World War II plane found off Florida’s Atlantic coast

Seattle-based OceanGate Inc. got a glimpse of an historic Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corp. F6F Hellcat last summer during a dive by its Antipodes submersible. Closer inspection through the use of high-definition video and photo equipment, plus the use of high-frequency sonar, revealed a 28′ World War II-era plane bogged at a depth of more than 240′. OceanGate came across its Hellcat discovery by chance. It was gathering information on artificial reefs in the waters off Miami-Dade County. An estimated 70 Hellcats were lost or crashed into the ocean along Florida’s Atlantic Coast during the final two years of the war. Those sunken planes, according to Robert Neyland, director of the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Underwater Archaeology Branch, are officially regarded as graves and are protected from being disturbed by the Sunken Military Craft Act of 2004. The Hellcats helped the Navy wrest control of the Pacific from the Japanese, mounting 5,156 victories and only 270 losses against Japan’s famous Zero fighter aircraft. — Garry Boulard 


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