North Carolina

What lurks in wreckage of submerged World War II planes? NC researchers investigate

A team from North Carolina is taking its research beneath the ocean surface, in hopes of helping to preserve decades-old pieces of history.

Researchers are traveling to the Pacific next year to study the submerged wreckage of three U.S. planes that crashed during World War II, East Carolina University announced Wednesday.

The planes went down in the Battle of Saipan, which spanned three weeks in 1944, according to history.com. The United States was victorious against Japan after exerting its power in the land, water and air, the website says.

And 75 years later, ECU researchers want to take steps toward keeping aircraft from the era intact.

The university says archaeologists and scientists are joining forces to examine threats to planes lost in the battle.

“Specifically, the team is interested in studying the microorganisms that grow on the surfaces of the wreckage in the water,” the school’s news release said. “Previous research has revealed that certain species of bacteria, fungi and other microbes can accelerate the corrosion of historic wrecks.”

11_5_19_WWII downed aircraft in Saipa_fitted.jpeg
Researchers are investigating underwater wreckage from World War II, a North Carolina university says. East Carolina University

It will be the first time the small species are studied on a crashed World War II plane that’s under water, according to the university in Greenville, roughly 80 miles east of Raleigh.

Researchers are working to “develop new methods for monitoring and addressing biocorrosion that can ultimately help preserve these historical WWII aircraft,” microbiologist Erin Field said in the school’s news release.

Field will work with lead archaeologists Jennifer McKinnon and Nathan Richards on the project, which is using a grant of more than $29,000 from the National Park Service, the release says.

Funds from the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training will help the team visit Saipan, which is in the Northern Mariana Islands and currently a U.S. commonweath.

The U.S. military stormed Saipan in 1944 with hopes that taking it and nearby islands “would cut off Japan from its resource-rich southern empire and clear the way for further advances to Tokyo,” according to history.com. Thousands died in the ensuing battle.

Related stories from Charlotte Observer

  Comments