During World War II, approximately 200 Allied planes crashed in North Australia, and up to this day, some are still missing, their whereabouts unknown, along with the crew that died in these crashes.
Australian marine explorer Ben Cropp and his team have come across at least one of its warbirds. They’ve found a sunken wing of a four-engine WWII bomber hidden in a coral reef. His team then returns back to the site armed with the knowledge to correctly identify the warbird and perhaps lay to rest the crew that died during the crash.
Cropp knew what he found was a somewhat a mystery plane- its location was never recorded because all of the crew must have died during the crash. The wreckage found just six meters down off the tip of Cape York was definitely a chance discovery.
Experts Weigh In
Although initially thought of as a B-17 Flying Fortress by Cropp, experts beg to differ. According to them, this could probably be either an American B-24 Liberator, a B-17 Flying Fortress, or a Japanese Emily seaplane which might have been shot down by anti-aircraft fire during bombing raids on Townsville.
Aviation experts in the defense department could not identify the coral-encrusted wing based on the videos Cropp’s team took. Thus, Cropp knew that he needed to come back armed with all the knowledge he can gather to correctly identify it. So, he set on an expedition to unravel the mystery behind it.
Identifying the Mystery Plane
Cropp explained to his team that since they’re only a wing and two engines, he explained that one way to identify one from the other is that the cowling on the engine of the B-17 is round, Meanwhile, for the B-24, it’s slightly oval.
Another identification that’s possible is that the landing gear of the B-17 folds upwards behind the engine. Meanwhile, the B-24 landing gear folds up under the wing between the two motors. So they can get a look under the wing, and they might see where that landing gear is.
Also, the B-17 has nine cylinders in a radial, and the B-24 has two rows of seven cylinders. To identify the plane, they need to look for all of these items.
Moment of Truth
Once down in the ocean, Cropp’s team looked for the landing gear to confirm whether or not it is a B-17, if it is, it would be tucked under the back of the engine. Meanwhile, if it’s a B-24, it will be between the two engines.
Upon checking the tread pattern on the tire, they concluded it was a B-17 bomber. It also has a perfectly circular cowling and nine cylinders. Now the only thing left to solve is which plane it was.
Which Plane Was It?
Personally, Cropp and his team think it was Pluto, and she was lost on March 26, 1943. On board, she was carrying an American General, Howard Ramy.
The plane was on the flight back from Port Moresby to Thorne Island and Brisbane. However, she struck terrible weather, and everyone was lost including the General onboard. They concluded it was Pluto’s last resting place.