Oregon loggers find wreck of WWII aircraft

Helldiver debris, Wheeler, OregonLumber company workers logging a wooded property near Rockaway Beach, about 20 miles away from the former Naval Air Station Tillamook, uncovered wreckage from a World War II-era aircraft last Thursday.

They first spotted a wing, tail, the landing gear and some other assorted bits and bobs. Then they looked around and found more debris scattered widely. Later investigators determined that the wreckage is spread out over 200 yards.

The aircraft has been identified as a Curtiss SB2C Helldiver, a two-seater that after a rocky early production run became one of the Navy’s most-used attack and bombing planes during the latter part of World War II. They could reach a top speed of 295 mph, carry 1,000 pounds of bombs and one internal torpedo of up to 500 pounds. Helldivers based out of Air Station Tillamook acted as submarine escorts in the area during the war, targeting any Japanese submarines that might be hunting US vessels.

Helldiver debris, Wheeler, OregonIt’s likely, however, that this particular aircraft didn’t see active war-time duty. A stamp of “1946” was found on one of the fragments, which could be a random numeral but is most likely the date, so although investigators are looking into all known Helldiver crashes in the area, one that happened in 1948 — the same year Navy Air Station Tillamook was decommissioned — 15 miles north of Tillamook seems the best candidate.

Navy investigators are still searching the area meticulously. They’ve already ruled out the presence of any unexploded ordnance. Oregon State Police bomb experts have scoured the site and found no bombs or bullets. Now the focus of the investigation is any potential human remains.

“If this is one of our shipmates we would treat that like we would treat one who died today with respect to our fallen comrade and respect to the family,” said Sean Hughes, Navy Region Northwest Public Affairs Officer.

“We would try to connect the past with the people who may still be alive. I don’t want to speculate that there are remains, but if there are, we will treat them with the utmost respect.”

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