Tri-Service

Divers Give Rare Glimpse Of Plane Sunk At Pearl Harbor

Archaeologists have released rare images of a U.S.

Archaeologists have released rare images of a U.S. Navy airplane sunk during the opening minutes of the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor 74 years ago.
 
The raid, which took place on the morning of December 7, 1941, led to the United States' entry into World War II.
 
 
Minutes before attacking the harbour, Japanese Imperial Navy aircraft bombed the nearby U.S. Naval Air Station on the east coast of Oahu.
 
27 Catalina PBY "flying boats" on the ground or moored on Kāne‛ohe Bay were destroyed, and six others were damaged. The strike on the seaplane base was a significant loss for the U.S. military, as these long-range patrol bombers could have followed the Japanese planes back to their carriers.
 
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In 1994, Kāne‛ohe Bay's murky waters thwarted a University of Hawaii dive team's attempt to photograph the wreck of a Catalina PBY-5. A second effort in 2008 by a local sport diving group, Hawaii Underwater Explorers, also had limited success.
 
In June, with better visibility and using improved camera equipment, a team of students from the University of Hawaii Marine Option Program returned to the wreck and conducted a detailed archaeological survey. The effort produced the first systematic photo and video documentation of the entire site.
 
 
Hans Van Tilburg, the maritime archaeologist who co-ordinated the effort, said while the precise identity of the aircraft remains unknown, it is possible the crew died while attempting to take off in the face of the attack.
 
The plane, which rests in three large pieces at a depth of 30 feet, is protected by the Sunken Military Craft Act of 2004, which prohibits unauthorised disturbance of military vessels or planes owned by the U.S. government, as well as foreign sunken military craft that lie within U.S. waters.
 
 
"The new images and site plan help tell the story of a largely forgotten casualty of the attack," Van Tilburg said. "The sunken PBY plane is a very important reminder of the "Day of Infamy,' just like the USS Arizona and USS Utah. They are all direct casualties of December 7."
 
"This sunken flying boat is a window into the events of the attack, a moment in time that reshaped the Pacific region," said June Cleghorn, senior archaeologist at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. "Understanding this site sheds light on the mystery of the lost PBYs and honours the legacy of the Navy and Marine Corps Base in Hawaii."  
 
 
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Photography courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, UH Marine Option Program and the US Navy.