US military team searches for remains of missing WWII airman in Essex 020919 CREDIT US DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
WWII

US Military Digs Up Essex Field To Search For WWII Airman's Remains

The airman died after the B-26 bomber he was travelling in crashed and exploded in Essex.

US military team searches for remains of missing WWII airman in Essex 020919 CREDIT US DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Twenty-three members of the US military dug up a farmer's field in Essex to search for the remains (Picture: US Department of Defense). 

The US military has dug up a field in Essex to search for the remains of a World War Two airman.

The man was declared missing after his plane crashed and then exploded when departing for a mission just two days before D-Day, on 4 June 1944.

The B-26 Marauder bomber was tasked with bombing a bridge in Nazi-occupied France but it experienced engine failure after leaving RAF Mountfitchet.

The aircraft crash-landed with its six crew and cargo of two 2,000lb bombs still inside.

Four airmen managed to escape from the burning wreckage and survived, but a fifth died at the scene when the two bombs exploded. His remains were recovered.

The sixth airman remains unaccounted for and US military personnel from the Defence POW/MIA Accounting Agency are searching for his remains.

23 members from the US military search for remains of WWII airman in an Essex field 020919 CREDIT US DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
It was the agency's first excavation in the UK (Picture: US Department of Defense).

Sergeant First Class Peter Holderness, team sergeant, said the agency's mission is to "find and retrieve our nation's fallen service members and account for as many as possible".

The agency requested the precise location of the field in Essex remains secret so that trophy hunters cannot find it.

It also asked that the airman's name is not published out of sensitivity to his descendants.

Sgt Holderness said that "possible osseous material", matter consisting of or turned into bone, had been found during the excavation.

However, he said lab tests are required to "verify what it actually is".

If the initial dig fails to locate the airman's remains, a permit could be sought to return for a further dig.

The team used hoses to find items of interest among the dirt (Picture: US Department of Defense).
The team used hoses to find items of interest among the dirt (Picture: US Department of Defense).

The agency did not specify the precise length of the initial dig, which concluded in August.

During the dig, a 23-strong team sifted through excavated soil at a "wet screening" tent, using hoses to find items of interest among the dirt.

These were placed in buckets and then inspected further, with any bone matter or "material evidence" such as a dog tag or rings to be sent to the agency's lab in Hawaii.

The excavation in Essex is the agency's first in the UK, and a spokesman said there are 140 cases involving unaccounted-for Americans in the UK from the Second World War.