Gold prospectors have uncovered human remains in the remote Eastern Oregon desert that may be from a World War II bomber crash near the Nevada border.
Charred pieces of a skull, vertebrae, fingers, legs and hips were found at the site where a B-24 Liberator bomber went down in early 1945, said Sonja Whittington, spokeswoman for Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho.
But little is left of the plane except four badly damaged, 1,200-horsepower Pratt & Whitney engines, scattered wiring and aluminum. The fuselage, tail and 110-foot wings are gone, either destroyed in the crash or carried away later, Whittington said.
The crash site is on a rugged desert slope in the Pueblo Mountains within a wilderness study area southeast of Fields. The area is administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Harney County Sheriff Dave Glerup said the weekly Burns Times-Herald on March 9, 1945, told the story of the bomber going down seven days earlier, on March 2, killing a crew of nine. People in the area heard a crash followed by two explosions, the article said.
Glerup said the article quoted ranchers who said Army personnel removed the bodies. The impact of the crash probably made recovery of all of the remains impossible, Glerup said.
Prospectors Dan Anderson, 43, and Lenny Keith Kollas, 44, were digging July 2 for gold when they found the bones, a pocket watch, wristwatch, pliers, dog tags, belt buckles and other artifacts.
“I’m going to get an archaeologist and the military here,” Glerup said last week, after deciding against excavating for more bones. “I’m going to take the bones he’s collected back to town.”
Shari Lawrence of the Army Personnel Command in Alexandria, Va., said the Army would bring a team of soldiers and an anthropologist to the site and remove the remains as soon as possible.
“It is a priority for us to get out and take care of this,” she said.
Between 1941 and the end of the war, 18,188 B-24 bombers were built.
The Liberator carried a crew of 10 for combat operations. It had a top speed of 290 mph and a range of 2,100 miles with an 8,800-pound bomb load.
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