Seized: Planes were taken by the Allies from Europe and shipped to the airbase, where they were pulled apart
In the battle to stay ahead of the enemy in World War II, American engineers were willing to employ any trick – including stealing the ideas from their Nazi counterparts.
So they shipped hundreds of German aircraft to a field in Seymour, Indiana, where they proceeded to take apart the machines to learn how they were built – and then buried any evidence of doing so.
Now recovery teams at Freeman Field are unearthing hundreds of plane parts and piecing them back together, much like their ancestors attempted to nearly seven decades ago.
At the end of World War II, the field was used as a bustling Army base by hundreds of soldiers and civilians keen to study Germany’s airplanes and rockets, WDRB.com reported.
Allies seized around 80 different types of aircraft throughout Europe and then shipped them to the field, where they were flown, taken apart and then put back together.
While many parts or planes were saved for museum displays, others were discarded – thrown into pits in the field and covered with tons of dirt.
Now the Freeman Field Recovery Team is endeavouring to find as many of the parts as possible. While they have found a plethora of propellers and wheel parts, they are hopeful of finding an in tact fuselage – rumoured to be lurking somewhere in the soil.
One member of the recovery effort, Scott Cooper, explained why the planes had landed on U.S. soil.
‘At that point in the war, in the fighting, the Germans were years ahead of us in the areas of technology,’ Cooper told WDRB.com.
‘They were actually developing the first jet aircraft over in Germany, so we had a chance to bring that aircraft over here, break it down, examine the engine, examine the aircraft, and find out things that we might be able to use on the aircraft that we were building at the time.’
He added: ‘About 81 different types of aircraft were brought here, including V-1 and V-2 missiles.’
The Army held an open house in 1946, allowing members of the public to see what they had been studying. But there were questions about what would happen to the planes at the end of the war.
‘What they didn’t want to take away for museum purposes or display purposes, they would just dig these big pits and dump everything in and cover them up and just leave it there,’ Cooper told the news channel.
The planes were buried on the edges of the airfield – and are slowly being located by the recovery team.
‘In some cases you can still see the German words on there,’ Cooper said. ‘The one day when we found 12 propeller blades, that was pretty exciting.’
While some parts are left in their rusted and partly broken, others, such as propellers, are smoothed and filled with putty to resemble their original form. If any parts are sold, the city shares the proceeds.
The Freeman Field Recovery Team is at least the third group to search for parts in the field since the early 1990s. They believe that mud has preserved many parts found so far.
They use a scanner called a Blood Hound attached to the back of a vehicle.
The radar unit connects to a GPS and a computer mapping program, and surveys the ground, like an ultrasound indicating where objects are underground.
‘To realize that history, to be able to touch it and feel it and restore it and bring it back so other people can see it, is pretty exciting. In some cases it probably helped us to win the war,’ Cooper added.