March 26, 2010 in City

WWII plane found near Oregon coast

Helldiver’s origins are still a mystery
Terrence Petty Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

This is an undated Oregon State Police photo of the wreckage from a World War II-era plane, identified as a Curtiss SB2C Helldiver, found by loggers in the woods near Rockaway Beach, Ore. A joint release by the U.S. Navy and Oregon State Police says there is a possibility of human remains near the crash site.
(Full-size photo)

Two-man, carrier-based craft

The SB2C Helldiver, which operated off aircraft carriers, replaced the Douglas SPD Dauntless. Christian Gurling, curator at the Tillamook Air Museum, said it carried two crew members – the pilot and a radio operator, who was also the gunner.

PORTLAND – Loggers working near the Oregon coast discovered the wreckage of a World War II-era warplane in woods not far from a naval air station decommissioned in 1948, military and police officials said Thursday.

Investigators said human remains may be in the aircraft.

The origins of the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver, a U.S. Navy dive bomber, are a mystery.

The crash site is not far from two naval air stations that were active during World War II.

“There are so many different air stations they could have been flying from,” said Christian Gurling, curator at the Tillamook Air Museum, site of the now-defunct Naval Air Station Tillamook.

A U.S. Navy team worked at the scene along with the Oregon State Police and the Tillamook County Sheriff’s Office. Also involved in the investigation is the Joint Prisoner of War/Missing In Action Accounting Command, a Hawaii-based military joint command that tries to account for Americans missing in action.

State police bomb technicians checked the site Wednesday afternoon and found no sign of unexploded ordnance.

A logging company discovered the wreckage on March 18 in a heavily wooded area and notified law enforcement officials, who then notified the U.S. Navy.

Officials have found a wing, a tail section, landing gear and other debris spread out over about 200 yards, state police said.

Gurling said the Tillamook station was originally an airfield for blimps guarding the Pacific Coast, but airplanes were also there in later years.

The SB2C Helldiver, which operated off aircraft carriers, replaced the Douglas SPD Dauntless. Gurling said it carried two crew members – the pilot and a radio operator, who was also the gunner.

The Helldiver, also known as “the Beast,” was a formidable warplane, but Gurling said it was also “plagued by problems.”

“In the earlier planes, the pilots were told to not dive for fear the planes would fall apart,” said Gurling. “Which wasn’t good for a dive bomber.”

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