Date: July 9, 2016
Tinian and Saipan served as major U.S. air bases during the final year of World War II, with American B-29 bombers flying long-range missions to Japan. Many aircraft were lost on take-off and landing, but despite their significance to American history, none of the B-29s that crashed in the Saipan Channel had ever been discovered.
On July 9, 2016, during the final dive of the 2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas expedition, we explored two sites that had been identified as exploration targets to search for B-29 aircraft during previous mapping. After the remotely operated vehicle Deep Discoverer reached the seafloor, a ghostly reminder of World War II quickly came into view: the wing and engines of a B-29 Superfortress. Throughout the dive, the team collected information on the B-29 bomber wreckage resting in the deep water of the channel and provided initial information on the state of preservation of the aircraft and the environmental conditions affecting the sites.
Although over a dozen American B-29s were lost in the area while flying missions during World War II, the finding on July 9, 2016, represented the first B-29 crash site discovered in the area. The wreckage represents an important symbol of America’s final push to end the war, an historically significant time in U.S. history, and is of interest to multiple management groups as well as several universities and foundations working to identify crash sites for the families of lost servicemen.