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Images: Seaplane That Sank In Pearl Harbor Attack

HONOLULU – New pictures of a sizable U.S. Navy seaplane that sank in Hawaii waters during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor reveal a coral-encrusted engine and reef fish swimming in and out of a hull.

The photographs are the clearest pictures taken up to now of this Catalina PBY-5 wreckage, said Hans Van Tilburg.

The website isn’t publicly available, hence the pictures allow scientists to split the wreckage along with other individuals. They also help with documenting a mess as time passes.

The seaplane had a wing length of 100 feet, roughly equivalent to some Boeing 727 commercial jet. It sits 30 feet below the surface alongside a Marine Corps base in Kaneohe Bay, about 20 miles east of Pearl Harbor on the other side of Oahu.

There have been an estimated six of these planes — also called “flying boats” — in the bay in the time of this assault, but Van Tilburg said nobody is certain what happened to the others.

The foundation, which was a naval air station, was one of many Oahu military installations attacked by Japanese airplanes on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.

Van Tilburg reported there is a mooring cable still attached to the plane, but there are signs before the plane sank, the port engine was started by someone. This indicates a crew may have died while trying to remove as the aerial attack started.

The Catalina PBY-5 could hold four 500-pound bombs, and an eight-man crew.

Standard practice was to keep an individual on the seaplanes at night to make sure the aircraft didn’t drift off. It’s not known when they got off or which airplanes they were on, although there were aviator casualties from the water, Van Tilburg said.

“That is one of those mysteries of this narrative,” he explained.

The seaplanes could have been priority targets because they could fly up to 2,000 miles and would have been able to trace planes back to their aircraft carriers, Van Tilburg said.

Van Tilburg said the plane is other boats bombed in Pearl Harbor and a battle casualty, exactly like more better-known counterparts like the USS Arizona. Van Tilburg said he guesses commanders rightfully assumed the plane was a total loss and not really worth salvaging.

There has been no “dedicated discussion” to retrieving the airplane, which is currently in three big pieces, he explained. It would cost a fantastic deal to stabilize it and bring it ashore.

Other alloys and the aluminum may leech as time passes, but that reality must be balanced together with habitat that the airplane provides for fish and other marine life, Van Tilburg said. The site is getting a living reef, ” he explained.

The wreck helps tell the story of what took place in Kaneohe Bay, in which 18 sailors and 2 civilians were murdered. Others at the bottom were hurt.

Over 2,400 sailors, Marines, civilians and soldiers were murdered across Oahu from the Western assault.