Grumman TBF Revealed in Amazing Seabed Images

George Winston
(Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego/RV Petrel/Vulcan Inc./Project Recover)
(Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego/RV Petrel/Vulcan Inc./Project Recover)

Seventy-seven years after it plunged into the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, the wreckage of a Grumman TBF Avenger has been revealed in fantastic detail by the RV Petrel.

In 1999 the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory located the site of the downed plane and determined that it may be the location of three US servicemen that have been missing since 1942.

(Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego/RV Petrel/Vulcan Inc./Project Recover)
(Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego/RV Petrel/Vulcan Inc./Project Recover)

Technical experts attached to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, along with those from Project Recover, working off the private research vessel the RV Petrel, used the latest and most sophisticated technology to create the marvellous images of the wreck site.

The research vessel, RV Petrel, is owned by Vulcan Inc., an organization dedicated to research that was established by the late Paul Allen, one of the co-founders of Microsoft.

(Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego/RV Petrel/Vulcan Inc./Project Recover)
(Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego/RV Petrel/Vulcan Inc./Project Recover)

This organization has a project running, Project Recover, that is dedicated to harnessing the latest and most modern technology to locate the remains of US servicemen and women that are still missing in action from the Second World War.

(Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego/RV Petrel/Vulcan Inc./Project Recover)
(Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego/RV Petrel/Vulcan Inc./Project Recover)

A statement released by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego stated that on 11 October 1942, three Grumman TBF Avenger aircraft collided whilst on a training mission.

The three planes were all attached to Squadron VT-3 and based at the Naval Air Station Kaneohe, now known as the Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

The statement went on to say that according to the accident report, two of the three aircraft crashed into the sea immediately, killing all six crew members.

The crew of the third aircraft managed to bail out and were rescued.  The remains of the six crew members killed were never recovered.

(Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego/RV Petrel/Vulcan Inc./Project Recover)
(Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego/RV Petrel/Vulcan Inc./Project Recover)

The images indicate that the remains of the plane are lying at a depth of around 330 feet, and the engine has been found to be some 164 feet from the fuselage.

The statement from the Scripps Institute states that the type of aircraft seen in the image, along with the location, and the manner in which the wreckage is distributed around the site are all consistent with the loss of the two Grumman TBF Avengers from Squadron VT-3 that were lost on the 11 October, 1942.

The images do not show the tail of the aircraft and are too indistinct to state categorically which of the missing plane this is.

Experts revealed the plane wreck in new detail. (Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego/RV Petrel/Vulcan Inc./Project Recover)
Experts revealed the plane wreck in new detail. (Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego/RV Petrel/Vulcan Inc./Project Recover)

The information and images will all be handed over to the POW/MIA Accounting Agency of the US Department of Defense. This agency is responsible for the recovery and identification of the remains of US servicemen and women.

This is not the first discovery with which the RV Petrel has been involved. The technical staff aboard the vessel recently located the wrecks of two Japanese aircraft carriers.

The two carriers, the Kaga and the Akagi were both sunk 77 years ago during the Battle of Midway.

The director of subsea operations for Vulcan Inc., Robert Kraft, said in a statement that the discovery of the Grumman TBF Avenger was a great end to their Midway Survey project. Squadron VT-3 was one of three torpedo squadrons that fought in the Battle of Midway, while assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown.

In other projects run in 2019, the technical experts aboard the RV Petrel discovered the wreck of the USS Wasp in the Coral Sea.

This WWII aircraft carrier was sunk on the 15 September 1942 after being hit by three torpedoes fired from the Japanese submarine I-19.

The explosions destroyed her power and water mains systems, so the crew was unable to contain the fires, and she was abandoned and scuttled due to the damage caused by the blaze.

In another project run during 2019, the crew aboard the RV Petrel discovered the Imperial Navy ship Hiei, a battleship that was sunk on the 14 November 1942 in the waters off the Solomon Islands.

Sadly, Paul Allen did not live to see all of these fabulous finds as he passed away in October 2018 from complications caused by non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

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His foresight in creating Vulcan Inc. and the use of RV Petrel will ensure that he has left a legacy.