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.
listened in awe as the gunner recalled the sight of Dixon falling, and the strange sensation that came over him, a combination of unbridled hatred for the Japanese and unalloyed joy at having been spared. But when Scannon pulled out a map of the channel and asked where Arnett went down, the gunner just shook his head. It might as well have been a map of the moon, she said. After half a century, he could still see the plane’s left wing bursting into flames. He could see it folding off, and the
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
was gross.” Pat’s interest was chemistry, and Nora brought home liquids, powders, and booklets of experiments. When he finished the written recipes, he would mix concoctions of his own. “Mostly I just burned a lot of things,” he said. “I always wanted to make a big explosion.” There was no television in the house, so in the evenings they listened to military broadcasts on the radio or made up stories of their own. Years later, the Scannon kids would look back on their years in Germany as
it in front of him. Finally, the Zero raced away in a straight line, shrinking to a small dot on the horizon. Vanderpoel grinned. He turned the Liberator toward Wakde. It was a moment he would relish and retell for the rest of his life. As Vanderpoel touched down that evening, Jimmie and Johnny were returning to their tent from another afternoon on the beach. As evening fell, rain arrived, and they huddled inside. Jimmie balanced a candle inside his helmet and wrote to Myrle, “Johnny and I
went swimming, and we sure had a lot of fun. Have a nice good place, good sandy beach, and the water is really clean.” A few feet away, Johnny wrote to Mary, “Sis, if you can send me some camera film, I’ll take some pictures and send them to you.” In the morning, a massive cargo ship docked in the deepwater port just west of the Long Rangers’ camp. The hulking Liberty Ships took their name from the Patrick Henry dictum “Give me liberty or give me death,” but any US organization that raised $2