Sixty-five years after it crash-landed on a beach in Wales, an American P-38 fighter plane has emerged from the surf and sand where it lay buried12:03 PM
Sixty-five years after it crash-landed on a beach in Wales, an American P-38 fighter plane has emerged from the surf and sand where it lay buried — a World War II relic long forgotten by the US government and unknown to the British public.
The Lockheed “Lightning” fighter, with its distinctive twin-boom design, has suddenly reappeared due to unusual conditions which caused the sands to shift and erode.
It was first spotted by a family enjoying a day at the beach on July 31 and a team of US specialists were informed and flew over to survey the site.
The twin-engine P-38, a radical design conceived by Lockheed design genius Clarence “Kelly” Johnson in the late 1930s, became one of the war’s most successful fighter planes, serving in Europe and the Pacific.
Some 10,000 were built, and about 32 complete or partial airframes are believed to still exist, perhaps 10 in flying condition.
The Wales Lightning, built in 1941, reached Britain in early 1942 and flew combat missions along the Dutch-Belgian coast.
Second Lt. Robert F. “Fred” Elliott, 24, of Rich Square, North Carolina, was on a gunnery practice mission on Sept. 27, 1942, when a fuel supply error forced him to make an emergency landing on the nearest suitable place — the Welsh beach.
His belly landing in shallow water sheared off a wingtip, but Elliott escaped unhurt.
Less than three months later, the veteran of more than 10 combat missions was shot down over Tunisia, in North Africa.
His plane and body were never found.