Sunken American WWII torpedo bomber discovered in Pacific

In July of 1944, an American warplane, a TBM-1C Avenger torpedo bomber, went down in the Pacific.

Now, 72 years later, the Navy plane has been identified near Palau, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego has announced.

Eric Terrill, an oceanographer at Scripps, explained that the remains of the aircraft are resting under 85 feet of water within a lagoon. It wasn't until his team dove the wreck this April and May that they identified it as the Avenger they had been looking for.

“The plane had a number of Japanese targets that it was focused on in World War II, and was hit by anti-aircraft fire, and then crashed within the lagoon a few miles overshore from the target that it was going after," Terrill told

Two U.S. Navy Grumman Avenger torpedo-bombers in flight over the ocean, one having just released a torpedo

Two U.S. Navy Grumman Avenger torpedo-bombers in flight over the ocean, one having just released a torpedo (Library of Congress/U.S. Navy)

Avengers, which took off and landed from aircraft carriers, had a crew of three.

"We’re hopeful that this will eventually lead to the recovery of three MIA," Terrill added, pointing out that a report stated that one person had parachuted out before the crash.

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"This particular aircraft had a lot of fire-damage associated with it, which is consistent with the after-action report," Terrill added. He said it's the U.S. government's purview at this point to identify the individuals associated with the plane, and that his team had given a report to the government.

The find was made by a group called Project RECOVER, which combines historical records with underwater searches to find lost American wrecks and the remains of service members who are missing in action. Scripps is one of the three entities that makes up the Project RECOVER venture.

Their "goal ultimately is to help bring closure to families with MIA losses," Terrill said.

Just around Palau’s islands alone, which is located east of the Philippines and southwest of Guam, there are dozens of U.S. aircraft as well as up to 80 human remains, Scripps said.

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The Avenger was a single-engine propeller plane made by both Grumman and General Motors that carried torpedoes, and was first deployed during World War II.

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