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Divers who pinpointed missing Vietnam War-era C-130 set sights on Thunderbolt wreckage

The remains of a Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine from a Republic P-47D Thunderbolt crash site in Weymouth Bay, England. The P-47 crashed on May 7, 1944.

SIMON BROWN/DEEPER DORSET

By WILLIAM HOWARD | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 25, 2018

WEYMOUTH, England — The British diving team that recently narrowed down the location in the English Channel of a C-130 stolen in 1969 by a homesick U.S. Air Force sergeant is at it again.

This time they they’re surveying the site where a U.S. Army Air Corps Republic P-47 Thunderbolt crashed into the sea in May 1944. The pilot bailed out and was rescued, but the plane disintegrated at impact with the water.

Several years ago, the team, known as Deeper Dorset, found some of the “Thud’s” remains in Weymouth Bay.

“Love of the sea started me off, obviously diving and then realizing what a great maritime history we have and how much of it is still undiscovered,” team founder Grahame Knott told Stars and Stripes. “We’re story hunters not treasure hunters.”

Since the wreckage was first located,  his team has taken more than 1,100 photogrammetry images — overlapping photographs that reconstruct three-dimensional scenes or objects — to map the 25-yard-deep crash site. Over the years, broken sections of the P-47 have been entangled and dragged by fishing nets and ropes.

Now, by using side-scan sonar that can distinguish man-made objects against the background of underwater sand bars, the team hopes to find a missing wing from the P-47 with its four .50-caliber machine guns.

Deeper Dorset recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign to uncover the truth behind the crash of Sgt. Paul Adams Meyer, a U.S. Air Force assistant crew chief who stole a C-130 Hercules from RAF Mildenhall in 1969.

 

howard.william@stripes.com
Twitter: @Howard_Stripes

 

A three-dimensional model of Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine from a Republic P-47D Thunderbolt crash site in Weymouth Bay, England, Thursday, May 24, 2018. The P-47 crashed on May 7, 1944, the pilot bailed out and was rescued.
IMAGE BY DEEPER DORSET

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