KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Workers are digging up the wreckage of a U.S. World War II plane found in 21 feet of mud in rural southwest Holland.

The P-47 Thunderbolt had been missing since it went down in 1943 near the town of Oude-Tonge.

Dutch construction workers found pieces of the warplane while performing survey work for a flood basin last April, said Mireille Zoet, a spokeswoman for the municipality of Oostflakke.

The Royal Netherlands Air Force, joined by local municipalities and members of the U.S. Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, are trying to recover the aircraft.

U.S. military officials have identified the plane as one flown by Lt. Robert Stover, said Capt. Erin Macri, a spokeswoman with U.S. Air Forces in Europe at Ramstein Air Base. The pilot was helping escort Allied bombers after a raid on the German city of Emmerlich when it went down.

Stover’s remains were recovered sometime after the crash.

Recovery teams had hoped the plane had belonged to Lt. Frederick D. Merritt, an American pilot whose remains have been missing since the war.

The Dutch air force on Thursday plans to allow the public to view some of the recovered parts and the site. The sparsely populated area is home to mostly farmers and tulip growers near the North Sea on an island southwest of Rotterdam.

Most of the wreckage has been recovered, except for the engine. Crews estimate the engine is buried further down — about 33 feet — in the mud and might be too deep to be retrieved, Zoet said.

“The motor is still in the ground,” she said. “But if they have to dig further they could have a problem with water coming into the hole.”

Most of the pieces found by the construction workers and the recovery crews have been relatively small, including the plane’s gun and propeller.

Construction work at the site will not resume until the recovery is complete. It is unknown what will be done with the wreckage.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now