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The mysterious “Maid of Harlech” U.S. fighter plane wreck on a beach in Wales

PortandTerminal.com, February 21, 2020

The wreck of an American fighter plane that crashed during World War 2 off the coast of Wales occasionally emerges like a ghost from the seabed

CARDIFF, WALES – Buried in the sand on the coast of Wales, UK is the wreck of a rare Lockheed P-38 Lightning World War 2 fighter jet. The fighter, which is nicknamed the Maid of Harlech, crashed in 1942 and is incredibly rare. It’s one of just twenty-eight airframes known to survive from the 10,038 that were built.

This example of the P-38 Lightning is one of only about ten surviving examples of the fighter that are still air-worthy

Known as one of the most significant WWII-related archaeological discoveries in recent history, the guns on the wreckage have been removed, but it still maintains its fuel load on board.

The pilot at the time of the crash was Second Lt. Robert F. Elliott, 24, of Rich Square, North Carolina, who flew from Llanbedr airfield in Snowdonia on a gunnery practise mission and encountered difficulties.

He climbed to 6,000ft but less than an hour into his journey, the left engine lost power and he was forced to land it in two feet of water.

Elliott walked away safely from the incident, but went missing and was declared dead just a few months later in North Africa when his aircraft was shot down by a Luftwaffe Me109.

Protected Status

Aerial view taken by drone of submerged fighter wreck. Two men in wetsuits visible standing near it.
Drone footage of the wreck

At the time of the incident, few local people were aware of it. Beaches in the United Kingdom were off-limits to the public during World War 2 for security reasons and the press was not allowed to print stories about Allied wrecks.

Today, the plane wreck is usually buried under 6-feet of sand and is not visible unless the conditions and tides are just right. Nature has only uncovered the plane three times since it crash-landed, first in the 1970s, once in 2007 and again in 2014. There are no plans to salvage it.

READ: Fears grow that American WW2 munitions shipwreck may finally explode

While its precise location has always been a closely guarded secret in the past, it’s a secret that has proved impossible to keep. In 2006 Google Earth captured some grainy imagery of the wreck. The combination of Google Earth and the popularity of hobbyist drones have revealed the plane wreck’s location to the world.

In 2019 the wreck was given protected status by the government in Wales. It is the first military aircraft crash site in the UK to be protected for its historic and archaeological interest.

READ: Shipwrecks you can see from your desk using Google Earth

The nephew of the pilot, Robert Elliott today lives in Kingsport, Tennessee and is a retired US Navy and a member of the 49th Fighter Squadron Association. He visited the site of the plane in 2016.

Pilot Robert F. Elliott, Second Lieutenant, 14th Fighter Group, 49th Fighter Squadron

“My uncle was among those brave and expert fighter pilots who served with distinction during the second world war. My visit to the site in 2016 was very moving and emotional.”

Nephew of the pilot, Robert Elliott

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