Vanished: The Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II
Wil S. Hylton
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From a mesmerizing storyteller, the gripping search for a missing World War II crew, their bomber plane, and their legacy.
In the fall of 1944, a massive American bomber carrying eleven men vanished over the Pacific islands of Palau, leaving a trail of mysteries. According to mission reports from the Army Air Forces, the plane crashed in shallow water—but when investigators went to find it, the wreckage wasn’t there. Witnesses saw the crew parachute to safety, yet the airmen were never seen again. Some of their relatives whispered that they had returned to the United States in secret and lived in hiding. But they never explained why.
For sixty years, the U.S. government, the children of the missing airmen, and a maverick team of scientists and scuba divers searched the islands for clues. With every clue they found, the mystery only deepened.
Now, in a spellbinding narrative, Wil S. Hylton weaves together the true story of the missing men, their final mission, the families they left behind, and the real reason their disappearance remained shrouded in secrecy for so long. This is a story of love, loss, sacrifice, and faith—of the undying hope among the families of the missing, and the relentless determination of scientists, explorers, archaeologists, and deep-sea divers to solve one of the enduring mysteries of World War II.
countless hours of their outtake footage so that I might witness these events in color. Their nonprofit foundation, BentStar, helps finance BentProp, and anyone interested in supporting this work should visit bentstarproject.org. Finally, Pat Scannon. Words fail. I first heard the name whispered in the Palau night, and looking back, a whisper seems right. In twenty years of reporting, I have never encountered anyone like Pat, who spent hundreds of hours sharing the details of his story, while
him. “It’s only a while,” Melba said. “You’ll be back before you miss us.” But Melba knew it wasn’t true, and Johnny knew it, too. On the last day before he shipped out, he stood with Melba on the front porch. They looked across the road to Katherine’s house and the woods beyond. “Melba,” Johnny said quietly in a voice she’d never forget, “I don’t think I’m ever going to see you again.” “Oh,” she snapped, “don’t say that, Johnny.” “Well, I just don’t think I will,” he said. Johnny
hope. For one thing, he knew that other archaeologists at the lab had been impressed on the previous mission. Scannon hadn’t badgered them or tried to inject himself in their work, and they found him sufficiently serious to bestow a challenge coin. That wasn’t enough to convince Belcher, but it counted. What counted even more was Scannon’s background in science. A licensed MD with a PhD in chemistry was not your typical scavenger. With most of those guys, Belcher believed, it was pointless to
hovering over Australia. It is the second-largest island on earth, and in 1944, it was one of the most politically fractured. At the western end, it lay deep in Japanese territory, almost to the oil refineries of Balikpapan, while the eastern end was just as firmly in Allied hands, reaching to the doorway of the Solomon Islands. In between, the wild core of the island was a swirl of impenetrable jungle, with soaring mountains, yawning canyons, and verdant forests filled with so many native tribes
laid waste to the kempei facility on the island of Koror. The next day, while Roosevelt, Nimitz, and MacArthur were gathering in Hawaii, another strike demolished several of the Fourteenth Division’s buildings downtown. Then, the following day, yet another bombardment left the division headquarters on Koror in shambles. “Bombers attacked. Barracks were burned. Forty soldiers and sixteen natives were killed,” Miyazaki scrawled into his journal. Within days, both the kempei and division troops were