World War Two perhaps witnessed the most horrific sea battles in the history of human warfare. As a result, countless ships were sunk, either belonging to the axis or allied powers. Many of the sea battles were also fought in the air, through legions of combat aircraft belonging to either side. The sea is a veritable graveyard for such airplanes, where many lie undisturbed in the bottom of the ocean. One such graveyard however, has a distinctly different background and story.
A series of unbelievable photographs that reveals more than 150 World War Two aircraft 130-feet under the Pacific Ocean was recently released, but it is not what it seems. The incredible images show the planes overgrown with corals and surrounded by fish as they lie on the seabed more than seventy years after they were dumped there. Among the planes are historic American aircraft like the Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers, the F4U Corsair, Helldivers, B-25 Mitchells, Curtiss C-46 Commandos, F4F Wildcats, as well as TBF/TBM Avengers.
Photographer Brandi Mueller, from Cameron, Wisconsin, photographed the planes during a scuba diving sortie about five miles from Roi-Namur in the Marshall Islands. 31-year-old Mueller was taking time off from her coastguard duties to teach diving when she saw the unbelievable find.
Astoundingly, upon closer examination, many of the planes were intact, with only a few broken parts scattered on the ocean floor. There is a very simple explanation for this phenomenon. What Mueller saw is what is called the “Airplane Graveyard”, planes that were taken out over the reef and deliberately sunk intact after the war concluded.
The planes were dumped into the sea off of aircraft carriers and transport ships after the Pacific Campaign ended in victory for the US in August 1945. The airplanes were deemed too cumbersome to be brought back.
“For me, diving on airplanes, especially World War Two airplanes is really unique. Diving on shipwrecks seems normal, you expect ships to have sunk, said Mueller. “But seeing planes underwater is strange, planes don’t belong in the water, they belong in the sky, so it feel weird to dive on them. But amazing and special too. And because these planes didn’t sink because of the war they are special. They should have flown more, lived longer, but they were sunk in perfect condition.”
See this most unusual congregation of warplanes here.