Wreckage of B-17 Flying Fortress Found in the Sea Near Sicily

A US Army Air Force bomber shot down by Messerschmitt fighters has been found lying on the seabed off the coast of Sicily. The aircraft named by its nine-men crew ‘Devils from Hell’ is a B-17 Flying Fortress that was located by the divers sitting some 245 ft. beneath the surface. The discovery was made about four miles from the Palermo Port in Southern Italy.

The discovery of B-17 was the result of months long efforts carried out by professional divers and historians, who painstakingly searched through piles of World War military records and eyewitness testimony from the local area. Most of the eyewitnesses are very old Sicilians, so the researcher had to conduct a number of interviews to corroborate various accounts of the incidents related to the bomber.

It all started when a group of divers who were searching the area as a part of their ambitious project dubbed ‘Shadows of the Deep’. The amateur divers’ team aim to research and locate the lost warplanes and ships lost during the World Wars and bring their discoveries to public eye. The divers were assisted by the Italian Fire Brigade who used their high tech sonar scanner to locate the aircraft. After initial obstacles such as unfavorable diving conditions and poor visibility the team was able to locate the wreck of the aircraft. After a bit of searching divers found and photographed the serial numbers of engines. These serial numbers were then sent to US to confirm the identity of the aircraft and its crew.

According to US War Department Records, the aircraft was a B-17 flying fortress that was shot down during a bombing mission on Palermo. The crew was given the task to bomb a number of strategic targets including the railway station, anti aircraft batteries, ammunition storages, and city’s water supply. According to the Italian wartime records, after dropping almost 84 tons of bombs, killing 38 people while wounding 100 others, the Flying Fortress was attacked by BF-110s which proved to be fatal for the aircraft and its crew, The Telegraph reports.

The Flying Fortress crew was lead by First Lieutenant Bobby M Godwin who was also the Pilot of the aircraft. Other airmen included the copilot First Lt. Virgil E Hope (Oklahoma), John H Person, John W Houck, Robert S Lotrel, Robert B Imler, Frank Spatafore, Arthur Nilges and William M Hawkins.

Ian Harvey

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