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Forces War Records Blog

SUBMERGED WORLD WAR TWO FIGHTER PLANE A STEP CLOSER TO BEING RAISED AND RESTORED AFTER DISCOVERY OFF WELSH COAST.

  • Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter aircraft found in 2007 after 65 years under sands
  • Last seen when it crashed off the Welsh coast in 1942 while on exercise
  • Retrieval from secret location near beach at Harlech, Gwynedd, will move ahead as soon as a home for the aircraft is found
The decaying wreckage of a Second World War fighter plane, exposed after 65 years by changing tides on the Welsh coast, is to be removed. Known as the Maid of Harlech, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter aircraft was discovered in July 2007 after decades hidden under the sands. It was the first time the rare United States Army Air Force (USAAF) fighter had been seen since it crashed off the Welsh coast in 1942 while on exercise. The retrieval, from a secret location near the beach near Harlech, Gwynedd, will move ahead as soon as a home for the aircraft is found.
Known as the Maid of Harlech, a Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter aircraft was discovered in July 2007 after 65 years hidden under the sands. It will now be carefully removed from its secret location
The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) hope to be able to remove the wreckage from the sea. Project director Ric Gillespie said: 'Once we have a home for the aircraft we can proceed with getting the necessary permissions from the local government, finalising the recovery plan and raising the all-important funding 'Daunting, but do-able.' He added: 'The plane remains safely buried in the sand. We know where it is, no one else does. 'That's the only reason it hasn't been picked apart by looters. Our intention is to recover the aircraft and conserve rather than restore it.'
The P-38 Lightning in her former glory. It is believed that the aircraft crash landed in 1942 while it was taking part in training exercises and its engines cut out

'That means a lengthy process of treating the metal so it doesn't corrode away when it is removed from the beach. 'We need a UK museum to partner with us in conserving and then exhibiting the aircraft.' 'The major aviation museums such as the RAF museum and the Imperial War museum are aware and interested but unable to devote resources right now due to other commitments and shortages of space and funding.' It is believed that the aircraft crash landed in 1942 while it was taking part in training exercises and its engines cut out. Amazingly pilot Lt Robert Elliott walked away from the incident without a scratch but tragically went missing in action just three months later serving in the American's Tunisia campaign in North Africa. The TIGHAR website dedicated to the project describes the find as one of the most significant WWII related archaeological discoveries in recent history. Local historian Matt Rimmer first alerted TIGAR to the wreck's discovery and assisted the TIGHAR archaeological team throughout October 2007 carrying out a survey at the site.

'FORK TAILED DEVIL': FORMIDABLE OPPONENT WHICH 'HELPED TO WIN THE WAR'

Nicknamed 'the fork tailed devil' by the Germans- who recognised the aircraft as a formidable opponent - the P-38 entered service in 1941, with the US 1st Fighter Group. They were in initially deployed to the West Coast to defend against an anticipated Japanese attack, but by 1942, the majority of P-38 squadrons were sent to Britain as part of the Operation Bolero, when the US joined the war effort. Others were sent to North Africa, where they aided the Allies in gaining control of skies over the Mediterranean. In the Pacific, the P-38 served throughout the war and downed more Japanese aircraft than any other US Army Air Force fighter. Back in Britain, the P-38 saw extensive service as a bomber escort thanks to its long range. But it was plagued with engine issues due to the lower quality of European fuel. On April 18, 1943, the aircraft flew one of its most famous missions. Sixteen P-38Gs were sent from the tropical island of Guadalcanal to intercept transport carrying Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet, near Bougainville. Flying just above the water surface, the P-38s succeeded in downing the admiral's plane as well as three others. By the end of the war, the P-38 had downed more than 1,800 Japanese aircraft, with more than 100 pilots becoming aces in the process. SOURCE: DAILYMAIL NEWS. 
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