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ECU crew finds WWII wreckage
(Aug. 11, 1994) — Wreckage from the infamous air attack that brought the United States into war against Japan 53 years ago has turned up a surprise for an underwater research team from East Carolina University.
Working in Hawaii this summer, graduate students from the ECU Program in Maritime History and Nautical Archaeology surveyed the remains of a PBY-5 Catalina flying boat on the bottom of Kaneohe Bay. The aircraft is believed to be a casualty of the Dec. 7, 1941 air attack against the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor.
Kaneohe Bay is across the island to the east of Pearl Harbor. The area, at the outbreak of World War II, was the site of a Naval Air Station and a base for 36 of the long-range reconnaissance seaplanes. The Sunday morning attack destroyed 33 of the planes.
The plane’s wreckage sat undetected at the bottom of the bay for nearly 50 years until Navy divers, in a dolphin training project, logged the location of the plane about five years ago. Located within a military security zone, the wreck has remained a secret until this July when students and scientists begin the first explorations.
In announcing the find of the wreck, Jim Adams of the National Park Service said he didn’t know if Japanese fighters attacked the plane in the bay, or if the Navy dumped it in the bay after it was strafed on the airfield..
Adams told the Honolulu Advertiser that the wreck was significant because “very few remnants of Dec. 7, 1941, exist today.”
Only partly intact, the seaplane is missing the tail section of its 64 foot fuselage and half of its 104 foot wing. But, the plane’s aluminum “skin” is intact and its two, 1,200 horse power engines are buried in the silt bottom.
The National Park Service spokesman said it was unlikely for the plane to be raise because of the costs involved.
The ECU team worked at the site with students from the University of Hawaii and with scientists from the National Park Service. The team planned to inspect the condition of the U.S.S. Arizona, a ship that sank at Pearl Harbor and is now a national memorial.
The PBY-5 was manufactured in San Diego. Its name stands for Patrol Bomber flying boat.
East Carolina University
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