Essex

Essex field dug up as US military search for WW2 airman's remains

The field in Essex has been the focus of a search for a missing US airman. Image copyright Gareth Fuller/PA Media
Image caption This was the first dig of its kind by the US military in the UK

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 exploded on 4 June 1944, two days before D-Day.

The B-26 Marauder bomber was on a mission to bomb a bridge in Nazi-occupied France, but experienced engine failure after leaving RAF Stansted Mountfitchet.

The plane crashed with its six crew and cargo of two 2,000lb bombs inside.

Four airmen escaped from the burning wreckage and survived, but a fifth died at the scene when the 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.

Image copyright Gareth Fuller/PA Media
Image caption It was not revealed how long the excavation took

Possible osseous material, matter consisting of or turned into bone, was found during the excavation, which finished in August.

Lab tests will be run to identify what it is.

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

Image copyright Gareth Fuller/PA Media
Image caption The plane crash landed two days before D-Day

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

Any bone matter or "material evidence", such as a dog tag or rings, was sent to the agency's lab in Hawaii.

If the remains of the sixth airman are found and identified, his descendants will be notified, the agency said.

The exact location of the dig and name of the airman has not been revealed.

Image copyright Gareth Fuller/PA Media
Image caption A team of 23 people helped with the dig which finished in August
Image copyright Gareth Fuller/PA Media
Image caption Some of the material found requires further testing

If his remains are found, the airman's family will decide any next steps taken, which could include a burial at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, which is the final resting place for thousands of American service members.

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

Image copyright Gareth Fuller/PA Media
Image caption The excavation finished in August

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