Archaeologists search crash site of WWII B-17 for lost pilot

Archaeologists from Cotswold Archaeology are excavating the crash site of a WWII B-17 Flying Fortress in an English woodland.

The B-17 Flying Fortress is an American four-engine heavy bomber aircraft developed in the 1930s for the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC).

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The bomber was mainly used in the European theatre for daylight strategic bombing, complimenting the RAF Bomber Command’s night bombers in attacking German industrial, military and civilian targets.

Cotswold Archaeology have been tasked by the Defense POW / MIA Accounting Agency to search the crash site for the remains of the pilot, who died when the B-17 crashed following a system failure in 1944.

Image Credit : Cotswold Archaeology

At the time, the plane was carrying a payload of 12,000lbs of Torpex, an explosive comprised of 42% RDX, 40% TNT, and 18% powdered aluminium. Torpex was mainly used for the Upkeep, Tallboy and Grand Slam bombs, as well as underwater munitions.

The pilot was declared MIA when the plane exploded into an inferno, however, using modern archaeological techniques, the researchers plan to systematically excavate and sieve the waterlogged crash site to recover plane ID numbers, personal effects, and any surviving human remains.

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It is the hope of the excavation team members that they will be able to recover the pilot’s remains and return him to the United States for burial with full military honours.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) is an agency within the U.S. Department of Defense whose mission is to recover unaccounted Department of Defense personnel listed as prisoners of war (POW) or missing in action (MIA) from designated past conflicts.

Header Image Credit : Cotswold Archaeology

Sources : Cotswold Archaeology

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Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.

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