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Identification of a deep-water B-29 WWII aircraft via ROV telepresence survey

TitleIdentification of a deep-water B-29 WWII aircraft via ROV telepresence survey
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsLickliter-Mundon M., Cantelas F., Coble W., Kinney J., McKinnon J., Meyer J., Pietruszka A., Pilgrim B., Pruitt J.R, Van Tilburg H.
Date Published2018/08
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number1557-2285
Accession NumberWOS:000440297900004
Keywords3D model; archaeology; Aviation archaeology; Conflict archaeology; Corrosion; Photogrammetry; Site formation; WWII archaeology

American-produced B-29 Superfortress bomber aircraft flew missions against Imperial Japan in the Pacific Theater from air bases in the Mariana Islands from November 1944 until the end of WWII. Mechanical failures forced many B-29s into the ocean surrounding Saipan and Tinian. Terrestrial wreckage of these aircraft has been located in the Pacific region, but no losses in deep water were located until 2016, when a NOAA exploration cruise investigated sonar targets in the Saipan Channel, between Saipan and Tinian. Disarticulated wreckage from a B-29 was located at 370 m over a large area of the seabed. Telepresence-enabled, non-invasive exploration from NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer allowed scientists on shore to view live streaming video and to work collaboratively to guide the investigation. Experts in aviation archaeology, corrosion studies, WWII history, forensic studies, marine biology, and oceanography participated in the survey using an ROV, highlighting components which could lead to possible identification of the B-29 in situ, and conducting an environmental characterization of the site. This deep-water aircraft site exemplifies multiple-stakeholder driven research in aviation archaeology and highlights several issues in the value of individual site identification.

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