• Project Recover

Project Recover is a collaborative effort to enlist twenty-first-century science and technology in a quest to find the final underwater resting places of Americans missing in action since World War II.


This public-private partnership was initiated in the Republic of Palau, site of some of the fiercest fighting during the Pacific campaign of World War II. Many American aviators were lost during the battle to take Peleliu and subsequent repatriation of the neighboring islands, while many sailors, soldiers, and Marines were lost in landing craft.

It is estimated that more than 30 U.S. carrier and land-based aircraft and several sunken landing craft remain missing in the coastal waters of Palau.



The Project Recover team has combined historical research with the scientific method and the latest in underwater search technology to conduct searches for missing Americans.

Project Recover developed in 2012 out of a collaboration amongst researchers at the University of Delaware, Scripps Institution of Oceanography - University of California San Diego, and the not-for-profit organizations the BentProp Project and the Coral Reef Research Foundation (CRRF). BentProp's group of volunteers with 20 years experience dedicated to locating and identifying Americans missing in action from World War II within the Palau islands provides unmatched historical knowledge of those still missing, and CRRF's marine facilities provides world class logistical support and local knowledge of the marine conditions.


Technologies include various scanning sonars, high definition and thermal cameras, unmanned aerial systems, compressed gas diving, diver propulsion systems, and tethered and freely swimming underwater robots.


Historical data obtained from the National Archives and veteran interviews are fused with survey data, modern satellite imagery, and flight trajectory analyses to narrow the underwater search regions.


Project RECOVER also engages students to inspire interest in STEM fields. University students participate in field expeditions and support analysis of the volumes of data collected. In Palau, students from the elementary, high school, and local community college have been given tours and informal seminars on the marine environment, conservation, and ocean technology. A highlight has been a tour of Scripps’s flagship research vessel, R/V Roger Revelle, when it makes port calls.

Members of Stockbridge High School’s Advanced Underwater Robotics team have also participated in the search for missing airmen, providing a hands on experience with testing their projects in the field under real-life conditions and alongside leading researchers.



Funding provided by the U.S. Office of Naval Research

The U.S. Office of Naval Research sponsorship of the Project Recover pilot program not only supports the development and testing of underwater search technologies, but also provided a means to develop STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) outreach materials. Technology is used not only to find and identify the resting places of Americans lost overseas in past conflicts, but also to digitally document the site with a high degree of precision.

Special thanks to GoPro, Autodesk and 3D Robotics for material contributions to making Project Recover a success, as well as to the Republic of Palau, Office of President for their support of efforts to search and return missing Americans from WWII.
For more information, please contact info@projectrecover.org.

scripps oceanography uc san diego