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Maltese dive team recovers World War Two airman’s remains

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A team of technical diving archaeologists in Malta have recovered the remains of an American World War Two airman whose airplane crashed back in 1943.

Sergeant Irving R Newman's B-24 Liberator bomber was downed after having engine trouble and then being caught by anti-aircraft fire. Five crew were injured after it crashed into the sea near Benghajsa Point on the Mediterranean island, but Newman was the only member of the flight team who could not be rescued.

Prof Timmy Gambin and the University of Malta's tech-diving team discovered the final resting place of the Liberator in 2018, and have been instrumental in retrieving Sergeant Newman's remains.

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Divers working on the excavation of the B-24 Liberator

The 22-year-old airman was initially listed as MIA, but the Defence POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), an agency within the US Department of Defence tasked with recovering military personnel listed as prisoners of war or missing in action from past conflicts, declared him as officially accounted for in June of this year following the discovery of the airplane by Gambin and his team.

The process of retrieval and verification is lengthy and meticulous, and Gambin and the dive team led excavation efforts at the 58m-deep site to recover material evidence, life-support equipment and human remains, working closely with the DPAA, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and Heritage Malta.

Prof Gambin said: “The US makes a promise to all its servicemen that no man will be left behind, and in order to fulfil that promise it engages in many international partnerships to make every effort possible to bring them back home.

“We feel incredibly honoured that our contribution can finally bring closure to the friends and loved ones of a young man who paid the ultimate price for bravery.”

He added: “The entire time we were working, the whole team wanted to go the extra mile to bring this boy home. They have regularly asked me for updates, and I cannot over-emphasise what it meat to every single one of them.”

Photo credit: DPAA/University of Malta

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melanie collins
melanie collins
5 months ago

Well done for finding him and taking him home.

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Mark Evans
Mark Evans
Scuba Diver's Editorial Director Mark Evans has been in the diving industry for nearly 25 years, and has been diving since he was just 12 years old. nearly 40-odd years later and he is still addicted to the underwater world.
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