US & Canada

WWII plane with US remains found in St Lawrence River

Forensic anthropologist Dr Stefan Claeson shows off a pair of aviation glasses recovered by divers earlier 25 July 2012
Image caption Divers found small items preserved underwater inside the plane, including sunglasses

US divers have found what appear to be remains of a crew of an Army amphibious plane that went down in the Eastern St Lawrence River during World War II.

The PBY-5A Catalina capsized in rough water on its way back to base in Maine on 2 November 1942.

Parks Canada first found in the plane in 2009 during a survey, and contacted US officials when they saw the plane's fuselage was largely intact.

Divers also found sunglasses, film negatives and an operations log.

"The paper is still readable, you can see the typewritten print, it's a list of procedures for the radio," Marc-Andre Bernier, chief underwater archaeologist for Parks Canada said. "It's quite phenomenal."

Rough waters

The amphibious plane was serving an airfield in Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan during the war as part of a corridor linking the US to Europe.

According to reports at the time, the plane failed to take off during a storm due to high waves.

On the second attempt, the plane hit a large wave and began taking on water.

Image caption The wreck was searched by a joint US civilian-military unit specialising in the identification of those lost in war

Four of the nine people on board were pulled to safety before the plane sank.

Parks Canada divers originally found the plane upside down under 40m of water.

Mr Bernier confirmed that divers had found what appeared to be remains, and that they were were being sent to a laboratory in Hawaii. Search teams were withholding further details out of respect for the families.

US officials say there are more than 83,000 Americans missing from past conflicts.

"This recovery effort is a solemn and significant undertaking," US Consul General Peter O'Donohue said in a statement on the recovery operation.

"For the United States, this is a sacred mission to honour those who served their country to the last."

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