A group of local girls have stumbled upon a significant piece of Second World War history that’s resurfaced from the depths of Lake Huron.
Amy Cooper, 13, and sister Lisa, 12, were swimming with friends at the Sarnia Riding Club beach Sunday when they stumbled upon a piece of twisted metal buried in the sandy floor of the lake several feet from shore.
“My concern was that someone was going to get hurt so we decided to try to dig it out,” Amy said. “There was only a foot showing and once we realized it was longer than that, it was more difficult to get out.”
Lisa, who first spotted the treasure under water, thought it was a licence plate until she saw the identification tags.
“I read it and I thought, ‘Oh, it’s an airplane piece.’ But the other girls didn’t believe me at first,” she said.
As it turns out, the hunk of metal came from a P-47 Thunderbolt, one of the main fighter-bombers used by U.S. Army Air Forces in the Second World War.
Each single-piston engine bomber was loaded with eight .50-calibre machine guns, which proved to be mighty during ground attacks in the European and Pacific theatres.
Earlier this month the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) dispatched a 50-person team to investigate the site. They arrived on a 78-meter salvage ship, the USNS Grapple. Their 30-day mission is close to wrapping up.
Divers have already found what appear to be the remains of the missing airmen, which will be sent to a DNA lab for identification.
But they have also found a trove of artifacts so perfectly preserved they might have been taken from a time warp.
From the floor of the Gulf, divers managed to find a Listerine bottle intact, complete with air bubbles and something resembling its original scent.
They also discovered film negatives, aviator glasses and, perhaps most remarkably, paper believed to be from the crew’s log.
Bernier says a number of conditions combined to keep so many of the objects in good condition, including near-freezing waters and a depth which allows for little oxygen and light to reach the wreckage.