Maui News

Survey of WWII Aircraft, Shipwrecks Focuses on Maui’s South Shore

August 22, 2011, 8:26 AM HST
* Updated August 22, 11:29 AM
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By Wendy Osher

A new survey has been released of sunken World War II-era aircraft and shipwrecks along Maui’s southern coast.  The two-week survey was conducted by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries’ Maritime Heritage Program and the University of Hawaii’s Marine Option Program.

The survey team studied six wreck sites, producing scaled drawings, photographs, and documentation.  The items will be used to evaluate wrecks for deterioration, and will help to identify when artifacts have been moved or go missing.

The sites surveyed include a carrier-based dive bomber (SB2C-1C Helldiver); a carrier-based fighter plane (F6F Hellcat); and three amphibious assault vehicles (LVT-4 and LVTA-4s), two mounted with 75mm howitzers.

During World War II, the U.S. Marine Corps and Army personnel trained in landing craft and assault vehicles along Maui’s southern coast from Maalaea Harbor to Ahihi Bay.  Aircraft from Maui’s Puunene Naval Air Station also conducted combat practice runs overhead.

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Today, the legacy of that period can be found in near-shore waters, where sunken aircraft and shipwrecks provide recreational diving sites, as well as habitat for marine species.

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“The wrecks along the coast are like windows into the past and they remind us of the sacrifices made during World War II,” said Hans Van Tilburg, NOAA maritime heritage coordinator. “The information collected during this project will help us better understand this chapter in our history and its significance to the Pacific.”

NOAA officials say details surrounding the sinking of the assault vehicles near Makena, Maui, and the specific identity of the F6F Hellcat, remain mysteries pending further historical research.

*** Supporting information courtesy National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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