cathy in 2016 was very moving and emotional.”
A number of downed aircraft from World War II have been located in recent years. Earlier this year the wreck of a World War II U.S. B-24 bomber that plunged into the sea off Bermuda in February 1945 was discovered by a team of researchers from the University of Delaware.
The wreckage of another U.S. Air Force B-24 bomber was found in Papua New Guinea in 2018, 74 years after it was shot down during a fierce battle with Japanese forces.
In 2017, engineers working on a sub-sea power link discovered what is believed to be the wreckage of a lost World War II Royal Air Force bomber off the coast of Norway.
In 2015, the University of Hawaii and NOAA released incredible images of a U.S. Navy seaplane sunk during the opening moments of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Last year, an extremely rare World War II Spitfire fighter plane flown by a Royal Air Force pilot who later took part in the "Great Escape" was recovered from a remote Norwegian mountainside.
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