Remains of California airman who sank with plane in WWII recovered 80 years later
The Charlotte Observer September 11, 2023
(Tribune News Service) — During WWII, a 22-year-old airman from California sank in a plane crash off the coast of Malta. Eighty years later, divers located the wreckage and recovered his remains.
Air Force Sgt. Irving Newman of Los Angeles was assigned to a bomber squadron in 1943, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) said in an Aug. 31 news release. Newman and his nine crew members on a B-24 Liberator plane participated in bombing the Reggio di Calabria harbor in Sicily, Italy, on May 6, officials said.
“While heading to the target, their plane began experiencing engine trouble forcing the pilots to make a course correction away from the main bomber group, directly into enemy anti-aircraft fire,” DPAA said in the release. “During an emergency landing the plane caught fire and crashed into the water near Benghajsa Point, Malta.”
According to Underwater Malta, “the wheels of the aircraft were lowered when it hit the surface, flipping the plane upside down, and after floating for a few minutes, the tail section sank first and the nose last.”
The plane crash injured at least five crew members, DPAA said. Nine crew members were rescued, but Newman was not.
Newman was considered missing in action and his remains were thought to be “non-recoverable,” officials said, until divers and archaeologists found the wreckage of the plane off the coast of Malta.
The wreckage was located about a mile off the coast of Marsaxlokk, Malta, in 2015, Underwater Malta, a marine archaeology project, said. The WWII plane came to rest about 180 feet underwater “on a sandy seabed.”
Underwater archaeologists from the University of Malta worked to excavate the wreck in 2018 and 2019, lead archaeologist Timmy Gambin told McClatchy News.
Divers “recovered material evidence, life support equipment, and suspected human remains from this crash site,” DPAA said. DPAA identified the remains as Newman’s.
“The entire time we were working, the whole team wanted to go the extra mile to bring this boy home,” Gambin told the Times of Malta. “I cannot overemphasize what it meant to every single one of them.”
Gambin described his team’s work as a “huge honor,” he told McClatchy News.
“We can make a small contribution to bring closure for families who lost their loved ones in past conflicts,” he said.
The time and place of Newman’s burial have not been determined, DPAA said. No photo of Newman was provided.
Marsaxlokk is on the southeastern coast of Malta, a Mediterranean island country south of Italy.
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