Divers and Historians Find WWII B-17 Bomber’s Gravesite

In a series of events that sounds like the plot of an adventure-action movie, a group of amateur divers who call themselves the “Shadows of the Deep” have discovered the remains of a Flying Fortress bomber off the coast of Sicily.

The aircraft, which was a B-17 affectionately called the “Devils from Hell” by its crew of 9, was shot down by anti-aircraft fighters sometime during WW2.

It took a team of divers and historians several months of research and reconnaissance, combing through government wartime documents and the memories of locals who were present during the raid, to locate the wreck.

Assisted by a sonar scan – courtesy of the Italian Fire Brigade – searchers finally found what they were looking for, the B-17, four miles from the coast of Port Palermo and 245 feet under the ocean.

An Italian newspaper has characterized the amateur divers as the “Indiana Jones’s of the Sea”. One of the members, Riccardo Cingillo, said it was all thanks to the help from the Italian Fire Brigade. “The wreck was found a few months ago thanks to the help of the fire service. Our job was to dive down and try to identify it.”

The fated fortress was attacking Palermo on April 18, 1943 when it was attacked itself and shot out of the sky just 20 miles from its target destination.

The 353rd Bomber Squadron of the American Air Force was targeting strategic transport and supply areas around Palermo, including railway stations, aqueducts and airports. The operation caused 38 deaths as 84 tons of explosives were dropped onto the city and its port facilities.

The Shadows of the Deep have not found any human remains, but they have been able to positively identify the aircraft and its crew, matching them with US War Department records, The Telegraph reports.

“There were no chutes seen to open and the gunners from the other planes were having a pretty busy time taking care of themselves,” confirms a report by the American War Department.

The aircraft is barely recognizable. Its cockpit was completely crushed, but its gun turret and machine-gun remain intact – an eerie underwater scene.  It seems that this will be the final resting place for this B-17 Flying Fortress. It will remain a sunken reminder of the past in its military war grave under the sea.

See more images here: http://ombredalfondo.it/

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE