It was March 11, 1944 when the aircraft called "Heaven Can Wait," carrying 11 crew members went on a mission in their B-24 Bomber during World War II. The aircraft and its missing crew members would become a mystery for decades.
The B-24 was shot down by enemy fire, causing it to crash into the ocean. In 2017, a search ensued using scanning sonars, imagers and advanced diving. The aircraft was found in Papua New Guinea.
The effort was by Project Recover, a collaborative team of marine scientists, archaeologists and volunteers that combine efforts to locate aircraft associated with MIA's from World War II, including experts from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla.
“We installed newer, higher improved sonars, much like if you went from old school TV to high definition TV," said Eric Terrill, co-founder of Project Recover and an oceanographer from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla.
Project Recover set its sights on finding "Heaven Can Wait" (which was built in San Diego) after being presented with four years of research on circumstances of the crash, compiled by family members of one the B-24 crew members seeking closure for their lost relative.
"It was a California-based family, wanting to know what happened to their uncle," said Terrill.
The search took 11 days on the water and covered nearly 27 square kilometers of sea floor.
“We were able to narrow down a search region within a few square miles,” added Terrill.
Project Recover found the debris field of the B-24 bomber in 213 feet of water.
“There’s a mixture of emotion from elation that you’re one step closer to alerting the families to this and then the sadness of the reality of what took place that day," said Terrill of the discovery.
The next step is to set into motion a process for recovering and identifying the remains of up to 11 crew members missing for over 70 years.