Inside of a protected reef in the Federated States of Micronesia sit the remains of dozens of US service members who perished during the 1944 battle to seize the lagoon from Japanese forces. Earlier this month, Project Recover, in conjunction with the University of Delaware and Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, announced they had identified seven of those fallen when researchers found their three attack aircraft on the seafloor.
Operation Hailstone in February 1944 was a massive, aerial bombardment of Japanese imperial fortifications surrounding Chuuk Lagoon, sometimes called Truk Lagoon, a huge natural harbor in the Caroline Islands that serviced the Imperial Japanese Navy’s largest warships. According to Military Times, the US lost at least 33 aircraft and 100 service members in the operation, which succeeded at softening Japanese defenses.
Twenty-three of those lost were naval aviators. However, Project Recover has found three of the planes: two SBD-5 Dauntless dive bombers and one TBM/F-1 Avenger torpedo bomber that flew from the aircraft carriers USS Enterprise and USS Intrepid.
“Finding these three aircraft was only possible with the dedication and tireless efforts of our team members and the support of the host…