Wed, May 27, 2009
Skyrocketing Interest In Warbirds Leave Some Flyers' Remains In
The US Military spends hundreds of millions of dollars to locate
the remains of missing aviators from World War II, but they often
find themselves in a race against collectors and salvagers hoping
to restore vintage airplanes.
The Boston Globe looked into the United States Government's
efforts to locate and recover pilots lost during the war, and the
problems they face when the aircraft are discovered first by
private individuals. The paper reports much of the interest is
focused around Papua, New Guinea, where some of the war's most
ferocious air battles were fought. Estimates are that the jungle
there could hide as many as 2,200 lost pilots.
Demand for restored warbirds, such as the P51 Mustang and the
P38 Lightning, has driven prices through the roof, and salvage for
parts can be critical to those trying to restore the planes,
sometimes to flying condition. One of those is Microsoft co-founder
Paul Allen, owner of at least 15 restored warbirds. Through a
spokesman, Allen told the Globe that it is unlikely parts used to
restore his aircraft came from overseas salvagers. He said there is
a good supply of unused spare parts in the United States.
Pentagon officials say the salvagers make their efforts to
locate and bring home missing pilots much more difficult. Johnny
Webb, the top civilian official at the MIA Recovery Command and a
Vietnam Veteran, said in the article that once a crash site has
been disturbed, it is much more difficult to find clues as to the
remains of the pilot and crew who flew the plane. His
responsibility, he said, is to bring them home.
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